The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

Can’t Anyone Read Anymore? H.P. Lovecraft Edition

Even though this is ZombieWriMo month and I’m slaving away to try and catch Michelle Hartz (Imagine me saying it like Kirk in ‘Wrath of Khan’: HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRTZZZZZZZZZ’) I still follow the news feeds and look into leads from Twitter.

Sometimes, the stupid, it burns.

Case in point, where one of those random question/answer columnists fields a query on Zombies and clearly did not do the research, and has no excuse:

A. When it comes to zombie bragging rights, Romero was — pardon the pun — late getting to the graveyard. Already in the late 1800s, writers were becoming fascinated with bringing life back to the dead, paving the way for the so-called “classic” films you remember.

One of the best examples was noted horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s 1922 short story “Herbert West: Reanimator,” which some say helped define zombies in popular culture. Although he didn’t refer to them as zombies, mad scientist Herbert West imbued his corpses with all the traits we have come to know love: uncontrollable, mute, primitive and violent.

While I was pleasantly surprised to see an answer noting that lots of Zombie fiction predates Romero, not just but including Voodoo Zombie fiction, this bit on Lovecraft is staggeringly wrong.

The Zombies, if one wants to call them that (Differently Animated might be a better umbrella term here) in Re-Animator are NOT mute, primitive or uncontrollable, and arguably aren’t all that violent either, merely seeking retributive justice.

You know how I can be so sure? Well, for one thing, I read the original story. But for another, Re-Animator was published in 1922, and as such, is now firmly in the Public Domain. Translation: anyone who wants can legally read it for free just by hitting google.

Observe the magic, and spoilers follow:

IV. The Scream of the Dead

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.

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!”

So, the reanimated people aren’t mute. Strike one.

As for uncontrollable and primitive, not only are the Zombies capable of outwitting Herbert West, they mercifully spare his assistant (and the story’s narrator) despite his obvious culpability, and demonstrate considerable skill with masonry I might add (lengthy quote, but as I said, PUBLIC DOMAIN):

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 stalking 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 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.

So, to review: the Zombies are organized, intelligent, capable of speech, planning, construction work and even mercy. And all this is available to anyone with the ability to use google.


Bonus points: Wikipedia gets this wrong too, also labeling the clearly organized, rational and intelligent Undead as ‘animalistic’. Heckuva job there guys!

About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.


2 Responses to “Can’t Anyone Read Anymore? H.P. Lovecraft Edition”

  1. Michelle says:

    You know, you really should make one of your characters a zombie rights blogger. Then you might, MIGHT, get closer to my word count.

  2. John Sears says:


    Of course you know, this means war, Michelle.

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