The Statement of Randolph Carter
by H.P. Lovecraft
Going against the grain that Lovecraft himself had created in past stories, this time our nameless narrator has (gasp!) a name. His name is Randolph Carter, and this is his statement.
Carter is an amateur and half-hearted researcher of the occult. He is involved in these dark studies only because he has been talked into it by his closest friend Harley Warren, whose interest in the subject and personal resolve is much greater than his own.
Warren has deduced that there exists in this world secret staircases that connect us to a subterranean plane where ancient creatures of unspeakable evil dwell. Together, Warren and Carter locate one such staircase hidden in an old graveyard near Big Cypress Swamp. Warren descends alone, keeping in radio contact with Carter...but he never comes up again.
There are some interesting aspects at work here. The concept of the staircases to a hidden world is reminiscent of the Hollow Earth Theory, which was scientifically debunked near the end of the 18th century but still has a small handful of believers even to this day. The books of forbidden knowledge that Warren collects are never mentioned by name...but it would be no great leap to assume that one of them (perhaps the one he carries with him) is the fabled Necronomicon. Reading this story, you can really see the pieces falling into place as Lovecraft begins puzzling out the concepts he would become famous for.
Lovecraft has also realized that the horrors we don't see can be just as frightening as the horrors we do see, a far cry from his earlier story "The Beast in the Cave". Here, we (along with Carter) don't see even a hint of the underworld or its inhabitants. All we have to rely on are the cryptic and sporadic messages from Warren and our overactive imaginations. The ending is supposed to be something of a shock moment--think the literary equivalent of the final scene from Quarantine or Paranormal Activity--but it doesn't work quite as well on the printed page.
It should be noted that the character of Randolph Carter is a recurring character in Lovecraft's stories, so you'll be seeing plenty more of him in the near future as I continue my chronological examination of the author's work.
"The Statement of Randolph Carter" was originally published in the May 1920 issue of Vagrant.