The Shadow over Innsmouth
Shadows Over Innsmouth (1994 anthology - cover)


H. P. Lovecraft







Publication Date

April 1936

The Shadow over Innsmouth is a novel written by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. The plot centres around a young man travelling to the half abandoned town of Innsmouth in Massachusetts. He soon discovers that a dark cult is controlling the town. After learning too much he is attacked by the locals and has to cope with the horrors he witnessed. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth takes heavy inspiration from the novel.

Plot: Edit

"I never heard of Innsmouth till that day before I saw it for the first and - so far - last time. I was celebrating my coming of age by a tour of New England - sightseeing, antiquarian, and genealogical - and had planned to go directly from ancient Newburyport to Arkham, whence my mother's family was derived."
- The Narrator; The Shadow over Innsmouth,Chapter I
The narrator is a young man making a tour through New England. During his stay in the town of Newburyport, he decides to take the bus heading towards Arkham and through the town of Innsmouth. Some of the locals advise him not to go there, as the local residents are shun by the neighbouring towns. There are talks of Devil's worship and many people gone missing. The people of the town also seem to have hideous deformities which include: bulgy eyes, a hunch, large feet and hands, bald heads, ... The narrator then looks in to the towns history; he discovers that a plague hit the city and that its consequences have led to many death and the deformities. He learns of the Captain Obed Marsh, who was a merchant from Innsmouth, and who supposedly acquired great wealth while travelling the Pacific. He supposedly brought some kind of native religion; The Order of Dagon. The narrator dismisses the talks of Devil worship and proceeds to go on the bus the next morning.
"In a few moments a small motor-coach of extreme decrepitude and dirty grey colour rattled down State Street, made a turn, and drew up at the curb beside me. I felt immediately that it was the right one; a guess which the half-illegible sign on the windshield - 'Arkham-Innsmouth-Newburyport' soon verified"
- The Narrator; The Shadow over Innsmouth, Chapter II
An old bus arrives on the square driven by Joe Sargent, an Innsmouth local; the narrator immediately witnesses his hideous face and body. He enters the bus alone and the two head on to Innsmouth. Arriving in the town shows many run-down and abandoned buildings. The bus stops for a few hours, so the narrator takes a walk around the town. He finds a shop and talks to a grocery store clerk. The young boy is not from the town and only works there. He warns the narrator to be careful around the town and that many people who were snooping around went missing. According to him, the Marsh family is the wealthiest in the city and owns the Marsh (gold) Refinery. He claims that Barnabas Marsh, the owner, is extremely rich, but is never seen in public; there are also many older citizens who can't be seen during the day.
"I was glad to get out of that bus, and at once proceeded to check my valise in the shabby hotel lobby. There was only one person in sight - an elderly man without what I had come to call the "Innsmouth look" - and I decided not to ask him any of the questions which bothered me; remembering that odd things had been noticed in the hotel. Instead, I stolled out on the square, from which the bus had already gone, and studied the scene minutely and appraisingly."
- The Narrator; The Shadow over Innsmouth, Chapter II
The narrator continues his tour around the town, until he finds a local by the name of Zadok Allen. The two start a conversation and Zadok soon starts telling the true story of Innsmouth. Captain Obed Marsh did indeed brought a religion from the Pacific, but it's gods were no mere fantasy; they were real. These Deep Ones (fish-frog-human like beings from the ocean), as they are called, entered into a pact with Obed; they would supply the town with fish and gold, and in return Obed would bring them human sacrifices. This went on for years, until Christian folk rebelled against Marsh and locked him up. Unfortunately for them, the Deep Ones arrived in force to free Obed and his followers, killing around the half of the population. Fearing the next rebellion, the Deep Ones imposed heavy restrictions on the population, mainly to prevent their discovery. One of these were mixed marriages between Deep Ones and humans. The children from these marriages would be born as humans, but later in life would evolve into Deep Ones. Zadok then warns the narrator to leave the town while he still can and runs away. The narrator dismisses Zadok's story as rambling of an old drunkard.

The narrator returns to the bus driver asking him if they will be leaving soon. The bus driver tells him that unfortunately, the bus engine is broken and that he will have to spend the night in the Gilman House. Having no other choice, he stays in the hotel. During the night, he hears someone walking around the corridor. After realising that they are attempting to enter into his room, he makes haste and jumps through the window onto the streets. The mob then pursues him through the alleys. He remembers the old abandoned railway (told to him about by the clerk) and goes towards it. While trying to find his way there, he sees a mob of Deep Ones and faints out.

Deep Ones & Dagon

He wakes up unharmed and escapes Innsmouth. He reports everything to the police and the raid on the town is made, even the Devil's Reef is torpedoed. Years pass and he studies his family tree, while being constantly plagued by nightmares of the sea and Cthulhu. He then discovers that his ancestor is no other than Obed Marsh himself. He slowly starts to transform into a Deep One and decides to free his cousin (who is locked up), and after that the two would swim to the Deep One city of Y'ha-nthlei.

"I shall plan my cousin's escape from that Canton madhouse, and together we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory forever."
- The Narrator; The Shadow over Innsmouth, Chapter V

Publication: Edit

Lovecraft himself didn't like the novel, claiming that: "(It) has all the defects I deplore—especially in point of style, where hackneyed phrases & rhythms have crept in despite all precautions.... No—I don't intend to offer 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' for publication, for it would stand no chance of acceptance"

Surprisingly, it was the only Lovecraft's book published during his lifetime.

Reception: Edit

The book was generally well received and remains regarded as one of the best Lovecraft's stories.