My friends and family all know how big of a fan of H. P. Lovecraft I am. For those that don’t, I have his face tattooed on my arm, I have a picture of him as my computer background, and I made a trip to Rhode Island specifically to visit his grave. Lovecraft has been my favorite author since I found some of his work in high school, and to celebrate his 127thbirthday, I wanted to speak about my favorite Lovecraft story, The Beast in the Cave. There are spoilers ahead if you’re worried about that sort of thing.
The Beast in the Cave is my favorite story, as well as the first Lovecraft story that I read. The story is about a man touring a massive cave who ends up being separated from his tour guide and getting lost. While continuing on through the cave, his torch goes out and he begins to give up hope on ever finding a way out. He begins to hear these strange, non-human footsteps approaching. Worried that it may be some sort of dangerous animal, the man hurls a rock towards the creature. The creature is hit and falls to the ground. The guide eventually reunites with the man, and they examine the creature using the guide’s torch as light. To their surprise, the creature is no animal, but is a MAN!!!
Not many things get my heart racing anymore, but this is one that still manages to do it. Lovecraft is a master of building up a story and making the reader feel legitimate terror. He does an amazing job of describing the sounds and how they’re getting closer to the narrator. Every time I read it, I feel like I’m immediately placed in the narrator’s shoes and it’s scary. When I see movies like The Descent, I can’t help but think of The Beast in the Cave. You’re in a dark cave and you’re alone and something is coming towards you. I often say that The Descent is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen, and that The Beast in the Cave is one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read.
This story is so different from the other Lovecraft stories in that it doesn’t involve these horrifying celestial beings that are wreaking havoc on the planet. This is grounded in reality. While unlikely, it’s not impossible for someone to be separated from their group and never find a way out of a cave, and then be forced to survive beneath the ground in total darkness with only the creeping, stifling silence for company. That’s what makes this “creature” different from others like Cthulhu, Azathoth and Nyarlathotep. It’s simply just a man. Realistic situations will always be scarier to me than something that could never happen.
H. P. Lovecraft is my favorite author ever and has penned some of my favorite stories ever, with my favorite being The Beast in the Cave. A master of building up the suspense in a story, Lovecraft created a realistic and frightening tale that has stuck with me from the time I first read it. Happy birthday, H.P. Lovecraft, and thank you for the stories.