Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Shadow Over Innsmouth

The Shadow Over Innsmouth is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories.  It focuses on a young man who travels to a run-down Massachusetts port town called Innsmouth for its reputation of picturesque architecture.  He begins to realize, however, that there is a reason that people stay away from Innsmouth.

Robert Olmstead, on a mission to discover the identity of his distant ancestors, finds himself in rural Massachusetts.  On the tips of some of the people he meets, he decides to take a bus into Innsmouth.  The people he meets on the bus, and later in town, seem to look a little strange.  They have sloping foreheads, big lips, and bulging fishy eyes.  Once in town, he asks around and eventually hears rumors about the interbreeding of the citizens of Innsmouth with fish-like creatures that came from the sea.  This story shakes Olmstead's nerves, but he eventually chalks it up to unfounded rumors and speculation.

That is, until, the bus he hoped to take out of town before night fall breaks down, leaving his stranded in Innsmouth.  Olmstead is forced to sleep overnight in a run down hotel when the natives suddenly become hostile.  Olmstead must choose to either flee or run for his life but one this is sure - what he discovers off the shores of this little Massachusetts town will alter his life forever.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth is unique from Lovecraft's other works in that it partially abandons the theme of plausible deniability.  By the end of the story, a police investigation begins regarding the people of Innsmouth.  However, we don't know the result of the investigation...

I loved Innsmouth for two reasons.  One is the great "chase-scene" that ensues, in which Olmstead is certain that he will be killed if he is found.  The other is the ending, which I will let you read on your own - it's a doozie!

To read the whole story, click here.


  1. Sound slike an interesting story. I'm wishing right now that I had the patience to read from the computer, then I could read all three of these now. I'm one of those that needs to be comfortable when I read a story otherwise I can't really connect with it.

  2. Geesh, with you stating that the ending is doozie makes me even more curious about this story. Actually, this story sounds far more suspenseful than the other ones.

    Ryan - I hear you about reading from the computer, but I am making the attempt with The Call of Cthulhu and it is not so bad. My only problem is that the story is not portable for me, and hard to know where I stopped reading it.

    I am assuming that these stories are in book format, and probably could be checked out from the library. No time to check right now.

  3. @ Ryan G - I agree that reading a book on a computer screen is tough. I figured I would give the option to those who are more accustomed to it. However, I hope you check them out in some other form!

    @ ibeeeg - I'm glad you're enjoying it! And yes, you can find compilations of his work in the store (and I'm assuming the library). The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a "complete" collection, and each compilation always seems to leave out some good ones. The compilation I own (and enjoy greatly) is called "Lovecraft: Tales" and is published by The Library of America. Check it out on Amazon (link below)

    It has 22 of his stories (some great, others not so great), including the three that I have discussed this week.

    You can also find compilations including stories written by other authors that are set in the Cthulhu Mythos.

  4. Thank Nick for the book information. I searched my library and found Tales of H.P. Lovecraft : major works published by Ecco Press in 1997. It contains the three stories you highlighted. I place a hold. Look forward to seeing how I like his other stories.

  5. It's always been one of my favorite HPL stories from the time I read it many countless eons ago in high school.