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Herbert West: Reanimator

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« on: March 12, 2007, 02:31:14 am »

Herbert West: Reanimator

H.P. Lovecraft

_To be dead, to be truly dead, must be glorious. There are far worse
things awaiting man than death._

-Count Dracula


Part I: From the Dark
Part II: The Plague-Daemon
Part III: Six Shots by Moonlight
Part IV: The Scream of the Dead
Part V: The Horror From the Shadows
Part VI: The Tomb-Legions

Part I: From the Dark

_First published in February 1922, "Home Brew" Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 19-

Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can
speak only with extreme terror. This terror is not due altogether to
the sinister manner of his recent disappearance, but was engendered by
the whole nature of his life-work, and first gained its acute form
more than seventeen years ago, when we were in the third year of our
course at the Miskatonic University Medical School in Arkham. While he
was with me, the wonder and diabolism of his experiments fascinated me
utterly, and I was his closest companion. Now that he is gone and the
spell is broken, the actual fear is greater. Memories and
possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.

The first horrible incident of our acquaintance was the greatest shock
I ever experienced, and it is only with reluctance that I repeat it.
As I have said, it happened when we were in the medical school where
West had already made himself notorious through his wild theories on
the nature of death and the possibility of overcoming it artificially.
His views, which were widely ridiculed by the faculty and by his
fellow-students, hinged on the essentially mechanistic nature of life;
and concerned means for operating the organic machinery of mankind by
calculated chemical action after the failure of natural processes. In
his experiments with various animating solutions, he had killed and
treated immense numbers of rabbits, guinea-pigs, cats, dogs, and
monkeys, till he had become the prime nuisance of the college. Several
times he had actually obtained signs of life in animals supposedly
dead; in many cases violent signs but he soon saw that the perfection
of his process, if indeed possible, would necessarily involve a
lifetime of research. It likewise became clear that, since the same
solution never worked alike on different organic species, he would
require human subjects for further and more specialised progress. It
was here that he first came into conflict with the college
authorities, and was debarred from future experiments by no less a
dignitary than the dean of the medical school himself--the learned and
benevolent Dr. Allan Halsey, whose work in behalf of the stricken is
recalled by every old resident of Arkham.

I had always been exceptionally tolerant of West’s pursuits, and we
frequently discussed his theories, whose ramifications and corollaries
were almost infinite. Holding with Haeckel that all life is a chemical
and physical process, and that the so-called "soul" is a myth, my
friend believed that artificial reanimation of the dead can depend
only on the condition of the tissues; and that unless actual
decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may with
suitable measures be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as
life. That the psychic or intellectual life might be impaired by the
slight deterioration of sensitive brain-cells which even a short
period of death would be apt to cause, West fully realised. It had at
first been his hope to find a reagent which would restore vitality
before the actual advent of death, and only repeated failures on
animals had shewn him that the natural and artificial life-motions
were incompatible. He then sought extreme freshness in his specimens,
injecting his solutions into the blood immediately after the
extinction of life. It was this circumstance which made the professors
so carelessly sceptical, for they felt that true death had not
occurred in any case. They did not stop to view the matter closely and

It was not long after the faculty had interdicted his work that West
confided to me his resolution to get fresh human bodies in some
manner, and continue in secret the experiments he could no longer
perform openly. To hear him discussing ways and means was rather
ghastly, for at the college we had never procured anatomical specimens
ourselves. Whenever the morgue proved inadequate, two local negroes
attended to this matter, and they were seldom questioned. West was
then a small, slender, spectacled youth with delicate features, yellow
hair, pale blue eyes, and a soft voice, and it was uncanny to hear him
dwelling on the relative merits of Christchurch Cemetery and the
potter’s field. We finally decided on the potter’s field, because
practically every body in Christchurch was embalmed; a thing of course
ruinous to West’s researches.

I was by this time his active and enthralled assistant, and helped him
make all his decisions, not only concerning the source of bodies but
concerning a suitable place for our loathsome work. It was I who
thought of the deserted Chapman farmhouse beyond Meadow Hill, where we
fitted up on the ground floor an operating room and a laboratory, each
with dark curtains to conceal our midnight doings. The place was far
from any road, and in sight of no other house, yet precautions were
none the less necessary; since rumours of strange lights, started by
chance nocturnal roamers, would soon bring disaster on our enterprise.
It was agreed to call the whole thing a chemical laboratory if
discovery should occur. Gradually we equipped our sinister haunt of
science with materials either purchased in Boston or quietly borrowed
from the college--materials carefully made unrecognisable save to
expert eyes--and provided spades and picks for the many burials we
should have to make in the cellar. At the college we used an
incinerator, but the apparatus was too costly for our unauthorised
laboratory. Bodies were always a nuisance--even the small guinea-pig
bodies from the slight clandestine experiments in West’s room at the

We followed the local death-notices like ghouls, for our specimens
demanded particular qualities. What we wanted were corpses interred
soon after death and without artificial preservation; preferably free
from malforming disease, and certainly with all organs present.
Accident victims were our best hope. Not for many weeks did we hear of
anything suitable; though we talked with morgue and hospital
authorities, ostensibly in the college’s interest, as often as we
could without exciting suspicion. We found that the college had first
choice in every case, so that it might be necessary to remain in
Arkham during the summer, when only the limited summer-school classes
were held. In the end, though, luck favoured us; for one day we heard
of an almost ideal case in the potter’s field; a brawny young
workman drowned only the morning before in Summer’s Pond, and buried
at the town’s expense without delay or embalming. That afternoon we
found the new grave, and determined to begin work soon after midnight.

It was a repulsive task that we undertook in the black small hours,
even though we lacked at that time the special horror of graveyards
which later experiences brought to us. We carried spades and oil dark
lanterns, for although electric torches were then manufactured, they
were not as satisfactory as the tungsten contrivances of today. The
process of unearthing was slow and sordid--it might have been
gruesomely poetical if we had been artists instead of scientists--and
we were glad when our spades struck wood. When the pine box was fully
uncovered, West scrambled down and removed the lid, dragging out and
propping up the contents. I reached down and hauled the contents out
of the grave, and then both toiled hard to restore the spot to its
former appearance. The affair made us rather nervous, especially the
stiff form and vacant face of our first trophy, but we managed to
remove all traces of our visit. When we had patted down the last
shovelful of earth, we put the specimen in a canvas sack and set out
for the old Chapman place beyond Meadow Hill.

On an improvised dissecting-table in the old farmhouse, by the light
of a powerful acetylene lamp, the specimen was not very spectral
looking. It had been a sturdy and apparently unimaginative youth of
wholesome plebeian type--large-framed, grey-eyed, and brown-haired--a
sound animal without psychological subtleties, and probably having
vital processes of the simplest and healthiest sort. Now, with the
eyes closed, it looked more asleep than dead; though the expert test
of my friend soon left no doubt on that score. We had at last what
West had always longed for--a real dead man of the ideal kind, ready
for the solution as prepared according to the most careful
calculations and theories for human use. The tension on our part
became very great. We knew that there was scarcely a chance for
anything like complete success, and could not avoid hideous fears at
possible grotesque results of partial animation. Especially were we
apprehensive concerning the mind and impulses of the creature, since
in the space following death some of the more delicate cerebral cells
might well have suffered deterioration. I, myself, still held some
curious notions about the traditional "soul" of man, and felt an awe
at the secrets that might be told by one returning from the dead. I
wondered what sights this placid youth might have seen in inaccessible
spheres, and what he could relate if fully restored to life. But my
wonder was not overwhelming, since for the most part I shared the
materialism of my friend. He was calmer than I as he forced a large
quantity of his fluid into a vein of the body’s arm, immediately
binding the incision securely.

The waiting was gruesome, but West never faltered. Every now and then
he applied his stethoscope to the specimen, and bore the negative
results philosophically. After about three-quarters of an hour without
the least sign of life he disappointedly pronounced the solution
inadequate, but determined to make the most of his opportunity and try
one change in the formula before disposing of his ghastly prize. We
had that afternoon dug a grave in the cellar, and would have to fill
it by dawn--for although we had fixed a lock on the house, we wished
to shun even the remotest risk of a ghoulish discovery. Besides, the
body would not be even approximately fresh the next night. So taking
the solitary acetylene lamp into the adjacent laboratory, we left our
silent guest on the slab in the dark, and bent every energy to the
mixing of a new solution; the weighing and measuring supervised by
West with an almost fanatical care.

The awful event was very sudden, and wholly unexpected. I was pouring
something from one test-tube to another, and West was busy over the
alcohol blast-lamp which had to answer for a Bunsen burner in this
gasless edifice, when from the pitch-black room we had left there
burst the most appalling and daemoniac succession of cries that either
of us had ever heard. Not more unutterable could have been the chaos
of hellish sound if the pit itself had opened to release the agony of
the damned, for in one inconceivable cacophony was centered all the
supernal terror and unnatural despair of animate nature. Human it
could not have been--it is not in man to make such sounds--and without
a thought of our late employment or its possible discovery, both West
and I leaped to the nearest window like stricken animals; overturning
tubes, lamp, and retorts, and vaulting madly into the starred abyss of
the rural night. I think we screamed ourselves as we stumbled
frantically toward the town, though as we reached the outskirts we put
on a semblance of restraint--just enough to seem like belated
revellers staggering home from a debauch.

We did not separate, but managed to get to West’s room, where we
whispered with the gas up until dawn. By then we had calmed ourselves
a little with rational theories and plans for investigation, so that
we could sleep through the day--classes being disregarded. But that
evening two items in the paper, wholly unrelated, made it again
impossible for us to sleep. The old deserted Chapman house had
inexplicably burned to an amorphous heap of ashes; that we could
understand because of the upset lamp. Also, an attempt had been made
to disturb a new grave in the potter’s field, as if by futile and
spadeless clawing at the earth. That we could not understand, for we
had patted down the mould very carefully.

And for seventeen years after that West would look frequently over his
shoulder, and complain of fancied footsteps behind him. Now he has
« Last Edit: March 12, 2007, 02:44:23 am by Zodiac » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2007, 02:33:21 am »

Part II: The Plague-Daemon

I shall never forget that hideous summer sixteen years ago, when like
a noxious afrite from the halls of Eblis typhoid stalked leeringly
through Arkham. It is by that satanic scourge that most recall the
year, for truly terror brooded with bat-wings over the piles of
coffins in the tombs of Christchurch Cemetery; yet for me there is a
greater horror in that time--a horror known to me alone now that
Herbert West has disappeared.

West and I were doing post-graduate work in summer classes at the
medical school of Miskatonic University, and my friend had attained a
wide notoriety because of his experiments leading toward the
revivification of the dead. After the scientific slaughter of
uncounted small animals the freakish work had ostensibly stopped by
order of our sceptical dean, Dr. Allan Halsey; though West had
continued to perform certain secret tests in his dingy boarding-house
room, and had on one terrible and unforgettable occasion taken a human
body from its grave in the potter’s field to a deserted farmhouse
beyond Meadow Hill.

I was with him on that odious occasion, and saw him inject into the
still veins the elixir which he thought would to some extent restore
life’s chemical and physical processes. It had ended horribly--in a
delirium of fear which we gradually came to attribute to our own
overwrought nerves--and West had never afterward been able to shake
off a maddening sensation of being haunted and hunted. The body had
not been quite fresh enough; it is obvious that to restore normal
mental attributes a body must be very fresh indeed; and the burning of
the old house had prevented us from burying the thing. It would have
been better if we could have known it was underground.

After that experience West had dropped his researches for some time;
but as the zeal of the born scientist slowly returned, he again became
importunate with the college faculty, pleading for the use of the
dissecting-room and of fresh human specimens for the work he regarded
as so overwhelmingly important. His pleas, however, were wholly in
vain; for the decision of Dr. Halsey was inflexible, and the other
professors all endorsed the verdict of their leader. In the radical
theory of reanimation they saw nothing but the immature vagaries of a
youthful enthusiast whose slight form, yellow hair, spectacled blue
eyes, and soft voice gave no hint of the supernormal--almost
diabolical--power of the cold brain within. I can see him now as he
was then--and I shiver. He grew sterner of face, but never elderly.
And now Sefton Asylum has had the mishap and West has vanished.

West clashed disagreeably with Dr. Halsey near the end of our last
undergraduate term in a wordy dispute that did less credit to him than
to the kindiy dean in point of courtesy. He felt that he was
needlessly and irrationally retarded in a supremely great work; a work
which he could of course conduct to suit himself in later years, but
which he wished to begin while still possessed of the exceptional
facilities of the university. That the tradition-bound elders should
ignore his singular results on animals, and persist in their denial of
the possibility of reanimation, was inexpressibly disgusting and
almost incomprehensible to a youth of West’s logical temperament.
Only greater maturity could help him understand the chronic mental
limitations of the "professor-doctor" type--the product of generations
of pathetic Puritanism; kindly, conscientious, and sometimes gentle
and amiable, yet always narrow, intolerant, custom-ridden, and lacking
in perspective. Age has more charity for these incomplete yet high-
souled characters, whose worst real vice is timidity, and who are
ultimately punished by general ridicule for their intellectual sins--
sins like Ptolemaism, Calvinism, anti-Darwinism, anti-Nietzscheism,
and every sort of Sabbatarianism and sumptuary legislation. West,
young despite his marvellous scientific acquirements, had scant
patience with good Dr. Halsey and his erudite colleagues; and nursed
an increasing resentment, coupled with a desire to prove his theories
to these obtuse worthies in some striking and dramatic fashion. Like
most youths, he indulged in elaborate daydreams of revenge, triumph,
and final magnanimous forgiveness.

And then had come the scourge, grinning and lethal, from the nightmare
caverns of Tartarus. West and I had graduated about the time of its
beginning, but had remained for additional work at the summer school,
so that we were in Arkham when it broke with full daemoniac fury upon
the town. Though not as yet licenced physicians, we now had our
degrees, and were pressed frantically into public service as the
numbers of the stricken grew. The situation was almost past
management, and deaths ensued too frequently for the local undertakers
fully to handle. Burials without embalming were made in rapid
succession, and even the Christchurch Cemetery receiving tomb was
crammed with coffins of the unembalmed dead. This circumstance was not
without effect on West, who thought often of the irony of the
situation--so many fresh specimens, yet none for his persecuted
researches! We were frightfully overworked, and the terrific mental
and nervous strain made my friend brood morbidly.

But West’s gentle enemies were no less harassed with prostrating
duties. College had all but closed, and every doctor of the medical
faculty was helping to fight the typhoid plague. Dr. Halsey in
particular had distinguished himself in sacrificing service, applying
his extreme skill with whole-hearted energy to cases which many others
shunned because of danger or apparent hopelessness. Before a month was
over the fearless dean had become a popular hero, though he seemed
unconscious of his fame as he struggled to keep from collapsing with
physical fatigue and nervous exhaustion. West could not withhold
admiration for the fortitude of his foe, but because of this was even
more determined to prove to him the truth of his amazing doctrines.
Taking advantage of the disorganisation of both college work and
municipal health regulations, he managed to get a recently deceased
body smuggled into the university dissecting-room one night, and in my
presence injected a new modification of his solution. The thing
actually opened its eyes, but only stared at the ceiling with a look
of soul-petrifying horror before collapsing into an inertness from
which nothing could rouse it. West said it was not fresh enough--the
hot summer air does not favour corpses. That time we were almost
caught before we incinerated the thing, and West doubted the
advisability of repeating his daring misuse of the college laboratory.

The peak of the epidemic was reached in August. West and I were almost
dead, and Dr. Halsey did die on the 14th. The students all attended
the hasty funeral on the 15th, and bought an impressive wreath, though
the latter was quite overshadowed by the tributes sent by wealthy
Arkham citizens and by the municipality itself. It was almost a public
affair, for the dean had surely been a public benefactor. After the
entombment we were all somewhat depressed, and spent the afternoon at
the bar of the Commercial House; where West, though shaken by the
death of his chief opponent, chilled the rest of us with references to
his notorious theories. Most of the students went home, or to various
duties, as the evening advanced; but West persuaded me to aid him in
"making a night of it."  West’s landlady saw us arrive at his room
about two in the morning, with a third man between us; and told her
husband that we had all evidently dined and wined rather well.

Apparently this acidulous matron was right; for about 3 a.m. the whole
house was aroused by cries coming from West’s room, where when they
broke down the door, they found the two of us unconscious on the
blood-stained carpet, beaten, scratched, and mauled, and with the
broken remnants of West’s bottles and instruments around us. Only an
open window told what had become of our assailant, and many wondered
how he himself had fared after the terrific leap from the second story
to the lawn which he must have made. There were some strange garments
in the room, but West upon regaining consciousness said they did not
belong to the stranger, but were specimens collected for
bacteriological analysis in the course of investigations on the
transmission of germ diseases. He ordered them burnt as soon as
possible in the capacious fireplace. To the police we both declared
ignorance of our late companion’s identity. He was, West nervously
said, a congenial stranger whom we had met at some downtown bar of
uncertain location. We had all been rather jovial, and West and I did
not wish to have our pugnacious companion hunted down.

That same night saw the beginning of the second Arkham horror--the
horror that to me eclipsed the plague itself. Christchurch Cemetery
was the scene of a terrible killing; a watchman having been clawed to
death in a manner not only too hideous for description, but raising a
doubt as to the human agency of the deed. The victim had been seen
alive considerably after midnight--the dawn revealed the unutterable
thing. The manager of a circus at the neighbouring town of Bolton was
questioned, but he swore that no beast had at any time escaped from
its cage. Those who found the body noted a trail of blood leading to
the receiving tomb, where a small pool of red lay on the concrete just
outside the gate. A fainter trail led away toward the woods, but it
soon gave out.

The next night devils danced on the roofs of Arkham, and unnatural
madness howled in the wind. Through the fevered town had crept a curse
which some said was greater than the plague, and which some whispered
was the embodied daemon-soul of the plague itself. Eight houses were
entered by a nameless thing which strewed red death in its wake--in
all, seventeen maimed and shapeless remnants of bodies were left
behind by the voiceless, sadistic monster that crept abroad. A few
persons had half seen it in the dark, and said it was white and like a
malformed ape or anthropomorphic fiend. It had not left behind quite
all that it had attacked, for sometimes it had been hungry. The number
it had killed was fourteen; three of the bodies had been in stricken
homes and had not been alive.

On the third night frantic bands of searchers, led by the police,
captured it in a house on Crane Street near the Miskatonic campus.
They had organised the quest with care, keeping in touch by means of
volunteer telephone stations, and when someone in the college district
had reported hearing a scratching at a shuttered window, the net was
quickly spread. On account of the general alarm and precautions, there
were only two more victims, and the capture was effected without major
casualties. The thing was finally stopped by a bullet, though not a
fatal one, and was rushed to the local hospital amidst universal
excitement and loathing.

For it had been a man. This much was clear despite the nauseous eyes,
the voiceless simianism, and the daemoniac savagery. They dressed its
wound and carted it to the asylum at Sefton, where it beat its head
against the walls of a padded cell for sixteen years--until the recent
mishap, when it escaped under circumstances that few like to mention.
What had most disgusted the searchers of Arkham was the thing they
noticed when the monster’s face was cleaned--the mocking,
unbelievable resemblance to a learned and self-sacrificing martyr who
had been entombed but three days before--the late Dr. Allan Halsey,
public benefactor and dean of the medical school of Miskatonic

To the vanished Herbert West and to me the disgust and horror were
supreme. I shudder tonight as I think of it; shudder even more than I
did that morning when West muttered through his bandages, "Damn it, it
wasn’t quite fresh enough!"
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2007, 02:34:15 am »

Part III: Six Shots by Moonlight

_Published April 1922 in Home Brew Vol. 1, No. 3, p. 21-26._

It is uncommon to fire all six shots of a revolver with great
suddenness when one would probably be sufficient, but many things in
the life of Herbert West were uncommon. It is, for instance, not often
that a young physician leaving college is obliged to conceal the
principles which guide his selection of a home and office, yet that
was the case with Herbert West. When he and I obtained our degrees at
the medical school of Miskatonic University, and sought to relieve our
poverty by setting up as general practitioners, we took great care not
to say that we chose our house because it was fairly well isolated,
and as near as possible to the potter’s field.

Reticence such as this is seldom without a cause, nor indeed was ours;
for our requirements were those resulting from a life-work distinctly
unpopular. Outwardly we were doctors only, but beneath the surface
were aims of far greater and more terrible moment--for the essence of
Herbert West’s existence was a quest amid black and forbidden realms
of the unknown, in which he hoped to uncover the secret of life and
restore to perpetual animation the graveyard’s cold clay. Such a
quest demands strange materials, among them fresh human bodies; and in
order to keep supplied with these indispensable things one must live
quietly and not far from a place of informal interment.

West and I had met in college, and I had been the only one to
sympathise with his hideous experiments. Gradually I had come to be
his inseparable assistant, and now that we were out of college we had
to keep together. It was not easy to find a good opening for two
doctors in company, but finally the influence of the university
secured us a practice in Bolton--a factory town near Arkham, the seat
of the college. The Bolton Worsted Mills are the largest in the
Miskatonic Valley, and their polyglot employees are never popular as
patients with the local physicians. We chose our house with the
greatest care, seizing at last on a rather run-down cottage near the
end of Pond Street; five numbers from the closest neighbour, and
separated from the local potter’s field by only a stretch of meadow
land, bisected by a narrow neck of the rather dense forest which lies
to the north. The distance was greater than we wished, but we could
get no nearer house without going on the other side of the field,
wholly out of the factory district. We were not much displeased,
however, since there were no people between us and our sinister source
of supplies. The walk was a trifle long, but we could haul our silent
specimens undisturbed.

Our practice was surprisingly large from the very first--large enough
to please most young doctors, and large enough to prove a bore and a
burden to students whose real interest lay elsewhere. The mill-hands
were of somewhat turbulent inclinations; and besides their many
natural needs, their frequent clashes and stabbing affrays gave us
plenty to do. But what actually absorbed our minds was the secret
laboratory we had fitted up in the cellar--the laboratory with the
long table under the electric lights, where in the small hours of the
morning we often injected West’s various solutions into the veins of
the things we dragged from the potter’s field. West was
experimenting madly to find something which would start man’s vital
motions anew after they had been stopped by the thing we call death,
but had encountered the most ghastly obstacles. The solution had to be
differently compounded for different types--what would serve for
guinea-pigs would not serve for human beings, and different human
specimens required large modifications.

The bodies had to be exceedingly fresh, or the slight decomposition of
brain tissue would render perfect reanimation impossible. Indeed, the
greatest problem was to get them fresh enough--West had had horrible
experiences during his secret college researches with corpses of
doubtful vintage. The results of partial or imperfect animation were
much more hideous than were the total failures, and we both held
fearsome recollections of such things. Ever since our first daemoniac
session in the deserted farmhouse on Meadow Hill in Arkham, we had
felt a brooding menace; and West, though a calm, blond, blue-eyed
scientific automaton in most respects, often confessed to a shuddering
sensation of stealthy pursuit. He half felt that he was followed--a
psychological delusion of shaken nerves, enhanced by the undeniably
disturbing fact that at least one of our reanimated specimens was
still alive--a frightful carnivorous thing in a padded cell at Sefton.
Then there was another--our first--whose exact fate we had never

We had fair luck with specimens in Bolton--much better than in Arkham.
We had not been settled a week before we got an accident victim on the
very night of burial, and made it open its eyes with an amazingly
rational expression before the solution failed. It had lost an arm--if
it had been a perfect body we might have succeeded better. Between
then and the next January we secured three more; one total failure,
one case of marked muscular motion, and one rather shivery thing--it
rose of itself and uttered a sound. Then came a period when luck was
poor; interments fell off, and those that did occur were of specimens
either too diseased or too maimed for use. We kept track of all the
deaths and their circumstances with systematic care.

One March night, however, we unexpectedly obtained a specimen which
did not come from the potter’s field. In Bolton the prevailing
spirit of Puritanism had outlawed the sport of boxing--with the usual
result. Surreptitious and ill-conducted bouts among the mill-workers
were common, and occasionally professional talent of low grade was
imported. This late winter night there had been such a match;
evidently with disastrous results, since two timorous Poles had come
to us with incoherently whispered entreaties to attend to a very
secret and desperate case. We followed them to an abandoned barn,
where the remnants of a crowd of frightened foreigners were watching a
silent black form on the floor.

The match had been between Kid O’Brien--a lubberly and now quaking
youth with a most un-Hibernian hooked nose--and Buck Robinson, "The
Harlem Smoke."  The negro had been knocked out, and a moment’s
examination shewed us that he would permanently remain so. He was a
loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could
not help calling fore legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of
unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom poundings under an eerie moon.
The body must have looked even worse in life--but the world holds many
ugly things. Fear was upon the whole pitiful crowd, for they did not
know what the law would exact of them if the affair were not hushed
up; and they were grateful when West, in spite of my involuntary
shudders, offered to get rid of the thing quietly--for a purpose I
knew too well.

There was bright moonlight over the snowless landscape, but we dressed
the thing and carried it home between us through the deserted streets
and meadows, as we had carried a similar thing one horrible night in
Arkham. We approached the house from the field in the rear, took the
specimen in the back door and down the cellar stairs, and prepared it
for the usual experiment. Our fear of the police was absurdly great,
though we had timed our trip to avoid the solitary patrolman of that

The result was wearily anticlimactic. Ghastly as our prize appeared,
it was wholly unresponsive to every solution we injected in its black
arm; solutions prepared from experience with white specimens only. So
as the hour grew dangerously near to dawn, we did as we had done with
the others--dragged the thing across the meadows to the neck of the
woods near the potter’s field, and buried it there in the best sort
of grave the frozen ground would furnish. The grave was not very deep,
but fully as good as that of the previous specimen--the thing which
had risen of itself and uttered a sound. In the light of our dark
lanterns we carefully covered it with leaves and dead vines, fairly
certain that the police would never find it in a forest so dim and

The next day I was increasingly apprehensive about the police, for a
patient brought rumours of a suspected fight and death. West had still
another source of worry, for he had been called in the afternoon to a
case which ended very threateningly. An Italian woman had become
hysterical over her missing child--a lad of five who had strayed off
early in the morning and failed to appear for dinner--and had
developed symptoms highly alarming in view of an always weak heart. It
was a very foolish hysteria, for the boy had often run away before;
but Italian peasants are exceedingly superstitious, and this woman
seemed as much harassed by omens as by facts. About seven o’clock in
the evening she had died, and her frantic husband had made a frightful
scene in his efforts to kill West, whom he wildly blamed for not
saving her life. Friends had held him when he drew a stiletto, but
West departed amidst his inhuman shrieks, curses and oaths of
vengeance. In his latest affliction the fellow seemed to have
forgotten his child, who was still missing as the night advanced.
There was some talk of searching the woods, but most of the family’s
friends were busy with the dead woman and the screaming man.
Altogether, the nervous strain upon West must have been tremendous.
Thoughts of the police and of the mad Italian both weighed heavily.

We retired about eleven, but I did not sleep well. Bolton had a
surprisingly good police force for so small a town, and I could not
help fearing the mess which would ensue if the affair of the night
before were ever tracked down. It might mean the end of all our local
work--and perhaps prison for both West and me. I did not like those
rumours of a fight which were floating about. After the clock had
struck three the moon shone in my eyes, but I turned over without
rising to pull down the shade. Then came the steady rattling at the
back door.

I lay still and somewhat dazed, but before long heard West’s rap on
my door. He was clad in dressing-gown and slippers, and had in his
hands a revolver and an electric flashlight. From the revolver I knew
that he was thinking more of the crazed Italian than of the police.

"We’d better both go," he whispered. "It wouldn’t do not to answer
it anyway, and it may be a patient--it would be like one of those
fools to try the back door."

So we both went down the stairs on tiptoe, with a fear partly
justified and partly that which comes only from the soul of the weird
small hours. The rattling continued, growing somewhat louder. When we
reached the door I cautiously unbolted it and threw it open, and as
the moon streamed revealingly down on the form silhouetted there, West
did a peculiar thing. Despite the obvious danger of attracting notice
and bringing down on our heads the dreaded police investigation--a
thing which after all was mercifully averted by the relative isolation
of our cottage--my friend suddenly, excitedly, and unnecessarily
emptied all six chambers of his revolver into the nocturnal visitor.

For that visitor was neither Italian nor policeman. Looming hideously
against the spectral moon was a gigantic misshapen thing not to be
imagined save in nightmares--a glassy-eyed, ink-black apparition
nearly on all fours, covered with bits of mould, leaves, and vines,
foul with caked blood, and having between its glistening teeth a snow-
white, terrible, cylindrical object terminating in a tiny hand.

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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2007, 02:35:23 am »

Part IV: The Scream of the Dead

_Published May 1922 in Home Brew Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 53-58._

The scream of a dead man gave to me that acute and added horror of Dr.
Herbert West which harassed the latter years of our companionship. It
is natural that such a thing as a dead man’s scream should give
horror, for it is obviously, not a pleasing or ordinary occurrence;
but I was used to similar experiences, hence suffered on this occasion
only because of a particular circumstance. And, as I have implied, it
was not of the dead man himself that I became afraid.

Herbert West, whose associate and assistant I was, possessed
scientific interests far beyond the usual routine of a village
physician. That was why, when establishing his practice in Bolton, he
had chosen an isolated house near the potter’s field. Briefly and
brutally stated, West’s sole absorbing interest was a secret study
of the phenomena of life and its cessation, leading toward the
reanimation of the dead through injections of an excitant solution.
For this ghastly experimenting it was necessary to have a constant
supply of very fresh human bodies; very fresh because even the least
decay hopelessly damaged the brain structure, and human because we
found that the solution had to be compounded differently for different
types of organisms. Scores of rabbits and guinea-pigs had been killed
and treated, but their trail was a blind one. West had never fully
succeeded because he had never been able to secure a corpse
sufficiently fresh. What he wanted were bodies from which vitality had
only just departed; bodies with every cell intact and capable of
receiving again the impulse toward that mode of motion called life.
There was hope that this second and artificial life might be made
perpetual by repetitions of the injection, but we had learned that an
ordinary natural life would not respond to the action. To establish
the artificial motion, natural life must be extinct--the specimens
must be very fresh, but genuinely dead.

The awesome quest had begun when West and I were students at the
Miskatonic University Medical School in Arkham, vividly conscious for
the first time of the thoroughly mechanical nature of life. That was
seven years before, but West looked scarcely a day older now--he was
small, blond, clean-shaven, soft-voiced, and spectacled, with only an
occasional flash of a cold blue eye to tell of the hardening and
growing fanaticism of his character under the pressure of his terrible
investigations. Our experiences had often been hideous in the extreme;
the results of defective reanimation, when lumps of graveyard clay had
been galvanised into morbid, unnatural, and brainless motion by
various modifications of the vital solution.

One thing had uttered a nerve-shattering scream; another had risen
violently, beaten us both to unconsciousness, and run amuck in a
shocking way before it could be placed behind asylum bars; still
another, a loathsome African monstrosity, had clawed out of its
shallow grave and done a deed--West had had to shoot that object. We
could not get bodies fresh enough to shew any trace of reason when
reanimated, so had perforce created nameless horrors. It was
disturbing to think that one, perhaps two, of our monsters still
lived--that thought haunted us shadowingly, till finally West
disappeared under frightful circumstances. But at the time of the
scream in the cellar laboratory of the isolated Bolton cottage, our
fears were subordinate to our anxiety for extremely fresh specimens.
West was more avid than I, so that it almost seemed to me that he
looked half-covetously at any very healthy living physique.

It was in July, 1910, that the bad luck regarding specimens began to
turn. I had been on a long visit to my parents in Illinois, and upon
my return found West in a state of singular elation. He had, he told
me excitedly, in all likelihood solved the problem of freshness
through an approach from an entirely new angle--that of artificial
preservation. I had known that he was working on a new and highly
unusual embalming compound, and was not surprised that it had turned
out well; but until he explained the details I was rather puzzled as
to how such a compound could help in our work, since the objectionable
staleness of the specimens was largely due to delay occurring before
we secured them. This, I now saw, West had clearly recognised;
creating his embalming compound for future rather than immediate use,
and trusting to fate to supply again some very recent and unburied
corpse, as it had years before when we obtained the negro killed in
the Bolton prize-fight. At last fate had been kind, so that on this
occasion there lay in the secret cellar laboratory a corpse whose
decay could not by any possibility have begun. What would happen on
reanimation, and whether we could hope for a revival of mind and
reason, West did not venture to predict. The experiment would be a
landmark in our studies, and he had saved the new body for my return,
so that both might share the spectacle in accustomed fashion.

West told me how he had obtained the specimen. It had been a vigorous
man; a well-dressed stranger just off the train on his way to transact
some business with the Bolton Worsted Mills. The walk through the town
had been long, and by the time the traveller paused at our cottage to
ask the way to the factories, his heart had become greatly overtaxed.
He had refused a stimulant, and had suddenly dropped dead only a
moment later. The body, as might be expected, seemed to West a heaven-
sent gift. In his brief conversation the stranger had made it clear
that he was unknown in Bolton, and a search of his pockets
subsequently revealed him to be one Robert Leavitt of St. Louis,
apparently without a family to make instant inquiries about his
disappearance. If this man could not be restored to life, no one would
know of our experiment. We buried our materials in a dense strip of
woods between the house and the potter’s field. If, on the other
hand, he could be restored, our fame would be brilliantly and
perpetually established. So without delay West had injected into the
body’s wrist the compound which would hold it fresh for use after my
arrival. The matter of the presumably weak heart, which to my mind
imperilled the success of our experiment, did not appear to trouble
West extensively. He hoped at last to obtain what he had never
obtained before--a rekindled spark of reason and perhaps a normal,
living creature.

So on the night of July 18, 1910, Herbert West and I stood in the
cellar laboratory and gazed at a white, silent figure beneath the
dazzling arc-light. The embalming compound had worked uncannily well,
for as I stared fascinatedly at the sturdy frame which had lain two
weeks without stiffening, I was moved to seek West’s assurance that
the thing was really dead. This assurance he gave readily enough;
reminding me that the reanimating solution was never used without
careful tests as to life, since it could have no effect if any of the
original vitality were present. As West proceeded to take preliminary
steps, I was impressed by the vast intricacy of the new experiment; an
intricacy so vast that he could trust no hand less delicate than his
own. Forbidding me to touch the body, he first injected a drug in the
wrist just beside the place his needle had punctured when injecting
the embalming compound. This, he said, was to neutralise the compound
and release the system to a normal relaxation so that the reanimating
solution might freely work when injected. Slightly later, when a
change and a gentle tremor seemed to affect the dead limbs; West
stuffed a pillow-like object violently over the twitching face, not
withdrawing it until the corpse appeared quiet and ready for our
attempt at reanimation. The pale enthusiast now applied some last
perfunctory tests for absolute lifelessness, withdrew satisfied, and
finally injected into the left arm an accurately measured amount of
the vital elixir, prepared during the afternoon with a greater care
than we had used since college days, when our feats were new and
groping. I cannot express the wild, breathless suspense with which we
waited for results on this first really fresh specimen--the first we
could reasonably expect to open its lips in rational speech, perhaps
to tell of what it had seen beyond the unfathomable abyss.

West was a materialist, believing in no soul and attributing all the
working of consciousness to bodily phenomena; consequently he looked
for no revelation of hideous secrets from gulfs and caverns beyond
death’s barrier. I did not wholly disagree with him theoretically,
yet held vague instinctive remnants of the primitive faith of my
forefathers; so that I could not help eyeing the corpse with a certain
amount of awe and terrible expectation. Besides--I could not extract
from my memory that hideous, inhuman shriek we heard on the night we
tried our first experiment in the deserted farmhouse at Arkham.

Very little time had elapsed before I saw the attempt was not to be a
total failure. A touch of colour came to cheeks hitherto chalk-white,
and spread out under the curiously ample stubble of sandy beard. West,
who had his hand on the pulse of the left wrist, suddenly nodded
significantly; and almost simultaneously a mist appeared on the mirror
inclined above the body’s mouth. There followed a few spasmodic
muscular motions, and then an audible breathing and visible motion of
the chest. I looked at the closed eyelids, and thought I detected a
quivering. Then the lids opened, shewing eyes which were grey, calm,
and alive, but still unintelligent and not even curious.

In a moment of fantastic whim I whispered questions to the reddening
ears; questions of other worlds of which the memory might still be
present. Subsequent terror drove them from my mind, but I think the
last one, which I repeated, was: "Where have you been?" I do not yet
know whether I was answered or not, for no sound came from the well-
shaped mouth; but I do know that at that moment I firmly thought the
thin lips moved silently, forming syllables which I would have
vocalised as "only now" if that phrase had possessed any sense or
relevancy. At that moment, as I say, I was elated with the conviction
that the one great goal had been attained; and that for the first time
a reanimated corpse had uttered distinct words impelled by actual
reason. In the next moment there was no doubt about the triumph; no
doubt that the solution had truly accomplished, at least temporarily,
its full mission of restoring rational and articulate life to the
dead. But in that triumph there came to me the greatest of all
horrors--not horror of the thing that spoke, but of the deed that I
had witnessed and of the man with whom my professional fortunes were

For that very fresh body, at last writhing into full and terrifying
consciousness with eyes dilated at the memory of its last scene on
earth, threw out its frantic hands in a life and death struggle with
the air, and suddenly collapsing into a second and final dissolution
from which there could be no return, screamed out the cry that will
ring eternally in my aching brain:

"Help! Keep off, you cursed little tow-head fiend--keep that damned
needle away from me!"
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2007, 02:36:38 am »

Part V: The Horror From the Shadows

_Published June 1922 in Home Brew Vol. 1, No. 5, p. 45-50._

Many men have related hideous things, not mentioned in print, which
happened on the battlefields of the Great War. Some of these things
have made me faint, others have convulsed me with devastating nausea,
while still others have made me tremble and look behind me in the
dark; yet despite the worst of them I believe I can myself relate the
most hideous thing of all--the shocking, the unnatural, the
unbelievable horror from the shadows.

In 1915 I was a physician with the rank of First Lieutenant in a
Canadian regiment in Flanders, one of many Americans to precede the
government itself into the gigantic struggle. I had not entered the
army on my own initiative, but rather as a natural result of the
enlistment of the man whose indispensable assistant I was--the
celebrated Boston surgical specialist, Dr. Herbert West. Dr. West had
been avid for a chance to serve as surgeon in a great war, and when
the chance had come, he carried me with him almost against my will.
There were reasons why I could have been glad to let the war separate
us; reasons why I found the practice of medicine and the companionship
of West more and more irritating; but when he had gone to Ottawa and
through a colleague’s influence secured a medical commission as
Major, I could not resist the imperious persuasion of one determined
that I should accompany him in my usual capacity.

When I say that Dr. West was avid to serve in battle, I do not mean to
imply that he was either naturally warlike or anxious for the safety
of civilisation. Always an ice-cold intellectual machine; slight,
blond, blue-eyed, and spectacled; I think he secretly sneered at my
occasional martial enthusiasms and censures of supine neutrality.
There was, however, something he wanted in embattled Flanders; and in
order to secure it had had to assume a military exterior. What he
wanted was not a thing which many persons want, but something
connected with the peculiar branch of medical science which he had
chosen quite clandestinely to follow, and in which he had achieved
amazing and occasionally hideous results. It was, in fact, nothing
more or less than an abundant supply of freshly killed men in every
stage of dismemberment.

Herbert West needed fresh bodies because his life-work was the
reanimation of the dead. This work was not known to the fashionable
clientele who had so swiftly built up his fame after his arrival in
Boston; but was only too well known to me, who had been his closest
friend and sole assistant since the old days in Miskatonic University
Medical School at Arkham. It was in those college days that he had
begun his terrible experiments, first on small animals and then on
human bodies shockingly obtained. There was a solution which he
injected into the veins of dead things, and if they were fresh enough
they responded in strange ways. He had had much trouble in discovering
the proper formula, for each type of organism was found to need a
stimulus especially adapted to it. Terror stalked him when he
reflected on his partial failures; nameless things resulting from
imperfect solutions or from bodies insufficiently fresh. A certain
number of these failures had remained alive--one was in an asylum
while others had vanished--and as he thought of conceivable yet
virtually impossible eventualities he often shivered beneath his usual

West had soon learned that absolute freshness was the prime requisite
for useful specimens, and had accordingly resorted to frightful and
unnatural expedients in body-snatching. In college, and during our
early practice together in the factory town of Bolton, my attitude
toward him had been largely one of fascinated admiration; but as his
boldness in methods grew, I began to develop a gnawing fear. I did not
like the way he looked at healthy living bodies; and then there came a
nightmarish session in the cellar laboratory when I learned that a
certain specimen had been a living body when he secured it. That was
the first time he had ever been able to revive the quality of rational
thought in a corpse; and his success, obtained at such a loathsome
cost, had completely hardened him.

Of his methods in the intervening five years I dare not speak. I was
held to him by sheer force of fear, and witnessed sights that no human
tongue could repeat. Gradually I came to find Herbert West himself
more horrible than anything he did--that was when it dawned on me that
his once normal scientific zeal for prolonging life had subtly
degenerated into a mere morbid and ghoulish curiosity and secret sense
of charnel picturesqueness. His interest became a hellish and perverse
addiction to the repellently and fiendishly abnormal; he gloated
calmly over artificial monstrosities which would make most healthy men
drop dead from fright and disgust; he became, behind his pallid
intellectuality, a fastidious Baudelaire of physical experiment--a
languid Elagabalus of the tombs.

Dangers he met unflinchingly; crimes he committed unmoved. I think the
climax came when he had proved his point that rational life can be
restored, and had sought new worlds to conquer by experimenting on the
reanimation of detached parts of bodies. He had wild and original
ideas on the independent vital properties of organic cells and nerve-
tissue separated from natural physiological systems; and achieved some
hideous preliminary results in the form of never-dying, artificially
nourished tissue obtained from the nearly hatched eggs of an
indescribable tropical reptile. Two biological points he was
exceedingly anxious to settle--first, whether any amount of
consciousness and rational action be possible without the brain,
proceeding from the spinal cord and various nerve-centres; and second,
whether any kind of ethereal, intangible relation distinct from the
material cells may exist to link the surgically separated parts of
what has previously been a single living organism. All this research
work required a prodigious supply of freshly slaughtered human flesh--
and that was why Herbert West had entered the Great War.

The phantasmal, unmentionable thing occurred one midnight late in
March, 1915, in a field hospital behind the lines of St. Eloi. I
wonder even now if it could have been other than a daemoniac dream of
delirium. West had a private laboratory in an east room of the barn-
like temporary edifice, assigned him on his plea that he was devising
new and radical methods for the treatment of hitherto hopeless cases
of maiming. There he worked like a butcher in the midst of his gory
wares--I could never get used to the levity with which he handled and
classified certain things. At times he actually did perform marvels of
surgery for the soldiers; but his chief delights were of a less public
and philanthropic kind, requiring many explanations of sounds which
seemed peculiar even amidst that babel of the damned. Among these
sounds were frequent revolver-shots--surely not uncommon on a
battlefield, but distinctly uncommon in an hospital. Dr. West’s
reanimated specimens were not meant for long existence or a large
audience. Besides human tissue, West employed much of the reptile
embryo tissue which he had cultivated with such singular results. It
was better than human material for maintaining life in organless
fragments, and that was now my friend’s chief activity. In a dark
corner of the laboratory, over a queer incubating burner, he kept a
large covered vat full of this reptilian cell-matter; which multiplied
and grew puffily and hideously.

On the night of which I speak we had a splendid new specimen--a man at
once physically powerful and of such high mentality that a sensitive
nervous system was assured. It was rather ironic, for he was the
officer who had helped West to his commission, and who was now to have
been our associate. Moreover, he had in the past secretly studied the
theory of reanimation to some extent under West. Major Sir Eric
Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O., was the greatest surgeon in our
division, and had been hastily assigned to the St. Eloi sector when
news of the heavy fighting reached headquarters. He had come in an
aeroplane piloted by the intrepid Lieut. Ronald Hill, only to be shot
down when directly over his destination. The fall had been spectacular
and awful; Hill was unrecognisable afterward, but the wreck yielded up
the great surgeon in a nearly decapitated but otherwise intact
condition. West had greedily seized the lifeless thing which had once
been his friend and fellow-scholar; and I shuddered when he finished
severing the head, placed it in his hellish vat of pulpy reptile-
tissue to preserve it for future experiments, and proceeded to treat
the decapitated body on the operating table. He injected new blood,
joined certain veins, arteries, and nerves at the headless neck, and
closed the ghastly aperture with engrafted skin from an unidentified
specimen which had borne an officer’s uniform. I knew what he
wanted--to see if this highly organised body could exhibit, without
its head, any of the signs of mental life which had distinguished Sir
Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee. Once a student of reanimation, this silent
trunk was now gruesomely called upon to exemplify it.

I can still see Herbert West under the sinister electric light as he
injected his reanimating solution into the arm of the headless body.
The scene I cannot describe--I should faint if I tried it, for there
is madness in a room full of classified charnel things, with blood and
lesser human debris almost ankle-deep on the slimy floor, and with
hideous reptilian abnormalities sprouting, bubbling, and baking over a
winking bluish-green spectre of dim flame in a far corner of black

The specimen, as West repeatedly observed, had a splendid nervous
system. Much was expected of it; and as a few twitching motions began
to appear, I could see the feverish interest on West’s face. He was
ready, I think, to see proof of his increasingly strong opinion that
consciousness, reason, and personality can exist independently of the
brain--that man has no central connective spirit, but is merely a
machine of nervous matter, each section more or less complete in
itself. In one triumphant demonstration West was about to relegate the
mystery of life to the category of myth. The body now twitched more
vigorously, and beneath our avid eyes commenced to heave in a
frightful way. The arms stirred disquietingly, the legs drew up, and
various muscles contracted in a repulsive kind of writhing. Then the
headless thing threw out its arms in a gesture which was unmistakably
one of desperation--an intelligent desperation apparently sufficient
to prove every theory of Herbert West. Certainly, the nerves were
recalling the man’s last act in life; the struggle to get free of
the falling aeroplane.

What followed, I shall never positively know. It may have been wholly
an hallucination from the shock caused at that instant by the sudden
and complete destruction of the building in a cataclysm of German
shell-fire--who can gainsay it, since West and I were the only proved
survivors? West liked to think that before his recent disappearance,
but there were times when he could not; for it was queer that we both
had the same hallucination. The hideous occurrence itself was very
simple, notable only for what it implied.

The body on the table had risen with a blind and terrible groping, and
we had heard a sound. I should not call that sound a voice, for it was
too awful. And yet its timbre was not the most awful thing about it.
Neither was its message--it had merely screamed, "Jump, Ronald, for
God’s sake, jump!" The awful thing was its source.

For it had come from the large covered vat in that ghoulish corner of
crawling black shadows.
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2007, 02:39:57 am »

Part VI: The Tomb-Legions

_Published July 1922 in Home Brew Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 57-62._

When Dr. Herbert West disappeared a year ago, the Boston police
questioned me closely. They suspected that I was holding something
back, and perhaps suspected graver things; but I could not tell them
the truth because they would not have believed it. They knew, indeed,
that West had been connected with activities beyond the credence of
ordinary men; for his hideous experiments in the reanimation of dead
bodies had long been too extensive to admit of perfect secrecy; but
the final soul-shattering catastrophe held elements of daemoniac
phantasy which make even me doubt the reality of what I saw.

I was West’s closest friend and only confidential assistant. We had
met years before, in medical school, and from the first I had shared
his terrible researches. He had slowly tried to perfect a solution
which, injected into the veins of the newly deceased, would restore
life; a labour demanding an abundance of fresh corpses and therefore
involving the most unnatural actions. Still more shocking were the
products of some of the experiments--grisly masses of flesh that had
been dead, but that West waked to a blind, brainless, nauseous
ammation. These were the usual results, for in order to reawaken the
mind it was necessary to have specimens so absolutely fresh that no
decay could possibly affect the delicate brain-cells.

This need for very fresh corpses had been West’s moral undoing. They
were hard to get, and one awful day he had secured his specimen while
it was still alive and vigorous. A struggle, a needle, and a powerful
alkaloid had transformed it to a very fresh corpse, and the experiment
had succeeded for a brief and memorable moment; but West had emerged
with a soul calloused and seared, and a hardened eye which sometimes
glanced with a kind of hideous and calculating appraisal at men of
especially sensitive brain and especially vigorous physique. Toward
the last I became acutely afraid of West, for he began to look at me
that way. People did not seem to notice his glances, but they noticed
my fear; and after his disappearance used that as a basis for some
absurd suspicions.

West, in reality, was more afraid than I; for his abominable pursuits
entailed a life of furtiveness and dread of every shadow. Partly it
was the police he feared; but sometimes his nervousness was deeper and
more nebulous, touching on certain indescribable things into which he
had injected a morbid life, and from which he had not seen that life
depart. He usually finished his experiments with a revolver, but a few
times he had not been quick enough. There was that first specimen on
whose rifled grave marks of clawing were later seen. There was also
that Arkham professor’s body which had done cannibal things before
it had been captured and thrust unidentified into a madhouse cell at
Sefton, where it beat the walls for sixteen years. Most of the other
possibly surviving results were things less easy to speak of--for in
later years West’s scientific zeal had degenerated to an unhealthy
and fantastic mania, and he had spent his chief skill in vitalising
not entire human bodies but isolated parts of bodies, or parts joined
to organic matter other than human. It had become fiendishly
disgusting by the time he disappeared; many of the experiments could
not even be hinted at in print. The Great War, through which both of
us served as surgeons, had intensified this side of West.

In saying that West’s fear of his specimens was nebulous, I have in
mind particularly its complex nature. Part of it came merely from
knowing of the existence of such nameless monsters, while another part
arose from apprehension of the bodily harm they might under certain
circumstances do him. Their disappearance added horror to the
situation--of them all, West knew the whereabouts of only one, the
pitiful asylum thing. Then there was a more subtle fear--a very
fantastic sensation resulting from a curious experiment in the
Canadian army in 1915. West, in the midst of a severe battle, had
reanimated Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, D.S.O., a fellow-
physician who knew about his experiments and could have duplicated
them. The head had been removed, so that the possibilities of quasi-
intelligent life in the trunk might be investigated. Just as the
building was wiped out by a German shell, there had been a success.
The trunk had moved intelligently; and, unbelievable to relate, we
were both sickeningly sure that articulate sounds had come from the
detached head as it lay in a shadowy corner of the laboratory. The
shell had been merciful, in a way--but West could never feel as
certain as he wished, that we two were the only survivors. He used to
make shuddering conjectures about the possible actions of a headless
physician with the power of reanimating the dead.

West’s last quarters were in a venerable house of much elegance,
overlooking one of the oldest burying-grounds in Boston. He had chosen
the place for purely symbolic and fantastically aesthetic reasons,
since most of the interments were of the colonial period and therefore
of little use to a scientist seeking very fresh bodies. The laboratory
was in a sub-cellar secretly constructed by imported workmen, and
contained a huge incinerator for the quiet and complete disposal of
such bodies, or fragments and synthetic mockeries of bodies, as might
remain from the morbid experiments and unhallowed amusements of the
owner. During the excavation of this cellar the workmen had struck
some exceedingly ancient masonry; undoubtedly connected with the old
burying-ground, yet far too deep to correspond with any known
sepulchre therein. After a number of calculations West decided that it
represented some secret chamber beneath the tomb of the Averills,
where the last interment had been made in 1768. I was with him when he
studied the nitrous, dripping walls laid bare by the spades and
mattocks of the men, and was prepared for the gruesome thrill which
would attend the uncovering of centuried grave-secrets; but for the
first time West’s new timidity conquered his natural curiosity, and
he betrayed his degenerating fibre by ordering the masonry left intact
and plastered over. Thus it remained till that final hellish night;
part of the walls of the secret laboratory. I speak of West’s
decadence, but must add that it was a purely mental and intangible
thing. Outwardly he was the same to the last--calm, cold, slight, and
yellow-haired, with spectacled blue eyes and a general aspect of youth
which years and fears seemed never to change. He seemed calm even when
he thought of that clawed grave and looked over his shoulder; even
when he thought of the carnivorous thing that gnawed and pawed at
Sefton bars.

The end of Herbert West began one evening in our joint study when he
was dividing his curious glance between the newspaper and me. A
strange headline item had struck at him from the crumpled pages, and a
nameless titan claw had seemed to reach down through sixteen years.
Something fearsome and incredible had happened at Sefton Asylum fifty
miles away, stunning the neighbourhood and baffling the police. In the
small hours of the morning a body of silent men had entered the
grounds, and their leader had aroused the attendants. He was a
menacing military figure who talked without moving his lips and whose
voice seemed almost ventriloquially connected with an immense black
case he carried. His expressionless face was handsome to the point of
radiant beauty, but had shocked the superintendent when the hall light
fell on it--for it was a wax face with eyes of painted glass. Some
nameless accident had befallen this man. A larger man guided his
steps; a repellent hulk whose bluish face seemed half eaten away by
some unknown malady. The speaker had asked for the custody of the
cannibal monster committed from Arkham sixteen years before; and upon
being refused, gave a signal which precipitated a shocking riot. The
fiends had beaten, trampled, and bitten every attendant who did not
flee; killing four and finally succeeding in the liberation of the
monster. Those victims who could recall the event without hysteria
swore that the creatures had acted less like men than like unthinkable
automata guided by the wax-faced leader. By the time help could be
summoned, every trace of the men and of their mad charge had vanished.

From the hour of reading this item until midmght, West sat almost
paralysed. At midnight the doorbell rang, startling him fearfully. All
the servants were asleep in the attic, so I answered the bell. As I
have told the police, there was no wagon in the street, but only a
group of strange-looking figures bearing a large square box which they
deposited in the hallway after one of them had grunted in a highly
unnatural voice, "Express--prepaid."  They filed out of the house with
a jerky tread, and as I watched them go I had an odd idea that they
were turning toward the ancient cemetery on which the back of the
house abutted. When I slammed the door after them West came downstairs
and looked at the box. It was about two feet square, and bore West’s
correct name and present address. It also bore the inscription, "From
Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, St. Eloi, Flanders."  Six years before, in
Flanders, a shelled hospital had fallen upon the headless reanimated
trunk of Dr. Clapham-Lee, and upon the detached head which--perhaps--
had uttered articulate sounds.

West was not even excited now. His condition was more ghastly. Quickly
he said, "It’s the finish--but let’s incinerate--this."  We
carried the thing down to the laboratory--listening. I do not remember
many particulars--you can imagine my state of mind--but it is a
vicious lie to say it was Herbert West’s body which I put into the
incinerator. We both inserted the whole unopened wooden box, closed
the door, and started the electricity. Nor did any sound come from the
box, after all.

It was West who first noticed the falling plaster on that part of the
wall where the ancient tomb masonry had been covered up. I was going
to run, but he stopped me. Then I saw a small black aperture, felt a
ghoulish wind of ice, and smelled the charnel bowels of a putrescent
earth. There was no sound, but just then the electric lights went out
and I saw outlined against some phosphorescence of the nether world a
horde of silent toiling things which only insanity--or worse--could
create. Their outlines were human, semi-human, fractionally human, and
not human at all--the horde was grotesquely heterogeneous. They were
removing the stones quietly, one by one, from the centuried wall. And
then, as the breach became large enough, they came out into the
laboratory in single file; led by a talking thing with a beautiful
head made of wax. A sort of mad-eyed monstrosity behind the leader
seized on Herbert West. West did not resist or utter a sound. Then
they all sprang at him and tore him to pieces before my eyes, bearing
the fragments away into that subterranean vault of fabulous
abominations. West’s head was carried off by the wax-headed leader,
who wore a Canadian officer’s uniform. As it disappeared I saw that
the blue eyes behind the spectacles were hideously blazing with their
first touch of frantic, visible emotion.

Servants found me unconscious in the morning. West was gone. The
incinerator contained only unidentifiable ashes. Detectives have
questioned me, but what can I say? The Sefton tragedy they will not
connect with West; not that, nor the men with the box, whose existence
they deny. I told them of the vault, and they pointed to the unbroken
plaster wall and laughed. So I told them no more. They imply that I am
either a madman or a murderer--probably I am mad. But I might not be
mad if those accursed tomb-legions had not been so silent.

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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2007, 06:51:14 am »

Just spent last evening watching the special edition of Reanimator.  What a movie! This version has a a long documentary with interviews of all the principles in it (except for David Gale - the talking head, who is deceased), deleted and extended scenes, TV spots, my copy even came with a little green syrings (actually a highlighter) to bring corpses alive!

The movie is over twenty years old, but everyone looks like they made it yesterday. Highly recommened - two skeletal thumbs up! 
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