The Black Stone

The Black Stone” is a horror short story by American writer Robert E. Howard, first published in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales. The story introduces the mad poet Justin Geoffrey and the fictitious Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt. The story is part of the Cthulhu Mythos, and follows the same pattern and has the same features as much of H. P. Lovecraft‘s classic work.

For other uses, see Black Stone (disambiguation).
“The Black Stone”
Author Robert E. Howard
Country United States
Language English
Series Cthulhu Mythos
Genre(s) Lovecraftian horror
Published in Weird Tales
Publication type Periodical
Media type Pulp magazine
Publication date November 1931

. . . The Black Stone . . .

The story opens with an unnamed narrator being gripped with curiosity by a brief reference to the Black Stone in the book Nameless Cults, aka The Black Book, by Friedrich von Junzt. He researches the artifact but finds little further information. The ancient (though its age is debated) monolith stands near to the village of Stregoicavar (“meaning something like Witch-Town”) in the mountains of Hungary. There are many superstitions surrounding it, for instance anyone who sleeps nearby will suffer nightmares for the rest of their life and anyone who visits the stone on Midsummer Night will go insane and die. Though the Monolith is hated and disliked by all in the village, it is said by the Innskeeper that “Any man who lay hammer or maul to it die evilly”, so the villagers simply shun the stone.

The narrator decides to travel to Stregoicavar on vacation. Along the way he hears of the local history and sees the site of an old battlefield, where Count Boris Vladinoff fought the invading Suleiman the Magnificent in 1526. Local stories say that Vladinoff took shelter in a ruined castle and was brought a lacquered case that had been found near the body of Selim Bahadur, “the famous Turkish scribe and historian”, who had died in a recent battle. The unnamed contents scared the Count but at that moment Turkish artillery destroyed a part of the castle and he got buried in the rubble, where his bones still remain.

Reaching the village, the narrator interviews some of the villagers. The current inhabitants are not the original people of the village – they were all wiped out by the Turkish invasion in 1526. They are said to have been of a different, unknown, race than the Hungarians with a reputation for raiding their villages and kidnapping women and children. A school teacher reveals that according to legend, the original name for the village was Xuthltan and the stone was worshiped by pagans at one time (although they probably did not erect it themselves). The black stone is “octagonal in shape, some sixteen feet in height and about a foot and a half thick.”

A week after arriving the narrator realizes that it is Midsummer Night and makes his way to the stone. He falls asleep an hour before midnight but wakes to find the chanting and dancing people around the stone. After much dancing, during which the narrator is unable to move or do anything but observe, a baby is killed in sacrifice. Shortly a giant toad-like monster appears at the top of the stone and a second sacrifice, a young girl, is offered to it. The narrator faints at this point and decides that it was a dream when he wakes again. But slowly, he realizes that it was no dream. He remembers that Selim Bahadur’s case was still with the Count’s bones which hadn’t been disturbed. The narrator unearths the nobleman’s remains and with them, the case belonging to the Turk. He translates the account written by the historian and is horrified by his account of what happened near the Black Stone, how the monstrous creature slaughtered at least ten men before being killed by steel weapons blessed by Muhammad. He realizes that he beheld the cultist worshipers’ ghosts bowing before a ghost. He flings the contents of the case into a river.

(18981926) A poet who wrote “The People of the Monolith” after visiting the village of Stregoicavar and died “screaming in a madhouse” five years before the events of the story. He is remembered by the villagers as acting in an odd manner, with a habit of mumbling to himself. The story opens with this stanza, which is attributed to him:

They say foul things of Old Times still lurk
In dark forgotten corners of the world.
And Gates still gape to loose, on certain nights.
Shapes pent in Hell.

Lovecraft mentions Geoffrey in The Thing on the Doorstep, saying that he is a friend of Edward Derby, the protagonist of the tale. Lovecraft states in the story that Geoffry “died screaming in a madhouse in 1926 after a visit to a sinister, ill-regarded village in Hungary”.[1] This is a detail invented by Lovecraft and not part of Howard’s original story.

. . . The Black Stone . . .

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. . . The Black Stone . . .