David B. Bennett

Like so many others before me, I have found H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Outsider" very intriguing and mysterious, and like millions of readers over the past 80 years I have asked the same questions: Who is the Outsider? . . . Where did he come from? . . . How did he manage to become what he is? . . . What is the Outsider? . . . What is the meaning and purpose of the underground castle? . . . and so on. This essay examines the clues and hints that H.P. Lovecraft provides in the short story "The Outsider" in an attempt to understand who the Outsider is, and how he came to be.

When I first started reading the macabre works of H.P. Lovecraft in earnest, I obtained the four-volume set of Lovecraft's writings published by Arkham House, still currently in print: The Dunwich Horror and Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, and The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions. Reading the stories in the order printed in those volumes, I was introduced to "The Outsider" very quickly in my studies (this story being the fourth story in the first volume). From the very start of my journey into the hidden worlds of H.P. Lovecraft I have had mysteries of "The Outsider" before me as I have explored Lovecraft's dark dimensions on and off this world. I have pondered many an hour, often late at night, over the mysteries found within "The Outsider;" and although I have not completed my studies of all of Lovecraft's works, I have made what I feel to be correct and positive progress in more fully understanding who the Outsider is, and how he came to be. H.P. Lovecraft left us many clues within his story about the Outsider, but it is up to the reader to first recognize the clues, and then put them together in order to find the answers that he is seeking.

No doubt as I continue to read and study Lovecraft's works I will gain a deeper insight into the nature of who the Outsider is, and discard those understandings that I will find are incorrect. However, regardless of how accurate my current interpretation is, I would like to share what I have learned (or think I have learned) about this mysterious being and invite others to share their opinions, insights, and discoveries with each other and myself.

At the outset I believe it is important to state that I take the story "The Outsider" at face value. It is my belief that Lovecraft primarily intended us to see the story as "factual," not metaphorical; he intended us to believe that the setting and characters were "real," not symbolic. The stagnant moat of the ruined underground castle is just that: a stagnant moat. One should not ask, "What is the symbolic meaning of the stagnant moat . . .," but rather ask, "Why is the moat stagnant? What is the purpose of the moat? Was the moat meant to be stagnant?"

Secondly, I believe that Lovecraft completely knew the background of the Outsider: who he was, how he came to be in the underground castle, what new form the Outsider had taken at the end of the story. This is a very important issue, because by accepting that Lovecraft had worked out a complete history for the Outsider, then we can also accept that the clues that he (both Lovecraft and the Outsider) leaves us are completely consistent, and are non-contradictory. Additionally, I feel that many of the clues that are contained within "The Outsider" are often amplified in other works of Lovecraft. The more complete knowledge that one has of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, the better position that person will be in investigating the mystery of who the Outsider is.

From the first sentence of the first paragraph of the story we are given clues as to the nature of the Outsider and of the underground castle where he feels he has spent eons. But I believe it is in the last two paragraphs of "The Outsider" that one should start his/her investigation.

Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that the moon over the rock tombs of Neb, nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid; . . .
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 52
(All quotes are referenced to the
four-volume of works edited by
S.T. Joshi and published by
Arkham House.)

How strange it is in this story of castles and moats, churchyards and cemeteries -- all very proper and Western in culture -- that we should suddenly find at the end of the story so many Egyptian references. Why would this be the case? Nephren-Ka, an evil pharaoh, surfaces in the story "The Haunter of the Dark" with reference to the Shining Trapezohedron:

The Pharaoh Nephren-Ka built around it [the Shining Trapezohedron] a temple with a windowless crypt, and did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Haunter of the Dark" pg. 106

And just what did Nephren-Ka do that was so horrific?

The being [the Haunter of the Dark] is spoken of as holding all knowledge, and demanding monstrous sacrifices.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Haunter of the Dark" pg. 106

It would appear that Nephren-Ka preformed monstrous sacrifices in order to gain knowledge from the Haunter of the Dark -- secret, horrible, forbidden knowledge.

Queen Nitokris appears in Lovecraft's story, "Under The Pyramids":

Even the smallest of them [the pyramids] held a hint of the ghastly -- for was it not in this that they had buried Queen Nitokris alive in the Sixth Dynasty; subtle Queen Nitokris, who once invited all her enemies to feast in a temple below the Nile, and drowned them by opening the water-gates? I recalled that the Arabs whisper things about Nitokris, and shun the Third Pyramid at certain phases of the moon.
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
"Under the Pyramids," pg. 226

The whispers of Arabs are very wild, and cannot be relied upon. They even hint that old Khephren -- he of the Sphinx, the Second Pyramid, and the yawning gateway temple -- lives far underground wedded to the ghoul-queen Nitokris and ruling over the mummies that are neither of man nor of beast.
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
"Under the Pyramids," pg. 235

By his [King Khephren] side knelt beautiful Queen Nitokris, whom I saw in profile for a moment, noting that the right half of her face was eaten away by rats or other ghouls.
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
"Under the Pyramids," pg. 241

Both "The Haunter of the Dark" and "Under The Pyramids" expand our understanding of the last two paragraphs of "The Outsider." The Outsider, having made such strong references to an Egyptian King and Queen in the closing paragraphs of his narrative compels us to view the story from an Egyptian perspective.

The primary item that comes to one's mind when considering Egyptian culture is the Egyptian form of burial that the Pharaohs underwent in an attempt to properly pass into the afterlife. In their tombs, the Pharaohs were interned with numerous articles that they owned in life, believing that these physical items would be transmutated into spiritual items which could be used in the spiritual world. In extreme cases a Pharaoh would be entombed with ALL his worldly goods including his wives, servants, and pets.

When one looks closely at "The Outsider," we find very interesting parallels with this Egyptian concept. Was the Outsider's underground castle -- complete down to the moat, which at one time was identical to the one above ground -- a Western attempt to duplicate the idea of the Egyptian burial vault? Were the books, and candles, and all the other items which filled the underground castle, articles which the Outsider expected to be "spiritualized"? And what of bones and skeletons within the underground castle . . . were they the servants, teachers, mentors of the Outsider that were to accompany him into the spiritual world?

To me there was nothing grotesque in the bones and skeletons that strowed some of the stone crypts deep down among the foundations.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 47

Lovecraft, in his "Under The Pyramids," gives us his view of the Egyptian belief in life after death that I believe is applicable to "The Outsider":

All these people [the Egyptians] thought of was death and the dead. They conceived of a literal resurrection of the body which made them mummify it with desperate care, and preserve all the vital organs in canopic jars near the corpse; whilst besides the body they believed in two other elements, the soul, shortly after its weighing and approval by Osiris dwelt in the land of the blest, and the obscure and portentous ka or life-principle which wandered about the upper and lower worlds in a horrible way, demanding occasional access to the preserved body, consuming the food offerings brought by priests and pious relatives to the mortuary chapel, and sometimes -- as men whispered -- taking its body or the wooden double always buried beside it and stalking noxiously abroad on errands peculiarly repellent.
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
"Under the Pyramids," pg. 234

In the same story, Lovecraft provides us with very valuable information about his concept of the ka, in the following passage:

For thousands of years those bodies rested gorgeously encased and staring glassily upward when not visited by the ka, awaiting the day when Osiris should restored both ka and soul, and lead fourth the stiff legions of the dead from the sunken houses of sleep. It was to have been a glorious rebirth -- but not all souls were approved, nor were all tombs inviolate, so that certain grotesque mistakes and fiendish abnormalities were to be looked for. Even today the Arabs murmur of unsanctified convocations and unwholesome worship in forgotten nether abysses, which only winged invisible kas and soulless mummies may visit and return unscathed.
Dagon and Other Macabre Tales
"Under the Pyramids," pg. 234

[no indent] Closely related to Lovecraft's understanding of the ka, is his reference to the mysterious substance, nepenthe, which he refers to in the last two paragraphs of "The Outsider:"

But in the cosmos there is balm as well as bitterness, and that balm is nepenthe. In the supreme horror of that second I forgot what had horrified me, and the burst of black memory vanished in a chaos of echoing images. . . . For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 52

Today, nepenthe is often used as a synonym for anesthetic, analgesic, narcotic, anodyne, painkiller, tranquilizer, or opiate. Actually, the word nepenthe comes from Greek, literally meaning "no-sorrow" (ne = no, penthe = sorrow). Nepenthe was considered by the ancient Greeks to be a drug or potion that was able to banish pain or sorrow, or in extreme cases to cause oblivion. Although I believe the term "nepenthe" in the story is used as a generic term, it is my contention that Lovecraft intended us to understand that the Outsider did, in fact, ingest an elixir or potion which had, at the very least, a side effect of generating a type of amnesia in him.

From this passage, and the previous one from "Under The Pyramids," one can start constructing an ever more reasonable scenario as to what happened to the Outsider. In Egyptian cosmology, each person actually consists of three primary components: the body, the soul, and the ka. We are all familiar with the physical nature and make up of the body; it is the outer shell that houses the soul and ka. The body, being physical is subject to decay and death. The soul of a person contains his spiritual essence, his emotions, attitudes, personality, mind, and ultimately what makes a person what he is. But it is the ka, the ka of the Outsider on which the whole story rests. When one understands the nature of the ka it is possible to understand one of the most fundamental elements of the story "The Outsider."

Burying the dead was of religious concern in Egypt, and Egyptian funerary rituals and equipment eventually became the most elaborate the world has ever known. The Egyptians believed that the vital life-force was composed of several psychical elements, of which the most important was the ka. The ka, a duplicate of the body, accompanied the body throughout life and, after death, departed from the body to take its place in the kingdom of the dead. The ka, however, could not exist without the body; every effort had to be made, therefore, to preserve the corpse. Bodies were embalmed and mummified according to a traditional method supposedly begun by Isis, who mummified her husband Osiris. In addition, wood or stone replicas of the body were put into the tomb in the event that the mummy was destroyed. The greater the number of statue-duplicates in his or her tomb, the more chances the dead person had of resurrection. As a final protection, exceedingly elaborate tombs were erected to protect the corpse and its equipment.
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia

It is my contention that after looking at the Egyptian references found within "The Outsider" and other Lovecraft works, and understanding the components of the Egyptian beliefs in life after death, that one can make a reasonable deduction as to the plight that the Outsider is in at the start of the story, and how he came to that circumstance in the first place.

The Outsider, prior to his death, in keeping with Egyptian tradition, spent a considerable amount of time and money to create a duplicate castle underground, like some sort of Westernized Egyptian burial vault or tomb. Into this castle-tomb he placed all his books and other articles that he had loved while alive, and wanted to have access to after crossing over to the after-life. When the time was right, possibly before his death, maybe after, he went down (or was taken down) into his underground castle, and with the aid of the nepenthe elixir the Outsider made an attempt to gain immortality.

But as Lovecraft noted: ". . . but not all souls were approved, nor were all tombs inviolate, so that certain grotesque mistakes and fiendish abnormalities were to be looked for." Something went wrong with the Outsider's plan; maybe the nepenthe was mixed incorrectly, maybe the burial ritual was incorrectly said, or maybe the Outsider was mistaken in his understanding of what he could actually accomplish. Whatever the case, the end result was not the desired outcome.

I believe that after death, the Outsider's soul departed the physical plane, and moved to higher levels of existence. From the perspective of who and what the Outsider actually was before death, his personality, memories, emotions, and being moved to another place and was unrecoverably lost to the earthly plain of existence. What the nepenthe did succeed in doing, however, was to bind the Outsider's ka to his physical body, thereby creating a "certain grotesque mistake and fiendish abnormality." The Outsider became a type of living-dead, a soulless being in an animated dead body, who had no mind or memory . . . at least for a very long time . . . Another interesting side effect that the nepenthe succeeded in producing in the Outsider was to greatly slow (but not completely stopping) the process of bodily decay.

Now, what of the underground castle itself, where the Outsider eventually escapes from and is unable to ever return? In keeping with the Egyptian motif, I believe that it was an exact replica of the castle where the Outsider lived, possibly for his entire life. All the rooms were the same, possibly containing copies of the furniture, paintings, and a thousand other little day-to-day items. So identical was the underground castle that the Outsider built a moat around it, and even found a means of planting an underground forest to simulate the actual forest that surrounded his original castle.

Over two hours must have passed before I reached what seemed to be my goal, a venerable ivied castle in a thickly wooded park; maddeningly familiar, . . .
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 50

I suspect that the castle was built in a large underground cavern that had existed for thousands of years, possibly having been formed by the nearby river in ages past.

Once I swam across a swift river where crumbling, mossy masonry told of a bridge long vanished.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 50

The reference to bats provides two interesting clues associated with caves.

. . . yet I cannot recall any person except myself; or anything alive but the noiseless rats and bats and spiders.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 47

Ghastly and terrible was that dead, stairless cylinder of rock; black, ruined, and deserted, and sinister with startled bats whose wings made no noise.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 48

First, the presence of bats tends to indicate the existence of a cave like structure. Traditionally bats are seen as living in caves, and Lovecraft's inclusion of them in and around the underground castle seems to point to the Outsider's building of his castle-tomb in a very large subterranean cavern. Secondly, bats must nightly feed on insects, leaving their cave after dark and returning before the dawn. The presence of bats in and around the underground castle requires there to be one or more simple exits to the outside world; and where bats may leave, light may enter. By accident or design, the cavern where the castle was built must have had openings to the outside world that allowed the bats to exit nightly to feed, and for very dim light to filter through during the day.

Touching the topic of light, on several occasions the Outsider notes the presence of subdued illumination.

Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 46

. . . nor was there any sun outdoors, since the terrible trees grew high above the topmost accessible tower. . . . So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, . . .
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 47

In the dank twilight I climbed the worn and aged stone stairs . . . for climb as I might, the darkness overhead grew no thinner, . . .
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 48

Through these passages we see a world that exists in twilight, lit only by the dim light that passes through holes during the day, which allow bats to escape to feed during the night.

Sometimes those who read "The Outsider" make the assumption that Lovecraft was actually writing about "roots" when he made references to the "terrible trues [that] grew high above the topmost accessible tower." Here I would strongly disagree, pointing out that Lovecraft described these trees, with sufficient detail -- "gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft" -- that it would be foolish for one to think that he was actually describing tree roots. Exactly what type of tree would survive the dank, semi-light conditions of the cavern, and could thrive to become giants, I do not know. But I do believe that these trees were not roots, and that Lovecraft intended the reader to understand them to be trees. And what of the Outsider's attempted escape from the forest, along the bottom of the cavern? I would venture a guess that the farther away from the castle the Outsider ventured, the deeper into the underground caverns he traveled, and what dim light that did exist in the primary cavern vault, quickly dimmed. Possibly the Outsider even left the main cavern and had started wandering down an unknown underground passageway.

Once I tried to escape from the forest, but as I went farther from the castle the shade grew denser and the air more filled with brooding fear; so that I ran frantically back lest I lose my way in a labyrinth of nighted silence.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 47

Another interesting area where Lovecraft supplies a copious number of clues is how long the Outsider had been within his underground castle-tomb at the start of the story. The last paragraph of the story sets the framework:

. . . I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 52

It is my believe that not only can we definitively say that the Outsider had passed the century anniversary date (1900, 1800, 1700, etc.) while in his underground castle-tomb, but I would suggest that Lovecraft means to infer that the Outsider had been within the castle for at least a hundred years. Additional material within the story might imply an even greater time had elapsed.

I passed under an arch out of that region of slabs and columns, and wandered through the open country; sometimes following the visible road, but sometimes leaving it curiously to tread across meadows where only occasional ruins bespoke the ancient presence of a forgotten road. Once I swam across a swift river where crumbling, mossy masonry told of a bridge long vanished.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 49-50

How long many years does it take for a road to disappear . . . how many years must pass before the masonry of a bridge becomes crumbling and mossy? But perhaps the greatest indicator of age is the castle itself. When the outsider built the castle it was, of course, new. At the opening of the story we find the castle in ruins and in an advanced state of decay. While the passage of time surely must have had its effects on the castle, the cave environment would also hasten the castle's aging.

The stones in the crumbling corridors seemed always hideously damp, and there was an accursed smell everywhere, as of the piled-up corpses of dead generations.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 46-47

The dampness of the cave, due to the coolness of the rock, and the close proximity of the river, surely caused the more rapid decay of the castle. It is also reasonable to speculate that the underground castle, when constructed, had not been built with the very best material, but with what was at hand and affordable. The dampness of the cavern, and the medium to low quality of material would easily hasten the appearance of decay of the castle.

In the above quote, we know why there was an accursed smell of piled-up corpses everywhere: the castle had been built below the church graveyard. But also note the phrase: "corpses of dead generations." Assuming a "generation" is the standard forty years, and four, five, or six generations of corpses had been piled up, one has now easily extended the age of the castle to between 160 to 240 years, of course its age could be much older.

The Outsider mentions, in the second sentence of his narration, the "maddening rows of antique books." We know from history that the availability of what we would consider today as "books" was restricted till after the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century. With a little speculation, one could then set an early limit to the Outsider's entombment to between 1550 and 1600. It seems reasonable, therefore, that one could assume that at the start of the story, at the most, the Outsider had been in his underground castle between 300 to 350 years.

"The Outsider" is filled with many, small, fascinating details that yield bits of information about who the Outsider was, and other aspects of his personality and circumstances. The primary clues of this story, however, I believe have been noted and some moderate amount of commentary has been extended. There are many scenarios that one could compose from the aforementioned clues, and I suspect that none of them would completely resolve all the questions and issues hinted at within this story. What follows, and thus completing my overview of "The Outsider," is one such scenario that combines and harmonizes many clues and insights of this story.

* * *

The Outsider had been born into moderate wealth. As the first son of a wealthy land owner there was no question that he would one day inherit his ancestral lands and the wealth that had slowly accumulated over the generations. When his father died, the Outsider took over the care of his aging mother and assumed his rightful role, and governed the lands that had been bequeathed him. He was a very just ruler, and much loved by the people who worked for him. When his mother died, the Outsider, for the first time, began to question the nature of life and death and as the years passed he began to speculate if anyone had ever be able to cheat death . . . there were old stories, but as much as he searched, the Outsider was never able to track down a single practical item that would allow him to cheat death.

In his mid age, while visiting Egypt, the Outsider, by accident or design, happened upon the legend of the evil pharaoh Nephren-Ka, and after weeks of searching and a small fortune spent in bribes the Outsider was finally able to gain access to the ancient cult of Nephren-Ka. This cult had preserved the forbidden secrets that The Evil Pharaoh had learned from The Haunter of the Dark, in exchange for hideous human sacrifices. One of the occult secrets that the Outsider learned was of the nepenthe elixir, which reportedly allowed one to cheat death and live forever on this earthly plain.

The Outsider was able to obtain the knowledge of nepenthe, and returned to his home and castle determined to live forever. For the rest of his natural life the Outsider planned and plotted against death. In the Egyptian tradition, the Outsider desired to build a tomb, which accurately reflected his earthly life, where he might rest in death till he had conquered it. A cave was know to exist several miles away, not far from the river, which in prehistoric ages had been used to place the dead. In more modern times the church and cemetery of the local people had been built near the site. On further investigation the Outsider found that the main vault of the cave was ideal for his purposes.

The primary entrance to the cave was a large opening at the top of the cavern's vault, into which people and building material were first lowered by ropes, after which a tall tower (which was to later become part of the duplicated castle-tomb) was built for ease of entering and exiting the underground building project. At regular distances from the primary entrance, small holes were dug, and punched through the top of the cavern to allow light and air to more easily reach the workers on the cave floor. Over the course of time, those workers who were accidentally killed or died while working on the project where "honored" by being entombed in the burial crypt beneath the underground castle.

Construction of the castle-vault took decades to complete, the Outsider insisting that the underground structure resemble his family castle as closely as possible. Not only was the outside of the castle-tomb a duplicate of the above ground version, but the internal structure and contents, including furniture, paintings, books, and hangings in all the rooms, were duplicated. As the project continued through the years the Outsider began to fear that it might not be completed before his death, so short cuts were taken and medium grade materials were used where possible to help speed it's completion.

The day did arrive, much to the Outsider's relief, when the castle-tomb was completed. The holes in the top of the cavern that had been used to permit light and air to enter the vast vault were allowed to stay open. These openings were cleverly hidden and protected on the surface so light and air could continue to enter the cavern, but people and animals would be prevented from discovering them or inadvertently falling through to the cave floor below. Hundreds of tons of earth had been moved into the cave and spread over the bottom of the cavern, and special trees, imported from Asia, were planted in the hope that they would grow and became a type of subterranean forest, resembling the wood that surrounded the Outsider's terrestrial castle.

A standard family burial vault was constructed over the main cavern tower entrance opening such that the only entrance to the castle-tomb was through a special trap door in the floor of the family burial vault. The trap door was ingeniously constructed so as to allow easy opening from the cavern below into the family vault, but prevented all access back into the cave; this was to ensure the safety and privacy of the Outsider till he could conquer death, and return to the world of the living.

The Outsider prepared detailed instructions on how to prepare the nepenthe, and the ritual to follow after his death, leaving them with a few faithful friends and a servant, with whom he trusted his eternal life. And on his deathbed, the servant prepared the aromatic, black elixir, and as the Outsider was taking his last shallow breaths of life, the servant held the cup of eternal life to the lips of the Outsider, allowing him to sip the dark waters of eternity.

To all mortal eyes the Outsider had died, and strictly following the written instructions, the body was placed in the appointed room in the underground castle with his friends and servants chanting the written words in a language they did not understand, burning incense and making mystical gestures and signs in the air at various directions. Then the living departed the castle through the tower trap door, and awaited the Outsider's return.

The few who knew and half believed in the Outsider's plan expected his reappearance by the next new moon, but this did not occur; the second new moon came and went, but the Outsider still did not return. By the end of the third new moon after having laid the Outsider within the castle-tomb, it was generally believed that the words of the burial ritual had been incorrectly pronounced, or mystical signs incorrectly drawn in the air above the body . . . or possibly the Outsider was just mistaken in his understanding of what he could actually accomplish. Whatever the case, the end result was not the desired outcome.

The Outsider had caused great embarrassment for his extended family (uncles, aunts, nephews, cousins, etc.), spending much of his ancestral wealth and all of his time on what most felt was foolishness bordering on insanity. With his passing, the Outsider's heirs spent much of their time glossing over "the antics of the poor crazed man," with the hope that one day history would completely forget his strange acts. Although tales were told by the villagers for several generations, eventually the strange actions of the Outsider were forgotten by history.

After his physical death, the Outsider's soul departed the physical plane, and moved to higher levels of existence, leaving the earthly plain forever; however, nepenthe did have an effect: the Outsider's ka was bound to his physical body. The thing which was placed within the castle-tomb was neither living nor dead, neither human nor otherworldly. The Outsider became a type of living-dead, a soulless, mindless being that creation never intended to exist.

For the first one hundred years the body of the Outsider rested completely still, within the absolute darkness of the interior of the castle-tomb. Another apparent characteristic of the nepenthe was its embalming properties. In those first one hundred years the physical features of the Outsider remained unchanged, even his clothes seemed immune to the passages of time, and held their shape and form where one would have expected that they would have already tuned to dust. Outside, the moat grew stagnant, and the hundreds of little saplings which were intended to grow into an underground forest had long ago died, with a single tree surviving, slowly growing toward the source of the twilight light.

Soon after the one-hundredth anniversary of the Outsider's internment, an amazing event took place: in that dark and silent place the very slightest trembling of the Outsider's fourth finger on his left hand began, a most amazing event for a corpse of one hundred years. The Outsider's ka had grown strong enough to exert a force in this earthly plain. Over the following decades the movements became stronger and more sustained. A score of years before the two-hundredth anniversary of the Outsider's death witnessed very strange events taking place inside the castle-tomb. The Outsider, still a mindless, soulless being, was nonetheless animated. The Outsider's ka had reached its full potential, and this ghoul-like being now wandered about the castle blindly, without thought or purpose.

Although the effects of the nepenthe preserved the body of the Outsider beyond all known substances, the damp conditions of the cavern slowly began to affect the dead flesh of the Outsider. Had he been buried in Egypt with its dry and hot climate, the nepenthe would have preserved the Outsider's body for a thousand years before the first signs of decay would have begun to form. However, in just two hundred years in the castle-tomb, the flesh of the Outsider began to show early stages of decomposition.

While the body of the Outsider wondered mindlessly though the dark castle, in the outside cavern a forest had grown where one lone tree had struggled to survive eighty years earlier. Natural selection had provided the vaulted cave with a most amazing underground forest, unlike any place else on earth.

For the next seventy five years the Outsider was a lone ghoul within the castle-tomb, but in the two-hundred and fifty-fifth year after sipping the black elixir of eternity, the next amazing event took place: the Outsider began to dream. Although he remained a soulless being without memories, some sort of mind began to develop and emerge, the result -- possibly -- of the ka interacting with a physical body. The first form of activity that this new mind began to exhibit was an imageless dream, even as the body continued to wander the halls of the castle-tomb. Over the years the Outsider's mind grew stronger, and he began to slowly move from his dream state into a more normal state of consciousness. Initially without full consciousness, the Outsider would seek the light outside the castle walls, and when inside the castle would light candles and lamps to guide his way. Apparently some knowledge of his former existence still remained, for the Outsider knew how to read and write, and knew what trees were, and how to use doors.

Over the decades the Outsider read and learned, and continued to gain self-consciousness. The process was slow and the Outsider grew emotionally and intellectually even as a child might slowly grow, and all the while his body continued to gradually decay. Eventually the Outsider became fully conscious of his surroundings and of himself, and on that day he experienced, for the first time in nearly three hundred years, the first pangs of loneliness, and the new born desire to see the sun, and moon, and stars above.

Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. . . . I know not where I was born, save that the castle was infinitely old, and infinitely horrible; . . . Outside, across the putrid moat and under the dark mute trees, I would often lie and dream for hours about what I read in the books; and would longingly picture myself amidst gay crowds in the sunny world beyond the endless forest.
The Dunwich Horror and Others
"The Outsider," pg. 46-47


© 2006 Edward P. Berglund
"Behind The Veil: An Essay Into the Origins of the Outsider": © 2006 David B. Bennett. All rights reserved.
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Created: October 28, 2006