Triggering Time's Trapdoor

Document Type

Journal Article


Inter-Disciplinary Press


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communication and Arts




McKenzie, K. J. (2011). Triggering time's trapdoor. Monsters and the Monstrous, 1(1), 33-46.


The monstrous entities populating the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft are amongst the most imaginative in Horror. Lovecraft’s ‘Cthulu Mythos’ contains entities that exist outside linear time, emphasizing the author’s ambivalent attitude to knowledge and the broadening scientific horizon extant at the time: ‘…but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality…that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.’1 The narrators of Lovecraft’s fiction frequently learn part of these ‘revelations’ through their experiences, illuminating Lovecraft’s ambivalence. I intend examining how his monsters exist both within and outside of time, from their intimated existence in the earliest history of the planet, to their continuance ‘outside’ the implied space/time continuum of human history, influencing events in the future: ‘That which is not dead can eternal lie/ and through strange aeons, even death may die.’2 While these themes are found in many of Lovecraft’s writings, I intend to concentrate on two stories: ‘The Call of Cthulu’ and ‘At The Mountains of Madness’. In these two texts the monsters exist within a range of historical and futuristic vistas which have immediate and horrific consequences in the narrators’ present circumstances. These monsters are both precursors to the advancement of human knowledge as well as echoing lost knowledge, relating to both scientific enquiry and those ‘archetypes of horror’ that should have safeguarded humanity form the awareness of what Lovecraft terms ‘cosmic horror’. 1H.P. Lovecraft, ‘The Call of Cthulu,’ Omnibus Three: The Haunter of the Dark (London: Harper Collins, 1985), 61. 2Ibid., 81.

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