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This Week’s Prompt: 128. Individual, by some strange process, retraces the path of evolution and becomes amphibious.

The Resulting Story: Metamorphosis

Today we come back to the squamous, the monstrous, the amphibious and the frogs. There is quite a bit to cover. First is the nature of ‘retracing the path of evolution’—this to me calls to mind a very old horror film called the Maze. I haven’t seen the Maze itself, but watched a review of it on YouTube a while ago. The story features the heir to a castle that, being born premature, is frog like. This seems to draw from the story of Glamis, where a child was born malformed and sealed away. This child lived surprisingly long, living over a hundred years. This gossip tells that the child resembled an egg, had a hairy chest but no arms. The rumor seems to have been started by the family of Glamis themselves, in what I must admit seems to be a fit of boredom.

Another unusual amphibian I came across, before doing in depth research, was the Loveland Frog. This is one of many extraterrestrials found across the United States. The Loveland Frog is a large frog like creature, spotted on the road meddling with strange lights. A traveling business man observes the meeting of two or three of these amphibians, before driving off—sometimes startled by their sparks. Further stories by police officers and those near the river fill out the story to include exact sizes and hairy palms to the clawed amphibians. Attempts have been made to link this to stories of frogmen by the Shawnee in the area, but my primary source suggests this is ultimately a doomed endeavor and probably a fallacious one.

The idea of frogs as ancestral beings is of interest to me. We have an example of the Buddha using a golden frog to make the world from Mongolia. We also have the Egyptian deity Keket, a frog like embodiment of the cosmic darkness before reality as well as his female counterpart, and the other watery frog goddess Heqet. Heqet was a water goddess of the Nile and flooding in particular, a source of life for Egypt.

In Australia, we have a story of a particularly greedy frog. This frog, Tiddalik, drank all the fresh water of the world. This of course causes a wilting drought, which the frog must be tricked into ending. An owl and an eel take the primary role here, convincing Tiddalik to take on a number of comical shapes in order to release of the water.  Eventually he does so,  flooding the world and restoring prosperity. This tale does call to mind the water thieves we discussed on patreon, who often met more violent ends.

Frogs as human ancestors might be derived from more common  material, like certain physical commonalities—hands with observable webbing, fingers, and so on. Some frogs, tree frogs notably, even grip objects. The frog’s place as between places—moving from river to land during the course of life—also gives it a place as an ancestor of sorts.  In Hmong stories, a frog has a special place as a creator spirit of humanity. However, humanity killed this spirit—Nplooj Lwg—for lying about the size of the world. The frog cursed humanity, that they would know sickness and death and that the world would experience withering and seasons. He separated humanity from spirits, and set forth extreme heat and deadly rains and so the world would be sick.  Further, death would be a permanent affliction—not one that only lasted thirteen days, as it had been before.

In  Jewish legends, there is a story of a knowledgeable frog shaped demon, born of Adam and Lilith. This creature served later as a teacher to a Rabbi Hanina. The rabbi’s father instructed his son to purchase the item, and died shortly after. The frog was purchased—by mistake, being contained in a silver plate, within a larger silver plate—and ate so much at Sedar that it needed a cabinet to be stored in. The frog continued to grow, however, and ate Rabbi Hanina out of house and home. At last, being vast, it offered to grant him any wish. The pious Palestinian rabbi asked that the frog teach him the Torah—which it did, along with the seventy languages of men. His method of teaching was…eccentric, writing a few words on a scroll and telling his student to swallow it. So he taught the rabbi the languages of beasts and birds. And as a final reward, he went into the woods, and called on the beasts of the woods and all the birds, and they produced jewels for the Rabbi and herbs for his wife.

When discussing amphibious persons, however, it is hard not to add other things to the list. We have focused on frogs, but there are also folklore persons who live in undersea cities.  The Blue Men for instance, are a race of mortals born of a third of the fallen host of Heaven—having fallen not to hell, because they were neutral not on the side of Lucifer. They live lives like mortals in many ways, but had some differences. They could create storms—although these might also be their skyborne brethren fighting. They would swim like a porpoise, not like a man, and if their poetry was not matched they would capsize any poor vessel that crossed their path. 

While these particular amphibious men are not accounted for elsewhere, the underseas and rivers of the world are overflowing with civilizations. We discussed some of them on patreon, and some of them here. We can also find a shared inheritor of humanity in the Mayan story of Kumix, where two of his brothers run afoul and are turned into frogs. In the Mayan stories, frogs are padrinos or rain priests, charged with petitioning for rain. This can be heard when they croak before rain fall, and their powers extend well past mere request. One source called them “angels of thunder and rain”, and one divine frog waits in each direction. They sometimes share this duty with toads, a common confusion yours truly makes regularly.  In the story of Kumix, we get a particular origin. Kumix’s full story is perhaps saved for another time, but towards the start of his story he is killed by his four older brothers, and his parts are eaten. He revives himself, and has a series of adventures against the Bronze King, culminating in his ascensions to the heavens. His four brothers also wish to join him in heaven, as he now commands the winds and rain. They construct four large mountains to reach the heavens, and eagles descend down to destroy them and humanity. Kumix uses thunder bolts to level the mountains, and tells his brothers to hide their heads, but being older brothers they stick them out. They were blinded as a result, and turned into frog rain priests, their tears now bringing the rains in November. Kumix ends the tale becoming the sun.

Moving back to popular culture, there are the frogmen of Hellboy–a horror-superhero comic with folkloric influences in spades. These frogmen are connected with the frogs of the Book of Revelation and are in fact quite…sinister, alien, and dangerous, spreading like a plague from ancient deities imprisoned beneath the earth. The frogmen here are connected not to humanities primeval past, but as a disturbing future. Here again they take on a transitional and arguably evolutionary sense, but one of an alien future that is unsuitable for humanity.

So what can we make of these stories? What does it mean to retrace one’s evolutionary steps—a topic I have sidelined here, because we have researched it here and here before, and I have little more to add—and become amphibious? We don’t need the exact cause of this transformation, a Kafka-esque happening is enough. There is a clear undercurrent of ‘degeneration’ in the idea of going ‘back down evolutionary steps’—it is entirely steeped in pseudoscience already to the point of being magical. One perhaps interesting, horrific exploration is the simple horror of one’s body changing, losing functionality, both mental and physical. Losing one’s limbs, one’s ability to walk upright, becoming dependent on water nearby, losing senses as one slowly shifts down and down into an amphibian. Vocal chords shift, thumbs become difficult to use, do even thoughts decay as one’s nervous system shrinks and reverts away? Does the mind?

 That is a rather … heavy load for the idea, but might be the best serious approach. I’m not sure I could stretch a simple story of ‘and then Tim was a frog’ for fifteen hundred words. We will have to see how it turns out! What stories of frogs have you heard? What tales of amphibians? We haven’t even touched on salamanders or newts! Let us know in the comments!


Braakhuis, Edwin, and Kerry Hull. “Pluvial Aspects of the Mesoamerican Culture Hero: The ‘Kumix Angel’ of the Ch’orti’ Mayas and Other Rain-Bringing Heroes.” Anthropos, vol. 109, no. 2, 2014, pp. 449–466., Accessed 21 Feb. 2021.

Campbell, John Gregorson, Superstitions of the Highlands and the Islands of Scotland, J. MacLehose and sons, 1900.

Tapp, Nicholas. “Hmong Religion.” Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 48, no. 1, 1989, pp. 59–94. JSTOR, Accessed 9 May 2021.

A Delay

Hello everyone!

Work and other commitments have sadly greatly increased this month. So until April 16th, we will be going on hiatus–during this time I’ll try and build up a backlog of material, to avoid the delays that have become pretty common this year.

Thank you all for understanding.

Bird of Old Feather

This Week’s Prompt: 120. Talking bird of great longevity—tells secret long afterward.

The Prior Research:Birds of Pray

I admit, I was surprised when Uncle Ronald died. He was old, sure—I wasn’t exactly sure how old until he passed. He’d joke he’d been forty for fifty years. I mean, he didn’t  look older than forty but age is a strange thing? And now he was dead.

I wasn’t surprised what he’d left me, though. I’d always liked Becky. She was some sort of…parrot, with really long tail feathers. Uncle Ronald kept her in a big, fancy cage—took up a whole wall. She was probably as old as him, maybe older. Her feathers faded in color, and many were long gone. Still, there was something noble about her. I’d taken care of her a few times, when my uncle had business elsewhere. I’d learned to love her song, even when I was young.

Of course, my house was…humbler than Uncle Ronald’s. But I managed to make enough room for her in the yard. I wasn’t worried about her flying off—after all, there were hardly any feathers on her wings. The real trick, honestly, was finding out what she ate. The vet I called to look her over—after confirming she’d been in bad health a while, probably because at the end Uncle Ronald couldn’t feed her—she suggested that Becky would like insects, and probably fruits.

She didn’t sing much those first few days, even as she ate the seed and fruit and insect mix—dried at first, because she certainly lacked the energy to chase them down. I’d spend time with her, taking time off from driving around to talk to her at home. She’d squawk and sometimes I thought she smiled.

I wonder, can even an old bird go senile?

It was a week before the first shimmering feather returned. It was bright red, with streaks of orange, sprouting like a tongue of fire among ashes. I remember, because that was the first day she sang again, whistling a tune through the yard.

“…Is that Wonderwall?” Jenna asked, frowning as the sharp whistles came through. I paused and frowned.

“What kind of bird sings Wonderwall?” She laughed. Looking out the window—yeah, there was the bird. Singing along happily, a single tuft of bright red feathers on her head like a crown. She hopped to the top edge of the cage, her head and body swaying as she sang. She even flared out her wings, tattered and broken as they were.

“Apparently old ones.” I said with a smile, going back to the coffee boiling.


Becky’s taste in music did get more refined, as she got more feathers. Bit by bit she recovered, and would sing musicals in her chirpy voice, humming tunes in the morning. She sometimes even gave…unsolicitited advice.

“Too much salt! Too much salt!” she squawked, more than once, when steam came out of the kitchen window.

“Plants need more, yes, plants need more!” She said, hoping along in her cage as I took my morning walk.

“No good, no good!” she helpfully chimed in, when I tried on a new jacket.  An old bird, she had many many opinions. Some were a bit old fashioned I think—at least one bit of advice was in old German and I think was about the proper application of a codpiece or something. For a bird such as her, having a memory that went so far back was…well, a little comforting. Someone remembered all that.

And while I did not appreciate her thoughts on my new car—“Too loud! Too loud!”—some of her advice was useful. She was right about the salt, and even started listing off a recipe or two when I was writing groceries. Not a recipe I could understand, but I kept a little notepad of what she’d said in case I ever ‘cracked’ it.

Which…well, okay, I didn’t. I was chatting with my neighbor, Miss Kovac—I’m sure I spelled that wrong—and while we were talking about the weather and her flower garden, Becky chimed up with another recipe. And there was this light in Miss Kovac’s eyes, just this pure delight for a moment.

“Oh, who said that?” She said, shocked and looking around. When I told her it was the bird, she demanded to see Becky. She told me, as she looked at Becky’s marvelous red-orange plumes—which were still punctuated by dead black and grey feathers then—that she knew that recipe. Her grandmother, when she made sweets, had used that recipe. She was sure of it. She thought it had been lost when her mother and her left for the States, but she was sure that Becky had remembered it.

The sweets were delicious.  Really all her recipes, once got them…as down as we could were delicious. Some of them were in German, some in Latin, some in Old Russian. But she gave good cooking advice, old Becky did. And she sang songs—I know a few where church hymns, and others were school yard rhymes. She must have had a number of owners, to move so easily between children school yard songs.

It was a bit…disconcerting sometimes, my lovely bird. She sang in different voices—all filtered through her squawk. But you could here the rhythm of dozens of voices. You could tell the pitches. And even during the middle of the day, hearing an angry dispute in another language, the sing song of distant long dead children, or the humming tune of a church choir from your backyard—often suddenly, and without warning—was pretty creepy. I didn’t try and think of how old that must have made Becky—or how many owners she must have had, how far she had traveled.

Sometimes she would say…strange things. Usually once a month, she’d stop singing and dancing and sort of just stare on the horizon.  She’d say numbers or words, in a flat voice. Sometimes she’d swear at the moon, perching up on a tree, spreading her red-orange wings and clawing up at it.

Sometimes she would lean very close to the edge of the cage—raising both her wings up to hide her head, flaring out her long peacock like tale. And she’d say things quickly, in a quite voice. Conspiratorially.

Too many of these were in plain English.

“It will rain tonight. Leave out candles. Things live in the rain. Worms come out from the ground. Worse things come up for worms.”

She chirped this one for a big storm. I mean, it did rain—the weatherman had said that much. But what she meant by candles—that night the power went out. So I lit some candles…and let one outside, just in case. Why not, right? In this day and age, why not?

The house across the street, it had some sort of accident. A sinkhole or something, ate up most of the road and severed a lot of powerlines. Just barely missed mine. Which, I thought was conicdence but…there was a nagging thought I just couldn’t let go of.


One night, as I was washing dishes, she squawked up another suggestion. Place a jar of dirt outside, and bury it. Bury it with a spare key. I blinked at that. She then went back to singing American Idiot. Which, was almost a more unsettling experience, compared to that strange droning song she sang earlier or the odd chirps of advice.

I had a mason jar, and got some compost. Dropped a key in. I don’t know when exactly I started listening to Becky, but her recipes worked. And this was harmless. Who was going to go to my backyard to find a spare key anyway?

It took maybe thirty minutes to bury the thing. I went to bed after a warm shower.

The screech of tires woke me up. A glance at the clock. Three o’clock in the morning. I blinked and lazily, not entirely awake yet, pulled myself to the window. There was a car outside. Lights off—someone was standing at the edge of the yard.

He was pacing. There was crowbar in his hand. As I blinked awake, I saw him try and walk over the line, towards the house—but stop. Step back. He took a deep breath and stepped forward towards the house again and no, turned back. He did this for five minutes as I watched—and recorded it with my cellphone.

And then he went home.

The police said what you’d expect. No victim, no damages, no crime. Keep an eye on it, but they’ll deal with it later. I was still shaken up about. How had she known? Had she known? Twice was just conicdence after all.

She hoped to a branch close to my window. She sang a nice morning carol as I made an egg recipe she suggested a few weeks ago.  She was content, it seemed, to sing along and through the day. I began to relax, to hum along with her. Nothing else happened that day. I got to working on a new design for a client and sorting through more property for Uncle Ronald.

It wasn’t until sundown that she acted strange again. She got silent, staring at the setting sun—I wonder if she was hoping to catch a glimpse of that green flash people talk about. She didn’t blink, like she was daring the sun to pop it’s head back up before going to bed. And then she made some anxious squawks in my general direction.

She’d knocked her food thing over. It was one of those hanger things—I got a flash light, opened the cage to go and rehang it from the ceiling like I’d done a hundred times. And then she jumped on my shoulder.

That was startling but not new. I mean. She’s a parrot…thing. It was like being a pirate. She did it while cooked sometimes—although a bird chiding you like a disapproving parent was an uncomfortable experience for sure.

She watched as I put the thing back up, hooking it around the mesh ceiling. And then whispered in my ear, quick clicking and purring—or something like purring, like a tongue trying to roll its R’s in a low comforting way. She shook a little, the last of her ashen feathers, a small tail feather falling away.

Becky had a plan, smart bird. A plan that had to be hidden from the moon and sun—only on new moons could anything be done about it. What it was I wasn’t sure, and what exactly the plan did wasn’t clear. She needed me to find a rock she’d buried near my Uncle’s house—it was a special rock, one of those rocks made when a thunderbolt hits sand.

She needed seeds, from an old tree—a really old tree. She needed a jar, a clean but old jar with a silver lid. She needed string, twine, she need something made of metal. Things had to be measured. Dates consulted, she needed me to go to the library and find the dates. It would be slow. But she had time. And she needed it to work properly this time.

I knew this was going to be a strange story from the start, and drew some from an older story here You could consider this a spiritual successor.

The week delay was to put some finishing touches on it, but next weeks research has already begun! See you then!

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.

The Family Business

This Week’s Prompt: 117. A secret living thing kept and fed in an old house.

The Prior Research: The Beast Must Feed

My childhood was blessed. While my older brothers had inhabited more of my father’s industrial, entrepreneurial spirit of wanderlust, I was more than happy to be at home with my mother and my tutors. When they returned there would be festivities, with stories of extravagant parties that my mother hushed or amazing sights that she loved. And I would keep rapt attention, because despite all the comforts they provided, I still did not know what the family business was.

I attended school with other boys and girls, who all had homes of equal splendor. And while children do not often discuss the finances of their mothers and fathers, I was a keen young man. I learned, with time, the signs of every source of revenue. The ones who owned farmland were concerned with bad storms—even if they themselves never tilled it. The ones who’s ships sailed the seas went on long voyages, yes, but were superstitious about weather and returned always with exotic gifts. And drank. Often.

Those who owned mines often had some piece from their mind on hand, and talked often of good fortune and a sense for things. Vinters always wished to own a bottle of the land they had. Those who squeezed money from houses often had exceptionally wealthy tenants over for dinner or lunch. Bankers, lawyers, and bueracrats often met at each other’s homes, their children becoming somewhat familiar. With this accumulated second hand knowledge, I strained to review what work my family did.

It was quite profitable work, whatever it was. I wanted for nothing, except perhaps company. Whatever it was, it required a good deal of travel. Some of my brothers, I recognized the signs of sea trade. Others vinters, others wandering merchants without any interest in particular wares. But despite my observations and innocent questions during celeberations, the beating heart of the family was still obscured.  

I had hoped to gain some understanding from my father, when he lingered in the house. Sometimes he would have an accountant over for dinner to discuss matters of business—but never what business. Only that this and that deposit was in order, that this and that would be available then. Where theses sums came from, no, never. Not a word.

That was, until one summer morning. My mother woke me early, my grumbling bringing more sure shaking of me awake.

“Get dressed. Today is a very important day.” She said quietly, perhaps earnestly afraid of startling me. I yawned and looked up in confusion.

“What’s today?” I asked, my tired mind cycling through a calendar of tests and holiday’s and appointments.

“Today is the day you’re father is taking you to work.”

I wore my finest clothes. We rode on two fine horses for two days—up into the hills, where our old family estate was. We rode through fields I had seen from my window and woods my brothers hunted foxes in. I never had the taste for hunting, it was a cruel and one-sided game. At the least, hunting a boar or bear in the older days put one at risk. What might a fox do to a rich man surrounded by friends? Bit him with needle teeth?

We spent our first night in a traveling house in the woods. The innkeeper, a smiling woman who’s eyes never fully opened and exuded a warmth that reminded me of freshly cooked sweets, was familiar with my father. Despite their difference in character, they greeted each other like old friends. She smiled at me, and spoke to me.

“Oh and look at how big he is! Are you sure he’s not your brother?” She said, patting my shoulders and laughing. “Still, not too big for chocolate I hope, I’ve some homemade—let me go get it for you, you’ll love it.”

My father waited patiently for her to return. Not one word until she returned with some slightly mishappen sweets.

The room was smaller than mine at home, even smaller since it was shared. My father removed an old book to read and sat in the corner, a pair of half-mooned glasses from his suit. I had tried asking questions—where we were going, what was expected of me when we got there, who we might meet with, what we might see. But he stayed silent, reading his book through the night.

I had studies to do. I sat at the desk, facing into the darkness of the woods, reading my book. Looking up, I thought I saw a fox, staring at the window with envy from the underbrush. And then it was gone.

The next day’s ride was deeper into the woods—past people who stared at strangers, but averted their eyes when I glanced at them. Carts heavy with logs passed us by—one seemed intent on running us off the road, hurtling down towards us. I pulled horse to the side, but my father stayed still and resolute—and sure enough, the blind horse slowed. Perhaps the driver, face red and eyes glaring, lost his nerve and pulled the reigns while I was not looking. Perhaps my father new some trick with horses. The attempt wasn’t a surprise to him.

Despite being our ancestral home—the home my great-great grandfather had built by hand, using only local lumber—I had never been to this wood. The trees felt familiar, probably because they were kin to the hunting forests of my brothers.  The stone paved road wound its way through ancient trees—a mighty expense, for only one home. Even overgrow with moss and cracked with roots, the stones shone in the sunlight like a river.

The silence my father had as  we rode up the hill stifled any wonder the sights could have presented. At last we came to the end of the road—an iron wrought gate, with a heavy chain around it and verdigrised lock.

“We walk the rest of the way.” My father said, his voice sudden as he came down from the horse. “Not much farther now.”

I was too stunned to ask what he meant. He pulled his coat up,and opened the gate with a small silver key.

We walked a bit farther. Maybe it was a mile. And then it appeared, like a storm suddenly rising on the horizon.

Peeling paint and plaster revealed the brick and stone work below. The roof had a faded coat of arms on it, five flowers blooming in a star. A pair of knights reclined at either side, their spears ready to defend the door. Ivy encrusted lions flanked the stair case, to the heavy, oaken door. Wrapped around it too was a heavy chain, with a shining silver lock. My father wordlessly produced a small gold key—one that seem bent and twisted. But the lock opened with a click, and the heavy chain was removed.

My father ignored my inquiries—what work brought us to such a decrepit house, even if it were our own? There were no clients, no offices, no way of attracting patronage. He merely gestured I follow into the dust and cobweb strewn house.

The distance between doors stretched farther than between our home and the iron gate. The silence was so heavy, it was as if a third had joined our party. Their footsteps interjected between the creaking of old panels, the sigh of slanting supports and tarnished silver. They kept pace with my father, and his occasional mumble or murmur—only faintly made out as ‘a little further yet’—were always to this unseen third. Never to me.

Until we came to the basement door. The chain of silver around the handle, free of times touch, seemed unreal amidst the decay. My father paused, a crude iron key in his palm.

“I think its time we talked business.” He said, turning to me. I nodded silently. Words would not come to me at the sudden focus.

“Down there…down there’s the real family business.” He said, pointing with the key. “And it’s all going to be yours. Your brothers, they’ve got a knack for the little stuff. For wandering and buying and selling—they’re good at what they do. But without what’s down there, it’d all have fallen apart a long time ago.”

The door rattled violently. My father glanced over as I started back.

“I’m going to open the door. Someone is going to fall down the stairs.” He said, turning back to the door. “Whoever it is, they won’t come back home. “

“Wait, what do you—” I started before he held his hand up.

“Who ever doesn’t fall down the stairs is going to travel around for a bit. Maybe go and drink themselves silly.” He said slowly. “Then go home and tell your mother that something terrible happened—like what I told my mother. And what I guess my father told my grandmother. And then, they’ll spend a year doing…whatever it is. And then they’ll come back here, with someone else, and someone else will fall down the stairs.

“And if no one falls down the stairs,” He said, seeing the dawning horror in my eyes. “Then things will fall apart. Money will dry up, fortune will twist and bend, and whatever’s down there will get hungry. Some families, they make their fortune off the sweat of a worker or the blood of a farmer, the tides of the sea. We make ours, our business, with these stairs. And when we can’t have enough of it anymore, and we find someone else to take on the job…well. This is where we exit.”

He turned back to the door.

“I’m going to open the door. And someone is going to fall down those stairs. Only one person will know if they were pushed.”

He reached down. The lock clicked open. A noise was made, like a howling wolf. Teeth and eyes were seen shining in the dark. Was there one figure, bent over in the darkness, mishappen claws peeking into the light? Were a hundred eyes owned by a singular mass? Or was the darkness filled by a hundred hungry limbs?

My father’s body struck the floor with a dull thud. The doors were slammed shut. The locks were clicked shut. I found my way in silence.

I like the basic premise of this story–I’m not sure it quite works, and probably the twist is a bit predictable. But overall, I’m happy with it. A good one to revisit on the Patreon. I’ll add in more links about current events when I get a better handle on them. Until then, next time! We see strange images from a different old manor!

Delays and Delays

Hello everyone. This is going to be a bit different than normal posts. As you’ve noticed, no doubt, there have been some delays in getting writing out on time here at the Undead Author Society. There’s no way around it–the COVID 19 epidemic hampered my emotional energy and bandwidth, and I’ve only recently reached regular energy levels I had before. This meant writing often was difficult, both here and on the patreon.

However, that is not the only reason today has no post. I have in the past rushed research and writing exercises to meet my self-imposed deadline. This and next weeks prompt will, however, be getting into topics that if I rushed would be doing them a disservice on multiple levels.

Those prompts being:

108. Educated m****to seeks to displace personality of white man and occupy his body.
109. Ancient n***o voodoo wizard in cabin in swamp—possesses white man.

Touching on these topics in any context would be difficult, but given the legacy and reputation of our source, I want to do these topics justice. That means doing a considerable amount of research on topics of racism, folklore, and “voodoo”, topics that are not easy or simple to say the least. While I’ve done so in the past, with topics on anti-Romani bias and anti-Yazidi bias, this week I didn’t have the time to review…as much as I was comfortable with.

A full discussion of these topics will hopefully be ready next week. My work on Patreon should update this Friday. Thank you very much for your time and stay safe.

a book

This Week’s Prompt:86. To find something horrible in a (perhaps familiar) book, and not to be able to find it again.

The Resulting Story: FORTHCOMING

This is going to be a different article then most. Normally, I try and connect the prompt to folklore in someway—both because it interests me, and because I’m aware that many people are invested in it. This week, while folklore will be mentioned, I’m going to be talking more about modern horror. In particular, this week I’m going to print a portion of an essay on The House of Leaves—given our prompt, this will be a section on the House of Leaves and Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s own work. The full essay, when complete, will be included on my Patreon—it is both too long and more in-depth then this site normally goes, and still progressing. That said, given the House’s own references, folklore and the like will probably still drift into the piece. For now, the below will be part of our work.

In His House Cthulhu Lies Dreaming1

From Witch House to Ryleh to Innsmouth

If there is a man who’s shadow has grown outside his form moreso then Mr. Lovecraft’s, it is probably limited to Tolkien—but the difference between what is meant by Tolkien-esque and what Tolkien actually wrote is for another occasion. Still, just as Tolkien has become the name for fantasy, Mr. Lovecraft has become synonymous with cosmic and existential horror. Talking about the House of Leaves in the context of Lovecraft quickly leads us into the murky place of definitions of what we mean by “Lovecraftian”. Certaintly, it is not a story Lovecraft could have written. It is a manuscript that employs a number of modern techniques and styles, playing with the distance between the viewer and the original, making use of dialouge and characters more realized then Lovecraft’s protagonists and work. No one reading the House can easily mistake it for some work out of the 1920s, let alone Lovecraft’s. While Johnny Truant has rambling sentences, they are not in the style of Lovecraftian purple prose—if anything, they remind me of noir pulp. Overly descriptive, yes, but to be frank–no protagonist of Lovecraft’s has that sort of appreciation for women, drugs, or weapons. We’ll come back to that.

Well, is it a Mythos story? The winding mass of work that was started by Lovecraft–arguably–and cultivated since then? This one can also be dismissed easily. While a truly determined reader can tie the Navidson Record into that mythology, it is an extraneous in the extereme2. There are no gibbering cultists, there are no tendrils. But yet! It is a very Lovecraft story, in a way. It hinges and touches very similar themes—some of which I have discussed in detail above. But for here, I’ll focus on some similar themes in both the Navidson Record—or at least, what we can guess from it’s echoes—and the House proper.

The very first layer to move through is the nature of the text. It is a found text, a tradition that is quite literally as old as the Gothic genre—which is certainly what I would call a large bulk of Lovecrafts work. We have here a text that we receive after multiple transmissions—just as we do in many of Lovecraft’s stories. While some of his work is in the third person omniscient, a number are presented by second hand accounts and witnesses–the most clear example being the Call of Cthulhu, which is centered on a mass of papers, letters, and journals. However, here attention is always called to the artifice. We are told by Editors, by Johnny, and sometimes by Zampano that there have been edits, omissions, lost information, and a creation of genuine distance from the truth. In Lovecraft, the transmission by a second person is sometimes a filter–but just as often, it is a means to reinforce the reality. To suggest that the author has something genuine on their hands.

The second area of blending is the notion of a cursed text. The nature of a cursed text to read—and of an alien world, which we will return to—is a theme in Lovecraft. But here, the texts infectious nature, which draws Johnny’s life into a downward spiral, is questionable. If there is a thing Johnny is confronting, it’s certainty not so dangerous as to infect the entire text—right? His symptoms at least at first appear unique but…well. We can consider that a number of viewings of the media produced effects on those who saw it, as reported towards the end of Zampano’s review. We can even consider how the text haunts us as readers—for we have been in the house, in a way, and I have been more on edge since. After all. I felt compelled to create this.

The notion of a secret room or doorway that leads to haunting revelations of the past is a Lovecraftian trope if there was one. It plays into a universal fear he has–the revelation, the remembering of the past that lets it loose again to devour and unmake the present. Like the found text trope, this isn’t unique to his writing. However, it is something of a stand by in his more racist stories. How many Lovecraftian protagonists find dark and monstrous things by following up there family tree and descending down into the basement? From cannibals to fornicating with apes to great rites to witch gods.  But the House is a different, primal unknown. What lurks in that house is…unsavory. It is a history—as I argued in the section on the Minotaur, there are terrifying implications there—but it is a more primal history.

And in fact, in that regard, it is a Lovecraft story—the house is a fearsome and alien place, that bends and shifts in impossible ways. It captures the impression that we received from a frozen Norwegian. The feeling that we have entered somewhere not made from human habitation, that is now awake and lurking after us. We shouldn’t forget—just as Johnny suspects there is something pursuing him after finding the old man’s notes, the Cult of Cthulhu is lurking just around the corner for those who know of he who lies dreaming in his house. It is a hungry place as well, devouring those who explore it. I said, I warned at the start. We must descend into the house with clear intentions–or else we will be lost in it’s labyrinth. 

One of which is Johnny.

Johnny’s nature is one that I  have spent an entire section on—he is a strange man, an odd creature. His guilts, regrets, lies, and losses shape much of the story. What struck me about Johnny, however, was a two fold concern. First, his family. Johnny, a consummate liar, reveals feelings of inhumanity in the text that to me bear more than a passing resemblance to the fears of Lovecraft. Not the miscegenation fears—those are rampant in Lovecraft, but lacking here. No, no we can consider instead the portions of the text where Johnny or his mother tell him of his inheritance, of feeling like a dark and monstrous creature. Johnny suspects, as I have said, that he is a beast. Or wishes to appear as a beast. While Lovecraft’s own fears might be less clear then this, there is a recurring theme in Lovecraft’s writing about discovering (with horror) the true monstrous nature of aristocracy and of the self.

The other connection is one of family. Both Lovecraft and Johnny lost their fathers early in life–Lovecraft’s was placed in a mental asylum, Johnny’s appears to have perished in an airplane crash. Both also had mothers that doted on them through out their lives–or in Johnny’s case attempted to. And both saw their mothers sent to an asylum for a pathological fear of the dark. This incident, coupled with the death of Susan Lovecraft, is suggested by some to be the cause of Mr. Lovecraft’s writing of the Call of Cthulhu–a story that has odd resemblances to the House as we will see. 

Johnny as a person is very different then the sex averse, drug averse, cloistered Lovecraft, but they share this fear of where they are from. And it is interesting to consider, his work consumed him into an isolated and fearful man—perhaps even going straight edge. Lovecraft, according to popular rumor, wrote the story of Shadows over Innsmouth after learning of his ancestry—notably, this is the last story he wrote that saw publication, and is the only one where the narrator is directly confronting the horror that is themselves. Most comparable stories, the hero’s companion finds the truth of their self. Shadows over Innsmouth centers on the narrator as the discoverer. On the revelation of his roots, on his dark  Johnny likewise wonders aloud—is he the victim of a monster, or is he the victim of his blood. We follow his search for origins, across the country. And we might find it…intriguing what he finds.

Perhaps most interesting to us is how both Lovecraft and Johnny presented works of fiction tied to their origins and their loss. We know that Johnny engaged with the work of Zampano as a creative endeavor—he edits, he elides, he repairs, he transalates3. He, in a very real way, creates and changes the narrative. And always, we are reminded of his loss, of his terrible childhood, of women who he never really knew. And he comes back to this house. This house that, in a very real way, is overtaking his house. As I discussed in my section on Johnny earlier, we can never be clear—how much of the House is Johnny’s sickness and how much is an actual haunting.

As I mentioned, a popular story suggests Lovecraft wrote Shadows Over Innsmouth due to discovering his own heritage. But that is not the principle Lovecraft story I would discuss. Instead, I would point to Ryleh. A story that has consumed and overshadowed it’s author’s intentions—Lovecraft was not fond of Cthulhu, and while he produced sketches, he was focused more ‘Yog-Sothery’. But that is not the mythos name, and if any force has become the face of Lovecraft’s brand, it is Cthulhu and Ryleh.

This is a story that is told to us by complied documents and fake citations, of a group of travelers entering into the sleeping place of an ancient evil. We can even look closely at how these men, who dig deep into an isle and meddle with it, perish. Several die at the hand claws of Cthulhu, while others are trapped by the strange architecture. One, upon reaching apparent safety, kills himself. And one is found, at last, adrift and freezing.

The story is related by a dangerous text, found abandoned. But not a singular text. Like Zampano, the manuscript is in pieces, and must be collected and restored to something readable–and the character travels the world even to reach all the pieces. As an aside. an interpretation of the Lovecraft canon as a series of found texts might be interesting—considering what edits were made to Innsmouth’s description, in order to back a government sponsored extermination, or the incident at Red Hook to play into fears of the local population. That sort of thing. I suspect it has been done.

Johnny’s fears of the text—that it is dangerous to hold, and that it opens to a dangerous place—resemble the fears of Rylehian scholar but enlarged. They also are akin to the symptoms of the Witch House. Johnny begins to have trouble working—his sense of hearing grows, he has distrubed dreams. He does not recall his dreams, a conceit around the indescribably of Mr. Gilman. Gilman and Truant both acquire knowledge through their work, in their own way—certainly, Truant visits libraries frequently to create his translations. Both engage in unknown behavior in their sleep—Johnny screams, Gilman walks, both attracting rumors and neighbors form their isolation. The strange sounds, the invading sights, many are present. Even the notion of the House that is larger or warped spatial is found here.

Johnny is not a Lovecraftian protagonist—he plays into his own machismo in ways that Lovecraft’s play into their academic knowledge, he womanizes when Lovecraft’s flee sexuality it seems, and he uses a cocktail of drugs when Lovecraft’s despise anything that addles their mind. Johnny is however, motivated by many of the same fears of a Lovecraft protagonist. He fears the unknown. He fears the places of domesticity. He fears the text he writes and works through. He fears the old. He is consumed by his work, in the way many a Lovecraft character is—and becomes convinced at its haunting power.

Unlike a Lovecraftian character, Johnny calls attention to his artifice. Lovecraft’s narrators present themselves as arbiters of truth—Johnny is a liar, and reminds us regularly that he is a liar. That he lies, edits and alters.

There is one more thing to discuss when dealing with Mr. Lovecraft and the house. We must discuss the fear of the elder. As I discussed in Twins, there is a strong theme in the house—fear and oppression of the old. Johnny calls attention to a feeling of an oppressive man weighing down on him. While his mother fears the ominous New Director, we can find this anomalous at best. The New Director, after all, is the Old Director—even when he is not. We have instances of pairs, in which the Older of the pair is considered with caution. The image of the father as danger—especially in Johnny’s narrative—is prominent. Among the two Navidson brothers, Navidson and Tom make a comparable pair—and here Navidson occupies a danger seeking and danger drawing roll. Holloway, the oldest of those to descend into the house, is the least stable and most dangerous man in the entirety of the cast. The swearing to commit infanticide that might escape a readers notice. And of course, there is the House—and the Book. The First Edition. The Old is dangerous. The Old is powerful, haunting, and consuming.

And that is what Lovecraft fears most—that the Old is not old. It is not dead, it is only dreaming. Yes, much ink has been spilt over this particular fear manifesting as fear of the unknown or fear of the other—and this is correct! Yes, Lovecraft’s fear of modernity seems backwards with a fear of the past. After all, how could a man who dreaded the ancients so seem to loath New York city?

We cannot forget that Lovecraft and several of his contemporaries positioned time and space differently. To view from the post of Lovecraft, there is no future. There is no movement forward, there is only decay. Backwards, forwards, you fall into the waiting jaws of ‘savagery’. Lovecraft presents and believes in no bright city on a hill—or if he does, it is the result of an endless fight with the forces of the Cosmos. He can join the author of the Golden Bough, in suspecting that in the depths of the world of humanity, so-called savagery is the true state. The Old World, that Modernity and the Enlightenment abhor, will consume the new.

The House asserts something similar—a fear of the assertion of the old over the new, the elder brother over the younger—but at the same time, it situates itself in the reverse. As I discussed in the section on Echoes and Ruins, there is a profound fear not only of the past over powering the present, but of the past being entirely lost. Lovecraft fears his origins will become him—that in truth, he is secretly some descendant of a monster and not of the Rhode Island pseudo-nobility. We can even compare his belief in his own heritage with the statements of Ms. Truant regarding her sons character. But the House is also afraid of being lost over time—repeatedly, images, ideas, themes, entire places are intentionally erased. Some deliberately, some by accident. Some without any explanation at all. The House itself is like the panther. To forget it is not to be saved from it.

Lovecraft is afraid of remembering, of the Old returning because we can see it—a fear that is perhaps reasonable in a time of Modernism, where a sharp break from the barbarous past was presented. Lovecraft fears that we will find the unknown, confront it, and be found wanting. But the house? The House knows—the panther will remain, forgotten or no. To forget the beast is not to leave it dreaming—it is to allow it to devour you.


So what does this mean, for creative works? For our writing next week? Well, this time I have evaded folklore—the horror of hidden places we’ve discussed here. The idea of a dangerous text we’ve discussed here. And while there is a history of labyrinths, I think a discussion of them wouldn’t be quite what we are looking for.

Instead, this rumination on the house has given me the notion of things be remembered. Things arising from the text itself. I toyed with the idea of playing with the text here—telling a story in the same meta way that the house did. But that notion seemed difficult to succeed at. We have something like the opposite of an earlier incident—where a memory was aroused by a book. Here we have lost a vital, but dreadful thing we can’t place. It might serve well to play with what connections this discovery has—we perhaps fear the book, but also the hill were the dreadful thing was described. We will have to see.

1With apologies to Filamena for including such a section, hastily hidden at the end of the essay.

2For what it is worth, the easiest way is to employ the most boring reading of the growls in the house, and then take hold of the Haunter of the Dark—but again. Extraneous. Like these foot notes.

3And to translate is fundamentally to change.

About the Society

So many authors have left so much work unfinished, stories buried with their bones. Luckily, some of them left behind records of their planned works, and I’m going to try our hand at reviving them. Our first, and probably longest, supplier of parts is Howard Phillips Lovecraft. We’ll be consulting a list of 221 story ideas that Mr. Lovecraft left behind. Once a week, we’ll either post research on the story or the finished story itself.

If you’d like to support the Society, receive more stories or research, or are feeling generous, please check out our Patreon here.

The List:

Six Nine Twelve


This Week’s Prompt: 12. Happenings in interval between preliminary sound and striking of clock—ending— “it was the tones of the clock striking three”.

The Research:Tick Tock Goes the Clock

The sun has started setting. Early summer sunlight slices through the glass. The clock ,a great red painted shape in the sun-room ticks on. A woman sits staring at it,in a dilapted couch. It hasn’t stopped, not in centuries since it was made. Its hour hands have moved silently compared to the statcco beats of the seconds. Tick tick tick tick, no booming looming bells beat beneath the surface of its face. Her family got the clock, back when the house was a castle. Back when the town was free of fog. Back, according to the clock, three hours past.

The man, strange and hunched over, had come to them. He had been brief, with a high clicking voice. He had promised to show them many secret things. She had sat there, listening as a young girl, as he spoke to her grandfather. Then, when she grew taller and older, he returned. Returned at three, after her grandfather rode into the woods. Returned at three, to ask something of her father. In that clicking, clatering, screeching voice.

Nine O’Clock

The stars were out now. Distant Alderbaan shown overhead, reflected neatly in the pale face of the clock. A number of small cherubs beautifully molded into the pearly weight face. They were smiling, but the woman knew them. They weren’t smiling out of good will.

They attended the family, when that man left. The clock clicked to their hour for decades, and while the hour hand rested there, while the heart beat away. And then they came forth, fat spiteful things. They grinned and showed cracked teeth. They’re gears looked rusted, the wings were certainly shaped like dove wings. But they fluttered up in down in sets of four, like a flies.

The woman knew them well. And the strange noises, the mree mree, they made. They brought fine wine, wonderful clothes, and chased off the wild dogs and snapping jaws of the jabberwocks. Tick Tock, the clock rattled on. Yes, the cherubs were delightful in the house, both old and new. And in distant Hali they danced and hunted rats. And scurried in a great rob of yellow, before the man came.

Twelve O’Clock

The woman had barely eaten. She had only had bread, like her sisters and father before her. The ringing of the midnight hour startled her, slightly. It hadn’t made that loud, twelve striking in ages. When she was little, grandfather left. When she was younger, but not much, her father rode away. Now, though, she stayed. There was no reason to leave.

The clocking, hulking, ghastly thing could not ask much of her. All she had was this distant house, this red-white clock, some wheat in the cupboard, and a bottle of wine. In a black dress, she waited on the couch, the moon perfectly covering the face. As the moon drifted past, she saw the clock face pulled along with it.

It would strike three. And then, then it would come crawling out, looking to make its mark. For tribute yearly owed. But there was nothing left to give. The woman steeled herself, as the ticking went on. No doubt it would come.

No doubt the gears would turn. The hands would move, and tick tick tick would go the moments, as she waited. She could run, but it would come. She could read, but that might disturb her paitence. She might then become aware of her situation. And that would simply make it all the more painful.

The Clock Struck Three


Well, my fellows, that is what I managed to assemble. I couldn’t quite get the last bit to stick, and if I ever get to revising these, it will be of the highest priority. How about you? What happened when your clock struck three?

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The Lord Dunsany, Time, and Hegel

Lord Dunsany

This Week’s Prompt:6. In Ld Dunsany’s “Idle Days on the Yann.” The inhabitants of the antient Astahan, on the Yann, do all things according to antient ceremony. Nothing new is found. “Here we have fetter’d and manacled Time, who wou’d otherwise slay the Gods.”

The Resulting Story: Eternity Falls

Lord Dunsany is someone people should be more familiar with. Edward Pluckett was, and is, one of the most influential writers in the fantastic, gifting the world with The King of Elfand’s Daugher, and The Gods of Pegana . Lord Dunsany has touched minds as scattered as Mr. Lovecraft, who has provided todays prompt, as well as the illustrious J.R.R. Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert E. Howard, Arthur C. Clark, Borges, and many more. He has much to recommend, building a world as spanning as Middle Earth and the Dreamlands, with influences the world over. If you wish to write fantasy, he is key to read.

His story in this case, the Idles of Yann, touch on another author however. One…less fantastic by a measure but more dull to be sure. This will be brief, fear not. I won’t subject you to the tyranny of historical philosophy for long. Hegel argued that history, and thus time, only occurs when people act as individuals and great men arise. It is by this method that Yann has ‘slain’ time. For if everything is done the same way, at the same moment, does a day really end? It becomes cyclical, the day never passing. We can of course in modern ages observe the decay around us. And people will pass.

But if they are replaced by those who act in the same ritual matter, and assumes their ritual identiy, are they dead? How can they be? Sure, we may bluster about the soul, but if from womb to grave all actions are planned and purposed, if every person and every role is the same without err and change stomped out of the cycle, then time surely must die. Because what can we call time, if not the measure of changes?

Astahahn’s role in the Idles of Yann is a sort of divine life support. By dreaming and ritually remembering every god that has been, Yann keeps them safe from “Time, who would otherwise slay the gods.” And if the Gods die, dreams shall die too. What are we to do with this though? Time and change are fundamental to the plot of a story. At the core of narrative is ‘Things happen.” Astahahn is a mere stop on a travel log down the river Yann, with meditations on Gods and imagination and the like. How do we build a story out of manacled time?

Well, two routes seem most apparent to myself. The first is the manacling of time, the inception of the eternity of this city (one wonders if the beginning is repeated without end). This would be a strange piece, since the ending would be the removal of endings, the middle repeating forever and ever. The alternative, however, is more nefarious. The end of the chains, the cycle breaking in the city that has bound time.

I find the second choice more appealing. A story about how this bubble of eternity is overpowered, how Time and Entropy and the Powers Invisible storm through its walls like the Greeks at Troy. It is akin to how utopia can only exist at its beginning or end (though I will note that there is no reason to assign to Astahahn some sort of perfected existence; it seems to be a bleak place of slumber at best). And what may come, when chance triumphs fate and the might of eternity must give to deaths swing, who is to say? In Western lore, the one to try such before was bound by heavy chains.

What schemes do you have in mind against such a power? Will rebellion come from within or invasion from without?