Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”

Part of Lovecraft’s Investigators and Their Guns.

(set in 1928, written in 1928, published in 1929)

The thing that lay half-bent on its side in a foetid pool of greenish-yellow ichor and tarry stickiness was almost nine feet tall, and the dog had torn off all the clothing and some of the skin. It was not quite dead, but twitched silently and spasmodically while its chest heaved in monstrous unison with the mad piping of the expectant whippoorwills outside. Bits of shoe-leather and fragments of apparel were scattered about the room, and just inside the window an empty canvas sack lay where it had evidently been thrown. Near the central desk a revolver had fallen, a dented but undischarged cartridge later explaining why it had not been fired.

 

Wilbur Whateley was prominently armed with a revolver. Game author Keith Herber states it was a .38-calibre (H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich, p. 34), and while that is not an unreasonable deduction, there are certainly other options as well. It could be of any number of makes and models. However, we do have a few further clues. Wilbur Whateley first acquired a “pistol” in 1915, to protect himself against the dogs of his neighbours. At the time, the terms “pistol” and “revolver” were used almost interchangeably, so the earlier weapon was probably also a revolver.

As he carried this handgun at all times and used it frequently, we can assume that it was a pocket type that could be easily carried concealed. Given the Whateley family’s apparent poverty, it was likely also a cheap gun, or possibly a second-hand acquisition. In 1915, Sears, Roebuck offered a 5-shot Eastern Arms Improved Model Hammerless Revolver in .32 S&W (7.9×15mmR) or .38 S&W (9×20mmR) with 7.62-cm (3”) barrel and shrouded hammer for concealed carry for only $3.70; even cheaper patterns were available. Functionally, this is similar to the much more expensive S&W Safety Hammerless revolver (Investigator Weapons 1: The 1920s and 1930s, p. 57).

SD_Dunwich

It is likely that Whateley held on to this weapon until 1928. Due to his gigantism, he might have been unable to operate the revolver properly. It is probable that he was forced to remove the revolver’s trigger guard to get his enlarged finger on the trigger.

When the investigators from Miskatonic University arrived, they brought their own equipment:

Negotium perambulans in tenebris … The old librarian rehearsed the formulae he had memorised, and clutched the paper containing the alternative one he had not memorised. He saw that his electric flashlight was in working order. Rice, beside him, took from a valise a metal sprayer of the sort used in combating insects; whilst Morgan uncased the big-game rifle on which he relied despite his colleague’s warnings that no material weapon would be of help.

Professor Dr Francis Morgan’s “big-game rifle” is never mentioned again, as the Mythos threat is dealt with in another way. We learn nothing more about it. “Big-game” suggests a powerful calibre, but in the context of the American hunter this does not mean an elephant rifle in .577 Nitro Express, but probably a weapon in .30-06 Springfield or a similar calibre, which was deemed adequate for even the biggest game in North America.

Note how Lovecraft denies us again a first-hand view of the action, instead we have to literally follow the events through a pocket telescope held by a series of NPCs with limited vocabulary and less SAN.

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