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THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

The Colour Out of Space was written by Lovecraft in March 1927, immediately after finishing his previous short novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and in the midst of final revision on his horror fiction essay Supernatural Horror in Literature. Seeking to create a truly alien life form, he drew inspiration from numerous fiction and nonfiction sources, and it became one of Lovecraft's most popular works, and remained his personal favorite of his short stories. The story first appeared in the September 1927 edition of Hugo Gernsback's science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.


The story follows an unnamed narrator who pieces together the story of an area known by the locals as the blasted heath in the hills west of the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts. The narrator discovers that many years ago a meteorite crashed there, poisoning every living being nearby; vegetation grows large but foul-tasting, animals are driven mad and deformed into grotesque shapes, and the people go insane or die one by one.

 

QUABBIN RESERVOIR

DATE(S) VISITED: JUN 11, 2023
LOCATION: WARE, MA

Due to a higher demand for water within the Metropolitan of Boston, many possible sources of water supply were explored. It was in the mid-1930's when work began on constructing a reservoir near the Quabbin Hill and Quabbin Lake. In doing so it required the flooding, and thus the disincorporation, in April 1938, of four towns: Dana (located in Worcester County), Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott (all located in Hampshire County).


Lovecraft claimed that his inspiration for the story was the newly constructed Scituate Reservoir in Rhode Island, although Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi believes that the planned Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts must have influenced him as well due to the same circumstances of towns being flooded in the process of being built.


There was once a road over the hills and through the valleys, that ran straight where the blasted heath is now; but people ceased to use it and a new road was laid curving far toward the south. Traces of the old one can still be found amidst the weeds of a returning wilderness, and some of them will doubtless linger even when half the hollows are flooded for the new reservoir. Then the dark woods will be cut down and the blasted heath will slumber far below blue waters whose surface will mirror the sky and ripple in the sun. And the secrets of the strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of old ocean, and all the mystery of primal earth. - HPL ~ The Colour out of Space



When I went into the hills and vales to survey for the new reservoir they told me the place was evil. They told me this in Arkham, and because that is a very old town full of witch legends I thought the evil must be something which grandams had whispered to children through centuries. The name “blasted heath” seemed to me very odd and theatrical, and I wondered how it had come into the folklore of a Puritan people. Then I saw that dark westward tangle of glens and slopes for myself, and ceased to wonder at anything besides its own elder mystery. It was morning when I saw it, but shadow lurked always there. The trees grew too thickly, and their trunks were too big for any healthy New England wood. There was too much silence in the dim alleys between them, and the floor was too soft with the dank moss and mattings of infinite years of decay. - HPL ~ The Colour out of Space


The remnants of an abandoned building in the former town of Dana which was vacated to make way for the reservoir.

As I walked hurriedly by I saw the tumbled bricks and stones of an old chimney and cellar on my right, and the yawning black maw of an abandoned well whose stagnant vapours played strange tricks with the hues of the sunlight. - HPL ~ The Colour out of Space



I could not go into that dim chaos of old forest and slope again, or face another time that grey blasted heath where the black well yawned deep beside the tumbled bricks and stones. The reservoir will soon be built now, and all those elder secrets will be safe forever under watery fathoms. But even then I do not believe I would like to visit that country by night—at least, not when the sinister stars are out; and nothing could bribe me to drink the new city water of Arkham. - HPL ~ The Colour out of Space



Meanwhile I hope nothing will happen to Ammi. He saw so much of the thing—and its influence was so insidious. Why has he never been able to move away? How clearly he recalled those dying words of Nahum’s—“can’t git away . . . draws ye . . . ye know summ’at’s comin’, but ’tain’t no use. . . .” Ammi is such a good old man—when the reservoir gang gets to work I must write the chief engineer to keep a sharp watch on him. I would hate to think of him as the grey, twisted, brittle monstrosity which persists more and more in troubling my sleep. - HPL ~ The Colour out of Space

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