- Fictitious city in Massachusetts invented by HPL. The city is first cited in “The Picture in the House” (1920); other tales that feature Arkham are “Herbert West—Reanimator” (1921–22), “The Unnamable” (1923), “The Colour out of Space” (1927), “The Dunwich Horror” (1928), “The Shadow over Innsmouth” (1931), “The Dreams in the Witch House” (1932), “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (1932–33), “The Thing on the Doorstep” (1933), and “The Shadow out of Time” (1934–35). It is the home of Miskatonic University (first cited in “Herbert West—Reanimator”); there is also an Arkham Historical Society (in “The Shadow over Innsmouth”) and an Arkham Sanitarium (in “The Thing on the Doorstep”). It had a newspaper in the 1880s, the Arkham Gazette(in “The Colour out of Space”); a more recent paper, presumably dating to the 1920s, is the Arkham Advertiser(in “The Dunwich Horror” and other stories). In At the Mountains of Madness,one of the expeditionary ships to Antarctica is named Arkham. HPL drew a map of the city on at least three occasions; one is reproduced as “Map of the Principal Parts of Arkham, Massachusetts” ( Acolyte,Fall 1942), another in Marginalia(facing p. 279), and another (from a letter to Robert Bloch, [April 1936]) as the frontispiece to Letters to Robert Bloch (Necronomicon Press, 1993).Will Murray has conjectured that Arkham was at first situated in central Massachusetts and that its name and possibly its location were derived from the tiny hamlet Oakham. Research by Robert D.Marten makes this theory extremely unlikely. Marten maintains that Arkham was always located on the North Shore and (as HPL repeatedly declares) was a fictional analogue of Salem. HPL definitively states: “My mental picture of Arkham is of a town something like Salem in atmosphere & style of houses, but more hilly (Salem is flat except for Gallows Hill, which is outside the town proper) & with a college (which Salem hasn’t). The street layout is nothing like Salem’s. As to the location of Arkham—I fancy I place the town & the imaginary Miskatonic somewhere north of Salem—perhaps near Manchester. My idea of the place is slightly in from the sea, but with a deep water channel making it a port” (HPL to F.Lee Baldwin, April 29, 1934; ms., JHL). Marten conjectures that the name Arkham was based upon Arkwright, a town in R.I. now consolidated into the community of Fiskville. HPL remarked that “The Dunwich Horror” “belongs to the Arkham cycle” ( SL2.246), but the significance of this phrase is unclear. Possibly he was referring to the fact that several of his recent tales had involved not merely a pseudomythological backdrop but also an imaginary New England topography.See Will Murray, “In Search of Arkham Country,” LSNo. 13 (Fall 1986): 54–67; Will Murray, “In Search of Arkham Country Revisited,” LSNos. 19/20 (Fall 1989): 65–69; Robert D.Marten, “Arkham Country: In Rescue of the Lost Searchers,” LSNo. 39 (Summer 1998): 1–20.
An H.P.Lovecraft encyclopedia. S.T. Joshi, David E. Schultz.