A short story by H. P. Lovecraft
originally published in in Weird Tales
, 3, No. 3 (March 1924), 25-31.
This was the first piece I read by Lovecraft, and while probably not his best work, I found it a very good introduction to his style.
The story is told in a first person style through an unnamed member of the de la Poer family. He moves into the Exham Priory
, the "seat of [his] ancestors", on July 16, 1923, after having the place restored. The Priory is located 3 miles west of Anchester
, England. The narrator bought the land from Edward Norrys
. Norrys befriended the narrator's son Alfred during a stint in the Royal Flying Corps
during World War I
. Alfred suffered an unspecified injury which left him a maimed invalid. Alfred later died in 1921.
The narrator was the descendant of Walter de la Poer, who fled to Virginia
under a cloud of suspicion after murdering his father, five of his children, and several servents all while sleeping. It was rumored that villagers in Anchester condoned his act, thinking he had purged the land of a curse. Walter went on to found the Delapore name in America.
After moving in, the narrator and his nine cats
, begin to notice strange things. It seemed that there's a "minor" problem with an infestation of rats
. In his search for the source of the sounds he was hearing, the narrator happens upon a vault
deep in the foundations. In this vault there was an alter
that was discovered to reveal a passageway into an underground crypt
READ NO FURTHER UNLESS YOU WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING.
On the 8th of August, 1923
, A search party of seven men strike out to find out what lies deep below the priory, causing the strange disturbance
. In the extensive caverns they find a sea of human remains and architecture dating from pre-history all the way through the 1600's
After a realization of the dark history
of his family, something triggers a reaction in the narrator. He begins ranting about the rats, the war, his dreams
, and as he becomes less coherent his mind seems to draw from some ancient source as is speech begins regressing to older languages. Eventually all he can do is make guttural noises.
This is the condition they found him in, he says, three hours later, when he was found crouching in the blackness over the half devoured corpse of Capt. Norrys.
Exham Priory was later destroyed, we find out, as the narrator finishes recounting the story from the comfort of a barred room.
I recommend reading the story for yourself, a summary node couldn't do justice to the effectiveness of Lovecraft's writing.
Cthulhu for President.