In adapting H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos,” there is an inherent understanding that the rules of space and time are more a relative concept than a concrete one. The laws of nature and space are more anthropocentric ideas, and the few people who break those laws are either aided by malevolent beings or have access to volumes that transcend human experience. After “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Dunwich Horror”, Cthulhu Mythos has many more stories and devices to continue to adapt, but the depth of the universe and abilities should be next.
Throughout the Cthulhu Mythos, there are people, beings, and locations where the laws of nature are virtually non-existent. People have cheated death, walked through dimensions, and replaced their awareness of space and time due to beings and texts in the Mythos. Although one being and text has already been introduced in the theoretical cinematic universe, there is a more sinister being yet to be introduced in a story that takes humans away from Earth for the first time in the series: “Dreams in the Witch’s House.”
The dreams in the witch’s house are sinister and strange
“The Dreams in the Witch House” is one of the hallmarks of Cthulhu Mythos stories because it forces the main character into unfamiliar and strange places. The story revolves around Walter Gilman, a student at Miskatonic University, who rents a room in the legendary “Witch House”, which he believes is cursed by Kezia Mason. Kezia was accused of witchcraft before her mysterious disappearance in custody. Living in the attic, Gilman realizes that geometry can allow passage between dimensions. Through these travels, he meets Kezia and her familiar, a mouse with human features known as Brown Jenkin, where he begins to have strange dreams.
Gilman began having lucid dreams of floating through strange towns, finding unexplainable entities, and seeing the home of the legendary Elder Objects during his time in the witch’s house. Originally, these dreams were more fantastic, but they became more sinister with time. During his waking life, he begins seeing Kezia and Brown Jenkin in random places, their presence gradually becoming physical and terrifying. His dreams soon became more real, as he was able to break off a piece of the Elder Thing statue but lacked the physical evidence to prove it.
His experiences take a harrowing turn when he is introduced to a mysterious figure, Nyarlathotep, and forced to sign the Book of Azathoth. After this moment, he is forced to assist in the kidnapping of children, and begins to find physical evidence of his dreams in his waking life. He stops Kezia’s attempt to sacrifice a child by strangling her to death but does so to no avail as Brown Jenkin kills the child. Gelman escapes from the alien dimension, but becomes deaf in the process. Nights later, he is killed when Brown rips Jenkin out of his chest. The story ends when the house is demolished, where they find evidence of Gilman’s adventures, including the skeletal remains of Keziah, a rat-like being, and several young children.
The witch’s house expands the universe
What makes “Dreams in the Witch House” such a terrifying story to adapt to is the questions it raises about dreaming. Most of the tale comes off as a fever dream as the line between dream and reality becomes blurred and Gilman becomes more terrified by the actions he commits. Believing them to be dreams at first, he is horrified to discover that he is committing these atrocities in real life and tries to stop them. The idea that he believes his travels through space and time were just dreams is frightening because it forces one to question his dreams and memories, as well as what they talk to in dreams.
The story also adds something that’s only been hinted at in the universe so far: alien locations. The Cthulhu Mythos are known for their use of cosmic horror, as much of the horror is drawn from space and extraterrestrial concepts. In the text, Gilman explores otherworldly cities and travels through various structures through portals and alien space-time mechanisms. This aspect is important because it draws a familiar figure in an unknown setting. Subverting “Call of Cthulhu” and “Dunwich Horror” by banishing terrors from Earth opens up the possibility of different entities and travel throughout the universe, but the story helps add something to the Cthulhu Mythos that further the cinematic universe.
Nyarlathotep is the perfect central villain
Although the Cthulhu Mythos was not created with the idea of good versus evil, no entity embodies man’s idea of evil quite like Nyarlathotep. Known as the Messenger of the Outer Gods, Nyarlathotep is among the most powerful and unpredictable beings in Mythos. He is highly intelligent and deceitful, and has over a thousand forms, but unlike other entities in the universe, he has cared for humans and takes pleasure in their suffering. Nyarlathotep’s motives are obscure due to his distrustful ways, but he can hide this through his many guises.
As shown in “The Dreams in the Witch House”, he is powerful enough to manipulate Gilman into signing the Book of Azathoth but does so through the form of “The Black Man”. This image is his most common form among humans, though he has several images that he can cycle through to keep his motives secret. He can move freely through the stories and from person to person, as his reasoning for the chaos remains a mystery. His active place as a deity who takes a personal interest in humans is terrifying and makes the universe all the more compelling. Nyarlathotep’s name pervades the stories in which he does not appear, instantly poisoning every account of the characters surrounding the hero with his influence.
What makes The Dreams in the Witch House work in this regard is that it has a human being exploring a vast universe and a cosmic entity caring for someone. Much of the Cthulhu Mythos’ interactions are episodic, but the idea of an unimaginable being communicating with and manipulating a person is among the most terrifying aspects of the series. With both Nyarlathotep and the vast knowledge that resides in the Mythos, there is no limit to how far the cinematic universe can go.