Dreams in the Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft (1933)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, November 30, 2012
PICTURE THIS: A bleak winter’s night. One candle light flickers. You are in the gabled attic bedroom of a 235-year-old house in Arkham, Massachusetts, not far from Salem. The sinister scratching of scurrying rats from the wormy walls keeps you awake. Above is a cobwebbed sealed loft. A triangular gulf of darkness hangs to your left from the odd angles of the garret roof: slanted walls, peaked ceiling like a witch’s hat, red, sticky fluid is smeared on a wall above a chewed out rat hole.
Now really, could you fall asleep? Don’t we love to be afraid like this? Well, at least in the safe confines of fiction, we do.
Walter Gilman, the main character in Dreams in the Witch House by H.P. Lovecraft, knows his garret bedroom in the old Witch House is likely haunted. That’s why he moved there. Mathematics and quantum physics are his studies; magic, legend, and three-dimensional space much occupy his mind. But more than that is his attraction to the story of old Keziah Mason’s witch trial back in the 1600s and how she vanished from that very attic room by casting her spells on the walls’ lines and curves into points that created a dark spinning passage into the beyond. Poof!
A dark passage into a fourth- or even a multi-dimensional reality, you ask? Walter believes this is possible, and he wants to find it. What he doesn’t count on is old Keziah and her darting sharp-tooth furry rodent with a bearded face, and tiny sets of human hands, who sucks the witch’s blood and relays messages between Keziah and the devil.
I ask again, why do we like this grisly stuff? Aren’t you dying to know what happens to our poor Walter?
When the nightmares begin, Walter is certain it is due to his brain-fever. Well, of course! But soon these dreams go far beyond ordinary nightmares: Walter dreams of unspeakably menacing darkness with wild shrieking and roaring confusion, a labyrinth of hideous bubbling and choking, which plunge him into muddy abysses. Oddly enough, when he wakes he finds this disgusting mud inside his bed. The dream becomes reality?
In another dream he actually meets Kaziah. The old crone is bent back, her face long-nosed with a shriveled chin. She drags him away by his pajama sleeve into a “violent-litten” peaked space.
Does Walter succeed in his exploration of space and dimensions? What sphere of points does he enter? Does the old witch and her fanged furry horror win? There’s no spoiler going to happen here. You’ll have to read The Dream in the Witch House yourself.
Dreams and nightmares will continue to puzzle and haunt us. But fiction about nightmares can create deliciously scary tales that we really can’t resist. For another classic short about the supernatural power of nightmares, try The Leather Funnel by Arthur Conan Doyle. You won’t be disappointed in this chilling adventure.
Below is a link to The Dream in the Witch House. And please take a look at my page of published short story links on another blog page; none are about nightmares. But my novel, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural, certainly is.
The Dreams in the Witch House by Lovecraft: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/dwh.asp
The Leather Funnel by A.C. Doyle: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700561h.html#s2
Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural by Paula Cappa