Randolph Carter is a fictional character created by H.P. Lovecraft. Carter appears in many of Lovecraft's writings including Through the Gates of the Silver Key, The Statement of Randolph Carter, and many of Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories.
Carter is descended from old Arkham stock originating from the old wizard Edmund Carter who fled the Salem witch trials. During his childhood Randolph Carter visited the old Carter homestead often, then owned by Christopher Carter, and spent much time around the hills and exploring the caves nearby including the "Snake-Den," a local cave. The local farmers gossiped after Randolph's own disappeared that he had changed somehow when he was nine after spending a "memorable day" in the Snakes Den, where he said he had found a secret fissure leading to a secret inner cave.
It is also known that Carter began his long experience in the Dreamlands as a child, visiting many places that he strove to revisit later in life.
Interest in Mysticism and the Disappearance of Harley Warren
It is unclear exactly what the nine year old Randolph Carter experienced in the Snake-Den, but it sent him into the study of mysticism, and a career as a dreamer and novelist. Early in life he wrote much and traveled the fabled landscapes of his dreams. But as he grew older he became disillusioned with the world, forgetting the path to the Dreamlands. Becoming moody and desperate for a return to the state of beauty he had found in his sleep he fled to mysticism and the occult. For five years Carter helped Harley Warren study the Naacal language of the Himalayan priests and the deeper and darker subjects of mysticism. Many of Warren's library was in Arabic keeping Carter from unearthing the truths that Warren struggled with. Though after the fact Carter denied any memory of the events besides what he saw leading up to it, he claims Warren became interested in a rare book in the Naacal language from India. After study of the book Warren took Carter with him to an old graveyard in The Big Cypress Swamp off of the Gainesville pike out of Boston. The duo were seen by a passerby as they walked carrying spades, a radio device, and bundles of wire.
The two found an old graveyard, and at a particular tomb cracked it open. Warren, with the book descended into the tomb below carrying a radio hand set while Carter waited at the top with the other end of the radio. After sever hours Warren began frantically warning Carter to close up the tomb and flee. Carter frozen with fear stayed until the line went silent, after Warren hinted at legions of nameless things. Carter shouted into the receiver for some time until he got a response. Some horrible voice called back "YOU FOOL, WARREN IS DEAD!"
Carter was later found on the side of the Gainesville pike unconscious. After it was discovered that Harley Warren was missing Carter was taken in for questioning but was later released. Afterwards he returned to his ancestral home of Arkham " the terrible witch-haunted old town of his forefathers in New England, and had experiences in the dark, amidst the hoary willows and tottering gambrel roofs, which made him seal forever certain pages in the diary of a wild-minded ancestor."
Randolph Carter disappeared on the seventh of October 1928, after visiting his ancestral Arkham home and the "Snake-Den" a strange cave near by. According to his old servant Parks, who died two years later, Carter was led by an "strangely aromatic and hideously carved box" containing an old parchment and a silver key. Before leaving Carter claimed the parchment would lead him to his lost child hood, filled with dreams and peaceful adventure.
On the day he disappeared he returned to the Snakes-Den and the secret cave behind it. There he saw for a moment a door with a hand above it, alike to the door in The pillared city of Irem. Using a ceremony with the key Carter became the Carter at nine who had visited the cave in 1883. Leaving the cave the boy went back home, had dinner with his uncle and aunt. The next day he returned to the cave and repeated the spell this time going deeper to meet the "Guide."
In the Necronomicon the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred describes the Guide:
“And while there are those,” the mad Arab had written, “who have dared to seek glimpses beyond the Veil, and to accept HIM as a Guide, they would have been more prudent had they avoided commerce with HIM; for it is written in the Book of Thoth how terrific is the price of a single glimpse. Nor may those who pass ever return, for in the Vastnesses transcending our world are Shapes of darkness that seize and bind. The Affair that shambleth about in the night, the Evil that defieth the Elder Sign, the Herd that stand watch at the secret portal each tomb is known to have, and that thrive on that which groweth out of the tenants within—all these Blacknesses are lesser than HE Who guardeth the Gateway; HE Who will guide the rash one beyond all the worlds into the Abyss of unnamable Devourers. For HE is’UMR AT-TAWIL, the Most Ancient One, which the scribe rendereth as THE PROLONGED OF LIFE.”
Within the First Gate is an area containing several hexagonal platforms where non-human figures sleep and dream. Around them paces the Guide who waits for minds to take through the Ultimate Gate. The guide questioned Carter about his wish to continue through the "Ultimate Gate" and Carter wishing to discover more agreed. Carter sat on one of the hexagonal platforms while the guide directed the other creatures, who call themselves the Ancient Ones, to dream the Ultimate Gate open. After several non audible chants the Ancient Ones opened the Gate and Carter was able to go through.
Past the Ultimate Gate Carter found himself in a new dimension. He could experience being all of his "selves" at the same time and was able to see glimpses of different scenes. In the abyss of the dimension he came up to an entity, which many cults call Yog-Sothoth. The Entity explained to Carter that all matter and time of the human world are simply illusions of the higher dimensions. That each dimension is a cut from its higher counter parts. "The cube and sphere, of three dimensions, are thus cut from corresponding forms of four dimensions that men know only through guesses and dreams; and these in turn are cut from forms of five dimensions, and so on up to the dizzy and reachless heights of archetypal infinity." Likewise time and change are simply how humans look at a part of a whole. Like the shape of a cone changes when it is cut at different angles, an observer looks at time from different angles and therefore sees the same thing as many different things.
Eventually after learning much from the being, Carter requested to be sent to one of his distant visions, a planet of snout nosed creatures who lived in large cities. There he became the wizard Zkauba on the planet Yaddith. In the body of a Yaddith wizard Carter was trapped, as the power of Silver Key was a product of Hyperborea, which as yet didn't exist. He spent much of the life time of the wizard trying to find a way back to earth, bodily or mentally. He created a crazy plan to return to Earth and decipher the parchment Carter had left in his car. He created a tough light-beam craft that could take him all the way to earth, as well as a way to put himself in suspended animation for the duration of the flight. Similarly he worked on projecting himself to the appropriate time for his travel, as close to 1928 as possible, and a wax mask and costume to disguise his strange form from human eyes.
Luckily his plan worked and he returned to earth unhurt in 1930. He carefully reinserted himself into the company of mystics and began translating the ancient R'lyehian parchment that he hoped would let him return to his body. Discovering that his estate was to be sold off he disguised himself as the Swami Chandraputra and tried to convince the two mystics and his distant cousin that he was in fact Randolph Carter. When his cousin ripped off Carter's mask and died of shock, Carter momentarily lost control of the alien wizards mind and became Zkauba again. Zkauba realized that an old clock in the apartments of Etienne de Marigny was actually the disguised light-beam craft and used it to escape, never to be seen again.
Randolph Carter's Estate
After disappearing, several of Carter's fellow mystics argued that he still lived in the Dreamlands as the king in Illek-Vad. The most prominent of these mystics, Ward Phillips, tried his best to stop Carter's heir, a distant cousin Ernest B. Aspinwall, from breaking up the Carter estate. After a long legal debate Philips, Aspinwall, the creole mystic Etienne-Laurent de Marigny and Swami Chandraputra, a high-caste Brahmin, met at Etienne de Marigny's home to discuss and split up the Carter estate. There the Brahmin reveled what he knew of Carter's disappearance.
According to the Swami Chandraputra Carter had followed instructions found in the Necronomicon and other books related to the Key to discover a way to recover moments in time. Using these methods he found himself in the body of an alien wizard. To escape this he returned to earth in a light-beam craft. Disguising himself he attempted to translate the parchment he had found to discover a way to return to his human form. Before he could he heard of his estate being sold off and sent the Swami. At this point Aspinwall became furious and tried to remove the Swami's mask. The Swami desperately trying to hold him back revealed that it was actually he, Randolph Carter. Aspinwall even angrier ripped the mask off and died from shock seeing the snouted head of the alien underneath. In the moment of excitement Carter lost control of the alien body and the the alien mind that still inhabited it took control and entered a strange clock in Etienne's parlor to disappear forever.
The Swami was declared a criminal with intent of stealing Carter's estate. The estate itself remains unsettled.
- The Statement of Randolph Carter, H.P. Lovecraft
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, H.P. Lovecraft
- Through the Gates of the Silver Key, H.P. Lovecraft
- Lovecraft, H. P. Tales. New York: Library of America, 2005. Print.
- Loucks, Donovan K. "The H.P. Lovecraft Archive." The H.P. Lovecraft Archive. N.p., 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Sept. 2013. http://www.hplovecraft.com