Super dark and dreary story like reading Edgar Allen Poe but not a poem, and many strange names. Much of the story around the WWI period (but don't remember hearing about the war in the story). There was a good bit of old english and references to the 18th century settlers in a decrepit rural village. I recall kids from here went off to Harvard and never returned home. A lot of dialogue in a clearly irish or scottish accent.

There was a dark-skinned baby who quickly grew extremely intelligent and matured unusually fast, fully fluent in English before he turned 1 and had no accent. Apparently a haunted hill kept making noises, and they lit fires on it.

The boy grew to 10 and had a full beard and looked like a grown man. His father or grandfather left him in charge of feeding a monster.

Lots of whippoorwills - bird noises through the whole book highlighting events. I recall some men walking into a college and coming upon a huge slimy nauseating creature slumped over a desk, skin ripped from its body by dogs.

The farmhouse where the narrator stayed was destroyed and huge footprints were found.

  • Was it poetry or prose? Is “like reading Edgar Allen Poe but not in prose” what you meant to say? As far as I know, Poe was a poet. – Stormblessed Oct 12 at 0:08
  • @stormblessed: I agree that that aspect of the question is confusing, because the story in question (The Dunwich Horror, by Lovecraft) is in prose, but Poe did write a significant quantity of prose, with much of it prose horror. – RLH Oct 12 at 0:13
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    As soon as I saw the title mentioned a scary story set somewhere in New England, around the early 20th Century, I instantly thought: "Something by H.P. Lovecraft?" That was before I even clicked in to read the actual plot summary. – Lorendiac Oct 12 at 0:28

HP Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror"

In the isolated, desolate, decrepit village of Dunwich, Massachusetts, Wilbur Whateley is the hideous son of Lavinia Whateley, a deformed and unstable albino mother, and an unknown father (alluded to in passing by mad Old Whateley, as "Yog-Sothoth"). Strange events surround his birth and precocious development. Wilbur matures at an abnormal rate, reaching manhood within a decade. Locals shun him and his family, and animals fear and despise him due to his odor. All the while, his sorcerer grandfather indoctrinates him into certain dark rituals and the study of witchcraft. Various locals grow suspicious after Old Whateley buys more and more cattle, yet the number of his herd never increases, and the cattle in his field become mysteriously afflicted with severe open wounds.

Wilbur and his grandfather have sequestered an unseen presence at their farmhouse; this being is connected somehow to Yog-Sothoth. Year by year, this unseen entity grows to monstrous proportions, requiring the two men to make frequent modifications to their residence. People begin to notice a trend of cattle mysteriously disappearing. Wilbur's grandfather dies, and his mother disappears soon afterwards. The colossal entity eventually occupies the whole interior of the farmhouse.

Wilbur ventures to Miskatonic University in Arkham to procure their copy of the Necronomicon – Miskatonic's library is one of only a handful in the world to stock an original. The Necronomicon has spells that Wilbur can use to summon the Old Ones, but his family's copy is damaged and lacks the page he needs to open the "door." When the librarian, Dr. Henry Armitage, refuses to release the university's copy to him (and, by sending warnings to other libraries, thwarts Wilbur's efforts to consult their copies), Wilbur breaks into the library at night to steal it. A guard dog, maddened by Wilbur's alien body odor, attacks and kills him with unusual ferocity. When Dr. Armitage and two other professors, Warren Rice and Francis Morgan, arrive on the scene, they see Wilbur's semi-human corpse before it melts completely, leaving no evidence.

With Wilbur dead, no one attends to the mysterious presence growing in the Whateley farmhouse. Early one morning, the farmhouse explodes and the thing, an invisible monster, rampages across Dunwich, cutting a path through fields, trees, and ravines, and leaving huge "prints" the size of tree trunks. The monster eventually makes forays into inhabited areas. The invisible creature terrorizes Dunwich for several days, killing two families and several policemen, until Armitage, Rice, and Morgan arrive with the knowledge and weapons needed to kill it. The use of a magic powder renders it visible just long enough to send one of the crew into shock. The barn-sized monster screams for help – in English – just before the spell destroys it, leaving a huge burned area. In the end, its nature is revealed: it is Wilbur's twin brother, though it "looked more like the father than Wilbur did."

Whippoorwills do make significant appearances as well.

Then too, the natives are mortally afraid of the numerous whippoorwills which grow vocal on warm nights. It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and that they time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer’s struggling breath. If they can catch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body, they instantly flutter away chittering in daemoniac laughter; but if they fail, they subside gradually into a disappointed silence.

I wish I could say I knew this one straight off, but a search for horror fiction whippoorwills took me to https://tellersofweirdtales.blogspot.com/2015/07/whip-poor-wills-in-weird-fiction.html, although I initially searched for August Derleth's "The Whippoorwills in the Hills," a similar tale.

  • It is unmistakeable, one of HPL's masterpieces and most well loved and known works. – Francesco Oct 12 at 12:01

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