Is H.P. Lovecraft's work dangerous?

I’ve been interested in his books, which involve the occult, though always as an evil. I’ve seen how fiction with occultism can draw in spiritual things that are… less than healthy. I know there are some fans of his work on this site, but I wanted a more skeptical view than that(no offense, I may join you).

As far as I can see, the occult is always negatively represented in it. I just really don’t want to be attacked through these stories.

I’ve read 2 of his books, Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Call of Cthulhu, and I don’t recall anything objectionable in either one. Yes, they are scary and don’t always involve happy endings, but that’s really the extent of anything unsettling in them as far as I could tell. It’s horror fiction. As you point out, the evil entities are not portrayed as something good. Even when the stories speaks of incantations, it is in the context of something bad or something evil also. Personally, I find his writing outstanding, so I will likely read more at some point. But I feel very confident in my faith, so perhaps someone less confident may be more shaken by his vivid portrayals of evil, I can’t say.

So long as you don’t believe in it then no, not dangerous.

I’m actually quite a large fan of his work. I find his type of horror to be very engaging. Enjoy the books, enjoy the stories, but just remember, that’s all they are.


I’ve only read The Call of Cthulhu, but what struck me was not the occultism, which was obviously not encouraged, but the horrible view of the universe which it expressed. The idea seems to be that the universe, with its unimaginable size and age, is amoral and utterly indifferent to human life and all we hold dear, and that if we fully comprehended our pathetically insignificant place in the universe it would drive us mad. This is paganism in almost its worst state of despair, and so is probably dangerous to weak individuals who might be drawn into those sorts of thoughts and feelings by the material. To others of course it will be nothing but entertaining horror fiction.

Lovecraft was an atheist, and he wanted to write stories which would frighten an atheist audience. His ‘supernatural’ beings are often more alien than demon, beings from the stars or other dimensions, of immense, but not truly supernatural, power.

Not sure if that answers your question any.

Not at all. But he, like D&D, is a bête noire of those who see fantasy fiction as the devil’s work, the devil’s work, I tell you! :eek:

I still remember the epic quality of The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, and like to re-read it every few years.

Lovecraft often blurred the line between “alien” and “demonic,” just as he often blurred the line between sci fi and fantasy. I think that was part of his technique of inducing horror.

I’ve also noticed his protagonists tend to be single males with a definite asexual tendency.

Taking these books too much to heart probably would be unhealthy for the mentally ill or those weak in their religious faith. Other than that, I don’t see anything wrong with them.

Nah. I find them to be great fiction.

I’ve never read Lovecraft; but I did a lot of UFO research after I saw one, and concluded that the “aliens” were, after all, fallen angels. The same conclusion was essentially drawn by Jacques Valle, caricatured in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as the guy who would urge children to get on the “mother ship.” The reverse is true. Valle said they always lie, and always hurt people. This critter is represented in all the “trickster” and genie/demon traditions around the world.

I think they might well be dangerous to some people. I would suggest to the OP that if Lovecraft, or any writer, leaves you with an uneasiness in your soul, then discontinue reading that author. One of the reasons I like Koontz is because his writings leave me with an elevated sense of humanity, even though he too is in the horror genre.

As a serious UFO researcher who has read the books by Jacques Valle, I have come to the conclusion that they are very smoothly written and thought provoking, but he has no scientific basis for any of his claims. None. His books are elaborate fiction. The same with John Keel who was another imaginative writer, of fiction. Mr. Keel and Vallee are just modern versions of Charles Fort (look up the word Fortean). Even J. (Joseph) Allen Hynek, who actually appears in Close Encounters, ended up saying that that he believed UFOs were “not nuts and bolts aircraft.” It is clear to me that he was a government employee whose purpose was to spread lies about the phenomenon.

UFOs are man-made aircraft. That’s all they’ve ever been.


Very interesting thread - I’ve thought maybe I would enjoy Lovecraft, but I’ve shied away from his work for the concern that the OP mentioned. Maybe I should give him a chance.

That was kind of the point. Lovecraft was an atheist, and drew his horror from how bleak and desolate that worldview is.

I suppose one could read these stories with two thoughts in mind. One: A Guardian Angel could utterly stomp these otherworldly creatures. Two: This is what atheism’s logical conclusion is.

But I suppose this needs prayer.

I think I’ve read everything HPL wrote over the years, as well as a lot of other Mythos writers and much of HPL’s letters (published in a multivolume series - he was a prodigious letter writer, and if the Internet had existed back, then, he never would have found time to finish any book he started.)

His earlier works were more in an occultist mode, but as he grew older, a more science-fictional element came to the fore and the the occult nature of some of his earlier work was subsumed into a more SF view, and the magic of his earlier works was now seen as poorly-understood science. HPL was always an atheist materialist, however, who did not accept any supernatural views. A letter or essay he wrote setting forth the skeptical materialist worldview was even included by Christopher Hitchens in an atheist anthology he wrote.

It’s interesting that he had a somewhat strained relationship with Harry Houdini, who employed HPL as a ghostwriter and researcher for a planned book about the supernatural. Houdini, who was of course a skeptic about the claims of psychic mediums who claimed to be able to talk to the dead, nevertheless was an observant Jew (the son of a rabbi) who believed strongly in God and the afterlife. Apparently, it was one of several sources of friction between the two.

I’ve been thinking about HPL in the last couple of weeks, maybe because Hallowe’en is approaching. As an atheist, his view of the universe was (perhaps necessarily?) dark and pessimistic. He felt we are ultimately the prey of vast, indifferent cosmic forces, and that when something from “outside” our universe broke through, it was envisioned as hostile, inimical to humanity, and whose motives would be impossible to fathom. It would also be enormous, incredibly powerful, and unlike anything else in our universe.

Compare this to what Catholics believe - when something outside our universe actually did break through into ours, it was in the form of something we all instinctively love but which is completely powerless and dependent on others - a tiny infant. When some of the Infinite appeared in our world, it did not come in the form of Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep, hideous and alien and unsympathetic to humanity, it - or He - was revealed to us as warm, loving, teaching a revolutionary gospel of concern for others, and so concerned about our well-being that He healed the sick, raised the dead, and gave Himself up to die on a cross for us.

I’d say it’s fine to read his works for entertainment, and to enjoy a pleasant shiver, but remember that the real universe is a much better place in truth than in fiction.

I’m a 55-year old woman.

I’ve read most of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. I don’t care for his poetry so I haven’t read much of it.

Lovecraft is my favorite author to read in bed (under the covers, of course!) on a hot summer night–so much fun! It’s like being a kid again. I grew up in a big hundred-year-old farmhouse, and all the house-settling clicks and deathwatch beetles and scratchy tree branches and the occasional howl of a coyote were great background noises while I read Lovecraft in bed and waited for one of the “decayed” Whateleys or Marshes to trod up the creaky staircase and burst into my room and gobble me up!

Almost all of Lovecraft’s stories are based on the theory that at one time, the Old Ones (good guys) and the Deep Ones (bad guys) fought, and the Deep Ones were cast under the sea, where they are biding their time until they can rise to the surface and regain power.

The Deep Ones are all related to “fish” (Mother Hydra), and therefore they are frightening-looking to human beings–picture giant fish with legs. Frightening, right? (Riiiight–as frightening as Charlie Tuna.)

Many of his stories are about forays that the Deep Ones occasionally make up onto the surface world, often because some dunce stumbles upon a magic mirror or portrait or book (e.g. The Necronomican) that they use to unwittingly call up the Deep Ones and allow them a portal onto the surface world. The Deep Ones that make it back onto the earth’s surface wreak havoc and spread terror and devour a bunch of hapless country hicks before someone manages to chase them back into the ocean, usually by figuring out how to call up the Old Ones who use their power to defeat the Deep Ones once again and bring peace to the village–for now! Bwoo ha ha! That magic mirror is STILL sitting out on the coffee table waiting for the NEXT unsuspecting individual to stumble across it and start the whole cycle of horror up again! Aieee!

He’s fun to read. His style is quite hyperbolic–he over-uses a vocabulary that I would describe as childish and silly (“lugubrious” is an example of a typical H.P. Lovecraft adjective). It’s like reading the Weekly World News–somewhat flashy and the kind of thing that you don’t read very often, but when you do, you’re probably on vacation in a place where you’re not worried about impressing people.

Many of his antagonists are fish-people–c’mon, this is FUN STUFF! This is evolution gone wild! We all know that man and fish do not mate–but in Lovecraft’s stories, they do, and the result is a hideous, slimey, “lugubrious” fish person (screams of horror from the victim in the story who is being eaten!).

To me, this is Daddy playing “boogie man” with his little children! It’s FUN! My dad used to play “The Claw” with me and my brother–he would twist his face and form his fist into a claw, and then chase us while cackling, “I am the Claw! Bwoo ha ha!” We would scream and run all over the house, and eventually he would catch one of us and basically nothing happened. Wow, that was fun!

If you read the Little House books, you will learn that sweet Pa Ingalls did the same thing with Mary and “Half-Pint” Laura–“One game they loved was Mad Dog.” Pa would mess up his hair, get down on all fours, growl, and chase the girls all over the log cabin.

So my dad wasn’t being a monster, he was being a dad. And I think that’s kind of what H.P. Lovecraft does in his stories–he’s trying to scare grownups who are still little kids at heart and miss having their daddies chase them through the house.

His best stories are very well-constructed and build beautifully. They are full of foreboding–you just know that this isn’t going to end well at all, although some do end well; e.g., “The Dunwich Horror.”

I think that “Shadow Over Innsmouth” is one of his best stories–so fun and exciting to read, and the ending is a surprise worthy of O. Henry.

My favorite Lovecraft story is “A Colour Out of Space.” This story is full of friendship and loyalty and love, and so very very sad. What’s amazing about it is that it is very similiar to what happens to victims of a nuclear accident. I see no harm and much good in this story, and think that it would be good for Christians to read.

I can certainly understand why certain young people who immerse themselves in Lovecraft could become overly-pessimistic and gloomy about the condition of the universe, and possible if they have the chemical imbalances in their genes, this could precipitate a depression. It could certainly cause a young person to become mired down with despair.

The answer, IMO, is to make sure that any young person who reads Lovecraft thoroughly understands that these stories are FICTION. Lovecraft was an unhealthy man who lived as an invalid with two maiden aunts and led a very secluded life and died very young. During his life, he was virtually unknown, and he wasn’t a commercial success with his writing. There are theories that he was a homosexual, which back then, was not something that everyone celebrated. His rather pathetic life is mirrored in many of his stories, and his protagonists are seeking a way out of the despair and horror of their situation.

We have to help young people try to see Lovecraft’s stories and poetry as his attempts to survive in a world in which he didn’t seem to fit in. (I can see why a lot of teenagers would identify with H.P. Lovecraft.) But just as Lovecraft’s protagonists did, we need to fight against the tendency to hide from the world and instead, go out and FACE whatever frightens us and overcome it.

Lovecraft tried to do this not only by writing fiction, but also by his letter-writing by which he mentored many young writers who have since become famous (e.g., Robert Bloch, who was just a young boy when he started corresponding with Lovecraft. Bloch went on to write Psycho. one of the most famous thrillers of all time.)

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