“Ghost-Eater, The“


“Ghost-Eater, The“
   Short story (3,880 words); written in collaboration with C.M.Eddy, Jr., in October 1923. First published in WT(April 1924); first collected in DB;corrected text in HM
   The first-person narrator needs to get from Mayfair to Glendale (two cities in Maine) but can find no one to take him. So he goes by himself on foot, stopping at night in a deserted wood. After sleeping for a time, he awakens in the night and realizes that it will shortly begin raining. Entering a clearing, he sees on the farther side of it a building—a “neat and tasteful house of two stories.” Knocking at the place, he is invited in by a “strikingly handsome” man who, with a faint trace of a foreign accent, invites him to stay for the night. Retiring to an upstairs bedroom, the traveler (who is carrying a large amount of money on his person) decides to exercise caution: he arranges the bedclothes to make it appear as if he is sleeping there, and prepares to settle down in a chair for the duration of the night. Shortly thereafter he hears footsteps ascending the stairs. The door opens and a man whom he had never seen before (“indubitably a foreigner”) enters the room. This man disrobes, gets into the vacant bed, and appears to go to sleep. The narrator is unclear whether the scene he has witnessed is real or merely a dream, so he reaches over the recumbent figure and seeks to grasp the man’s shoulder; but “my clutching fingers had passed directly through the sleeping form, and seized only the sheet below!”Horrified and confused, the narrator now hears the sound of additional footsteps on the stairs; his room is now entered by a “great gray wolf whose eyes “were the gray phosphorescent eyes of my host as they had peered at me through the darkness of the kitchen.”The wolf howls and springs at the sleeping figure on the bed, apparently tearing out the man’s throat. The traveler empties his revolver in the direction of the wolf, but every shot hits the wall without apparently harming the wolf in any way. Somehow the traveler staggers to Glendale, where he learns the story of Vasili Oukranikov, who came from Russia sixty years before and built a house in the woods. Oukranikov had the reputation of being a “werewolf and eater of men.” One day he invited Count Feodore Tchernevsky (who lived in Mayfair) to his home; that evening the count was found in a mangled state, with a gray wolf hovering over the body. The wolf was killed and buried in the house, and the house was then burned down. But at every full moon the wolf is seen to roam the area again.
   A conventional ghost/werewolf story, the impetus for its writing clearly came from Eddy. HPL wrote to Eddy’s wife, Muriel, on 20 October 1923: “Here, at last, is the amended ‘Ghost-Eater’, whose appearance I trust Mr. Eddy will find satisfactory. I made two or three minor revisions in my own revised version, so that as it stands, it ought to be fairly acceptable to an editor” (quoted in DB,p. 97). The suggestion is that Eddy wrote the initial draft, HPL exhaustively revised it, and men slightly revised this draft.

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