Column: Cthulhu Eats the World: Dark Adventure Radio Theater – The Dreams in the Witch House

By Brian M. Sammons

Lovecraft, H.P., author; Radio adaptation by Sean Branney and Andrew Leman. Dark Adventure Radio Theatre: The Dreams in the Witch House. The H.P. Lovecraft Society, 2014.

Here comes more auditory awesomeness for the Summer of Screams from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. 2014 was a very witchy year for the HPLHS. First, they released the rock opera version of Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House and now comes this radio play of the same tale, their latest release from their Dark Adventure Radio Theater line. If you’re interested in the rocking opera, you can find my review for it here. However, today let’s talk about the story that inspired the music – and this new rendition of it.

I think I say this every time I talk about a release from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s Dark Adventure Radio Theater, but just in case you’ve never read any of those other reviews, it bears repeating here: This is not an audiobook. Not that I have anything against audiobooks – on the contrary, I like them – but this is a fully immersive and acted-out radio play. It has a full cast of actors, mood music, and sound effects. Radio plays really are a lost art form these days and I’m as tickled as someone being carried away by a nightgaunt (Real Lovecraftians will get that) that the HPLHS is still bringing them out. The fact that they are doing it with some of my favorite stories is just a bonus. A really big, awesome bonus, but I digress.

If you have yet to read Lovecraft’s original story, “The Dreams in the Witch House,” what are you waiting for and why are you on a website called the Innsmouth Free Press? Heck, you can even find the story for free on the internet, so you have no excuse – go read it. Now. No really, we’ll wait ….

And you’re back, or you’ve already read the story, or I’m off my meds again and just arguing with the voices in my head, so let’s move on. “Dreams” is about young Walter Gilman, inquisitive student at Miskatonic University (Yeah, that’s never a good combination), who moves into an old house because its former owner is the infamous witch Keziah Mason. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Bad ol’ Keziah isn’t exactly dead and soon, our student is being haunted by ghastly dreams from beyond time and space, not to mention a horrible rat-thing with a human face and hands. Where the story goes from there, I’ll leave it to you to discover for yourself.

Now, of course, I recommend you read the Lovecraft story, but if you want to experience the horror of this Witch House through this radio play, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. That’s because the HPLS has done their usual wonderful job in adapting the written word to the spoken word. The only changes made were to fit the story better into an audio format, or to add a bit of a chuckle here or there. The actors all sell their performances and the creepy soundtrack by Troy Sterling Nies is a perfect match for this horrifying story.

In addition to the excellent radio play, the HPLHS always adds a few physical goodies with their CDs, like the extras on a DVD. This time around, you get a page from an occult tome about Keziah, a page of sketches and notes from Walter’s journal, a story from Arkham’s local paper about the dreaded witch house, and – the best of the best – a photo of the desiccated corpse of Brown Jenkin. Who is Brown Jenkin? Read (or listen to) the story, already! If you play the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, then any of these would make for Grade-A handouts for your next adventure. If that’s not your thing, then just consider them some nifty knickknacks.

Final Verdict: The HPLHS’ Dark Adventure Radio Theater production of “The Dreams in the Witch House” is another amazing audio experience from a long line of awesome radio plays. It is a must-have for any fan of Lovecraft and a great way to introduce the weird world of H.P. Lovecraft to the uninitiated. Consider it highly recommended.