I remember reading The Statement of Randolph Carter when I was a teenager and loving it but had forgotten the story’s name. I thought it was The Tomb so when I reviewed that story I was pretty confused. I’m glad I figured out the correct name to go with the creepy story I remembered.

The story was written in 1919 and published in 1920. It features, obviously, Randolph Carter who apparently shows up in later Lovecraft tales. I don’t remember him so it will be intriguing to see how the character gets used later on.

Everything that I can remember, I have told with perfect candour. Nothing has been distorted or concealed, and if anything remains vague, it is only because of the dark cloud which has come over my mind – that cloud and the nebulous nature of the horrors which brought it upon me.

As we begin, Carter is being questioned about his role in the disappearance of a man named Harley Warren, a friend of his for five years. Carter helped him research the “unknown”. Together they journeyed to a swamp, apparently to prove Warren’s theory that certain corpses do not decompose, even after centuries. In the swamp they found a cemetery, seemingly untouched by human hands for ages.

They find an old mausoleum and together they pry the door open. Inside they find stone steps leading down into blackness. Warren tells Carter he must remain on the surface while Warren enters the tomb.

You can’t imagine, even from what you have read and from what I’ve told you, the things I shall have to see and do. It’s fiendish work, Carter…

Fortunately, Warren has brought with him a portable telephone which he plans to take with him. There is enough wire to reach “to the centre of the earth and back” so they can remain in contact. Carter watches as Warren takes a light with him and disappears down the stairs into the darkness of the tomb.

Time passes and Carter is left alone in the dark cemetery. After awhile he hears a clicking sound from the telephone and then hears Warren tell him that he is seeing something. He never specifies what he sees and we are left to speculate. We only know that it is “terrible – monstrous – unbelievable!” Carter asks for clarification and is told little.

“I can’t tell you, Carter! It’s too utterly beyond thought – I dare not tell you – no man could know it and live – Great God! I never dreamed of THIS!”

Cue the Lovecraft Drinking Game: every time he has someone say they have seen something or know something but it is “too horrible for words” or “it must not be told”, you take a drink.

Warren then frantically tells Carter to seal the tomb and run for his life. Carter hesitates and decides to stay with him. He then hears Warren state that it’s “nearly over now” and then “Curse these hellish things – legions…” Carter screams for him and hears a voice reply that Warren is dead.

Shall I say that the voice was deep; hollow; gelatinous; remote; unearthly; inhuman; disembodied?

Gelatinous? What the hell was down in that tomb? And how does it know how to use a telephone?

There is a continuum in horror between showing too much and showing too little. On the one side are slasher films which shower the viewer in gore and leave nothing to the imagination. On the other side is Lovecraft. Something was down in the tomb. Actually many somethings. What were they? We don’t know but we can speculate it has to do with Warren’s theory that there are certain corpses that don’t decay. A horde of the undead maybe?

The thing about Lovecraft is he gives you a framework and lets you imagine your worst fears within it. In my mind I’m picturing a mass of shambling zombie creatures closing in on Warren. Someone else may imagine something entirely different and horrifying. And gelatinous.