by H.P. Lovecraft
Here our nameless narrator is a man curious about the Yuletide rites of his ancestors, who travels to a small Massachusetts town to attend the titular festival...although he has no notion of what that festival may consist of. He meets up with his strange benefactors, an ancient and old world couple, who promise to take him to the exact location when the time comes.
The time comes fast enough, and the unlikely trio head to an underground chamber where a large group of witchy worshippers are performing all sorts of wacky rituals, the likes of which his poor little mind was ill-prepared to witness.
There's really not a lot of story going on here, and what little there is is only a method of getting the reader from Point A to Point B--namely from the beginning to the shocking conclusion (which honestly isn't all that shocking). Lovecraft seemed to have the destination in mind, and decided that the journey wasn't all that important.
Lucky for us, he gave us some nice scenery along the way. His depiction of a rural New England town seemingly lost in time was crafted beautifully, but not nearly as effectively as in some of his tales ("The Music of Erich Zann", for instance). The finale, however, which leads one to assume that 2 very different versions of this town are existing simultaneously, was a novel twist that fits into the Mythos quite nicely.
It's just too bad that one of the key images here--that of the members of the coventry hopping aboard some fantastical winged creatures and taking flight--seems so ridiculous, something that would be more at home in Heavy Metal magazine than a true horror tale.
Catching an early glimpse at the pages of the mystical Necronomicon may have helped to cement this tale as a favorite among fanatics, but I found it to be a mediocre entry in the canon....albeit a terrifically written one.