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Monday, July 30, 2018

Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness

by H. P. Lovecraft

Free Online Text   

“They were infamous, nightmare sculptures even when telling of age-old, bygone things; for shoggoths and their work ought not to be seen by human beings or portrayed by any beings. The mad author of the Necronomicon had nervously tried to swear that none had been bred on this planet, and that only drugged dreamers had ever conceived them. Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes—viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells—rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile—slaves of suggestion, builders of cities—more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative—Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old Ones willing to use and to carve such things?”
Another classic from one of the greatest of all horror writers. At the Mountains of Madness continues with Lovecraft’s world building, and his combined universe, creating an unparalleled bleak universe filled with inhuman races vying for dominance. In fact, it seems the human race only thrived at all was because the others spent their energies destroying each other and we snuck in after the wreckage.
Lovecraft has mastered his voice - technical and horrifically detailed. He knows just when to pull back on the description to allow the reader’s imagination to fill in the blank with something much worse that he could dream up. We see this at the end. After all the strangeness and alien details, the final thing is unknown. Unseeable and insane.

Amazingly this story, now considered by all as a classic, was turned down by Weird Tales for length reasons. Instead, it was serialized in three issues of Astounding Stories in 1936 and has never been out of print since.  It is one of his longest stories, but so much happens, so much is revealed, that it doesn’t feel that long. Perhaps on the fifth re-read it may drag, but that first time is magic. My eyes, my brain, was glued to each syllable and every odd description.
Lovecraft continues his science fiction explosion. While the old guys still remain (Yog Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and Cthulhu) he no longer adds these massively powerful entities to the Mythos. Instead, he creates the everyday intelligent races which populate the few livable spaces in the Universe. We see the belated history of the Elder Things, described as “Like a barrel with five bulging ridges in place of staves. Lateral breakages, as of thinnish stalks, are at equator in middle of these ridges. In furrows between ridges are curious growths – combs or wings that fold up and spread out like fans. . . which gives almost seven-foot wing spread.” They are one of the many (as it turns out) races which held dominance over the Earth before the dawn of man. 
They in turn created (genetically engineered) the Shoggoths - a blobulous race capable shifting into any desired thought or preform any needed task. These eventually developed consciousness. A civil war erupted and an accord is reached. A truce that eventually lead to the degradation and destruction of their society. Also, they apparently ate six foot penguins, which they herded like cattle.
Elder Thing

The Elder Things (actual race name is unknown) are so old that they recorded the arrival of Cthulhu and fought off his “star-spawn” - whatever the hell they are. Lovecraft did not elaborate on the species. If indeed, they were a species. Then warred against the Mi-Go (the Fungi from Yuggoth) a race we saw earlier in The Whisperer in Darkness. They may even be the authors of Pnakotic Manuscripts - an ancient text that predates mankind- mentioned many times in previous Lovecraft tales.
Strangely enough very little has been done with this story in other mediums. There was talk of a film directed by Guillermo del Toro, but it seems to be stuck in development hell. Perhaps it just as well, I doubt any other medium could do the story justice. But I have found a few bits and pieces which I present below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Animated short of the story

5 Part BBC Radio Drama Based on the Story

On the Film Development of the Story.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Lovecraft: The Whisperer In Darkness

by H. P. Lovecraft

Free Online Text 

  . . . is the Lord of the Woods, even to . . . and the gifts of the men of Leng . . . so from the wells of night to the gulfs of space, and from the gulfs of space to the wells of night, ever the praises of Great Cthulhu, of Tsathoggua, and of Him Who is not to be Named. Ever Their praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!
And it has come to pass that the Lord of the Woods, being . . . seven and nine, down the onyx steps . . . (tri)butes to Him in the Gulf, Azathoth, He of Whom Thou hast taught us marv(els) . . . on the wings of night out beyond space, out beyond th . . . to That whereof Yuggoth is the youngest child, rolling alone in black aether at the rim. . . .
     . . . go out among men and find the ways thereof, that He in the Gulf may know. To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told. And He shall put on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides, and come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock. . . .”
Another of Lovecraft's essential tales. This one eschews from his past sources where he hints at some ancient supernatural thing from which you catch only a glimpse at, and comes straight out with it.
     The Mi-Go, or the Fungi from Yuggoth, are here and gave been for ages. They have vastly superior technology and an interstellar society. They could conquer the Earth, but have no real use for it - beyond various metal ores which they are already mining. Thus all they want is secrecy to get their materials.
Mi-Go - The Fungi from Yuggoth

     Or do they? Lovecraft readers will note that the creature’s symbology is mentioned in the Necronomicon. That they regard Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth in a favorable light, and this story adds new names to the horror- Shub-Nuggurath: The Black Goat if the Woods with a Thousand Young and Tsathogga: an amorphous frog creature who lives under the earth.
    This story beautifully marries science fiction and horror. Blending the Cthulhu Mythos into the horrors of space so effortlessly, it was as if they had been that way all aong. It certainly shows a definite shift from the supernatural to science fiction, as was becoming much more popular at the time. He even added details which were from current science then. Yuggoth is identified as Pluto, which had just been discovered by astronomers.

          The Whisperer in Darkness not only expands Lovecraft’s own creations, but draws in from other sources as well. Specifically from the works of Ambrose Bierce in the form of Hastur (a benign god of shepherds), the Laki of Hali, Carcosa (ancient and mysterious city is barely described, and is viewed only after its destruction by a character who once lived there). These were later expanded upon by Robert W. Chambers adding to it The King in Yellow and the elder sign. People always seem to forget these were not the creations of Lovecraft.
          This story hasn't been adapted into too many other mediums, but I have included what I could find below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

 Audiobook version

Trailer for the 2011 film

Second Trailer for the 2011 film
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Lovecraft: The Dunwich Horror

by H. P. Lovecaft

Free online text   

          The Dunwich Horror one of the essential Lovecraft tales. It is a sublime piece of writing. Mystical, yet technical, in the author's masterly style. Not one sentence or syllable is wasted in the construction of this tale.
        While it may owe inspiration to “The Great God Pan” by Machen or “The Thing in the Woods” by Williams, it is wholly a wonderful tale that surpasses either of the two I just mentioned.
Originally published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales, this story has never been out of print. It revolves around the rustic Watley clan in Dunwich Massachusetts, part of the fictional Miskatonic River Valley. To a slightly inbred family, a strange child is born that grows, mentally and physically, at a rapid rate. Strange events occur which cause him to go to Miskatonic University to consult a copy of the Necronomicon -as his family's copy is damaged. One thing leads to another, the boy is killed and then disaster strikes. A very satisfying one at that. Read the story if you want to find out what.
Cover of the issues where the story was first published. 

It contains most of the Lovecraftian hallmarks: Yog Sothoth, the Necronomicon, Arkham, Miskatonic University, the rural area as the receptor of evil. It is perhaps the model of what a Lovecraft story is like.

    The bone I gave to pick with the later developed Cthulhu Mythos, mostly arraigned by others after Lovecraft's death, is the classification of Yog Sothoth as an Outer God. It has been established that the avatar/agent of these entities is Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos, who does their bidding. He is the contact point between humanity and these creature's   In this case Yog Sothoth, referred to as “the key and the gate” to beyond, is a creature that is interacted with directly by Old Man Watley and his family. Perhaps a small difference, but in my mind a significant one. Lovecraft himself never placed Yog Sothoth as an Outer God, that was done by his later writers in the Mythos. If it needs to be classified, Yog Sothoth should be listed among the Great Old Ones.
      Included below are a few film adaptations and a Claymation cartoon. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor. 

           The Dunwich Horror 1970

The Dunwich Horror 2009

Claymation of the story

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Lovecraft: History of the Necronomicon & Other Stories

By H. P. Lovecraft

A further collection of Lovecraft material. With his growing literary career and increasing publications, what we have here is more a collection of scraps and leftover material. Bits and pieces, most of which weren’t meant for publication, but nevertheless eventually were. Not exactly profound work, except for the History of the Necronomicon, but interesting.As usual, free online links are provided for each of the selections. 

The Descendant (Originally written in 1927, First published in Leaves in 1938). This isn’t a short story, but a fragment of one, which is why it wasn't published until after his death. It seems that Lovecraft was trying to use London as inspiration and was building some characters for the story about a man, his lineage (which stretched back to Roman times), and the Necronomicon (described here for the first time as having “a thick leather cover and brass clasp). It’s similar to the background in The Rats in the Walls. The writing is strong and I wished he’d written more of it.

History of the Necronomicon (Originally written in 1927, first published as a pamphlet in 1937). Again, this small snippet was not meant for publication, but was more for background notes for Lovecraft's to use when dropping hints in his stories. This goes into some background on the man who wrote it, the mad poet Abdul Alhazard, under the name Al Azif (which means the sounds insects make at night, which could be mistaken for the howling of daemons). It then goes into the various translations and printings of the book, called the Necronomicon after it was translated into Greek. But there is no mention of what actually is in the text, except that it's author worshiped Cthulhu and Yog Sothoth.

TheVery Old Folk (Originally written 1927, first published in Sceinti-Snaps in 1940). This wasn’t intended as a short story, but was part of a letter Lovecraft sent to a friend describing a dream, where he was a Roman commander leading an attack against “The Old Folk” who commit various evil rituals and sacrifices on the Sabbath. As such, it is written as one long paragraph and wasn’t originally even given a name. It is very detailed for a dream remembrance and I believe Lovecraft was filling in details that made it a more rounded tale.

Ibid (Originally written in 1928, first published in The O-Wash-Ta-Nong in 1938).  This is the last of Lovecraft’s comic stories. It is a mock biography of the fictional character Ibidus whose thoughts were profound in ancient times and whose skull was carried down into modern times. As you or may not know Ibid is “an abbreviation for the Latin word ibīdem, meaning "in the same place", commonly used in an endnote, footnote, bibliography citation, or scholarly reference to refer to the source cited in the preceding note or list item. Ibid. may also be used in the Harvard (name-date) system for in-text references where there has been a close previous citation from the same source material”. Not much used now, it was common in Lovecraft’s time. The purpose here is to poke fun at lazy students and scholars alike. A fun read. 

 For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Lovecraft: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

by H. P. Lovecraft

Free On-Line Text  

“What elicited the notion of insanity at this period were the sounds heard at all hours from Ward’s attic laboratory, in which he kept himself most of the time. There were chanting and repetitions, and thunderous declamations in uncanny rhythms; and although these sounds were always in Ward’s own voice, there was something about the quality of that voice, and in the accents of the formulae it pronounced, which could not but chill the blood of every hearer.” 
Here is another of Lovecraft's masterpieces, which he essentially left to rot until it was published after his death. Until rereading all of his works over again, I was unaware just how little of it had been published during his lifetime. No wonder he considered himself a literary failure. All if his best work was buried in his papers.
Original publication of the story

Lovecraft seems to be his worst critic. He didn't really care for this novella, calling it a “cumbrous, creaking bit of self-conscious antiquarianism”. Meaning that he felt it was much and too old hat. The story had been told before (which it had) and he knew it. This is why it wasn't published until 1941 in issues of Weird Tales and as a whole volume in the Beyond the Wall of Sleep collection in 1943. Lovecraft barely sent it out.
Without giving too many spoilers- a young man becomes obsessed with newly discovered distant relative. The man in question was involved in various occult activities that seemed to prolong his life long beyond when he should have died. The young man’s investigation then leads to magic, madness, and death, with a Twilight Zone twist that you see a mile away.
As stated above, the story essentially had been told before. That doesn't detract, however, from the skill of the author. Lovecraft was unable to detect his own (now fully formed) literary voice. His scientific and investigatory approach to the material is what makes this story stand out, what gives it an edge above others like it. It is simply well written, even if the mystery and end are obvious.
2nd installation of the story in Weird Tales

This story fits snugly into the Cthulhu Mythos with the source of the ancient occultist's knowledge being the dreaded Necronomicon by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazrad. And, as it turns out, a good friend of the investigator looking into the case of Charles Dexter Ward is our old friend Randolph Carter (the author’s literary alter ego) who gives him some sage advice to continue the hunt.
Named for the first time is the Outer God, Yog Sothoth. The All-in-One, he gives knowledge to those who please him, but only the most depraved do. He is described as a series of glowing balls weaving in midair. He is the prime supernatural evil in this tale.
Below are a number of videos and film adaptations on the topic. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor

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The Haunted Palace starring Vincent Price

Libervox Audiobook recording of the story

 For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lovecraft: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

by H.P. Lovecraft

Free Online Text 

“There were, in such voyages, incalculable local dangers; as well as that shocking final peril which gibbers unmentionably outside the ordered universe, where no dreams reach; that last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity—the boundless daemon-sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes; to which detestable pounding and piping dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic ultimate gods, the blind, voiceless, tenebrous, mindless Other Gods whose soul and messenger is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.”
Now we have one of my first literary loves in my reading career and certainly my favorite story by H. P. Lovecraft. The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath was never published in his lifetime, only being released by Arkham House in 1943- in an edition which also contained The Silver Key and Through the Gates of the Silver Key. These lesser stories were sequels. And I mean lesser in both the senses of they being of shorter and poorer quality.
Original cover for the book
This is the culmination of all of Lovecraft’s dreamland stories. Each one the previous tales is incorporated under the umbrella of this story. In fact without Pickman’s Model, The Cats of Ulthar, Azathoth (though after re-reading it, it seems this novella is a second attempt at writing the story), Celephias, and The White Ship, this story is not possible. The protagonists of each are all featured and are integral to the plot of this story.
The protagonist is Lovecraft’s literary alter-ego Randolph Carter who enters the realm of sleep in order to find a marvelous city of marble that he glimpsed three times as a child. He has spent years looking for it without success, so he decides to scale the impossible heights to unknown Kadath where the Gods of the Earth play (whether these are the Gods of our world or the Dreamland is unclear), and who also have a tenuous connection to the Outer Gods (of whom Azathoth, located at the center of the Universe, is king).
He travels long and hard, sails to the moon, befriends the legions of intelligent cats, runs from monsters and evil denizens- all of which are servants of the dreaded Nyarlathotep who is the the messenger and soul (whatever that means) of the Outer Gods. He appears as a “tall and swarthy man, resembling an Egyptian Pharaoh”. In his quest, he must travel through the dreaded Plateau of Leng, now located in the Dreamlands and mentioned in many previous stories. There are ancient Stonehenge-type monoliths and rude huts, and the plateau is populated by near-men, like satyrs, the have horns and cloven feet.

Map of Lovecraft's Dreamlands

When he arrives, Carter finds the Gods are gone, actually abandoning their high perch to live in the city he is searching for. With the added twist (or kick in the groin) that his “fabled jeweled city” that he searched for all his life was not an aspect of his dreams, but simply childish memories of his hometown of Boston. All Carter was looking for was his lost sense of juvenile wonder, that excitement which is crushed under experience and maturity. And, like so many older Star Wars fans, he discovers that once it is gone, there is no recovering it.
Strangely enough, Lovecraft never attempted to get this story published. He wrote, "it isn't much good; but forms useful practice for later and more authentic attempts in the novel form." He expressed concern while writing it that "Randolph Carter's adventures may have reached the point of palling on the reader; or that the very plethora of weird imagery may have destroyed the power of any one image to produce the desired impression of strangeness." So this was his practice attempt at the novel. Of which he never completed another one. Despite the author’s dismissal, I have to disagree about its quality.
H. P. Lovecraft
Why I love this book so much is that it was my first encounter with a fantasy style that has been all but erased from modern literature. The Dunsayian technique (Lord Dunsay) which heavily influenced Lovecraft’s style, along with Edgar Allen Poe. If you’ve never heard of him and like fantasy try it out. Dunsay wrote close to ninety books and all are in the public domain. Just remember, it is fashioned in a deliberately poetic style and were written over a hundred years ago. Call it a mythic fantasy approach, which was the style of J. R. R. Tolkein (and maybe perfected by him), where all of the prose is given a gothic-heroic style of speaking. Stilted, yet noble. Lovecraft simply altered it, by making the hero an average man.  It is an incredibly rare style, almost never used in modern books.

Linked, as usual are a hardcopy and a free online version of the text, as well as some brief videos on The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.

 For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Lovecraft: Pickman’s Model & Other Stories

By H. P. Lovecraft

More short pieces from H. P. Lovecraft, but they are all important ones within the Cthulhu Mythos, establishing various monsters, entities, and the only recurring character, Randolph Carter. Lovecraft has transformed to the professional author. No more are his works being published in content starved amateur magazines, and is almost exclusively put out in Weird Tales (The Magazine That Never Dies). His stories are sharper, focused, and, while still detail heavy, not distractingly so. Presented below are three of his finest short stories, along with links to online texts and addition media that I could dredge up.

Pickman’s Model (originally written in 1926, first published in Weird Tales in 1927).  Pickman's, an artist of renowned horror and spiritual successor to Goya (Google him if you're too illiterate to know who Goya is), is befriended by the protagonist after his newest work “Ghoul Feeding” makes a splash. This is one of those Twilight Zone twists you see coming ten miles away. In fact it's given away in the title. The character of Pickman and his ghoulish friends show up again in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (which will be finally covered  next blog) and the race seems to be able to physically traverse between the Dreamland's and the real world. This was made into an uninspired episode of Night Gallery (the poor man's Twilight Zone), some of which I managed to dredge up below.

Night Gallery

                                                           Radio Play of the Story

The Silver Key (originally written in 1926, first published in Weird Tales in 1929).  This is technically a sequel to The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, but was actually published first. They both have the same protagonist, Randolph Carter- Lovecraft’s literary alter ego. In this tale, he has lost the key to the gate of dreams. Thus begins a lengthy discussion on the nature of reality, and whether one's life is made up of a series of pictures. This delves into which means more, the dreams or reality. This leads to a physical key that unlocks a temporal reset, or a physical time travel, where his mind envelops that of his ten year old self. Truly odd. One of the last of his Dreamland stories, and barely one at that, this was not well received. The editor wrote to Lovecraft and said the readers “violently disliked” it. That probably meant something different back then.

The Strange High House in the Mist (originally written in 1926, first published in Weird Tales in 1931) Set in the witch haven of Kingsport, one of Lovecraft's fictitious evil towns, a family becomes obsessed with an old house overlooking the town and goes to investigate, only to discover the house's door opens somewhere unexpected. We see the return of the Terrible Old Man from the story of the same name, who demonstrates just how old he is. There are some weird references to Nodens (who is a Celtic dirty, but later fully and badly incorporated into the Mythos by August Derelith) as well to the Roman God, Neptune. A fun tale, if a bit sparse. He should be past the hinting stage by now. As for supernatural prick teases, Lovercraft was a master.

          For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lovecraft: The Call of Cthulhu

 by H. P. Lovecraft

  Free Full Text is here 

“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

And with those words, we truly begin the Cthulhu Mythos. This is the Lovecraft I’ve been waiting for. Enough with wading through all of his early crap, all the half formed ideas and elder things to reach this point. It has the basic Lovecraftian elements: the man driven mad from his experience, the in-human race from beyond that tip the balance of insanity in the minds of men, the scientific-sounding investigation of these ancient horrors.

Finally here is the foundation of the Cthulhu Mythos, before it was only lightly hinted at here and there, now we have the first exposition on the subject. It’s why this story was the real turning point for Lovecraft and why the mythos is named for this bizarre beast, who appears only once and is mentioned again very sparsely.

“They worshiped, so they said, the great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died.”

In addition, we have the return of the dreaded Necronomicon, penned by the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, who hinted at this cult in the lines (Game of Thrones fans take notes, we have shades of the Drowned God here),
“That is not dead which can eternal lie
And with strange aeons even death may die.”
Cthulhu himself is a giant creature who is waiting for the stars to align properly to rising again from his sunken house (or citadel) of  R’lyeh. Which, according to the events of the story, is at 47°9′S 126°43′W- or the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean. We know this because a Norwegian stumbles across the risen island, accidently releases the Great Old One, and then impales his yacht into the creature’s chest, ripping it apart.
The story here is an investigation of an investigation. A man finds a strange file on sinister happenings among his dead uncle’s papers. The file is a collection of various seemingly disconnected events across the globe, all of which points to a hidden cult (perhaps the oldest religion in human history). The stories range from the visions of a feverish physic sculptor, to a raid on a bloody cult of human sacrifices in Louisiana, to rumblings of uprisings in various remote spots, and so on until the narrator himself takes up the case and investigates this mysterious cult himself.  And like the greatest of Lovecraft stories, it ends but nothing is finished.

A lot of debate has raged back and forth over the inspiration for this tale. Some say its from Tennyson’s “The Kraken”, others claim Dunsay’s “The Gods of Pegana”, and there some who lay claims to the ancient tales of Lemuira and Atlantis. I say it doesn't matter one single bit. The story is its own. And while it may take elements of them, it is unique enough to be different from each one and thus cause a debate. The only tales it’s really similar to is Lovecraft’s own early story Dagon.
The character of Cthulhu is now the poster boy for all things Lovecraft. He is the writer’s Mickey Mouse, his Spiderman, his Superman. And the fact that all of his works are in the public domain means that the characters and stories will never die. Not when people can profit from their plunder.

Now while I may seem like I was breast fed on this stuff, I only first came into contact with the Mythos not through the books, but via the roleplaying game of the same name The Call of Cthulhu. I had never heard of the man before I picked up a 2nd hand copy of its 4th edition in 1990 and dove-in head first. Thus, I imbibed all of the backstory before jumping into the actual material- which probably made it easier for young me to read, like reading the libretto before the opera. Lovecraft, as much as I love the stories, can become excessively wordy.
As such, Cthulhu has been in my blood since before High School. Had it not been for the accessories, the geek stuff, I may never have read it.  I’ve linked what videos I could find below, but strangely there aren’t too many adaptations of the story into any other mediums.
 For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

        A trailer for the modern silent film based on the story

A live music presentation of the silent film

     Cut scenes from Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth video game.

A motion comic version of the story.
 For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Lovecraft: The Shunned House and Other Stories

by H. P. Lovecraft

Five more stories collected from the vast pool of material put into the pulps by H. P. Lovecraft. As most of you probably know, he considered himself a literary failure at the time of his death - or at least one who would gain only the minor-est of footnotes. His real fame didn’t bloom until the 1960s, thanks to August Derelith and Arkham House- who kept all of his materials in-print. After that all of the comic adaptation, films versions, and games around it have kept the mythos alive into the next century. In fact, I’m sure more people enjoy his creations in other mediums than like to read his original material. Well, most of it is almost 100 years old and most of the stories are uniquely wordy.  

The Shunned House (originally written in 1924, first published in Weird Tales in 1937). Technically a novelette, though I find it difficult to tell the difference between a novelette and long short story- if indeed there is a difference. Based on an actual abode Lovecraft's aunt had lived in, this is the story of a man and his uncle’s fascination with a house that seems to destroy whomever lives in it. After delving into its extensive history, they invade the house with military flamethrowers. The pair find nothing but a horrid smell, a strange phosphorescent fungi growing in the basement, and a yellow mist in which they seem to be make out the shape of a man. Things happen, people dissolve. Though they do solve their predicament in a way that would make Call of Cthulhu players proud- ie. A lot of acid is dumped on the problem. And a greater mystery is left. This is one of his best stories. Odd, yet strangely scientific, perfectly mixing up sci-fi with the supernatural.  

The Horror at Red Hook (Written in 1925, first published in Weird Tales in 1927). A lot of people seem to dislike this one. I don’t. Of course, they spout the usual claims if racism because of his unflattering description of Red Hook and it's transformation from an independent village to a Brooklyn slum. This venom is thrown at Mongul types and Eastern Europeans. Take it as you will, it's a horror story. But even Lovecraft's dismissed it later on. I liked it however. This is an odd departure for Lovecraft as the evil forces at work here are definitely not the Cthulhu Mythos. Here we have a Satanic influence, of the Yeidizi “Devil-Worshiping” kind. As such, one might easily skip over it, if you're simply on the lookout for Cthulhu. This is the first of four stories set in New York. A city where the author lived briefly and absolutely hated 

He (originally written in 1925, first published in Weird Tales in 1926). If a story can be a reflection of the author at times, this is certainly true of Lovecraft in this tale. In fact, you can look on it as less of a story and more of him venting about his life at the time. It was a low point for him. Trapped in a rapidly failing marriage and stuck in a city he detested, Lovecraft blows off some steam in this story if the evils (past and future) that haunt New York City and it's evil denizens. Some claim there are some racist characterizations in it, and you well make that case, but it shows to me that when a person is in a bad place in life, evil thoughts follow.  
In the Vault (originally written in 1925, first published in Tryout in 1925). This is a simple tale of a drunken undertaker and a pissed off corpse’s revenge. For a Lovecraft horror story, it is certainly mild and very conventional. In fact, if I hadn't been told it was one of his, I wouldn't have guessed. While some of the style is his, it is muted. Not a bad story, it's simply one we've read before.  
Cool Air (originally written in 1926, first published in Tales of Magic and Mystery in 1928). One his more popular stories (though originally rejected by the big leagues). This story of a doctor needing to refrigerate themselves to stave off death’s final embrace -oh, by the way, spoilers- has been adapted for TV at least three times, and loosely used for the 2007 feature film, Chill. Though the last has considerably more gore than the story. I've put as many of the adaptations as I can find below.  

                                  Necronomicon: Book of the Dead 1994

                                              Chill from 2007
 For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.