Howard Phillips Lovecraft is nowadays regarded as one of the pioneers of the contemporary horror genre and praised as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century.
The stories from his ethereal “Cthulhu Mythos”, including “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, inspired Stephen King and other prominent contemporary horror writers, and also influenced the eerie imagination of John Carpenter.
During his Life, Lovecraft was an unknown author who published several poems and essays in American pulp magazines. He frequently corresponded with major authors including Robert Bloch and Clark Ashton Smith, who credited him with being an eloquent literary advisor. His extensive literary work was discovered and published posthumously after he died in isolation and poverty at the age of 46.
Many of Lovecraft’s recurring literary themes were inspired by the nightmares that haunted him in his early childhood. He was frequently ill as a child and had to spend lengthy periods bedridden due to various sickly conditions.
During these periods of illness, he often experienced terrifying nightmares that made him afraid of the dark. He believed he was continuously attacked by “Night Gaunts”, faceless devil-like creatures who entered his room at night and terrorized him in his dreams.
Contemporary researchers believe that he in fact suffered from severe sleep paralysis, which is a serious form of parasomnia. Sleep paralysis would have been the likely cause of his morbid and extremely vivid nightmares. It would also explain the constant feeling of frightening immobility that he experienced during his night terrors.
Lovecraft used the content of his nightmares to write the poem “Night Gaunts”, and he later used the same devil-like creatures for the novella named “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”. The novella introduced the “Night Gaunts” as a fictional race in the dark realm of Cthulhu, where they were associated with two of his fictional ancient deities.
Lovecraft scholars consider that his literary work consisted of three phases: the first phase drew inspiration from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the second phase is known as the “Dream phase”, and in the third phase he created the entire fictional universe of the Cthulhu Mythos.
The “Dream phase” was largely inspired by the gothic writings of Lord Dunsany and features a series of works that explore the dark world of Lovecraft nightmares, hidden fears, and psychological turmoil.