Miskatonic University

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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 H. P. Lovecraft's 1922 story "Herbert West–Reanimator", the school appeared in numerous Cthulhu Mythos stories 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.

Campus[edit]

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.[1] 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).[2]

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.[3] The film uses Pasadena City College for interior scenes of the school.[4]

Miskatonic University is famous for its collection of occult books. The library holds one of the very few genuine copies of the Necronomicon.[5] 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.

Faculty[edit]

Lovecraft's work[edit]

The following table lists the professors of Miskatonic University and their respective departments from Lovecraft's stories.[6]

Faculty (early 20th century)
NameDepartmentAppearances
Dr. Henry ArmitageChief Librarian"The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Ferdinand C. AshleyAncient History"The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor AtwoodPhysicsAt the Mountains of Madness
Professor DexterZoology"The Whisperer in Darkness"
Professor William DyerGeologyAt the Mountains of Madness
"The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor ElleryChemistry"The Dreams in the Witch House"
Professor Tyler M. FreebornAnthropology"The Shadow Out of Time"
Dr. Allen HalseyDean of the Medical School"Herbert West–Reanimator"
Professor LakeBiologyAt the Mountains of Madness
Dr. Francis MorganArchaeology"The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Frank H. PabodieEngineeringAt the Mountains of Madness
Professor Nathaniel Wingate PeasleePolitical Economy"The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor Wingate PeasleePsychology"The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor Warren RiceLanguages"The Dunwich Horror"
Professor UphamMathematics"The Dreams in the Witch House"
"Old" WaldronCollege doctor"The Dreams in the Witch House"
Albert N. WilmarthEnglishAt the Mountains of Madness
"The Whisperer in Darkness"

Other authors' work[edit]

NameDepartmentAppearances
Tony AlwynAssistant Librarian"Beyond the Threshold"
Dr. Dan CainHospitalBride of Re-Animator
Randolph CarterUnstated"The New Traveller's Almanac"
Professor Alice DerlethOccult Sciences"The Collect Call of Cathulhu"
Dr. T.W. ErwinMathematics"The Revolution's Fine" in The Avengers vol. 1, #83[7][8]
Dr. GravesHospitalBride of Re-Animator
Dr. Carl HillMedical SchoolRe-Animator
Professor Madison HaringaAncient languagesThe Damned Highway
Ms. Doris HorusLibrarian (as of June 26, 1969)The Illuminatus! Trilogy
Professor Ted KleinUnstated"The Collect Call of Cathulhu"
Professor LakeOcean biologyThe Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu
Professor Seneca LaphamAnthropology"The Lurker at the Threshold"
Dr. Cyrus LlanferChief Librarian (following Armitage)"The Return of Hastur"
Professor Joshua N. MarshAnthropologyThe Illuminatus! Trilogy
Professor Dominique 'Mo' O'BrienPhilosophyThe 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 ShrewsburyAnthropology and philosophy"The Trail of Cthulhu"
Professor William Wallace SpatesZoologyMerkabah Rider: Once Upon A Time In The Weird West
Keith Brian SwerdlovArchaeologyAlan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars
Ebenezer TillinghastGeology"The Smoker from the Shadows"
Dr. Henry West MDNecrobiologySplatterhouse (2010 video game)
Nathaniel Pickman WingatePhysicsKamillions
Professor BrightmeerChemistryCall of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land (2011 video game)
Harlan EllisonSubnuclear SciencesScooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series finale Come Undone

Reference guides[edit]

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[9] 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!").

Etymology[edit]

Lovecraft has declared that the word was "a jumble of Algonquin roots."[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ross Wells. 2002. EXploZion! iUniverse. p. 15
  2. ^ Pearsall, "Miskatonic University", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 281.
  3. ^ "Lights, Action, Horror at MHC". MHC News & Events. 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  4. ^ The Whisperer in Darkness. Dir. Sean Branney. 2011. DVD. Fungi, LLC, 2012. Special Features disc. "The Whisperer Behind the Scenes."
  5. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P (1980). A History of The Necronomicon. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press. ISBN 0-318-04715-2. 
  6. ^ A History of The Necronomicon. ISBN 0-318-04715-2., pp. 281–2. (List of professors.)
  7. ^ Avengers #83 reviewed on the Bronzeagebabies website.
  8. ^ T.W. Erwin's profile at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe
  9. ^ "Miskatonic University". website. 1997. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  10. ^ Harms, Daniel (2008). The Cthulhu mythos encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Lake Orion, MI: Elder Signs Press. p. 181. ISBN 1-934501-05-0. 

References[edit]