Lovecraft’s Nightmares

by wjw on February 21, 2017

H.P. Lovecraft was notoriously afraid of fish.  (As well as Jews, Italians, Irish, Negroes, and immigrants generally.)

But Lovecraft was afraid of ordinary fish.  Cod, for example, or maybe prawns.  What he didn’t know was that the sea was full of stuff that would have caused him to shriek, gibber, and drop away in a dead faint, as his hero Randolph Carter was wont to do when confronted with an eldritch monster from the depths of space and time.

Behold some examples.


Lampreys.  They bore into fish, and maybe even people, in order to suck their blood.  (I’m kind of with Lovecraft on this one.  Lampreys are incredibly creepy.)


What we have here is a mantis shrimp.  (Photo by Scott)  These are ambush predators, up to 18 inches long, that live in holes dug into the sea bottom.  The two protrusions on top are in fact the world’s most advanced, elaborate eye system.  (16 types of color-receptive cones, plus spectral tuning ability.)

When prey wanders within range, the mantis shrimp lunges out of its lair and attacks with specially-adapted front legs resembling those of a praying mantis.  These legs come in two varieties: spears and smashers.  The spears impale the target, the smashers crush it.  Thanks to a special spring-loaded joint, the smashers can smash through a clamshell, a crabshell, a test tube, or an aquarium wall.  In either case, the attack is faster than a .22 bullet, giving the victim no time to respond.

Here’s a video showing the mantis shrimp in action:


This, God help us, is a Bobbitt worm (Eunice aphroditois).  [Photo by Jenny]  The worm was discovered about the time Lorena Bobbitt was in the news, and the name is not entirely without foundation.

Another ambush predator, the Bobbitt lives in a hole in the sea floor, its snapping jaws open like the jaws of a bear trap.  When something tickles one of its feelers, the jaws snap shut with such force that fish are often sliced right in half.  As if this weren’t bad enough, the worm also injects venom into its prey.

The Bobbitt worm can be up to ten feet long.  That’s a hell of a lot of appetite.

Another fine video showing the Bobbitt in action:

Contrary to legend, the female Bobbitt does not castrate its mates.  (They’re broadcast spawners, and there’s nothing to slice off.)

But that doesn’t mean they won’t castrate you.

(Whatever you do, don’t tickle the worm!  Especially underwater.)

Who knows what hideous ichthyic monstrosities Lovecraft would have imagined if he’d known about these critters.  Assuming, of course, that they didn’t drive him completely ’round the bend.

Want to find creepy stuff in the ocean?  You don’t need to travel to R’lyeh.

John F. MacMichael February 22, 2017 at 12:38 am

The late Fred Saberhagen used the mantis shrimp in one of his Berserker stories. I think the title was “Smashers”.

wjw February 22, 2017 at 12:59 am

I’d forgotten about that one!

Ryan V February 22, 2017 at 11:55 am

I got a particular love for the hatchetfish. They look they’re literally screaming tortured souls in the bowels of Hell. I would be too, if I got surrounded by the horrible grotesque monsters in the sea.

Mark Wise February 22, 2017 at 3:28 pm

This one always makes me twitch:

DensityDuck February 23, 2017 at 11:49 am

As people have pointed out, this is why you do not fuck with Aquaman.

PhilRM February 27, 2017 at 4:29 pm

I’m not sure even the Bobbitt worm tops the Goblin shark:
And those jaws extend, at high speed; I suspect that’s where they lifted the idea for Alien.

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