The Shadow Over Innsmouth
by H. P. Lovecraft

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Visionary Publishing Company
Everett, Pennsylvania: 1936
158 pages

collected in —
The Outsider and Others, Arkham House: 1939
The Dunwich Horror and Others, Arkham House: 1963
The Dunwich Horror and Others (Joshi corrected text), Arkham House: 1984
Tales (Joshi corrected text), Library of America: 2005
The Complete Fiction (Joshi corrected text), Barnes & Noble: 2011

etc., etc. (but see endnote, below)

March 2006


What a topical story this is, seventy-five years after it was written! Recently rereading H. P. Lovecraft's fantasy novella "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", I was struck by what an ideal nightmare it concocts from such current worries as: immigration; racial mixing, even racial degeneration — or evolutionary ascent!; and American ports' vulnerability and security.

Now Lovecraft is not talking ethnic balance and ward politics here, let alone international trade and folk-wandering and realpolitik. Nor is it a horror story in the sense of rats in the walls or corpses in the basement. I certainly would not claim that "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" shares anything reasonable about current public controversies. What it does do is hint-and-describe, in what I think is precisely the right balance and pace, a glimpse into the Cthulhu Mythos of which series it is a part — although it stands alone just fine. It is one of my favorites of all Lovecraft's stories.

HPL surely knows the deeps where many of our ingredients of nightmare grow unnaturally, and he brings them forth and pins them precisely to the landscape:

That was the first I ever heard of shadowed Innsmouth. Any reference to a town not shewn on common maps or listed in recent guide-books would have interested me, and the agent's odd manner of allusion roused something like real curiosity. A town able to inspire such dislike in its neighbours, I thought, must be at least rather unusual, and worthy of a tourist's attention. If it came before Arkham I would stop off there —

It is most disturbing when this world of deep exotic nightmare is not distantly long ago or far away, but impinges on our here-and-now, safely everyday world. Yes, Innsmouth is loathed and detested, but a sparsely-traveled bus does pass through the town. If you must go that way, go in daytime.


© 2006 Robert Wilfred Franson

Note:  As with all of Lovecraft's works, try to find a later edition that uses S. T. Joshi's corrected texts, for instance the collections The Dunwich Horror and Others from Arkham House in its 6th printing (1984) or later, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels from Arkham House in its 5th printing (1985) or later; and The Complete Fiction from Barnes & Noble (errata corrected, 2011). — RWF


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