My Favorite H.P. Lovecraft Stories: A Top Ten

A photo of H.P. Lovecraft
Source: WikiCommons.

For nearly two years I have been reading through a copy of H.P. Lovecraft: The Fiction. I completed it this month, and decided to share my ten favorite stories from the book. There were others that I enjoyed (“From Beyond,” “Herbert West—Reanimator,” “The Picture in the House,” and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward), but they didn’t quite make the top ten cut. I tried to limit my list to stories that I would be likely to read again for fun.

  1. At the Mountains of Madness – Hailed as Lovecraft’s most successful novel, At the Mountains of Madness is gripping and chilling in some places, slow and dull in others. But the scope and ambition are admirable. This story lays out a history of some of Lovecraft’s mythology, all in the guise of arctic exploration gone wrong. I confess this is not my favorite of Lovecraft’s works, but the exploration of the Old Ones is interesting. The arctic horror is awesome!
  2. The Cats of Ulthar” – Lovecraft loved cats, and this story illustrates why you should always treat cats with respect. This story is perfect for a Halloween reading or recitation. It is simple, concise, and it reads like a fairy tale.
  3. The Colour Out of Space” – This story relates the horrific aftermath of a meteorite crash in the backwoods of Arkham, MA. This may well be Lovecraft’s best story. It is clear, concise, and incredibly creepy. I don’t scare easily (when reading, anyway), but this story did it. I remember sitting on the couch at one in the morning, desperately trying to reach the end because if I didn’t finish the story, the cosmic horror could transcend the story and emerge in my house.
  4. The Call of Cthulhu” – This is Lovecraft’s best-known story. Many of the themes and ideas that Lovecraft flirted with during his early career brilliantly come together here.
  5. The Festival” – There is something about the tone and atmosphere of this story that I find fascinating. The story takes place during the Christmas season, and I think that is what works for me. Christmas is frequently portrayed as a magical time; why wouldn’t it be magically horrible as well? What better time than Christmas to learn about the dark legacy of your family?
  6. The Music of Erich Zann” – After “The Colour Out of Space,” this is one of Lovecraft’s more accessible stories. I love the idea of forgotten streets taking someone to hidden parts of a town. I love that music can act as a conduit to the otherworldly. This story is a lot of fun.
  7. Pickman’s Model” – Like “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Music of Erich Zann,” “Pickman’s Model” is a story that is accessible to a general readership. It is creepy and plotted well. In fact, I would say Neil Gaiman’s A Short Film About John Bolton takes inspiration from this story.
  8. The Shadow Over Innsmouth” – Another genuinely creepy story, this novella follows Robert Olmstead, who is looking up genealogical data. He decides to visit Innsmouth, a town that many people in New England tell him to avoid. It is a dying town. If you’ve enjoyed the Silent Hill games, or Stephen King’s short story “Jerusalem’s Lot,” you will enjoy this story.
  9. The Temple” – One of Lovecraft’s best early stories. A World War I lieutenant-commander on a German sub slowly descends into madness as his crew encounters mysterious nightmares and visions.
  10. The Whisperer in Darkness” – This is my absolute favorite story by H.P. Lovecraft. I prefer it to “The Colour Out of Space.” It follows Albert Wilmarth as he corresponds with Henry Akeley, a man who believes extraterrestrial creatures live in the woods around his cabin. As Akeley begins to collect evidence, which he sends to Wilmarth, the aliens begin to harass him. The story is somewhat predictable, although it doesn’t quite work out the way you expect, but the atmosphere and tension is masterfully conveyed. After reading through this story, I coincidentally began listening to Role Playing Public Radio’s actual play of “Convergence,” a Delta Green scenario which features the aliens from “Whisperer.” I highly recommend both.

Now that I have finished Lovecraft’s fiction (well, the non-collaborative fiction), I’m trying to decide which weird fiction/supernatural horror writer to read next. I’ve already read The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers. Ideally, I would like to start on Clark Ashton Smith, but the collected works series I want is a bit pricey. I may read Poe since I already have a complete collection.

But I am always open to more suggestions. I’ve enjoyed Lovecraft. Who else should I check out in the weird tradition?

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10 thoughts on “My Favorite H.P. Lovecraft Stories: A Top Ten

  1. Nice list may I suggest the Mythos writings of Robert E Howard (Conan the Barbarian) especially The Black Stone, Robert Block (Psycho) Especially my favorite all time Mythos story Note Book Found in a deserted House, and for Victorian pre-Mythos Arther Machen’s Great God Pan, all easily available in several different anthologies.

    • Thanks for the suggestions. I will add them to my list! I may go to Barnes and Noble today and see if I can find an anthology with “Note Book Found in a Deserted House.”

  2. I think you can still get Tales of the Cuthlhu Mythos published by Del Rey it has The Black Stone as well as Notebook, Hounds of Tindalos by Frank Belknap Long,The Block/Lovecraft trilogy of Shambler from The stars/Haunter of Dark/Shadow from the Steeple where the authors joyously killed of each others literary avatars and Steven King’s Jerusalem’s Lot + Others I paid $12.95 ten years ago.

  3. Good post. I read a lot of Lovecraft’s fiction in the early 1990s, when I was around 13 years old. Very creepy stuff. I think I actually had trouble getting to sleep after reading “The Whisperer in Darkness” one night.

    I second the recommendation for Robert Bloch. He wrote some really eerie, atmospheric short stories. There was a three volume “Complete Stories of Robert Bloch” released about 20 years ago which you can still find on Amazon.

    By the way, one of my favorite Lovecraft stories was “The Haunter of the Dark.” The protagonist in that is one “Robert Blake,” a thinly-veiled stand-in for Bloch, who as a teenage corresponded with Lovecraft.

    • I got back from a trip to California last night. While there, I found a used copy of Chaosium’s “Mysteries of the Worm,” which is a collection of Robert Bloch’s mythos stories. I’m looking forward to it.

  4. One Lovecraft story that really packs a punch and is quite unlike anything else he wrote is “The Curse of Yig,” which was ghostwritten for Zealia Bishop. I understand she supplied him with a general outline and notes and he took it from there

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I have head the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast coverage of “The Curse of Yig,” but I haven’t read the story myself. The anthology I have doesn’t include his collaborations, unfortunately. Though, when I visit used books stores I keep my eyes peeled for Horror at the Museum, which I believe has most of them.

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