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Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in Arkham, a fictitious town in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is named after the Miskatonic River (also fictional). After first appearing in the H. P. Lovecraft 1922 serial "Herbert West–Reanimator", the school appeared in numerous horror stories in the Cthulhu Mythos by Lovecraft and other writers. The story "The Dunwich Horror" implies that Miskatonic University is a highly prestigious university, on par with Harvard University, and that Harvard and Miskatonic are the two most popular schools for the children of the Massachusetts “Old Gentry”. The university also appears in role-playing games based on the mythos.
Miskatonic University is modeled on the northeastern Ivy league universities of Lovecraft's day, perhaps Brown University of his hometown Providence which Lovecraft himself wished to attend. In Lovecraft's stories, the university's student body is implied to be all-male, much like northeastern universities of Lovecraft's time. The only female student mentioned is Asenath Waite, of Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1937).
To represent Miskatonic University in their film adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness in 2009, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society chose Mount Holyoke College. The film uses Pasadena City College for interior scenes of the school.
Miskatonic University is famous for its collection of occult books. The library holds one of the very few genuine copies of the Necronomicon. Other tomes include the Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt and the fragmentary Book of Eibon.
Miskatonic's medical school features in "Herbert West—Reanimator".
Interpretations by other authors and fans differ as to whether mystical and Mythos studies at the University are covert or overt. In the first interpretation, which follows Lovecraftian literary traditions, Miskatonic University is an apparently ordinary school whose occult undercurrent only occasionally breaks the surface. In the second, more common in comedic and RPG works (and in Miskatonic University paraphernalia), Mythos and strange elements are overtly displayed and form part of its campus identity.
The following table lists the professors of Miskatonic University and their respective departments from Lovecraft's stories.
|Dr. Henry Armitage||Chief Librarian||"The Dunwich Horror"|
|Professor Ferdinand C. Ashley||Ancient History||"The Shadow Out of Time"|
|Professor Atwood||Physics||At the Mountains of Madness|
|Professor Dexter||Zoology||"The Whisperer in Darkness"|
|Professor William Dyer||Geology||At the Mountains of Madness|
"The Shadow Out of Time"
|Professor Ellery||Chemistry||"The Dreams in the Witch House"|
|Professor Tyler M. Freeborn||Anthropology||"The Shadow Out of Time"|
|Dr. Allen Halsey||Dean of the Medical School||"Herbert West–Reanimator"|
|Professor Lake||Biology||At the Mountains of Madness|
|Dr. Francis Morgan||Archaeology||"The Dunwich Horror"|
|Professor Frank H. Pabodie||Engineering||At the Mountains of Madness|
|Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee||Political Economy||"The Shadow Out of Time"|
|Professor Wingate Peaslee||Psychology||"The Shadow Out of Time"|
|Professor Warren Rice||Languages||"The Dunwich Horror"|
|Professor Upham||Mathematics||"The Dreams in the Witch House"|
|"Old" Waldron||College doctor||"The Dreams in the Witch House"|
|Albert N. Wilmarth||English||At the Mountains of Madness|
"The Whisperer in Darkness"
|Tony Alwyn||Assistant Librarian||"Beyond the Threshold"|
|Dr. Dan Cain||Hospital||Bride of Re-Animator|
|Randolph Carter||Unstated||"The New Traveller's Almanac"|
|Professor Alice Derleth||Occult Sciences||"The Collect Call of Cathulhu"|
|Dr. T.W. Erwin||Mathematics||"The Revolution's Fine" in The Avengers vol. 1, #83|
|Dr. Graves||Hospital||Bride of Re-Animator|
|Dr. Carl Hill||Medical School||Re-Animator|
|Professor Madison Haringa||Ancient languages||The Damned Highway|
|Ms. Doris Horus||Librarian (as of June 26, 1969)||The Illuminatus! Trilogy|
|Professor Ted Klein||Unstated||"The Collect Call of Cathulhu"|
|Professor Lake||Ocean biology||The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu|
|Professor Seneca Lapham||Anthropology||"The Lurker at the Threshold"|
|Dr. Cyrus Llanfer||Chief Librarian (following Armitage)||"The Return of Hastur"|
|Professor Joshua N. Marsh||Anthropology||The Illuminatus! Trilogy|
|Professor Dominique 'Mo' O'Brien||Philosophy||The Atrocity Archives|
The Jennifer Morgue
The Fuller Memorandum
|Ward Phillips (I)||First President (late 17th century)||"The Lurker at the Threshold"|
|Ward Phillips (II)||Chief Librarian (early 19th century)||"The Lurker at the Threshold"|
|Professor Laban Shrewsbury||Anthropology and philosophy||"The Trail of Cthulhu"|
|Keith Brian Swerdlov||Archaeology||Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars|
|Ebenezer Tillinghast||Geology||"The Smoker from the Shadows"|
|Dr. Henry West MD||Necrobiology||Splatterhouse (2010 video game)|
|Nathaniel Pickman Wingate||Physics||Kamillions|
|Professor Brightmeer||Chemistry||Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land (2011 video game)|
|Harlan Ellison||Subnuclear Sciences||Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series finale Come Undone|
Chaosium Press published several guides to the 1920s Miskatonic University. The first was a lengthy section in 'Arkham Unveiled' (1990) by Keith Herber with others and put a full university setting around existing H. P. Lovecraftian Mythos references. The second was Miskatonic University (1995), a full-length book by Sandy Antunes. Subtitled 'Where Science Meets the Mythos', this edition tried to merge and reconcile the Chaosium setting of 'Arkham Unveiled', the original Mythos sources, and historical 'period' details derived especially from 1920s Boston University, while also adding new items to the setting. A copy of this out-of-print book is in Boston University's Special Collections, and Chaosium granted rights in 1997 to the Miskatonic University website to reuse some of this material for their website. The third was a new edition of 'Miskatonic University' (2005) by 'Sam Johnson & friends' published in late 2005. This edition reworked the previous book and added more mystical and mythos game elements.
Joan Stanley published a small book, Ex Libris Miskatonici: A Catalogue of Selected Items from the Special Collections in the Miskatonic University Library, which is a researched historical fiction reference for canonical Mythos book references regarding MU.
Work was started at Chaosium on a sourcebook Arkham 1990 including a modern-day Miskatonic University, but that has not (as of 2006) yet been published.
Mottos for MU have ranged from "Ex Ignorantia Ad Sapientiam; Ex Luce Ad Tenebras" (Out Of Ignorance Into Wisdom; Out Of Light Into Darkness) to "A Small Sacrifice for Knowledge", and their mascot has been stated as everything from the Badger to the Fighting Cephalopods (as in, "Go ′Pods!").