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Arkham is a fictional city in Massachusetts, part of the Lovecraft Country setting created by H. P. Lovecraft and is featured in many of his stories, as well as those of other Cthulhu Mythos writers.

Arkham House, a publishing company started by two of Lovecraft's correspondents, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, takes its name from this city as a tribute.[1]


Arkham in Lovecraft's fiction

Lovecraft's Crowninshield House in The Thing on the Doorstep was modelled on the real Crowninshield-Bentley House in Salem, Massachusetts.

In the 1933 story The Thing on the Doorstep, Lovecraft described

the ancient, mouldering, and subtly fearsome town...witch-cursed, legend-haunted Arkham, whose huddled, sagging gambrel roofs and crumbling Georgian balustrades brood out over the centuries beside the darkly muttering Miskatonic.

Arkham is the home of Miskatonic University, which figures prominently in many of Lovecraft's works. The institution finances the expeditions in both At the Mountains of Madness (1936) and The Shadow Out of Time (1936). Walter Gilman, of The Dreams in the Witch House (1933), attends classes at the university. Other notable institutions in Arkham are the Arkham Historical Society and the Arkham Sanitarium.

Arkham's main newspaper is the Arkham Advertiser, which has a circulation that reaches as far as Dunwich. In the 1880s, its newspaper is called the Arkham Gazette.

Arkham’s most notable characteristics are its gambrel roofs and the dark legends surrounding the city for centuries. Occurrences such as the disappearance of children (presumably murdered in ritual sacrifices) at May Eve and other bad doings are accepted as a part of life for the poorer citizens of the city.


The precise location of Arkham is unknown, although it is probably near both Innsmouth and Dunwich. However, it may be surmised from Lovecraft's stories that it is some distance to the north of Boston, probably in Essex County, Massachusetts.[2] The real-life model for Arkham seems to be, in fact, Salem, its reputation for the occult making it appealing to one who dabbles in the weird tale.[3]

Arkham Sanitarium appears in the short story The Thing on the Doorstep and may have been inspired by the Danvers State Insane Asylum, aka Danvers State Hospital, located in Danvers, Massachusetts.[4] (Danvers State Hospital also appears in Lovecraft's stories Pickman's Model and The Shadow over Innsmouth.) H.P. Lovecraft's Arkham and the Arkham Sanitarium were paid homage in the creation of Arkham Asylum in the Batman comic book series.


Lovecraft's fiction

Note: dates are the year written.

Arkham first appeared in Lovecraft's short story "The Picture in the House" (1920)—the story is also the first to mention "Miskatonic". It also appears in other stories by Lovecraft, including:

Other authors

Arkham also appears in the Cthulhu Mythos tales of other writers since Lovecraft's death. Among them:

  • Brennen, Joseph Payne. "Forringer's Fortune" (1975)
  • Brunner, John. "Concerning the Forthcoming Inexpensive Paperback Translation of the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred" (1992)
  • Jens, Tina L. "In His Daughter's Darkling Womb" (1997), mentions "Arkham Industries"
  • Thompson, C. Hall. "The Will of Claude Ashur" (1947)

Other appearances


  • Arkham is the setting for all of the stories in the 2006 anthology Arkham Tales published by Chaosium.
  • In the novel The Arcanum, Lovecraft himself is said to have been involved in solving a case involving a witch cult in Arkham.
  • In the novel The Atrocity Archives, a philosopher is attracted to Arkham due to the "unique library" there.
  • In the novel The Jennifer Morgue, the occult branch of the American intelligence community, code-named "Black Chamber", is headquartered in Arkham.
  • Arkham appears in several scenes in The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It is mentioned that the Arkham Police Department often has to deal with local cults and disappearing professors from Miskatonic.

Film and television

  • Arkham also appeared in the movie The Haunted Palace (1963) starring Vincent Price.
  • Arkham is the name of the mental hospital mentioned in The Rage: Carrie 2, which is about certain characters who survived the events in Carrie.
  • "Arkham" is the codename used for a plan to assassinate Mr. Parker in NBC's television show The Pretender.
  • Arkham also appears as the town in the movie Die, Monster, Die! starring Boris Karloff and Nick Adams.(This film is based upon Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space.)
  • Arkham appears in "The Collect Call of Cathulhu", an episode from The Real Ghostbusters, when members of the Ghostbusters go to Miskatonic University to get information on how to stop Cthulhu.
  • Arkham is the name of the main prison/asylum located outside Gotham City in Batman: The Animated Series.
  • In Universal Pictures' 1940s Mummy films, the sinister priests are usually referred to as members of the Temple of Karnak, but in The Mummy's Ghost (1944), this becomes the Temple of Arkham.
  • The film In the Mouth of Madness, which borrows heavily from the themes of the Mythos, there is a publishing company called "Arcane", a probable reference to real-life publishing company Arkham House.
  • Arkham is the name of a system of caves serving as a labor prison in the ABC miniseries Empire.
  • Arkham and Mistkatonic University are mentioned, in The Night Gallery, as the birthplace of a pagan cult.
Arkham is twice mentioned in The Rage: Carrie 2 as the place where Rachel's insane mother was confined and escaped.



  • Arkham is the setting for roleplaying games based on the Mythos, such as Call of Cthulhu.
  • The third Shadow Hearts video game (Shadow Hearts: From the New World) features a visit to the fictional Arkham University, based in Boston, Massachusetts. H. P. Lovecraft himself appears as a professor at the university, conjuring up demons for the heroes to fight at their request.
  • Arkham is one of the antagonists in the video game Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, the father of "Lady". It is also noted that the character Arkham's alter ego is Jester, a character that closely resembles the Joker.
  • In the web-based roleplaying game Urban Dead, there are two suburbs, named Old Arkham and New Arkham. Some players have even started to refer to a specific area as Miskatonic University.
  • Arkham Horror is a cooperative adventure board-game themed around H.P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. The game has players exploring the town of Arkham as they attempt to stop unmentionable horrors from spilling into the world.
  • MechWarrior 2 features a level named Arkham Bridge with a song so entitled.
  • The city of New Arcadia from Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is a spoof of Arkham.
  • In the game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, the main character, private detective Jack Walters, is admitted to the Arkham Mental Institution after seeing Yithian creatures and hence becoming seemingly insane during a raid of a Boston home.
  • In the roleplaying game Dark Aeons: The Atlantean Chronicles, Arkham serves as a central hub and staging ground for the hidden Atlantean Empire.
  • In the stealth action game Batman: Arkham Asylum, gameplay takes place inside the Arkham Asylum Mental Heath Care Facility. There is also an "easter egg" website for the facility:


  • Arkham was a rock band that put out two full length albums on Volcom Entertainment. They performed for three years on the Vans Warped Tour and toured with bands such as Thrice and Rise Against.
  • Arkham was also the name of a short-lived band featuring several of the members of British Sea Power prior to the formation of BSP.
  • Arkham was also the name of a French prog-rock band active from 1970 until 1972 and featuring members of other important continental prog groups Magma and Univers Zero.
  • Arkham is also the name of a Brazilian rock/metal/experimental band formed in 2001 from Rio de Janeiro .
  • The Arkhams are a Psychobilly/Rockabilly band from New York that chose their name, in part, based on the writings of HP Lovecraft.
  • Grindcore band Discordance Axis have a song entitled Radiant Arkham.
  • Scottish hip hop artist Loki has a song entitled Escape From Arkham from the Friendly World LP.
  • Avant-garde rock artist Bob Drake's song, "Kaziah's Pet," is set in Arkham.
  • Deathrock band Rudimentary Peni not only makes a reference to Arkham in their song "Arkham Hearse", but also numerous other H. P. Lovecraft references throughout their musical catalogue.
  • Alt-country musician Ryan Adams wrote a song called "Arkham Asylum," which he and The Cardinals have performed live since September 18, 2006.'
  • Heavy-metal band High on Fire mentions Arkham in a song entitled "The Face of Oblivion" on the album "Blessed Black Wings".
  • Rap group Common Market wrote a song "Escaping Arkham" for their 2009 "The Winter's End" EP.

See also

Other fictional settings from the stories of H. P. Lovecraft:


Primary sources

  • Lovecraft, Howard P.
    • At the Mountains of Madness, and Other Novels (7th corrected printing), S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1985. ISBN 0-87054-038-6. Definitive version.
    • Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1987. ISBN 0-87054-039-4. Definitive version.
    • The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing), S. T. Joshi (ed.), Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1984. ISBN 0-87054-037-8. Definitive version.

Secondary sources


  • Harms, Daniel (1998). "Arkham". The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed. ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. pp. 10. ISBN 1-56882-119-0. 
  • Joshi, S. T.; David E. Schultz (2001). "Arkham". An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-313-31578-7. 

Web sites


  1. ^ Cf. "About Arkham House" web site.
  2. ^ The actual location of Arkham is a subject of debate. Will Murray places Arkham in central Massachusetts and suggests that it is based on the small village of Oakham. Robert D. Marten rejects this claim and equates Arkham with Salem, and thinks that Arkham is named for Arkwright, Rhode Island (which is now part of Fiskville). Lovecraft himself, in a letter to F. Lee Baldwin dated April 29, 1934, wrote that "[my] mental picture of Arkham is of a town something like Salem in atmosphere [and] style of houses, but more hilly [and] with a college (which Salem [lacks]) ... I place the town [and] the imaginary Miskatonic [River] somewhere north of Salem—perhaps near Manchester." (Joshi & Schultz, pp. 6–7.)
  3. ^ August Derleth stated in his writings: "Arkham ... was Lovecraft’s own well-known, widely-used place-name for legend-haunted Salem, Massachusetts, in his remarkable fiction". (Cf. "About Arkham House" web site.)
  4. ^ Joseph Morales notes in his "A Short Tour of Lovecraftian New England" (web site) that Danvers "is mentioned in passing in some of Lovecraft's stories, and might also be the inspiration for HPL's fictional Arkham Sanitarium".

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

by Robert Ervin Howard
First puublished in Weird Tales (August 1932)

Drowsy and dull with age the houses blink
On aimless streets the rat-gnawed years forget-
But what inhuman figures leer and slink
Down the old alleys when the moon has set?

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