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H.P. Lovecraft's favorite horror stories, those that inspired and awed him! In 1929-30, H.P. Lovecraft made some lists of both literary and popular stories "having the greatest amount of truly cosmic horror and macabre convincingness." These lists of his favorite weird tales make for a truly landmark Lovecraftian anthology. We present Lovecraft's own favorites horror stories H.P. Lovecraft's favorite horror stories, those that inspired and awed him! In 1929-30, H.P. Lovecraft made some lists of both literary and popular stories "having the greatest amount of truly cosmic horror and macabre convincingness." These lists of his favorite weird tales make for a truly landmark Lovecraftian anthology. We present Lovecraft's own favorites horror stories, including some well-known classics, alongside of a number of excellent rare tales by forgotten authors. Many of these stories are classics, inspiring several generations since of the world's best horror authors. Contributors include Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, M. P. Shiel, A. Merritt, Walter de la Mare, Paul Suter, M. L. Humphreys, H.F. Arnold, Everil Worrell, Arthur J. Burks, and John Martin Leahy. This is the anthology of favorite weird tales that Lovecraft himself hoped to compile! "To understand why Lovecraft regarded these stories as the touchstone for greatness in the literature of supernatural horror is to understand the significance of the genre itself. The classic works included in this collection, along with Lovecraft's own best tales, both justify and represent the essence of this form of human expression." – Thomas Ligotti


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H.P. Lovecraft's favorite horror stories, those that inspired and awed him! In 1929-30, H.P. Lovecraft made some lists of both literary and popular stories "having the greatest amount of truly cosmic horror and macabre convincingness." These lists of his favorite weird tales make for a truly landmark Lovecraftian anthology. We present Lovecraft's own favorites horror stories H.P. Lovecraft's favorite horror stories, those that inspired and awed him! In 1929-30, H.P. Lovecraft made some lists of both literary and popular stories "having the greatest amount of truly cosmic horror and macabre convincingness." These lists of his favorite weird tales make for a truly landmark Lovecraftian anthology. We present Lovecraft's own favorites horror stories, including some well-known classics, alongside of a number of excellent rare tales by forgotten authors. Many of these stories are classics, inspiring several generations since of the world's best horror authors. Contributors include Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, Robert W. Chambers, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, M. P. Shiel, A. Merritt, Walter de la Mare, Paul Suter, M. L. Humphreys, H.F. Arnold, Everil Worrell, Arthur J. Burks, and John Martin Leahy. This is the anthology of favorite weird tales that Lovecraft himself hoped to compile! "To understand why Lovecraft regarded these stories as the touchstone for greatness in the literature of supernatural horror is to understand the significance of the genre itself. The classic works included in this collection, along with Lovecraft's own best tales, both justify and represent the essence of this form of human expression." – Thomas Ligotti

30 review for H.P. Lovecraft's Favorite Weird Tales: The Roots of Modern Horror

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    It's true that when you pick up an anthology of stories, you're getting a very mixed bag. In this book, there are several greats, some okays and a couple of hmmm...whatevers. The book is divided into two parts: the "literary weird tale," and the "popular weird tale." Under literary you'll find a lot of writers with whom you are familiar. Here's the Part I contents list, with brief description of each story. Don't worry ... I have not left a single spoiler to ruin the reading experience. Edgar All It's true that when you pick up an anthology of stories, you're getting a very mixed bag. In this book, there are several greats, some okays and a couple of hmmm...whatevers. The book is divided into two parts: the "literary weird tale," and the "popular weird tale." Under literary you'll find a lot of writers with whom you are familiar. Here's the Part I contents list, with brief description of each story. Don't worry ... I have not left a single spoiler to ruin the reading experience. Edgar Allen Poe: "Fall of the House of Usher" -- this one's very well known so I'll skip a description. Ambrose Bierce: "The Suitable Surroundings" -- an author tells a friend that the best way to enjoy a work of supernatural horror is to place himself in the most suitable environment -- and that the author's works are meant to impart, under optimum conditions, the most chilling reading ever. Well...you'll have to read it and see what happens. This one was just okay ...different, for sure Ambrose Bierce: "The Death of Halpin Frayser" -- A young man, very close to his mother, has a very odd dream about her which seems almost too real... this one may be a bit Freudian so beware. I enjoyed this one a lot. Arthur Machen: "The Novel of the Black Seal" -- Machen is one of my favorite authors ever. This particular piece was written in his early writing days. A Miss Lally works as a governess for a Professor Gregg, whose research focuses on the search for the existence of primitive people in the hills of Wales. An amazing story -- also appearing in The Three Impostors. Arthur Machen: "Novel of the White Powder" -- Another one of my favorite Machen tales, and a very well written story that will raise the hackles on the back of your neck. In this one, a man takes a mistakenly- prepared drug which leads to serious and frightening consequences. I would rate Machen up there on my favorite creepy story writers list. "The Yellow Sign," by Robert W. Chambers -- A painter and his model are plagued by vivid dreams about a night watchman at a church that can be seen from his window. One of the best early tales of horror I've read in a long time. Arthur Machen "The White People" -- a superb horror story . A young girl is slowly being introduced to otherworldly forces as set forth in her memoirs found in a book. Very eerie, and the descriptions are vivid, enabling the reader to capture in his or her mind the settings of the story. Simply a phenomenal story. "Count Magnus," by M.R. James: An author who has gone to Sweden to research a book he is writing discovers the records of the de la Gardie family, finding that one of the early ancestors was a Count Magnus -- an evil man of whom no one in the present wants to speak. The author, Wraxall, won't leave well enough alone, much to his detriment. (I absolutely just can't tell the story...it will ruin it). A superb horror story which is best read at night by flashlight. I can't recommend this one enough! Algernon Blackwood: "The Willows" -- Blackwood is another one of my favorite all-time writers of supernatural fiction. And in this story, you can really see the emergence of some Lovecraftian themes -- the meeting of worlds, the insignificance of human life to those in the other world, etc. Two friends decide to take a canoe down the Danube, and wind up in an area of flooded islands on which rest groves of willow trees. They both begin to feel the eeriness of the place, as well as the impression that something on the little island is after them. This is one of the best stories in the entire collection. "The House of Sounds," by MP Shiel -- somewhat along the lines of "Fall of the House of Usher", the narrator receives a note to come to his old friend's family home. When he arrives, the friend is not the same as when he saw him earlier -- noises, even the smallest of them are deafening and act as a portent of destruction. Brilliantly written...another hackle-raiser. A. Merritt: “The Moon Pool,” – I can see why HPL loved this story. I have the novel (as yet unread), but the original short story leaves a LOT to the imagination. In the story, which is narrated by Dr. Walter T. Goodman, who leaves behind a narrative in order to clear the name of a fellow scientist, Dr. David Throckmartin. It seems that Throckmartin, his wife, a friend/colleague and Mrs. Throckmartin’s old nurse Thora all set out to do research near Ponape (if I’m not mistaken, this is a location used by HPL as well). Throckmartin was picked up some time later by a ship, and Goodwin met him there. The three companions were never seen again. The story told by Throckmartin was eerie and loaded with references to something positively unearthly, but Goodwin never got a chance to fully question him because Throckmartin mysteriously disappeared off of the ship. A phenomenal story and one not to be missed. Walter de la Mare: “Seaton’s Aunt” – a classic tale of psychic vampirism, which I’ve read somewhere else. Withers is an acquaintance of Arthur Seaton from their school days at Gummeridge’s. Seaton is very unpopular, but still invites Withers to come home with him for a holiday. While there, he meets Seaton’s aunt for the first time. Seaton claims she’s is in league with ghosts and perhaps even the devil. However, Withers isn’t buying it, and thinks that maybe Arthur’s a bit neurotic -- or is he? Fun story, but read carefully. Part II, “The Popular Weird Tale,” consists of the following: Paul Suter – “Beyond the Door” -- After a man’s uncle dies, the nephew finds some strange things at his home, including a diary detailing a very strange compulsion. Very creepy story. ML Humphreys – “The Floor Above” – A friend (Tom) is called by another friend (Arthur) to come see him, noting that he’s “in a bad way.” Tom arrives and immediately notes some bizarre occurrences surrounding Arthur. The end sort of sneaks up on you – a very hackle-raising short tale. H.F. Arnold – “The Night Wire” – This one reminded me in one sense of Stephen King’s “The Mist,” in which an odd fog rises up and blankets everything. But that’s as far as the comparison goes. Here, the narrator of the story is the night manager at a newspaper, and has an employee (Morgan) who has an incredible ability to pick up the night wire and transcribe what he hears into reports. On the night in which the story takes place, Morgan gets news from somewhere called Xebico, which has been obscured completely by a strange fog, virtually shutting the town down. I won’t go into what happens, but this is a very cool story that definitely you do not want to miss. Everil Worrell Murphy – “The Canal” – A man finds a little girl in an old, abandoned boat on a canal at midnight, and when he learns the truth behind her story, it may be too late. This one was okay; fun to read but not one of my favorites. Arthur J. Burks – “Bells of Oceana” – A ship full of service men turns out to become a ghostly voyage for some of the men as the ship passes through a mass of seaweed where it shouldn’t be. Fun story; not quite as good as the others, but still a fun read. John Martin Leahy – “In Amundsen’s Tent” – this one, I thought, was the weirdest of the weird tale category here. An expedition to the South Pole by three explorers doesn’t go very well, as they find something horrible in a tent left behind by Amundsen from his expedition. Definitely not one of my favorites, but still worth the read. Overall...a book I'd definitely recommend. I'm continuing to add more anthologies of weird tales to my library, and this one's a definite keeper. Some of the stories may seem a bit outdated but they still have the power to make your heart race a little faster and make your hair stand a bit more on end.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie Davis

    I come to this book via two influences. The first is that of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast which, when they finished discussing all of Lovecraft's writing, then proceeded to read the authors and stories mentioned in his influential essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature. Hence, I've heard many of these stories discussed even though I haven't read them. Secondly, this was a logical progression after reading Douglas A. Anderson's Tales Before Narnia and Tales Before Tolkien, both of which I I come to this book via two influences. The first is that of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast which, when they finished discussing all of Lovecraft's writing, then proceeded to read the authors and stories mentioned in his influential essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature. Hence, I've heard many of these stories discussed even though I haven't read them. Secondly, this was a logical progression after reading Douglas A. Anderson's Tales Before Narnia and Tales Before Tolkien, both of which I greatly enjoyed. This collection earns an additional star than Anderson's other anthologies simply because I am enjoying every single story in it. That speaks more to my enjoyment of weird tales than to Anderson's selection but it is a fact that this is the collection I'll be buying and rereading in the future.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I first read this collection of stories just a few months before joining goodreads. On this re-reading, I find that it seems a poignant confirmation of Lovecraft’s homosexual feelings. I even started to wonder if it were possible to write horror that isn’t grounded in homophilia, gynophobia, or both, as I went through it. Apart from that, I saw how HPL’s style and themes were often influenced or even overtly copied from his favorite writers. In all, I enjoyed reading it greatly. I will discuss e I first read this collection of stories just a few months before joining goodreads. On this re-reading, I find that it seems a poignant confirmation of Lovecraft’s homosexual feelings. I even started to wonder if it were possible to write horror that isn’t grounded in homophilia, gynophobia, or both, as I went through it. Apart from that, I saw how HPL’s style and themes were often influenced or even overtly copied from his favorite writers. In all, I enjoyed reading it greatly. I will discuss each story separately. “The Fall of the House of Usher,” by Edgar Allan Poe leads off the collection. Probably Poe’s most famous horror story, it relies heavily on the poet’s sense of rhythm and sound to create an atmosphere of dread. Thus, it is even more effective read aloud. Reading it in this context, one thinks of some of Lovecraft’s homages to Poe, as in “The Tomb” and really any story in which he asserts that words cannot fully convey the emotional impression of a sight. “The Suitable Surroundings,” by Ambrose Bierce is a kind of witty horror spoof that can be read at several levels. Central to its premise is the idea that horror stories are best appreciated when read in the proper atmosphere (in isolation, low lighting, etc). The structure of the story allows for a surprise ending even though all of the significant action is described within the first two pages. A second Bierce story is “The Death of Halpin Fraser.” It is a bit more serious in tone than “The Suitable Surroundings,” but may actually be more clever and complex in the telling – so much so that it requires multiple readings to fully understand, or at least did for me. It tells the story of a sensitive young man with a mother fixation, and the awful fate he suffers due to misfortune and perhaps as a punishment for his own perversity. “The Novel of the Black Seal” by Arthur Machen is a very effective chilling story which has similarities to any number of Lovecraft stories. I thought of “The Moon-Bog,” “The Whisperer in the Darkness,” and “The Dunwich Horror” at different times in the story, but more generally of Lovecraft’s tendency to take folk traditions and turn them dark and menacing, which Machen does expertly here. Unlike Lovecraft, Machen uses a female protagonist, but in context this means that our narrator isn’t given full information directly, rather having to piece together what has happened without being entrusted with the scientific investigator’s hypothesis early in the story. “The Novel of the White Powder,” also by Machen is something of a horror riff on the newly-discovered dangers of cocaine, a drug that had been prescribed to unknowing people by doctors, only to cause addiction and other health complications. It also seems sort of (to me) as if Machen had decided to take “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” and make it into something actually scary, rather than just menacing. The Lovecraft story it made me think of the most (especially at the end) was “The Colour out of Space,” although there’s elements of “The Festival” in some of what he says about worms. Worms and “The Festival” come to mind as well in the Robert W. Chambers story, “The Yellow Sign,” but the influence of this story – and its siblings in the collection “The King in Yellow” – goes much deeper than that. Premised on a book that, when read, drives the reader mad, set in a decadent New York, and awash in ghoulish imagery connected with a painter, one can find traces of this story in any number of Lovecraft outings, including the “dream cycle” stories as well as his more traditional horror. “Count Magnus” by M.R. James seems a lesser effort in some ways, but what struck me about it is the meticulous detail of academic research, which so often comes across in Lovecraft as well. A man visiting a foreign country in search of antiquaries and oddities stumbles across the crypt of a man rumored to have returned from “the Black Pilgrimage” with company that should not be in this world. The man finds himself being pursued by he knows not what, and his fate is equally obscure. The next story is “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, and Lovecraft evidently enthused once that it was, “the greatest horror tale ever written.” It certainly is a very effective story, but what I notice from my modern perspective is the powerful undertones of repressed homosexuality, and I wonder if this is what HPL (who may or may not have been a repressed homosexual) was responding to. In that sense, it reminded me a little bit of “The Lurking Fear,” in which the protagonist lies in bed with two male “companions” without seeming to think anything of it, but on the whole I would say that Lovecraft never attempted to copy it, perhaps out of respect. It involves two young river travelers who find themselves isolated on a desolate island in a flood on the Danube, with only strangely sinister willow bushes for company. “The House of Sounds” by M.P. Shiel is decidedly a homage to “House of Usher,” almost a re-telling, in fact, of that same story. But within that is some surprising originality nevertheless, which is fortunate because Shiel is in no way as good of a writer as Poe was. Shiel sets his decadent house on a remote island in the North Sea, which is constantly buffeted by gale-force winds and blasted by unceasing noise. This setting makes the sound, more than the house, into the key character of the tale, and he also writes in a remarkably inventive cause for the denouement. Lovecraft never wrote anything quite like this, but I can see that it probably helped him feel more comfortable working on themes previously established by others. “The Moon Pool” by A. Merritt is probably the most important piece of inspiration for Lovecraft’s story “Call of Cthulhu,” although there are huge differences between them. Set on the real island of Ponape in the South Pacific, it involves a scientific investigation that discovers something ominous and ancient that exists in a ruined city, partially submerged by the ocean. Merritt’s “monster” is no ancient star-spanning High Priest of the Old Ones, however, but something more akin to a kami, or spirit, with a close connection to the moon and tides. He does manage to communicate the alien-ness of the thing, however, and gets across the idea that its danger lies not so much in deliberate menace as in simply having totally non-human motivation and awesome power. Next up is “Seaton’s Aunt” by Walter de la Mare and the implication of repressed homosexuality returns with a story about two young men who meet at an all-boys school and form a dubious sort of friendship which seems to please one more than the other. The eponymous aunt is the horror of the story, however, and her relationship to her un-marriageable charge is portrayed as the true reason for his downfall. I can’t help thinking that a repressed boy who lived with his aunt like HPL would find this an especially chilling tale, although there is no direct parallel to Ms. Seaton in his own works. With that, the editor transitions from “literary” to “popular” weird tales (as defined by Lovecraft). The main difference I can see is that the popular tales are shorter, and have more dialogue. Anyway, the first one is called “Beyond the Door” by Paul Suter. It is less an example of repressed homosexuality, and more one of open gynephobia. A man rebukes his fiancé so that he can continue his more important “scientific pursuits” and either he kills her or she kills herself (I’m not quite clear), then he is haunted by her ghost. Given the pedestrian premise, it is nicely handled and reminds me of some of Lovecraft’s more effective “psychological” horror stories, such as “The Haunter of the Dark.” After this is an even shorter tale, “The Floor Above” by M. L. Humphreys. Apparently, the title caused Lovecraft some fear, and he wrote in with relief that Humphreys did not “use an idea which I was planning to use myself.” That makes me think he could have been talking about “The Dreams in the Witch House,” which involves a mysterious upper level. Anyway, this story is about a young man who gets an urgent note from an old school chum and goes off to live with him (!) only to discover that he has a terrible secret. The denouement is genuinely chilling, and once again, the repressed homosexuality is palpable. There is no such undertone in the next very short piece, “The Night Wire” by H.F. Arnold. This is a hyper-modern story by the standards of its time, being set in the wireless news-receiving room’s night shift for a major urban paper. However, it taps into a more traditional horror environment as one of the operators begins receiving flashes from a town engulfed in a fog that may conceal revived corpses and seems to drive the population mad. It reminded me of the John Carpenter movie “The Fog,” and it wouldn’t surprise me if it had been an inspiration for that film, but it didn’t seem to inspire any of HPL’s own work directly. “The Canal” by Everil Worrell is the solitary female-authored piece. Compared to the others, it comes across today as a rather conventional Gothic vampire tale, full of unrequited longing and the dangers of sexual contact. It is updated to modern New Orleans, and has some elements that make one think of HPL – such as the preying upon helpless and “degenerate” squatters such as we see in “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” and the denouement which both describes and refuses to describe a simple corpse. “Bells of Oceana” by Arthur J. Burks is a mermaid-horror story that inevitably deals with the all-male society of sailors and the barely repressed sexuality of the mermaid myth, although in some ways this makes it deal with heterosexual feelings in a more direct manner than almost any of the other stories. Still, the monster is the one woman in the story, and the result of her pleasures is death or madness. The final story is “In Amundsen’s Tent” by John Martin Leahy. It is clearly an inspiration for Lovecraft’s novella “At the Mountains of Madness,” which is also set at the South Pole. It wouldn’t be fair to compare them, however, “Amundsen’s Tent” is a far less ambitious tale, and much shorter. It seems to me that HPL took the kernel of this story and expanded on it with tremendous imagination and originality. There is a hint of a sexual undertone, in that two men peer into a tent and go mad, while the third is excluded and retains sanity but expresses jealousy nonetheless.

  4. 4 out of 5

    L.G. Estrella

    This book contains a wonderful selection of weird tales. Apart from the quality of the selection, the notes regarding the reasons for their selection (i.e., why Lovecraft liked them) definitely add to the experience. This book would provide a fine foundation for someone not well-versed in classical horror as well as a stepping stone to understanding Lovecraft's own highly influential work. An entertaining and informative read. This book contains a wonderful selection of weird tales. Apart from the quality of the selection, the notes regarding the reasons for their selection (i.e., why Lovecraft liked them) definitely add to the experience. This book would provide a fine foundation for someone not well-versed in classical horror as well as a stepping stone to understanding Lovecraft's own highly influential work. An entertaining and informative read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Selmek

    The stories in this book are divided into two main sections: the literary weird tale and the popular weird tale. I’m not 100% certain how the authors make this distinction, except that most of the popular weird tales seem to have been written while Lovecraft was alive, while the literary tales are much older. From the perspective of 2016, anything written in the 1920s may as well be literary, but the distinction seems important to those who take their weird tales seriously. Another comparison I m The stories in this book are divided into two main sections: the literary weird tale and the popular weird tale. I’m not 100% certain how the authors make this distinction, except that most of the popular weird tales seem to have been written while Lovecraft was alive, while the literary tales are much older. From the perspective of 2016, anything written in the 1920s may as well be literary, but the distinction seems important to those who take their weird tales seriously. Another comparison I might make is that the literary tales usually deal with some inhuman force that has its basis in real myths and legends. Many of them involve fairy-lore, archeology, or simple madness. The popular tales, on the other hand, set up a disturbing scenario that in many cases has no real explanation – although weirdness for weirdness sake can be part of the fun. What I think I like most about weird tales is how the very last line of the story always comes back to haunt you, suggesting further horizons of evil or echoing some clue that was only hinted at earlier in the story. I’m not aware that there are a lot of people writing weird tales anymore, unless they are deliberately honoring Lovecraft. The decade of the 20s may have been when weird tales hit their peak, and anyone with an interest in them would be well-advised to read this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    When first published, I suppose these stories were quite effective at scaring readers. I found most of them boring and, in some cases, predictable. I think too much time has passed. The world is a different place. It is harder to scare people now. The evening news is better at filling me with a sense of dread and unease than the stories in this anthology. I only want to mention two of the stories. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood wasn't too bad. Seaton's Aunt by Walter de la Mare was alright as When first published, I suppose these stories were quite effective at scaring readers. I found most of them boring and, in some cases, predictable. I think too much time has passed. The world is a different place. It is harder to scare people now. The evening news is better at filling me with a sense of dread and unease than the stories in this anthology. I only want to mention two of the stories. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood wasn't too bad. Seaton's Aunt by Walter de la Mare was alright as well, even though I was a bit disappointed with the ending.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Annabelle

    Lovecraft's best-read list. Some are downright eerie, some just go for atmosphere. All are well-weaved into tight, neat little narratives. All told, it's a nifty little book. The only problem with these anthologies is of course I've read some of them before. Lovecraft's best-read list. Some are downright eerie, some just go for atmosphere. All are well-weaved into tight, neat little narratives. All told, it's a nifty little book. The only problem with these anthologies is of course I've read some of them before.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eadwine Brown

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mighty

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Slater

  12. 4 out of 5

    Babette

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric Heiden

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chad Brock

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ronald

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peri

  18. 5 out of 5

    The Saint

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kimbra

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joelle

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel J

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  24. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Priede

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Darland

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Goodwin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alma

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meghan Sochocki

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dale

  30. 4 out of 5

    Peter

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