Dunwich is a fictional town that appeared in the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). Dunwich is found in the fictional Miskatonic River Valley of Massachusetts, part of the imaginary region sometimes called Lovecraft Country. The inhabitants are depicted as inbred, uneducated, and very superstitious, while the town itself is described as economically poor with many decrepit and abandoned buildings.
Lovecraft may have named the town after the lost port of Dunwich in Suffolk, England. This town was the subject (though not mentioned by name) of Algernon Swinburne's poem "By the North Sea", which was in an anthology owned by Lovecraft. This Dunwich also appears in Arthur Machen's novella The Terror (1917), which Lovecraft is known to have read.
Lovecraft also could have been inspired by other New England towns with names ending in -wich, such as Ipswich near Salem, Massachusetts, East and West Greenwich in Rhode Island, and Greenwich, Massachusetts, a decaying rural village that has since been flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Although the English town is pronounced "DUN-nich" (similar to the New England Greenwiches), Lovecraft never specified how he preferred his Dunwich be pronounced. <ref>Joshi, The Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, note #14, p. 108.</ref>
Lovecraft locates Dunwich in "north central Massachusetts", found by travellers "tak[ing] the wrong fork at the junction of the Aylesbury pike just beyond Dean's Corners." Aylesbury and Dean's Corners are both Lovecraft creations, neither of which appears in any other of his stories, though Aylesbury is mentioned in his poem sequence Fungi From Yuggoth. <ref>Joshi, Index to the Fiction & Poetry of H. P. Lovecraft, pp. 11, 17</ref>
"The Dunwich Horror" describes the region around Dunwich as "a lonely and curious country," broken up with "ravines of problematical depth" and "stretches of marshland that one instinctively dislikes". There is dense natural growth and abundant wildlife such as whippoorwills, fireflies and bullfrogs, though "the planted fields appear singularly few and barren." The "sparsely scattered houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation," while the "gnarled, solitary" inhabitants are "silent and furtive".
Lovecraft describes the village of Dunwich itself:
- Across a covered bridge one sees a small village huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders at the cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that of the neighbouring region. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin, and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge, yet there is no way to avoid it. Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odour about the village street, as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. It is always a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the base of the hills and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the Aylesbury pike. Afterward one sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.
After "The Dunwich Horror", Lovecraft did not mention Dunwich in his fiction again, though the town does appear in his poem "The Ancient Track" (1929).
The town was used as a setting by August Derleth in his posthumous "collaborations" with Lovecraft, notably in "The Shuttered Room" (1959).
Many Cthulhu Mythos stories by other writers have also been set in Dunwich, some of which are collected in The Dunwich Cycle.
The town is also the setting of the loose film adaptation of Lovecraft's story, also called The Dunwich Horror (1970 film), starring Dean Stockwell and Sandra Dee, and the made-for-TV The Dunwich Horror (2009 film).
The video game The Bard's Tale features a town named Dunwich in which many occult events occur.
- a fellow in Dunwich, MA, to whom Pop had once sold a so-called spirit trumpet for ninety dollars; the fellow had taken the spirit trumpet to the Dunwich cemetery and must have heard something exceedingly unpleasant, because he had been raving in a padded cell in Arkham for almost six years now, totally insane.
Other fictional settings from the stories of H. P. Lovecraft:
- Definitive version.
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