Lovecraft Forest

by Peter Engelmann,  January 5, 2021

Storytellers and moviemakers exploring the nature of the unexplained, the real horror, the unnamable forces in a haunted forest will find the universe of H.P. Lovecraft as a fruitful and inspiring description of the unknown realm near our dimension. The American Horror and Science Fiction writer introduced the modern idea of cosmic horror. But does it also apply to so-called true stories?

We can cope with the forest demon, the hairy monster, or the sinister backwood person as a sort of invented story, fairy tale, or a true crime story. However, if we listen to witness reports, the rich lore of many regions, and the terrifying accounts of people who disappeared and returned after days, we sense a deeper reality behind these encounters.

It seems that there are entities and other dimensions beyond our comprehension lurking in the shadows. The reports of fairies, mysterious lights, and abductions might be an effort of the mind to keep sane and to carry on because we wouldn’t dare to think about what’s really out there. Some stories and movies do the same but others try to achieve more and take the story to a greater scope. That’s also what the Forest Dark Feature Film Project does. It’s what many writers do. Getting to the point where the audience feels that there is some truth in a story that might sound fantastic.

Is it even possible? The master of modern horror H.P. Lovecraft created a whole universe filled with terrifying encounters with the Great Old Ones and other entities. The words he uses trigger our imagination, the painfully detailed description of unparalleled horrors and the reports of unspeakable events create a special mood.




The Whisperer in Darkness

There is one story in particular which concerns the forest as a place haunted by beings from outer space or another dimension. In The Whisperer In Darkness Lovecraft takes us to the mysteries of the ominous hills in Vermont. The narrator receives letters and pictures from a man, Henry Akeley, who seems close to a nervous breakdown because of some horrors coming from the woods. It doesn’t take too long and the narrator himself is on the brink of madness.

The interesting thing about this story from H.P. Lovecraft is that partly it is written like an article in a scientific journal. The introduction is expanded speculation about the ancient roots of creatures described in modern sightings. There are strong parallels with modern texts about aliens accompanying mankind from the very beginning. It is a lot about scientific speculation and later on it is not only what happens deep in the woods in these Vermont Hills but also about the nature of true tales in Vermont.

The Whisperer In The Dark introduces the Lovecraft Forest. The horror in these woods is not only about some sort of alien race, worshipping of ancient deities like Shub-Niggurath but also weird artifacts as a black stone or strange anomalies. There is mention of a Lord Of The Forest and a transcript of a recording of strange rituals in the forest implies sinister gatherings and invocations:

“(A BUZZING IMITATION OF HUMAN SPEECH)
Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

We don’t learn who or what Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat of the Woods exactly are but the story works like a jigsaw puzzle. In the end, we sense the whole picture.

Names, descriptions and the story may sound bizarre. It is a weird tale. However, in many aspects, Lovecraft was ahead of his time. The idea of phenomena and alien entities which somehow defies our laws of nature makes more and more sense if we look into modern theories in physics, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics. A visitor entering our dimension and coming from a higher dimension might match some of Lovecraft’s ideas.

Wait a moment. Of course, there is also a straight sci-fi tale here with the Mi-Go alien race and the twist at the end of the story. But what’s interesting here are the choices between the beats in the storyline. It’s what is happening, how it is happening, and the description.

Furthermore Lovecraft uses a special technique of storytelling which creates tension and allows him to slowly reveal what’s going on. The narrator receives letters by Henry Akeley. Later we are not direct witness of a ritual in the forest but the recording is mentioned. This is not only a writing technique its a very smart way to picture something which is not some sort of singular object but like a combination of phenomena. He gives us bits and pieces and we need to draw further conclusions.

Real mysterious forests

In regions where there are a lot of sightings reported or other supernatural phenomena occur it is often not about a single event. Most of the time it is a complex mix of history, strange events, weird behavior of inhabitants, cases of high strangeness, mysterious disappearances, crime, secret rituals in the forest, and communities with secrets on the surface. In 2018 documentarist and musician Jarrod Tyler visited Washington State and the Snoqualmie region where the legendary Twin Peaks series was shot. He interviewed several people and unraveled the real mysteries of the region in a very good and very impressive road documentary Road To Twin Peaks: A North Bend Story. The real stories he heard and the links to an “energy in the forest” do sound even more strange as some of David Lynch’s inventions. Twin Peaks does now feel even more “real” in a special sense. It has a feel of that Lovecraft forest, a place which is somehow different from our normal dimension. In the end Jarred Tyler raises the question: “Was the North Bend mystery created by the TV show or was the Twin Peaks mystery created by North Bend?”

The same question applies to H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales as The Whisperer In Darkness: How much inspiration got Lovecraft from these remote hills in New England and did his story influence modern stories, reports of sightings, and Ufo-lore? 

We don’t know. But what we see is a theme that runs like a unifying thread through stories, movies, and folklore. And it is something we find not only in these hills in Vermont:

“The dense, unvisited woods on those inaccessible slopes seemed to harbour alien and incredible things, and I felt that the very outline of the hills themselves held some strange and aeon-forgotten meaning, as if they were vast hieroglyphs left by a rumoured titan race whose glories live only in rare, deep dreams” (H.P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness).

This is what the Lovecraft Forest is and if we inspect the haunted forests of this world we might come across these mysteries.

The Demonic Forest

In my story the forest is infested with the mysterious forces as described in the last post about the “demonic (principle) which can manifest in men, animals and things even in whole epochs (corporal and incorporal)”.

Of course this is not a very original idea or something new but always worth to be told from a new angle.
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Is there anything we could do differently rather doing another “chilling story in the woods”?

As I have mentioned before I am strongly convinced that we should take the ideas of zones of the supernatural and places where the walls between our world and another otherworldly realm alongside our reality are thin and permeable very seriously.

The forest had always many different qualities in our culture in history. Of course the forest is one of the most positive forces known on this planet and everything should be done to protect any forest. The forest itself is not demonic but the demonic element can manifest in nature.

Therefore it is more about demonic places which could make a demonic forest. Cases have been mentioned before here about places which have a weird tendency of letting the same strange thing happen again and again. The demonic element here appears more like an invisible childlike supernatural force repeating the same trick.

The question what could be done differently, what could be told from a different angle is connected with the considerations about the “demonic forces” at certain places (the demonic principle is of course not something necessarily connected with a certain place but it seems there are notorious areas which have sort of a tendency for weirdness).

If we try to avoid stereotypes – for example the stupid killing demon attacking the wanderer – we can get closer to something which rings true to a lot of people.

If we look at most unexplained (supernatural) stories surrounding haunted forests it is more like something is teasing the victims. Even if we hear about dangerous close encounters most of the time the witness is confronted with an mysterious force neither exactly good or bad. However in the end a confrontation with the demonic element could result in a tragic ending. It’s like losing a game with an invisible player.

The mysterious beings in the forest – “The secret commonwealth” like the fairies – are described as paradoxical beings. They are not straight killers but they make people losing their wits.




It might be also a mysterious force behind the “notorious secret rituals in the woods“. Sometimes magic seems to work and perhaps somebody wants you to think that by performing magic you have supernatural powers. However we never had a clue what was really going on.

Our new angle could be something like to admit there are powers we could not reduce to something we know – the best stories or movies like Peter Weir’s “Picnic At Hanging Rock” don’t present simple solutions. They reveal a deeper truth.

“Picnic At Hanging Rock” is a story about the demonic par excellence. It’s disturbing because there isn’t some sort of massacre or any other horrible event revealed. The most frightening side of the demonic element is that we don’t get something bad we can cope with. The most unsettling idea is when we learn something happened which is beyond our understanding.

A “Demonic Forest” is in way like a “Poltergeist”. As soon as we have found a theory what’s going on the phenomenon does something which is like an unexpected twist. In Norway scientists try to understand the “Hessdalen Phenomenon” for a long time – mysterious lights appearing like Ufo’s in a valley again and again, but so far nobody really understood the phenomenon so far.

What the demonic principle can do to us is usually using our curiosity to lure us deeper and deeper into the forest. It needs our strong wish to understand. If we could not any longer understand what’s going on we are lost. Some people vanishing in the forest weren’t attacked by some entity but they lost control.

And perhaps the best trick of the demonic element is to make us believe it doesn’t exist.

Otherworldly Traps

“ROSLIN
Things. The forest is showing me…
Things…”(The Forest Dark Screenplay)

People getting lost or people losing their wits after they entered a dark place in the forest. Are there supernatural traps hidden in certain places in this world?


In fairy tales the trap is a very prominently motive. Writers were fascinated by these folclore stories. There are famous works particularly in the period of romanticism. An example which was described earlier is the “Runenberg“.

Another well-known trap is the court of venus, “Venusberg”. These traps lure the wanderer into another realm. The man who can’t resist will finally lose everything.

These kind of “erotic traps” use temptation. Of course, this is something which works very well in a number of stories.

However it’s indeed primary a literal motive not a very realistic one.

We don’t expect a beautiful fairy queen tempting us to walk straight into a rift in time and space when we enter the woods.

Otherworldly traps are perhaps something which works in a more subtle way. Nevertheless these kind of traps could be very powerful and dangerous.

It seems that there are places in this world were people lose their orientation or get depressed. The perfect description of this kind of otherworldly trap could be found in Algernoon Blackwood’s “The Willows” where two wanderers get maddened by a supernatural force and one of them is close to committing suicide.

“The Willows” is also a fictional supernatural tale but what happens could be closer to what’s really going on. Every year a number of hikers vanish mysteriously. In most cases there are very rational explanations for what has happened with these persons, but some cases remain unsolved. There are areas which have a reputation for this like “The Bennington Triangle”. According to the Indians the woods are cursed in this territory in Vermont.

I think there are two ways to make you losing your wits. If there are forces which could look deeply into the soul of a person these forces will find the weak spot. They will hit you on the most personal level. The other way is showing you disturbing things, things which are somehow not right, something like H.P. Lovecraft’s “Color From Outer Space”.

These kind of phenomena exist. There were described for example in “Dangerous Lights”. Obviously, they act more on a psychological level. They are happen in a realm somewhere in-between the physical world and the inner-life of a person.





Getting into the mind of a person is the most efficient way how a trap could work. The purpose of the trap it to break somebody’s will. Without a strong will we are an easy prey for whatever lurks in the forest. As soon as we are depressed and disoriented we’re lost. Sometimes the victim returns but is changed forever.

Peter Weir’s famous movie “Picnic at Hanging Rock” describes the mysterious disappearance of a group of girls in the Australian outback. One of the victims returns but cannot describe what happened. The girl is changed and cannot remember anything.

The movie is based on a novel which is fiction but played around with the “based on a true story” pattern. The ending was left open for interpretation but the otherworldy quality of the “Hanging rock”, which exists, is a dominant motive. There are hints that it is the special quality or power of place itself which is responsible for the events.

This story is a very good example for a supernatural trap. It’s like a paradigm. We find similar stories surrounding other notorious place like Freetown-Fall River State Forest. In this case the forest itself seems to be the trap, like the famous woods in the Blairwitch-Movies.

Games In The Forest

Forest Horror Stories are in some way often close to the reality in a computer game or a simulation. This is because there seems not only the character’s misjudgment of the situation is leading him into dangerous territory. In the dark forest we are like Katniss Everdeen confronted with the interventions from an invisible game maker. It’s like being chosen for the hunger games without knowing it.

Untitled Kopie

Sometimes it´s surprising we accept the conceptual approach in forest horror because of course we know the story was written by an author and certain events in the forest are created by the director and his crew. This is always a problem in storytelling and drama and for badly introduced interventions which change the course of action there is even a term from the old Greeks. It’s called “deux ex machina”. Particularly if we see a so-called found coverage film it could easily look like some trick.

Of course good acting and the right use of effects and emotion could put the audience in a state where the audience doesn’t think too much about the construction of the story. However there is more about it. As said in the previous post it seems that on some level close to base reality the other world appears like a simulation (whereas it is questionable to interpret reality generally as simulation) or even a game where we have interventions of the “game maker”.

Perhaps we accept these stories because sometimes they feel true. Even in reality life is not “character-driven”. There are interventions from invisible forces from somewhere. Therefore the best writers are able to write something which rings true which make use of “cosmic interventions”. There are real cases which look like a weird constructed plot with supernatural interventions. This is an impression particularly if it comes to stories and reports of real events in the forest. Naturally its difficult to distinct between reality and “scripted reality” – every witness report gets interpreted, fictionalized or becoming a folk tale with some sort of morale in the end.

If we look at the real accounts of “forest horror” as described in “Dangerous lights” with cases in Brazil, Jacques Vallee’s investigation of the Happy Camp events in California, The Freetown Fall River Forest case or the Hoia Bacu Forest we find the same dramaturgy at the bottom of the story as in many forest horror stories. It looks like some “Elder Gods” orchestrating supernatural events which are overwhelming for the human mind. The events often go far beyond the “local old legend” encompassing some ghost roaming the woods.

A typical difference between “real accounts” from haunted woods and fictional horror is the forest as a physical attacker. What’s happening in the forest in most real stories is not so much a physical attack from the woods itself its more as something which happens somewhere in-between reality and imagination, somewhere between dream and real experience. Forest horror feels true if we understand Lovecraft’s idea of cosmic horror: “A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present” It all happens more on an atmospheric level rather than a pure physical level in the first place, only later it could lead to physical consequences.





These forces tend to play tricks with the mind. Indeed some events and sightings sound like a part of a game or like everything is happen in a form of virtual reality. However we don’t know the mechanism of the game or the intentions of the game maker. Thus we try rituals and study magic, often we need to solve a riddle in the forest and getting lost. We don’t understand any longer what’s going on. Perhaps this is the true nature of the game: It’s all about not losing your mind in the first place. Then we might be able to understand the nature of our own role in this game and overcome its limitations. Perhaps this is the trick both in a forest horror story or in real life: don’t do what the game maker wants you to do and overcome your limitations.