(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The birth of Wilbur Whateley in Dunwich is obviously an ominous event. On the night he is born, strange noises rumble through the hills, all the dogs in the vicinity continuously bark, and a hideous screaming is heard. In fact, the whole Whateley family is rather bizarre. Lavinia, Wilbur’s mother, is a deformed, unattractive albino. Lavinia’s father, Old Whateley, is feared by the local populace for his practice of black magic, while the father of Wilbur is completely unknown.

This ominous note continues as the child grows. Wilbur is described as “goatish” in appearance, although he possesses the Whateley trademark of a chinless face. He can already walk at the age of seven months and talks at eleven months. He is very particular about keeping his body well covered with clothes, unlike the rest of the Whateleys. Every May Eve and Halloween, the boy and his mother are seen going up to the top of Sentinel Hill and apparently practicing weird rites, to the accompaniment of bursts of flame and underground rumblings.

At the same time, the boy’s grandfather has been playing an active part in his development. He teaches the boy ancient lore, incantations, and formulas from the old books that he keeps. He continuously buys cattle with a never-ending supply of ancient gold pieces, yet the size of his herd never increases. He also feverishly rebuilds the second floor of the house and constructs a wooden ramp leading up to it from the ground. The few visitors to the house are invariably disturbed by extremely odd noises upstairs.

After Old Whateley dies and his daughter disappears, there is a shift of scene, as Lovecraft affords the reader a view of Wilbur, now fourteen years old and eight feet tall, resembling a huge, dark gargoyle, at the library of Miskatonic University in Arkham, hurriedly copying some missing formulas that he needs out of a rare book, the Necronomicon. The alert librarian, Dr. Henry Armitage, reading the Latin text over Wilbur’s shoulder, sees references to the Old Ones, beings who...

(The entire section is 840 words.)