Cosmic Horror or Lovecraftian Short Stories, Including Cthulhu Mythos

Here are some stories of cosmic or Lovecraftian horror, which usually feature the unknowable, forbidden knowledge, madness, and emphasize creating an ominous mood over gore, among other things.

Let’s start with some stories by Lovecraft. The second section has stories by other authors.

“The Cats of Ulthar” by H.P. Lovecraft

In the town of Ulthar, an old couple takes pleasure in killing any cats that stray onto their property. The townspeople are afraid of them and stay away, but when a kitten from a group of travelers goes missing, they take action.

This story can be read in the preview of The Great Old Ones: Complete Lovecraft(select in table of contents)

“Ex Oblivione” by H. P. Lovecraft

A dying man dreams he is in a valley and finds a concealed bronze gate. He wants to know what’s on the other side, but future dreams give him contradictory answers.

This story can be read in the preview of The Great Old Ones: Complete Lovecraft(select in table of contents)

“The Terrible Old Man” by H. P. Lovecraft

Three thieves decide to visit the Terrible Old Man, known for being rich and feeble. There are many rumors about him in Kingsport and people usually stay away. The three thieves aren’t from Kingsport, so they see him only as a target.

This story can be read in the preview of Complete Lovecraft(select in table of contents)

“The Rats in the Walls” by H. P. Lovecraft

The narrator restores his ancestral home, Exham Priory, in England. He recounts some of his family history, including an ancestor who was supposedly cursed by God, and tales of murder and infestation by bats and rats. After moving in he hears sounds in the walls.

Read “The Rats in the Walls”

“Cool Air” by H. P. Lovecraft

The narrator explains why he’s afraid of cool air. He lived in a New York boardinghouse. Above him lived Dr. Muñoz, a recluse. One day while writing, the narrator had a heart attack. He struggled to make it to the doctor’s door. When it opened, he was hit by a rush of cool air.

Read “Cool Air”

“The Outsider” by H. P. Lovecraft

The narrator lives in a castle and has never seen sunlight or had contact with others. His only company and knowledge of the world is from antique books. He decides to free himself from his prison and explore the outside world.

Read “The Outsider”


“Only the End of the World Again” by Neil Gaiman

A man wakes up feeling terrible in his freezing room. He wants to stay in bed, but a sick stomach drives him to the bathroom. He vomits an assortment of filth, some of it more troubling than the rest. The sheets are ripped and clawed and there’s hair in the bed. He changed last night.

This story can be read in the preview of Lovecraft’s Monsters(41% into preview)

“Les Fleurs” by Thomas Ligotti

The narrator records some notable events in his diary. On May 1st he meets Daisy, a florist, and he’s hopeful about her. He was there getting flowers for Clare, who everyone believes is missing. They got talking about flowers, and he was impressed by her imagination. She visited his apartment two weeks later. She liked everything except a sculpture with velvety fur and what looked like tongues with little teeth. He didn’t want her to see something like this so early on.

This story can be read in the preview of Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe(55% into preview)

“Pickman’s Other Model” by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Although he distrusts first-person narratives, a man wants to record his account of some significant events. The focus is on the murder of Vera Endecott, an actress. His friend Thurber, a former soldier, committed suicide. He had also spent time in the company of Pickman, a painter who was shunned by his peers for his horrifying images, and later disappeared.

This story is a sequel to Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model”.

It can be read in the preview of New Cthulu: The Recent Weird(16% into preview)

“The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge

Kerry is in a helicopter, on the last leg of the trip. She has a special affinity for animals; she’s the star of The Animal Whisperer, a TV show where she helps difficult cases of animal behavior. She assumes this will be about some kind of training. The details of this mission are strictly need-to-know. She’s accompanied by Colonel Escovedo, who’s in charge of the facility they’re headed for. He reveals they’re going to a long-term detention facility for U.S. enemy combatants.

This story can be read in the preview of New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird(18% into preview)

“Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” by Neil Gaiman

Benjamin Lassiter is on a walking tour of the British coastline. The experience is not what he expected. His guidebook indicated it would be charming, delightful, and populated with friendly people. He eventually stops at an Innsmouth pub for a meal. Two men there strike up a conversation with him.

This story can be read in the preview of The Book of Cthulhu 2(12% into preview)

“The House of the Worm” by Mearle Prout

The narrator is struggling to write when he gets into a conversation with his roommate, Fred, about thoughts becoming reality. Later, they plan on going on a hunting trip, to shoot some squirrels. Fred wants to go to a familiar place—Sacrament Wood, a fertile, unspoiled valley. As they approach, Fred sees Old Zeke, a mountaineer. He gives them some bad news about Sacrament Wood. They don’t really believe him.

This story can be read in the preview of A Mountain Walked(21% into preview)