By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Horror Short Story Review: "Hypnos" by H. P. Lovecraft

Below a quote from Baudelaire suggesting that people only sleep because they don’t know how dangerous it is, the unnamed narrator of this short story, a sculptor, tells the reader he’s afraid to sleep. He then talks of his friend, a man he met in a railway station. The man seems to have fallen in some sort of seizure. The narrator chases away the merely curious. When the friend opens his eyes, he knew such eyes “must have looked fully upon the grandeur and the terror of realms beyond normal consciousness and reality.”

He invites the man home and together they explore the nature of the realm beyond consciousness. His friend ingests drugs. He excels in his exploration. The narrator can sense him when he’s unconscious without seeing him; he sees what he calls a memory face. It is youthful, beautiful, godlike. The friend passes through barriers. The narrator cannot make it through one, but the friend warns him away from it. He changes. Whereas he only liked solitude, he now craves company. He cannot bear to be alone. He’s terrified of falling asleep. One day, he falls asleep, and the narrator cannot rouse him—

This is an odd, sad little story that ends with a final irony that’s not easily foreseen. The language gets abstract and perhaps a bit hard to follow. It is part of Lovecraft’s dream cycle, exploring the nature of the unconscious and the forbidden. While not in his top tier of memorable tales, this is worth the read, maybe on a chilly winter’s day with a cup of hot chocolate, easy on the opium.


Title: “Hypnos” written in 1922 first published in the May 1923 issue of National Amateur .

Author: H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)

Source: ISFDB




Last review: “No. 252 Rue M. le Prince” by Ralph Adams Cram

Last Lovecraft review: “The Music of Erich Zann”


©2015 Denise Longrie

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alexdg1 wrote on November 19, 2015, 12:00 PM

"Easy on the opium."

That saying applies equally to Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique," if memories from a music appreciation course serve.

MegL wrote on November 19, 2015, 12:47 PM

Funny, I loved sci fi when I was younger but never really could get "into" Lovecraft.

Rufuszen wrote on November 19, 2015, 1:19 PM

Reading the cover in the picture, I never realised he wrote so many stories. Should be able to find a few I like!

msiduri wrote on November 19, 2015, 3:29 PM

I'm not sure about Berlioz. I don't know that Lovecraft used opium, but the drug is alluded to in more than one story, and never with a happy ending.

msiduri wrote on November 19, 2015, 3:30 PM

Not everyone can. I understand completely. But in many of his stories, he casts a wonderful, atmospheric spell that I find irresistible.

msiduri wrote on November 19, 2015, 3:31 PM

I hope so. He even wrote a few humor stories, parodies.

alexdg1 wrote on November 19, 2015, 6:34 PM

Stephen King once wrote that Lovecraft was good at writing extremely creepy stories.

Incidentally, didn't Lovecraft write "The Color Out of Space"?

grandma20121 wrote on November 19, 2015, 6:56 PM

Hmm I never heard of this book although it sounds quite interesting

luisga814 wrote on November 19, 2015, 7:08 PM

Why he is afraid to sleep? Do he need hypnotism before going to sleep? That is a horror story seems challenging to read on.

alexdg1 wrote on November 19, 2015, 8:21 PM

In the program notes for his work, Berlioz describes the tale he tells musically as the protagonist's opium-related nightmare.

msiduri wrote on November 20, 2015, 10:13 AM

Well, now that's a bit of a hint, isn't it?