FOUR-LETTER WORD BEGINNING WITH `F'
Mark McLaughlin's fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Galaxy, Black Gate, Cemetery Dance, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, In Laymon's Terms, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year's Best Horror Stories (DAW Books).
McLaughlin's latest book is the story collection, Raising Demons For Fun and Profit, published by Sam's Dot Publishing and available at www.GenreMall.com (look in the Anthologies section). Other collections of his fiction include Motivational Shrieker, Slime After Slime, and Pickman's Motel from Delirium Books; At the Foothills of Frenzy (with co-authors Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight) from Solitude Publications; and Twisted Tales For Sick Puppies from Skullvines Press. GravesideTales.com is the home of his blog, Time Machine of Terror!
With collaborator Michael McCarty, he has written Monster Behind the Wheel (Delirium Books/Corrosion Press), Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster (Skullvines Press), All Things Dark and Hideous (Rainfall Books, England), and Professor LaGungo's Delirious Download of Digital Deviltry and Doom (Darkside Digital). Also, he is the co-author, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of The Gossamer Eye, which won a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.
Or, the Perils of Dating
A Lovecraftian Monster
Welcome once again to my Internet parlor of perils, where we discuss how specific fears are addressed in the cinema of the macabre. And today's phobia, Erotokosmikomedusophobia, is so specific, it really only applies to one movie.
What? You've never heard of Erotokosmikomedusophobia? Well, that's because I coined that term, just now.
Erotokosmikomedusophobia is a combination of the prefixes Eroto- (meaning erotic love), Kosmiko- (meaning cosmic phenomena), and Medusa- (meaning a monster whose head features snakelike appendages or, more loosely, tentacles) with the suffix -Phobia (meaning fear). So, what you have when you put it all together is a fear of a romantic encounter with a cosmic monster with tentacles -- or rather, a Lovecraftian monster (more on that in a moment).
The movie that addresses this particular fear is the 1970 Roger Corman epic, The Dunwich Horror, starring Sandra Dee and Dean Stockwell. The film is based on the story of the same name by writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), who was born in and eventually buried in Providence, Rhode Island.
Before I tell you about the movie, let's take a look at the author and his literary works, which absolutely teemed with cosmic creatures. H.P. Lovecraft was an eccentric, reclusive and brilliant writer who made a meager living penning horror tales for the many pulp-fiction magazines of his day.
In his stories, Lovecraft wrote about malignant creatures with godlike powers from other dimensions -- creatures that were always trying to take over our puny world. These creatures appeared to be demonic or supernatural, but Lovecraft often hinted that they had access to bizarre, cosmic super-sciences that put human technology to shame.
Lovecraft's pantheon of extradimensional entities included Cthulhu, an obese, winged monstrosity with a beard of tentacles; Shub-Niggurath, a nature deity known as the Black Goat with a Thousand Young; Nyarlathotep, the demon-messenger of these creatures; Azathoth, a seething mass of corruption at the center of eternity; and Yog-Sothoth, a tentacled, amorphous deity who sometimes appears as a conglomeration of glowing bubbles. Many of Lovecraft's creatures can alter their appearance -- Nyarlathotep, for example, can take on the appearance of an aristocratic man when he has to deal with humans.
Lovecraft encouraged other writers he knew to use his monsters in their stories, and over the years, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, Lin Carter, Brian Lumley and countless others have written loads of Lovecraftian lore.
In Lovecraft's short story, "The Dunwich Horror," we meet Wilbur Whateley, a lumbering monster of a man, with frizzy hair, a goatlike face, and a bulky, inhuman body hidden under layers of ill-fitting clothes.
We eventually learn that a naked Wilbur is a truly frightening Wilbur. His loose, shabby clothes hide tentacles and a wide variety of other grotesque, unearthly body parts. Lovecraftian monsters are always "blasphemous" and "unspeakable" -- and they usually have way too many awkward body parts sticking out: pseudopods, misshapen limbs or wings, eyestalks, tentacles, gill flaps, you name it.
Wilbur's quantum ugliness stems from the fact that he is half-human. His mother Lavinia mated with Yog-Sothoth and gave birth to two babies: Wilbur and an unnamed twin, who for the sake of convenience I shall call Li'l Unspeakable (as in the case of the hulking cartoon character Li'l Abner, the dubious descriptive 'Li'l' actually means he's anything BUT small!). Wilbur only inherited some of his father's otherworldliness, while Li'l Unspeakable is a regular chip off the demonic block -- a nightmarish mass of writhing tentacles with a few human features.
Wilbur wants to bring the Old Ones -- a group of evil deities led by Yog-Sothoth -- to Earth, and to do so, he needs a rare, ancient book called the Necronomicon to help him open the way. He tries stealing it from the Miskatonic University library in nearby Arkham (how fortunate that they have a copy of the exact rare, ancient book that he needs), but the library's guard dogs kill him before he can shamble off with it.
Meanwhile, Li'l Unspeakable escapes from the Whateley farmhouse and destroys everything in his path. Fortunately, Dr. Armitage from Miskatonic University figures out how to dispatch the creature, saving humanity from utter destruction.
Lovecraft was always a busy letter-writer, and back in the day, he made it known that he didn't care for the movies Dracula or Frankenstein because they took such awful liberties with the books upon which they were based. With that in mind, it's safe to say he would have been absolutely appalled by the movie made from his short story.
For one thing, Wilbur didn't have a female admirer in the original story. Lovecraft's characters, like the author, were bookish loners who rarely thought about girls or romance. But in the movie, Wilbur, as played by Dean Stockwell, is a slender, sexy, curly-haired dude who attracts the attention of Nancy, a perky, virginal blonde played by Sandra Dee. Wilbur gives Nancy plenty of his special tea -- an Arkham roofy which makes the young lady sooooo sleepy and compliant.
How does Erotokosmikomedusophobia figure into the movie, you ask? Well, apparently Nancy doesn't have the disorder, and that fact proves to be her undoing. Because he is Yog-Sothoth's son, Wilbur is a cosmic monster -- albeit a sexy one -- and soon Nancy becomes his love-slave. And even though Wilbur doesn't have any tentacles (or at least, none that we can see), it is clear he intends to share his new ladyfriend with his loathsome twin brother, who is pretty much ALL tentacles... and Nancy doesn't seem to have a problem with that plan.
In the movie, Wilbur doesn't die at the library. He continues to bewitch and bewilder Nancy, and in the end, when Wilbur has her sprawled semi-nude on a stone altar by the sea and all seems to be lost, the good guys finally arrive (of course, Wilbur and Nancy have already been at the altar for quite some time already, doing Yog-knows-what). The good guys kill Wilbur and send Li'l Unspeakable back to the dimension of the Old Ones. In a shocking last-minute revelation, we also find out that Nancy is pregnant -- with the grandchild of Yog-Sothoth.
As you can see, it is definitely a good thing to have Erotokosmikomedusophobia, especially if you are a pretty young lady. It will protect you from having to raise ravenous, destructive offspring with tentacles. They'd be hard on their toys and the furniture -- not to mention their playmates.
So if you think you have Erotokosmikomedusophobia, there's no need to see a psychiatrist. All is as it should be.
Recently, I was talking with writer Michael McCarty, fellow horror-movie aficionado and a frequent collaborator of mine, and we both thought that Nancy's pregnancy in the movie may have been inspired by the movie Rosemary’s Baby, which was released two years earlier. Both movies are about innocent young women being drugged so they'll get impregnated on an altar by an inhuman lover.
If that's the case, at least they didn't give the misbegotten but lively Dunwich movie the title of Yog-Sothoth’s Baby. That probably would have caused poor Lovecraft to spin so fast in his grave, he'd have blown up in a fit of extra-dimensional outrage, taking half the city of Providence with him!