In the 1920s and ’30s, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos not only started a new genre of horror but also introduced some of the most iconic aliens in all of Science Fiction.
While it’s fairly common to find plushies in the form of Cthulhu at Walmart, you will be hard pressed to find any of the other entities that make up his vast pantheon reduced to such a cute, plushy form.
The mythos has been immensely influential to science fiction and horror writers alike, inspiring the likes of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Ridley Scott’s Alien film, and many of Guillermo Del Toro’s fascinating creature designs.
And the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG is one of the most popular roleplaying games on the market currently, coming in 3rd place in the US market and even eclipsing the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons in Japan.
This incredible table-top experience follows human players who take the role of investigators that stumble onto nefarious plots orchestrated by evil cults determined to raise Cthulhu and his brethren from their ancient resting places.
But what if, in real life, you were one of those unlucky investigators? What if you were to encounter the god-like entities and aliens in Lovecraft’s mythos in real life? Which ones would you be able to survive, and which ones would more than likely reduce you to a raving maniac, or a pile of gelatinous goo?
10. The Mi-Go
“They were pinkish things about five feet long; with crustaceous bodies bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membranous wings and several sets of articulate limbs, and with a sort of convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antenna, where a head would ordinarily be…”
– H.P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness
For the unlucky investigator, stumbling upon one of the Mi-Go‘s many secret bases is a risky endeavor. The Mi-Go are an interstellar species whose primary base is located on a planet in our Solar System they call Yuggoth where they mine for rare metals. We know this world as Pluto.
But they also have many bases on Earth.
While the Mi-Go lack the reality-bending power of many of the Lovecraftian entities cataloged on this list, they are brilliant scientists.
Though these strange, alien creatures seem to be insect-like in appearance, their characteristics are more in line with certain fungi on Earth. Despite being an interstellar species, the Mi-Go do not travel the cosmos in ships, but rather, with their own immense wings.
The Mi-Go have been known to perform twisted experiments on human subjects. In many cases, this results in the unlucky human subject having their brain extracted and placed into a tube-shaped metallic device. This device can be attached to various peripherals to allow the subject to speak, see, and listen to their environment.
An investigator would be lucky to escape these eager alien surgeons with their body and brain intact.
9. The Elder Things
The Elder Things in At the Mountains of Madness are another example of an interstellar species who traveled to Earth by way of their own membranous wings. Their appearance is somewhat plantlike. Their bodies are rigid, barrel-shaped things from which spoke-like appendages radiate from.
For millions of years, the Elder Things ruled our planet, establishing great cities on all the major continents and in the unknown depths of the ocean. Like the Mi-Go, the Elder Things were brilliant scientists who may have accidentally created life on Earth and are responsible for the engineering of the dreaded Shoggoths that they used to build their vast empire.
Throughout their mysterious, eons-spanning civilization, they waged wars against Cthulhu’s Star Spawn, the Flying Polyps, and the very Shoggoths that helped build their vast empire—who rebelled against their creators.
Over time, however, the Elder Things slowly degraded, losing the ability to travel through space and eventually, dying out almost entirely. They left behind vast ruins, the largest of which rests in a mysterious, reality-defying set of mountains in Antarctica.
While it is unlikely that an investigator would ever stumble upon an Elder Thing in those vast ruins, there are rumors of survivors living in the ocean. These survivors maintain a scientific mind, and are curious to take apart things both living and dead, especially humans.
Such an encounter would more than likely be deadly, but there is at least a chance of survival.
“The nightmarish, plastic column of fetid, black iridescence oozed tightly onward…A shapeless congerie of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us…”
– H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountain of Madness
Shoggoths are massive, shapeshifting protoplasmic monstrosities that can reach up to 15 feet in diameter. If an investigator were to have the misfortune of meeting one, they might describe their charging form as something akin to a locomotive. And it would very likely be the last thing they ever laid eyes on.
Though they were created by the Elder Things to be mindless instruments, the Shoggoths steadily intelligence over time until at last they rebelled against their creators and destroyed their once great civilization.
Looking to the Necronomicon, investigators might take comfort in the claims of its late, mad author, Abdul Alhazred, that no such beings exist on Earth. But they would be fools, because, tucked away in Earth’s unknown cervices and great ruins, some Shoggoths still live.
It is possible to survive an encounter with a Shoggoth, if only because their size and habit of charging and destroying everything in their path make them easy to spot.
7. Star Spawn
“They all lay in stone houses in their great city of R’lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready…”
– H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
The Star Spawn take on the likeness of Cthulhu himself. These creatures are often described with cephalopod-like features, as well as two glowing eyes and a set of great wings. In the feverish visions described by artists under the influence of Cthulhu’s mind-warping presence, these things have also been described as possessing humanoid bodies, but this is not always the case.
Though they are not as large as Cthulhu, many texts suggest that they are from the same species. Given that, any human foolish enough to face a Star Spawn may be subject to similar feats of strength and magic.
6. The Haunter of the Dark
“I see it – coming here – hell-wind – titan blur – black wings – Yog Sothoth save me – the three-lobed burning eye…”
– H.P. Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark
Poor Robert Blake made an unfortunate discovery upon entering an abandoned Gothic cathedral in Providence, Rhode Island. Staring into a mysterious box holding an otherworldly black gem, he saw terrible visions of alien worlds and sunken cities. And, unfortunately for him, this unknowing act also unleashed a creature often thought to be one of Nyarlothotep’s oldest forms.
When an investigator peers into the Shining Trapezohedron, they experience visions, but at the cost of releasing the Haunter of the Dark, a dangerous entity that establishes a psychic link with the one who opens the box. The affected investigator will begin seeing visions of the creature’s activities.
For Robert Blake, this strange connection to a being engulfed in smoke, with great shapeless wings, meant that he had a front-row seat to its escape from its cathedral prison in the midst of a violent thunderstorm.
In the chaos, the creature made its way to Blake’s apartment.
Later, he was found dead, an expression of complete terror written upon his face.
The only discernable feature of the Haunter of the Dark seems to be a single crimson eye with three lobes.
Encountering this entity could be deadly, especially if the investigator has made a psychic connection with it, but the creature does have a weakness. The Haunter of the Dark avoids light sources at all costs.
So, you know, carry a flashlight and hope for the best.
5. Cthulhu: Great priest of the Great Old Ones
“A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”
– H.P Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
According to records kept by the Elder Things, inscribed in great murals in the ruins of their Antarctic city, Great Cthulhu came from a place known as Xoth with its Star Spawn 350 million years ago. It was then that it forged the terrible city of R’lyeh and various other places whose names have been lost to time.
At some point, something caused the corpse city of R’lyeh to sink beneath the ocean, entombing the Great Priest of the Old Ones and other members of his race in the Pacific Ocean, where he lies dead and dreaming, waiting for the stars to be right once more so that he and his Star Spawn may rise again to rule the Earth.
Artists who have possessed idols made in the being’s image have described Cthulhu in many different ways. These artists are rumored to suffer intense, hellish visions when under the influence of Great Cthulhu. Though Great Cthulhu may not be the most powerful member of the Old Gods, there can be no doubt that unlucky investigators who find themselves facing down the Great Priest himself are certain to be doomed, even if they survive the encounter.
4. The King in Yellow (Hastur)
“He stands in state upon the balcony. He has no face, and is twice as tall as a man, He wears pointed shoes under his tattered, fantastically coloured robes, and a streamer of silk appears to fall from the pointed tip of his hood…At times he appears to be winged; at other, haloed.”
– James Blish, “More Light”
Hastur the Unnameable has three main forms. His home is thought to be near the star Alderbaran, where he lives beneath the sea. There are some who believe that there is some kinship between Hastur and Great Cthulhu; others who believe that the beings are one in the same, but split in two knowing halves. Whatever the case, Hastur has far more freedom than Great Cthulhu, and may have designs on destroying the cosmic order that the Old Ones have maintained since Azathoth accidentally created our universe.
The King in Yellow may be the most famous and dangerous manifestation of all as it possesses “free will” apart from Hastur and its two other avatars. Ruling a kingdom known as Carcosa, whose sky is dominated by twin black suns, the King in Yellow spreads his influence through an infectious cult. Their main means of recruitment is to give potential members a small sigil with profound psychic properties.
Known as the Yellow Sign, this strange marker is rumored to have a corrupting influence on mortals. Those who have seen the Yellow Sign are considered to be “chosen” by Hastur’s cult and are rumored to fall under the King in Yellow’s influence.
Especially weak-willed investigators who find themselves in the possession of such a sigil may find themselves raving mad within a month’s time, even if they don’t end up serving the King in Yellow directly.
Nyarlathotep, otherwise known as the “Crawling Chaos” is sometimes considered to be the most powerful entity in the mythos. But unlike other entities, Nyarlathotep possesses one thousand different forms, each of which maintains a will of its own, yet all are guided by one single will that is Nyarlathotep.
Nyarlathotep seems to favor appearing to human beings, often taking shapes that conform to their cultures. His avatars will offer promises of riches or the fulfillment of an unlucky investigator’s deepest desires. But these promises always lead to the furthering of Nyarlothotep’s ultimate goal of sowing chaos and bringing about the return of the Great Old Ones.
Ultimately, to encounter Nyarlothotep in any of his forms is to court ruin, if not the very end of humanity as we know it. Nyarlathotep may not outright kill an investigator, but he will make them wish they were dead.
“He thought of the ancient legends of Ultimate Chaos, at whose center sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a daemonic flute held by nameless paws.”
– H.P. Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark
Azathoth exists at the center of the universe and appears different to anyone who views his ancient, star-sized body. He is the most powerful being in the mythos but lacks any knowledge on how to consciously use that power.
Many believe that he has been there since the beginning of time. He dreams our universe into being, and should he ever wake from his eternal slumber, the dream that is our reality would crumble.
To prevent this, the blind idiot god is constantly lulled to sleep by amorphous beings known as Servitors of the Outer Gods, whose tendrils rap about ancient flutes that lull the mindless force of cosmic nature to sleep.
In the unlikely event that an investigator gazes upon Azathoth’s form and somehow survives, they are sure to end up a raving lunatic for the rest of their days.
1. Yog Sothoth
Sometimes described as being comprised of orbs, or “holes” in the fabric of space-time, Yog Sothoth’s true size is unknown, and while the deity might not have the all-encompassing power of Azathoth, it is said that it is capable of instantly comprehending and knowing anything.
Yog Sothoth dwells between the barriers between dimensions, manipulating the laws of reality, and even possesses the power to break them.
While Azathoth is able to create and destroy entire universes, Yog Sothoth is unable to manipulate matter on such a large scale. But the being’s omnipotence seems to suggest that in some ways, it has near equal power to Azathoth. Some have suggested that while Azathoth dreams our universe into being, Yog Sothoth is the connecting tissue that exists between dimensions.
Yog Sothoth is often referred to as “The Key and the Gate” and is rumored to have spawned many entities that can be found in the dreaded Necronomicon—including that of Hastur. But, the being seems to have a keen interest in taking biological form, having done so in one particularly gruesome case in a rural town called Dunwich back in the years 1913-1928. More often than not, these offspring take on the characteristics of their master, and their horrific, amorphous, mouth-covered forms are usually invisible to the naked eye.
The reason for this fascination with siring half-mortal offspring is unknown, but some believe that this is the key to Yog Sothoth destroying the shackles forced on it by the Old Ones, to bring forth a new age, where humanity will cast aside its morals and the Old Gods will return to our universe.
In this way, Yog Sothoth may very well be the most dangerous being in all of the mythos.