In The Call of Cthulhu there is a worldwide cult that worships Cthulhu (and possibly other great old ones). I'm wondering: how do cult members actually make their way into the cult?

A few thoughts I had:

  1. In The Call of Cthulhu, the main character, and many others worldwide, have strange dreams while Cthulhu is restless. He even carves the statue of Cthulhu in his sleep and does in fact stumble upon the cult worshiping him
  2. In other fiction pertaining to cults and dark things, such as The History of the Necromoicon, it seems to be implied that there is much literature about Cthulhu and other dark secrets and these things are usually purposefully destroyed for the sanity of mankind, but some books make their way into people's lives. The quest for knowledge often leads to finding things like these
  3. Part of Lovecraft's whole thing is that curiosity gets the better of people almost all the time and they learn things they should never learn.

So, while there are several cults in the mythos, I would prefer any evidence regarding the cult from The Call of Cthulhu and other Lovecraft stories. Do the cults recruit or do people find them by accident or by, as the title suggests, a calling?

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    King in Yellow is not Necronomicon. Initially it wasn't even part of the Mythos.
    – dzielins42
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 7:36
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    @dzielins42 Ahh, you're right. Lovecraft makes explicit mention of The King in Yellow, but only that The Necronomicon was his inspiration for it, as if The Necronomicon actually existed. My bad! See: The History of the Necronomicon by Lovecraft Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 15:58
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    Uh... the King in Yellow by Chambers was written decades before Lovecraft started publishing, and preceded Cthulhu. The name "Hastur," which was invoked a few times in The King in Yellow also preceded Lovecraft's work (which also mentions it), and likewise Chambers', and was if I recall correctly, an invention of Ambrose Bierce.
    – Lexible
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 16:00
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    @Lexible I've ammended that error, but if you're talking about my comment, Lovecraft uses real books to suggest an authenticity to his fiction. "suspension of disbelief" if you will. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does the same thing in his first Sherlock Holmes book A Study in Scarlet by making explicit references to E.A. Poe's Dupin Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 16:04
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    @Lexible Sure, that's another "my bad". It does not pertain specifically to Cthulhu in the first degree, but rather a 2nd. That is, it pertains to things that pertain to Cthulhu. I was also still thinking that tKiY was the necronomicon. I've removed it from the post, since it isnt really related specifically to Cthulhu, just to the idea of cults and shit. Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


Zadock Allen's story in The Shadow Over Innsmouth is the best example in HP's works of people (a whole town) turning to the worship of the Old Ones. As with any IRL cult, it's a combination of accident, active recruiting and a "calling". Even before meeting the islanders that gave him the instructions to contact the Old Ones, Obed Marsh was inclined to look beyond the bounds of conventional religion:

“Never was nobody like Cap’n Obed — old limb o’ Satan! Heh, heh! I kin mind him a-tellin’ abaout furren parts, an’ callin’ all the folks stupid fer goin’ to Christian meetin’ an’ bearin’ their burdens meek an’ lowly. Says they’d orter git better gods like some o’ the folks in the Injies — gods as ud bring ’em good fishin’ in return for their sacrifices, an’ ud reely answer folks’s prayers..."

IRL cults use the same progression - the welcoming, the gifts and promises, then the gradual ramping-up of demands. The world has never had a shortage of lonely, disaffected, disenfranchised people and these are the people that cults - real and fictional - have always preyed upon.

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    As per Innsmouth and RL cults, it's often a family thing too. People have children who are raised within the cult to believe The Truth.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 15:10
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    It may also be relevant that Lovecraft was pretty racist, and this figured into who he imagined as susceptible to the Cthulhu cult--when they capture some cultists, Lovecraft writes that "the prisoners all proved to be men of a very low, mixed-blooded, and mentally aberrant type. Most were seamen, and a sprinkling of Negroes and mulattoes, largely West Indians or Brava Portuguese from the Cape Verde Islands, gave a colouring of voodooism to the heterogeneous cult. But before many questions were asked, it became manifest that something far deeper and older than Negro fetishism was involved."
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 16:43
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    @Hypnosifl: That's covered under "disenfranchised". I just didn't want to get everyone distracted by HP's well-known unfortunate racism.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 16:52
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    You fail to mention the very point illustrated in the quote: this religion actually works!
    – Beta
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 17:37
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    My comment is relevant to this answer (which is why I made it a comment to this answer and not to the question). All religions may "work" for those who have faith in them, but the Innsmouth cult actually works, which is an entirely different thing and a very powerful inducement.
    – Beta
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 6:16

People are taken by dreams as seen in the original story. Otherwise they might be abducted and forced to join/are brainwashed and join willingly.

  • 1
    Do you have any sources (a quote, hopefully) for this, or is it just speculation?
    – CHEESE
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 22:28

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