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->''The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either {{go mad from the revelation}} or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.''
-->-- Opening lines

''The Call of Cthulhu'' is arguably the most famous short story by horror writer Creator/HPLovecraft. It is also the first story to refer to and the only piece written by Lovecraft himself to actually feature the famous EldritchAbomination who would later name the CthulhuMythos as other writers took over.

The story is presented as a manuscript found among the belongings of the late Francis Wayland Thurston, which is used as a narrative which joins together three short stories, each bigger, darker, bleaker, and more memorable than the last. The first part begins with a document found by Thurston among the belongings of his late granduncle Professor Angell, which describes a series of conversations with a young sculptor named Henry Wilcox, who has been experiencing a series of strange dreams on March 1st 1925, which have inspired him to carve a disturbing bas-relief. Over the course of several weeks, Wilcox and Angell meet, and the former describes his bizarre dreams in which he [[EldritchLocation finds himself exploring the ruins of an unknown forgotten city]]. The next part reveals why this is of interest to Professor Angell.

The second story tells of Inspector Legrasse, a police officer in New Orleans whose investigation of a series of disappearances leads him to a rather sinister cult worshiping a strange idol. The cultists are immediately arrested and taken to prison and the idol is confiscated. Legrasse then shares the idol among various archaeologists, including Professor Angell, hoping to gain answers as to its nature. Eventually through one man's testimony and the questioning of some of the cultists, Legrasse learns that the idol is "Great Cthulhu", a being worshiped by this cult which has presumably lived for centuries.

In the third and final part of the story, Thurston encounters a newspaper clipping describing the rescue of the lone survivor of the crew of ''Emma'', a Norwegian sailor named Gustaf Johansen. Thurston is eventually able to recover a journal Johansen wrote, which tells the tale of how he and his crew commandeered the yacht ''Alert'' from a particularly sinister crew of men (implied to be cultists), and their arrival at the sunken city of R'lyeh, where Cthulhu himself is nearly released by mistake.

Adapted in 2005 into a film by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. There are also at least two radio adaptations; one by the Atlanta Radio Theater Company, and the other by Dark Adventure Radio Theater. Dramatically read by [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIwgXhUWt3Q Chilling Tales for Dark Nights]].

Not to be confused with the roleplaying game ''TabletopGame/CallOfCthulhu'', or the YouTube series ''WebVideo/CallsForCthulhu''.

!!This story provides examples of:

* ActionSurvivor: Johansen manages to escape from R'lyeh while his crewmates are unable to navigate its geometry and fall to their deaths, gets back to his ship, and [[DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu rams Cthulhu himself ''head on'']].
* AdaptationDistillation: [[WordOfGod Lovecraft himself]] [[http://lovecraftzine.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/hpl-cthulhu.jpg sketched Cthulhu in 1937]] with at least six eyes. Nearly all illustrators have given it two eyes, [[WhatMeasureIsANonHuman to allow facial expressions readable by humans]]. So we have [[http://matthershberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/cthulhu_rising_by_somniturne1.jpg aggressive Cthulhus]], [[http://static4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120716045812/deadliestfiction/images/2/24/Cthulhu-rlyeh-rising.jpg furious Cthulhus]], [[http://api.ning.com/files/xXHg*Lq*7d6QiToU9u3T0T09vMs2-nBEYXXTGkRKtjNpA0iJXxIoH*tpTktfDbqx5EqtoPBGL9xrLe9Z95OfGuYDLXFYjeWs/MichaelDashawCthulhuBoss.jpg comic Cthulhus]], but in the author's view the entity had no understandable expression and [[EldritchAbomination it's completely alien]].
* AdaptationExpansion: The Dark Adventure Radio Theater version adds a framing device about two police officers who investigate Thurston's death.
* AlienGeometries: R'lyeh is said to defy any known dimensions, to the point where the sailors can't tell if a door is supposed to be a conventional door that opens horizontally, or a trapdoor that opens vertically, and a sailor is killed by Cthulhu when he fails to get past a corner which appears to be acute but acts as if it was obtuse. This is downplayed in the movie due to the low-budget 1920s style, though strongly alluded to with frequent shots of strange angles.
* AnachronicOrder: The three stories are presented in the order which Thurston finds them. Chronologically "The Tale of Inspector Legrasse" would actually come first, while "The Horror in Clay" and "The Madness From the Sea" happen around the same time.
* ApocalypticLog: The story itself could count, since it is implied that everything that the narrator is caught up in [[spoiler:leads to his murder by cultists]]. Gustaf Johansen's journal also comes close.
* ApocalypseCult: The cultists apparently want to raise Cthulhu from the depths.
* BreakoutCharacter: Considering the title character of the story had ''an entire mythos'' named after him.
* BreakoutVillain: Cthulhu is the breakout character and a villain.
* BrokeYourArmPunchingOutCthulhu: [[spoiler:Gustaf Johansen manages to survive against all odds and presumably stops Cthulhu from bringing about the end of the world. However, Cthulhu is still very much alive, and Johansen not only goes insane as a result of the experience but it is suggested that he was murdered by cultists]].
* CompositeCharacter: The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company's adaptation has Thurston playing the role originally played by Gustaf Johansen.
* CosmicHorrorStory: One of the original examples and possible TropeNamer.
-->Was I tottering on the brink of cosmic horrors beyond man's power to bear?
* {{Cult}}: The second part of the story involves a group of police officers arresting a cult of Cthulhu while investigating a series of disappearances—[[spoiler: victims of said cult, sacrifices made for Cthulhu]]. It is strongly suggested that they are behind the murders of [[spoiler:Professor Angell, Johansen, and possibly the narrator]].
* DeathByAdaptation: [[spoiler: Inspector Legrasse]] in the 2005 film, though his death happens off-screen and is only referred to at the end. Also [[spoiler: Captain Collins ''did'' die in the book, but he was killed in the battle for ''Alert''. In the movie the crewmen simply find the derelict ship abandoned at sea, meaning that Collins instead dies by the hand of Cthulhu himself]].
** [[spoiler: Castro]] in the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company adaptation.
* DeliberatelyMonochrome: Invoked in the film in keeping with the style of 1920s cinema.
* TheDeterminator: Inspector Legrasse, otherwise described in the story as a very mundane man and police officer, is so impressed with the cult's monstrosity that he invests a lot of time, energy and money to discover what lies behind it. [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] in the 2005 film, when he says to the archaeologists the investigation turned into his own personal crusade.
* DidYouJustPunchOutCthulhu: Johansen literally punches out Cthulhu [[RammingAlwaysWorks with his ship]], preventing it from ending the world [[spoiler:though at the cost of his sanity and soon after his life]].
* DownerEnding [[spoiler:The narrator finally understands what is really going on, but he also realizes that both the cult and Cthulhu himself are still alive, and realizes to his horror that he may die very soon. The movie expands on this by showing him to be institutionalized, and the implication that his psychiatrist will soon follow the same path]].
* DreamingOfThingsToCome: Sort of. Wilcox is influenced to create a disturbing bas-relief by a series of weird dreams. The dreams themselves don't actually predict the future, but the impact they have helps to foretell the inevitable rise of Cthulhu.
* EldritchAbomination: Cthulhu himself. A, if not the, TropeCodifier.
* EldritchLocation: R'lyeh.
* ExtraEyes: Lovecraft originally sketched Cthulhu with six eyes, but most illustrations and adaptations give him two eyes.
* ForegoneConclusion: When we hear the story of Johansen, we already know from the newspaper clipping found earlier that none of the other crew members will make it, though one other man survives the actual ordeal only to die of fear afterwards.
* TheFourthWallWillNotProtectYou: The final lines of the story involve Thurston realizing [[spoiler: that he knows too much, and that it is very likely that he will meet his end by cultists]]. Then suddenly you realize [[spoiler: ''you'' now know too much]].
* HumansAreCthulhu: According to Old Castro, by the time the Great Old Ones awoke human beings would be very much like them, "free and wild and beyond good and evil", to the point that they'd welcome them as kindred spirits.
* GenderFlip: Castro in the Atlanta Radio Theater Company Adaptation. The nickname is changed from "Old Castro" to "Mother Castro".
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: Gustaf Johansen. The TropeNamer. His crewmate William Briden also ends up in a similar predicament, and two of his men (Rodriguez and Hawkins) outright die from seeing Cthulhu.
** This also happens to Thurston in the 2005 film.
* HeKnowsTooMuch: Thurston notices that the cult apparently makes a habit of murdering those who get too close to the truth about Cthulhu, and he expresses fear that it might also happen to him too. The fact that he is listed as dead at the beginning of the story implies that it indeed did.
* IslandOfMystery: The island that pops up with R'lyeh on it.
* LiteraryAgentHypothesis: Taken to an almost mythical extreme. The principal narrator of the story is one "Francis Wayland Thurston of Boston", but much of the narrative is simply his relating the account of his great-uncle, George Gammell Angell, who at one point acts as the literary agent for an Inspector John Raymond Legrasse, who narrates the account of a sailor and cult member named Castro, who in turn claims to have gained his knowledge from immortal cult members in China, who, arguably, received their knowledge from ''Cthulhu himself''. The final link in the chain is you, the reader, as the intro gently reminds us that Francis Wayland Thurston is in fact the ''late'' Francis Wayland Thurston, whose account closes with the ominous suggestion that anyone who reads these documents is likely to end up dead.
* KarmaHoudini: While a number of its members were arrested by Legrasse, the cult is still at large. It's also mentioned that the coroners examining both Professor Angell and [[spoiler: Gustaf Johansen]] couldn't determine a cause of death, removing any chance of convicting those responsible. Cthulhu himself is only temporarily stopped, and it is said to be inevitable that he will one day rise again.
* PosthumousCharacter: Professor Angell, the narrator's uncle.
** The narrator himself, given the manuscript was simply found among his belongings.
** [[spoiler: Gustaf Johansen]] also turns out to be an example.
* RammingAlwaysWorks: Temporarily, at least. [[spoiler: Cthulhu regenerates seconds after being rammed by the ship, but he's definitely knocked out for the moment.]]
* ReligionOfEvil: The Cthulhu Cult is built up as such. In the 2005 film one of a swamp family even mentions that they normally don't want to associate themselves with the police, but are willing to do so at this point because of them.
* SignificantBackgroundEvent: In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it during the cults' arrest/beating, Shub-Niggurath's tentacles are visible in the swamp forest in the background.
* SparedByAdaptation: [[spoiler: The narrator]] in the 2005 film. [[spoiler: Though the final scene implies that he won't last much longer]].
* SoleSurvivor: It's stated early on that Johansen was the only surviving crew member when the ''Alert'' was found. [[spoiler: Not that it lasted long]].
* TheUnpronounceable: "Cthulhu" is an approximation of an alien language, that humanity lacks the necessary body components to pronounce.
* YouAreInCommandNow: After Captain Collins and First Mate Green, die fighting the crew of the ''Alert,'' Johansen is promoted to leader.