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Literature / The Lurking Fear

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"The Lurking Fear" is a November 1922 horror short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was first published in serial installments in the magazine Home Brew. It has been adapted to film and comics a few times, with little success for any adaptation.

In the Tempest Mountain region of the Catskills, homes are being destroyed and their inhabitants slaughtered during severe thunderstorms. An unnamed reporter travels to investigate, and soon comes to suspect that the killings are somehow linked to the Martenses, a bygone aristocratic family whose decaying mansion remains nearby. But the truth is more bestial and horrific than he imagines...


This story contains examples of:

  • Beneath the Earth: The descendants of the Martenses have dug tunnels that radiate out from the mansion, and which serve as dwelling places and routes of travel for the feral descendants.
  • Inbred and Evil: The Martenses were an isolationist, potentially murderous family which inbred to the point of their descendants devolving into a Cannibal Clan of apelike monstrosities.
  • It's the Only Way to Be Sure: The protagonist hires a team to dynamite the Martense mansion, a significant portion of the surrounding forest, and any caves or tunnels they can find. He still worries that it won't be enough.
  • Haunted House / Old, Dark House: The Martenses' house. The Haunted House part is subverted, though, when it turns out not to be ghosts that are causing all this trouble.
  • Lightning Reveal: When the protagonist stays overnight in the Martense mansion, a flash of lightning reveals the shadow of a grotesque, inhuman being in the room with him.
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  • Lovecraft Country: Scary happenings in the Catskills.
  • Killer Gorilla: The last Martenses are described as distinctly apelike.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The protagonist witnesses one of the beasts turning on and devouring a weaker compatriot, something that seems to be standard practice for the monsters.
  • The Morlocks: The monsters are a particularly animalistic version of this subterranean trope.
  • Perspective Flip: The Dark Adventure Radio Theatre version centers around two policemen sent to investigate the mysterious deaths while the writer, here identified as a tabloid reporter named Callum, is a secondary character treated by them as a potential suspect.
  • Red Right Hand: The Martenses were characterized by having heterochromia, one blue and one brown. Their inbred cannibal descendants have this feature too, which is what clues the protagonist in to their identity.
  • Villainous Incest: The aristocratic Martenses eventually began practicing incest among themselves. See Inbred and Evil above for the results.