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Intégrale David Camus #3

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

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Incantations of black magic unearthed unspeakable horrors in Providence, Rhode Island. Evil spirits are being resurrected from beyond the grave, a supernatural force so twisted that it kills without offering the mercy of death!

127 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 1941

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About the author

H.P. Lovecraft

3,719 books16.3k followers
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, of Providence, Rhode Island, was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror: life is incomprehensible to human minds and the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fictions featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Christianity. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.

Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades. He is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th Century, exerting widespread and indirect influence, and frequently compared to Edgar Allan Poe.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 942 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,620 reviews4,959 followers
July 22, 2021
Dear Mr. Lovecraft,

I, Joseph Curwen, necromancer supreme, have rather a bone to pick (forgive my little joke). I have noticed many problems with your narrative The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. First of all: that title. Surely you realize that I am the protagonist of the tale - not the fey amateur Charles Dexter Ward? I do not think it is too much to ask that the title of your document correctly identify its leading personage. Second: I have noticed a strong bias against scholars of the so-called "dark" arts in your work - a bias that clearly and unfairly slants your narrative in favor of such laughable nonentities as that impressionable youth, his hysterical parents, his meddling doctor, etc, as well as towards questionable groups such as the unimaginative bourgeoisie and the overly imaginative lower classes, and various small-minded institutions including the Church and the Mental Ward. Your bias against such studies - indeed, against all those who would bravely dig up graves, retrieve bodies, revive those bodies, and proceed to imprison, interrogate, and torture those revived bodies until certain ancient bits of knowledge are at last shared - is not just regrettable and close-minded, but genuinely insulting on a personal and professional level. For shame, sir, for shame! Your prejudices do you no credit. Third: I find your general attitude towards a humble wizard such as myself, as well as towards my peers, we who only wish to remain immortal, even if it means possessing and discarding otherwise useless youths (like Charles Dexter Ward for example), so that we may come to learn ancient knowledge and thus reshape the world and all of mankind, for the better good no doubt, well... I just have to say that your entire attitude towards my lifestyle choice is appallingly narrow-minded and shockingly judgmental. Very unbecoming behavior for a writer of 'horror' fiction!

I will admit that there are many good things within your story. You have been accused of indulging in intensely theatrical purple prose; personally, I find your style of writing to be highly atmospheric, thrilling, and surprisingly enjoyable overall. The narrative itself is involving and even rather intricate. You have also been accused of tellnotshow-itis. I did see some of that in your lengthy flashback to my own story (the tragic tale of an unjustly accused and persecuted investigator of the supernatural - a former pillar of the community! oh how the small-minded love to tear down their betters!)... but that was merely a story within a story, told secondhand, and so I forgave it. Conversely, the last third of the novella - where the insufferable Dr. Willett finds my secret underground cavern and its attendant labs, cells, sacrificial altar, and deep well-cages for the unruly undead - is written in an exciting and tense you are there style that I much appreciated. I was quite pleased with your descriptive powers and I cheered frequently at every gasp of horror uttered by the unimaginative and mulish Dr. Willett. And last but certainly not least, regarding the public accusations that detail your racism: as a necromancer who does not discriminate based on race when choosing my various living, dead, and undead victims, I was specifically on the look-out for any race-based judgments. I am happy to note that I saw no example of that sort of foolishness. Well, save for the black cat unfortunately named "Nig". That made me quite uncomfortable.

But back to my grievances! Most repugnant of all: the ending. You seek to reduce me, sir, to conquer me as I have conquered death! I laugh in the face of that. Ha! Ha! Ha! From tiny particles of dust I shall rise again. And when I do, know that even your currently deceased state shall offer you no refuge.

 photo seeyousoon_zps7e26e0f1.jpg
May 16, 2017
Δικαίως χαρακτηρίστηκε άρχοντας της κοσμικής φρίκης και του εξωλογικού τρόμου.
Ιδιαιτερότητα περιγραφικής τέχνης με ένα σπάνιας ποιότητας ρίγος,μαυλιστικό και ερεθιστικό.
Και ύφος,με υποχθόνιο δέος και μαγεία γεμάτη μυστικά θαύματα.

Η περίπτωση του Τσάρλς Ντέξτερ Γουόρντ είναι μια ιστορία στην οποία εφιάλτης και πραγματικότητα ενσωματώνονται και ρευστοποιούνται,ανακατεύονται με την αινιγματικότητα,το άγνωστο της ύπαρξης,το τερατώδες σκοτάδι,το «άλλο» σύμπαν,το σατανικό ψίθυρο του ατέρμονου διαστήματος,τις κοσμικές νύχτες και τις σιωπές, το χιμαιρικό, το άμορφο όν της φαντασίωσης και την αληθοφάνεια του τρόμου
και δημιουργούν
τοπία,μέρη, μορφές,όντα,
υπερκόσμια διάσταση,αινίγματα και ασύλληπτες πιθανότητες,που αγγίζουν τον αναγνώστη με άνεση,ακρίβεια και απόλυτα υπαινικτικό κλίμα, μεταφέροντας τον
στην Νεκρομαντεία και στον Άλλο Χώρο.
Πέρα απο όρια, πίσω απο τον κόσμο,πίσω απο το χρόνο.

Αφετηρία της ιστορίας μας ένας παράξενος στίχος απο τη Βίβλο:
-Αν κάποιος πεθάνει θα ξαναγυρίσει άραγε;
Όλες τις μέρες του ταγμένου μου χρόνου θα περιμένω,
μέχρι να ’ρθει η αλλαγή-

αλλά και άρωμα απο ανατολίτικα παραμύθια,ιστορίες φρίκης και γοτθικό μυστήριο.

Μέσα σε αυτή την ιστορία συναντάμε τον καταραμένο συγγραφέα Μπορέλους-που υποκινεί όλο το γαλαξία τρόμου του βιβλίου- ο οποίος έχει ανακαλύψει αλχημιστικό μυστικό και επαναφέρει στη ζωή τους νεκρούς, χωρίς να καταφύγει σε οποιαδήποτε εγκληματική Νεκρομαντεία.

Αυτή είναι και η επιδίωξη του ήρωα μας, του Τσαρλς Ντέξτερ Γουόρντ. Ο οποίος υποκινούμενος απο τον προπάππο του-που θέλει να κατακτήσει την αιώνια ζωή και να νικήσει το χρόνο αλλάζοντας διαδοχικά ξενιστές-
μπαίνει στη διαδικασία νεκρανάστασης του προγόνου του.
Σύμφωνα με τον Μπορέλους θα τον αναστήσει χρησιμοποιώντας τα ουσιώδη άλατα του ανθρώπου και τη σκόνη του μέρους όπου ο νεκρός είχε αποτεφρωθεί.

Όπως καλά καταλάβατε απο εκεί και μετά ξεκινάει το ταξίδι στο έλεος του σκότους.
Μυστικά θαύματα συντελούνται μέσα σε ατμόσφαιρα σαγηνευτική και τρομαχτική. Γνήσια γοτθική. Κάπου πίσω,στο βάθος, στο υπόγειο,στο σκοτάδι ενεδρεύει ο αόρατος αλλά πραγματικός τρόμος.

Διαβολική δύναμη,ακατανόητα σύμβολα,ψαλμωδίες ανατριχιαστικές και ψίθυροι στο σκοτάδι,τυμβωρυχίες, φέρετρα,υποχθόνια πλάσματα εκατοντάδων χρόνων που θρηνούν και ουρλιάζουν,προετοιμάζουν τα οδυνηρά και απαίσια αποτελέσματα.

Το νεκρονομικό και οι μαγικές φόρμουλες κάποιας απίστευτης δύναμης και αρχαίας γνώσης είναι προτιμότερο να μην ανακαλυφθούν ποτέ απο τον άνθρωπο.

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς!!
Profile Image for Sr3yas.
223 reviews996 followers
June 10, 2018
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is the only lengthy work of Lovecraft classified as a novel rather than a novella. Lovecraft wrote this story in 1927, and as per legend, When HPL finished writing this novel he was so disappointed with the final draft that he decided to shelve it instead of publishing it, and only after Lovecraft's demise did this work found the light in 1941. (It's not a legend, but a true fact. I just wanted to use "As per legend" in a sentence)

So what is it all about?

❝ I have brought to light a monstrous abnormality, but I did it for the sake of knowledge. Now for the sake of all life and Nature you must help me thrust it back into the dark again.❞

The Case tells the story of Charles and his obsession with his sinister 18th-century ancestor, Joseph Curwen, whose idea of hobbies were murdering people and conjuring ungodly creatures from distant abysses no man should ever venture upon. Kids, If any of you invent time travel, do not try an expedition to the 18th century. It was not a fun time.

Anyways, Mr. Curwan, AKA Dark Wizard of Providence is long gone and his legacy was almost forgotten, thanks to the work of scared, yet sensible officials of the city.

Almost forgotten.

Enter Charles Dexter Ward.

If you've read enough Lovecraftian tales, you will see the footprints of this story in many of his acclaimed tales. I think when HPL shelved this story, he borrowed the interesting parts from the pages of the novel and dropped them in his short stories like "The Thing on the Doorstep" and many more. Also, the plot and revelations of the novel are easily guessable after decades of reuse of these elements in horror medium, so don't expect any surprises here.

Yet with Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, we get something special... Something wholesome. This is one of the rare HPL standalone tales which boasts complete backstories, fleshed out characters and a definite ending. Even though I knew exactly what's going to happen, I enjoyed the writing, especially the parts where Charles tracked down the gruesome history of his enigmatic ancestor and the sinister last act.

Overall, this is a must-read for Lovecraft's fan club. After all, this is his only novel!

Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.8k followers
November 7, 2011

Let me be clear at the outset of this review that when it comes to the work of H.P. Lovecraft, I am definitely one who drinks deep the kool-aid Cthulhu-aid. For me his stories are something to be savored and relished; succulent, meaty feasts of atmosphere, hyper-lush imagery and dark melodrama dipped in dread. If you’ve read other works by HPL and have not been impressed or fallen under his spell, this story is not likely to change your mind. However, if you are already a wanton Lovecraft gourmand and have not yet sampled this tasty dish, you are in for a treat.


The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is the longest work of fiction produced by Lovecraft and is his only novel coming in at about 180 pages. Much of the novel is told in epistolary format as a serious of diary entries, newspaper clippings, and quotes from journals and reports. In brief, the novel recounts the story of a brilliant young man, Charles Dexter Ward, who in the early 1900‘s undergoes a bizarre and unexplained “mental collapse” soon after becoming obsessed with one of his ancestors named Joseph Curwen. Curwen was a wealthy shipping merchant was was rumored to be a powerful and evil alchemist and sorcerer who, though almost 100 years old did not look more than 40 when he “died.”

After young Charles Ward suffers his breakdown and mysteriously vanishes, his physician, Dr. Marinus Willett, begins investigating the weird goings on. We learn of the nefarious past of Ward’s ancestor and the rumors of diabolical acts that surrounded him during his life. As the mystery slowly unfolds, Willett eventually discovers...[insert mind-blowing and totally satisfying resolution].


I don’t really want to go into any more detail because the slow unveiling of the mystery and the subtle clues and hints peppering the narrative that eventually all come together at the climax are quite impressive and part of the charm of the tale.

However, I can’t help teasing you by offering that the central mystery touches on a plethora of cleverly integrated horror staples including vampirism, zombies, necromancy, black magic, alchemy, the Necronomicon and the Cthulhu mythos, including the first mention of Yog-Sothoth, the Lurker at the Threshold aka Opener of the Way...aka “He who is a Scary-multi-eyed-multi-mouthed-Ginormous-JELLO mold”...

This story is really a seminal tale of the Cthulhu Mythos and one of the aspects I found most appealing is that Lovecraft creates a seriously spooky tension-filled atmosphere in this story without directly expounding on the cosmology of the “elder gods.” All the reader is told is of some vast conspiracy involving some “vast” and “nameless” malevolence from beyond the stars. It is a perfect example of the “less is more” technique for instilling maximum dread into the narrative.

In sum, I thought this was outstanding. I’m not giving this quite 5 stars only because HPL’s prose is not as dripping with imagery as some of his more famous stories and the length of the novel left a little too much time for Lovecraft to discuss the architecture of Providence at the turn of the century which got a bit stale after a while. However, those minor nits aside, this is a definite must read for fans of HPL.

Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book809 followers
May 6, 2020
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927) is probably a culmination in Lovecraft’s career. After some short stories such as The Rats in the Walls, The Shunned House or The Call of Cthulhu, it is the first work of fiction that has the dimension of a full novel and goes over the themes he had previously developed. The investigation into a dark mystery — usually taking place around the town of Providence, Lovecraft’s place of residence. The discovery of a repulsive cult, most evocative of Alchemy, Qabalah or Voodoo — or rather a depraved or primitive version of these esoteric practices. A hoard of letters or notes, written in a cryptic, foul language — including a copy of the Necronomicon by the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. Finally, the unearthing of a ghastly secret, hidden in a stifling underground, that presents a threat of cosmic proportions.

More specifically, Lovecraft probably wrote The Case of Charles Dexter Ward with Poe’s story, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, in mind. In both cases, there is a fascination for the occult, for dead, dying or “undead” characters; for some dark form or science or witchcraft. Lovecraft also develops the theme of the doppelgänger, typical of the fantasy/science fiction genre, from Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to Gaiman’s Coraline.

All in all, however, Lovecraft's story is perhaps overly complex for a short novel, with many irrelevant background descriptions and epistolary texts about colonial Rhode Island; or maybe too stretched out for a short story, which makes it a bit winding and difficult to follow.

The True Detective TV series (starring the excellent Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) is, the way I see it, indirectly inspired by Lovecraft’s novella.
Profile Image for Char .
1,597 reviews1,441 followers
May 22, 2015

" What the thing was, he would never tell. It was like some of the carvings on the hellish altar, but it was alive. Nature had never made it in this form, for it was too palpably unfinished. The deficiencies were of the most surprising sort, and the abnormalities of proportion could not be described."

That was just a sample of the type of writing found within this short novel by H.P. Lovecraft. Reading this reminded me how much I love this type of writing.

I hereby vow to read more of Lovecraft's work this year. Yeah, I made a vow, baby. A vow!
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews753 followers
August 12, 2017
“There is about certain outlines and entities a power of symbolism and suggestion which acts frightfully on a sensitive thinker's perspective and whispers terrible hints of obscure cosmic relationships and unnameable realities behind the protective illusions of common vision.”
That little passage explains why Lovecraft’s characters often go mad at the mere sight of blasphemous eldritch monstrosities from beyond; something I often wondered about. It is also a fine example of his penchant for convoluted sentence structures.

When I read At the Mountains of Madness I felt that Lovecraft is preferable in smaller doses, that is when his stories are not novel (or even novella) length. It seems that when he gives himself elbow room with the longer format he overindulges his tendency to ramble, overwrite and include unnecessary details. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward reinforces this impression for me.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is basically about an undead necromancer called Joseph Curwen who is foolishly resurrected by his descendent the eponymous Charles Dexter Ward through evocations, and other black magic shenanigans. Curwen of course wrecks all kinds of havoc because you don’t come back to life via black magic to do charity work.

One thing I noticed about reading Lovecraft is that the creepy atmosphere is more effective if you read the stories in a quiet room, unfortunately, I read this book in a living room while family members are watching TV and it rendered the creep factor completely ineffective. I also find the depiction of Curwen’s early life fairly mundane and less than riveting. The usual Lovecraftian tropes are all accounted for, the awful smells, the creepy noises, the creaking, the screaming and what not. The “unmentionable” Necronomicon by Mad Paula Abdul Alhazred is of course mentioned. Poor Cthulhu does not get a look in though his cousin Yog-Sothoth is often referred to.

Lovecraft’s idiosyncratic prose style can be both entertaining and frustrating. As I mentioned before he is more readable in short story format. At novel length he tends to repeat himself with the description of funny smells, funny noises etc. The faux-archaic English passages are also hard to decipher. Lovecraft seems to aspire to be a literary prose stylist, unfortunately, his literary ambition exceeds his talent.

A scene from this story by keren-or

The climax of the story is unexpected though, it makes the whole thing almost worthwhile. I also particularly like this passage:
“It was a godless sound; one of those low-keyed, insidious outrages of Nature which are not meant to be. To call it a dull wail, a doom-dragged whine, or a hopeless howl of chorused anguish and stricken flesh without mind would be to miss its quintessential loathsomeness and soul-sickening overtones.”
He could have been reviewing a Justine Bieber album here.

Not my favorite Lovecraft book then, the very best of Lovecraft is to be found in
The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre
. Exactly what it says on the tin. That anthology is the perfect Halloween read, I cannot say the same about The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Profile Image for Lyn.
1,847 reviews16.3k followers
February 7, 2016
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft is definitely one of his best works and this is a high compliment, as I have liked almost all that I have read from him.

This work, first published in 1927, combines most of the themes common to his works: occult, arcanery, unspeakable nighttime horrors, deep dark pits with unknown creatures, etc. even some hints of the Cthulu cult.

The other element of this book that is noteworthy is the scope of influence that Lovecraft created. Innumerable horror genre books and movies have borrowed liberally from Lovecraft’s themes and even works like Harry Potter show semblances of Lovecraftian influence.

If you like the horror genre, this is a must read, and if you have never read a Lovecraft work, this is a good one to start.

A very good read.

Profile Image for Emilio Gonzalez.
169 reviews57 followers
April 18, 2022
Un pequeña novela narrada, en mi opinión, de manera tan brillante que no puedo darle menos de 5 estrellas. Este es apenas el segunda relato que leo de Lovecraft pero me alcanza para entender el porqué de su fama. Una prosa muy agradable, una trama atrapante, un ambiente de misterio y oscurantismo muy bien creado, pero sobre todo me encantó la capacidad del autor para llevar la historia de manera que la tensión no caiga en ningún momento. El final no sorprende pero no por eso es menos eficaz. Muy recomendable.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,781 reviews4,987 followers
January 31, 2018
The blurb says: A nameless terror surges through centuries to engulf the soul of Charles Dexter Ward, a brilliant New England antiquarian. Rather amusing in retrospect, as the character doesn't seem to realize the danger until near the end; if the book were written from Ward's perspective, presumably he would be having a satisfying few years of progressing in his fascinating historical research. His family, too, is only mildly concerned, wishing he would write more often and maybe get a girlfriend. Only the omniscient narrator is really worried.

The Horror is mostly rather understated, but the monstrosities are classic Lovecraft:
It is hard to explain just how the single sight of a tangible object with measurable dimensions could so shake and change a man; and we may only say that there is about certain outlines and entities a power of symbolism and suggestion which acts frightfully on a sensitive thinker's perspective and whispers terrible hints of obscure cosmic relationships and unnameable realities behind the protective illusions of common vision.

It's kind of sweet on some level that Lovecraft thinks it is fine for grown men to scream hysterically and maybe faint when they see scary stuff. Not the 18th century guys, though; they were made of sterner stuff back then and only have PTSD when the action is over.

I enjoyed this book. It is not very scary, so don't be put off by the NAMELESS TERROR expressed by various characters. The prose is somewhat less purple than is oft Lovecraft's wont -- my impression is that he is a lot more lurid when writing about the Dreamlands and other Unknown exotic locations than when using real world settings (this is set in an area he knew himself, and that is clear from the descriptions of streets and houses and neighborhoods; it may be extra enjoyable if you are from this bit of New England yourself).

My edition, which is the Creation Oneiros one, had enough typos to be mildly distracting, but on the plus side did not have the claustrophobically squashed print I've encountered in several Lovecraft reprints.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,107 reviews3,542 followers
October 30, 2018
Insidious investigation!


A novella focused in the investigation of a psychiatrist about Charles Dexter Ward...

...medically certified insane, who escaped from a mental asylum (funny enough, while Arkham, Mass., inspired the famous Batman’s Arkham Asylum...

...it seems that there wasn’t any mental asylum in H.P. Lovecraft’s work named it in that way)...

...so the investigation of this psychiatrist who is obsessed with an ancestor involved in dark practices.

But sometimes, the past must be left in the past!

Profile Image for Windy Pineda.
67 reviews
June 5, 2017
Voy a ser categórica con esta novela. Es fenomenal.

Este es el primer libro que leo de Lovecraft (además del Necromicón, que es más que nada una serie de invocaciones y hechizos y no prosa propiamente tal) y lo he encontrado sencillamente magistral.

Esta es la historia de Charles Dexter Ward, quien da título a la obra. A inicios del siglo XX, este joven comienza a sentir una profunda e inquieta fascinación por un antiguo antepasado suyo, Joseph Curwen, internándose por elloo en un mundo oscuro, escalofriante y paranormal.

Con una escritura agradable y un ritmo cómodo, Lovecraft sabe cómo mantener el suspenso durante todo el relato. Como decía, tiene la extensión precisa, sin agregar un sinnúmero de páginas sin sentido que alarguen la historia innecesariamente. Además, maneja los detalles de tal manera de que el lector está siempre dudando y sospechando qué más puede haber detrás de los rastros que el narrador nos va dejando. Los personajes y la atmósfera también están muy bien descritos; las personas actúan con naturalidad y no llevan a cabo acciones que quedan muchas veces fuera de lugar para calzar con la trama, como ocurre en otras novelas.

Me ha encantado esa sensación de no destapar el 100% del misterio, o en otras palabras, de no explicar completamente el trasfondo espeluznante en el que desarrolla la historia. Me quedé rumiando un montón de pistas y pasajes luego de terminar el libro. Bajo ninguna circunstancia significa que hayan quedado cabos sueltos en la novela, sino muy por el contrario, queda el lector con la sensación de que hay detrás un escenario muy profundo y bien pensado, del que no se puede dar cabal explicación a raíz de la historia del protagonista.

No sé si lo he dicho con suficiente énfasis, pero esta obra es magnífica. Seguro me adentraré más el universo de Lovecraft.
Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,649 reviews212 followers
January 9, 2015

Lovecraft must be the only author whose works I've read and don't mind certain things most readers seem to hate. Yes, it can be slow. Yes, he can be overly descriptive. Yes, there is an omniscient narrator. Yes, there is lots of retelling. And in most cases, some of those annoy me too.
However, all of it pales in front of his extraordinary imagination and the atmosphere you find in his stories. It doesn't matter if it is a short story or a longer one. He is one of a kind and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is one of those stories that shows just how great Lovecraft was.
'What horrors and mysteries, what contradictions and contraventions of Nature, had come back after a century and a half to harass Old Providence with her clustered spires and domes?'
It starts with the escape of Charles Dexter Ward from a private hospital near Providence, Rhode Island. He 'was placed under restraint most reluctantly by the grieving father who had watched his aberration grow from a mere eccentricity to a dark mania involving both a possibility of murderous tendencies and a profound and peculiar change in the apparent contents of his mind'. Charles seemed to switch his personality to the one from eighteenth century. Even his physical appearance was changed. The last person to talk to him before his escape is his family physician, Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett. The only thing left in the room is a strange blue powder.
'This is no common case—it is a madness out of time and a horror from beyond the spheres which no police or lawyers or courts or alienists could ever fathom or grapple with.'
From there, the story goes back to where and when it all started. From Ward's unhealthy interest in his ancestor Joseph Curwen who came from Salem during the witch-hunt trials to all the changes everyone noticed. It goes even further in the past, because there is a story within a story here. Who was Joseph Curwen? What did he do? What happened to him? Why would someone try to erase every trace of him? From Ward's research, private letters and rare diaries he managed to find, he found out that his ancestor 'was marvelled at, feared, and finally shunned like a plague'.

You already know where Charles Dexter Ward would end up, but his path from a solitary young antiquarian to the changed man the doctor left in that hospital room is a remarkable story. Considering that Dr. Willett is the one who brought him into this world, the ending is extraordinary and the doctor one of my favourite characters I've read.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.1k followers
February 15, 2019

Lovecraft remained dissatisfied with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It was his longest work of fiction, and he referred to as “a cumbrous, creaking bit of self-conscious antiquarianism.” He composed it in 1927, but made no attempt to revise it in the ten years of life that remained to him, even though short horror novels like Ward were more marketable and paid better than the novellas and long short stories in which he excelled.

For years I thought H.P. too harsh in his assessment, for I liked Ward when I first read it. It evokes H.P.’s home city of Providence with love, incorporates a number of autobiographical details in its portrait of Charles Dexter Ward, amd convincingly combines in one lengthy sustained narrative the colonial witch scare atmosphere (including a brief reference to Salem), the dark romanticism of Hawthorne, and the customary Lovecraftian subterranean search for the Elder Gods and their minions. The two accounts of underground exploration—first in the Curwen era, later in Ward’s—gave me the absolute willies, and I believe I rated the novel more highly than it deserved because of the two good scares it delivered.

It really is a bit of a yawner, though, particularly the Curwen sections. Too much about the colonial period is related third hand by narrator Marinus Bicknell Willett, whose veiled hints and slightly pompous objectivity often almost put me to sleep. (OK, I’ll be honest. At least twice, it did put me to sleep.) The use of contemporaneous accounts culled from diaries and letters would have made the this early narrative more vivid, but without them it is only the final raid by the good men of Providence that makes the Curwen story come alive.

There was something else, though, that interested me this time around. I realized that The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is the closest thing Lovecraft ever came to a detective novel. Willett is the novel’s detective, and like many detectives before and after, he looks for the solution to the present difficulty—the mental disintegration and disappearance of Ward—in the criminal and occult history of the past (Joseph Curwen). There are detours and red herrings along the way, but eventually our hero finds his way to the criminal’s ancient lair, where evil and danger await.

My advice is to give Ward try. Skim a bit of the first half, don’t take the mystery too seriously, and I’ll bet you’re be good and scared—at least twice—just as I was.
Profile Image for Iloveplacebo.
348 reviews141 followers
July 18, 2019
Todavía no se qué pensar del libro.
Lovecraft me encanta, la forma de narrar sus historias me parece genial, única, pero la trama de esta historia...
No, la trama me ha gustado; pero creo que se me ha hecho un poco largo, sobre todo al comienzo, incluso un poco aburrido.
Pero en general lo he disfrutado, porque Lovecraft es Lovecraft.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 4 books565 followers
September 27, 2014
Though Lovecraft is a favorite writer of mine, until now this book (one of only two novel-length pieces he ever wrote) has been one I hadn't gotten around to reviewing. It was recently nominated as a common read in my Supernatural Fiction Readers group; and though it wasn't the one chosen, that reminded me of it, and I resolved to correct the lapse. It's one of my favorite Lovecraft works, and certainly one I highly recommend to other readers who like this type of fiction.

The Goodreads description for this edition (which isn't the one I read) doesn't really give you any accurate clue as to what the book is about, and the reference to "magic" is erroneous; like Poe, Lovecraft tended to eschew magical causes for his horrific plots, preferring naturalistic explanations. (Nonetheless, this novella reads a lot like supernatural fiction, both in mood, tone and style and in the fact that his "science" operates in ways that in practice might be easily mistaken for magic.) The premise here is that in colonial New England, a would-be sorcerer has learned both how to extend his life far beyond its natural limit, and how to reanimate even the long-dead (which some old-time alchemists actually believed was possible by the proper treatment of their "essential saltes"). His villainous activities are destined to have sinister results, both in his own time and that of the author. (Though it was published posthumously in 1941, it was actually written shortly after World War I.) To avoid spoilers, I won't elaborate further.

Some Lovecraftians characterize this as one of his "non-Cthulhu" works. To be sure, it was written well before "The Call of Cthulhu" (1927), and the agent of evil here is a human being, not a Great Old One. But there are indications that some of the motifs of the Mythos were already germinating in the author's mind. It's indicated that the baddie got his information from occult traffic with unhallowed elder beings from beyond the earth ("Those Outside"), and one scene in particular depicts a hidden-away place with phenomena that could come from out of any of the later Mythos stories. (Indeed, Lovecraft himself almost certainly never divided his works into those two neat categories in his own mind. Nor did he even coin the "Cthulhu Mythos" term, which was the invention of August Derleth after HPL died.) But although exposure to this place sends our principal good guy into a temporary paralyzed state of catatonic terror, this book does lack some of the heavy-handed moralizing about the supposedly reason-annihilating terror of exposure to Lovecraft's view of nihilistic "reality" that appears in some of his stories (though one earlier passage hints at it.) In terms of his plotting here, a case could be made that this is perhaps one of Lovecraft's more "optimistic" works (if we can apply that adjective to anything from his pen :-) ).

Lovecraft is a master of purple prose, one of the authors I most admire when considered strictly as a stylist, and he's at the top of his form here. The storytelling is first-rate, and the evocation of atmosphere is masterful. Much of the story is built around the title character's antiquarian research, a motif I particularly like, and HPL handles it very adeptly. He set the tale in his native Providence, and he brings that setting to life as only he could --he makes it real to me though I've never been there! (One reviewer complained about the wealth of historical detail as distracting and slowing the story, but for me it was actually one of the strong points of the book.) For Lovecraft fans, this is a must-read; and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to sample his work.

It's worthwhile here to briefly mention the 1963 movie The Haunted Palace (www.imdb.com/title/tt0057128/ ) directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price (which I watched before I read the book). Although it takes its title from a Poe poem, this is actually a loose adaptation suggested by this book, though the film writers moved the setting to Lovecraft's fictional Arkham and changed a number of other aspects, including the ending (which seems designed to set up a sequel, though I don't think one was ever made). The movie is worth watching on its own merits, but no one should imagine that viewing it will give them a real understanding of the book's actual plot.
Profile Image for Emily Lissek.
43 reviews3 followers
November 20, 2019
Rich in detail and mystery, normally I can guess how these stories end, but this one kept me guessing to the very last chapter. Loved it.
Profile Image for Barbarroja.
152 reviews40 followers
January 13, 2021
H. P. Lovecraft, el gran maestro del horror cósmico, escribió El caso de Charles Dexter Ward a principios de 1927, pero la novela no fue publicada hasta 1941, después de la muerte del escritor. Esta es la obra más extensa de Lovecraft (pese a que apenas supera las 150 páginas), y quizá puede notarse que el autor de Providence no se maneja tan resueltamente en el largo recorrido como en el relato corto, donde es uno de los máximos exponentes del género de terror, junto con Edgar Allan Poe.
Situada en su ciudad natal, la trama sigue las pesquisas del doctor Willett acerca de la caída en desgracia del joven Charles Ward, internado en un centro psiquiátrico tras haber pasado años sumido en oscuras investigaciones. El trasfondo de estas investigaciones parece encerrar una realidad monstruosa y perturbadora, y su descubrimiento llevará al doctor a los límites de la propia razón.
El relato costumbrista del ambiente de Nueva Inglaterra que podemos encontrar en la primera parte de la novela se torna en una historia de horror metafísico según avanzan las indagaciones del doctor Willett. Es posible que la narración sea un tanto reiterativa, y más teniendo en cuenta que el misterio que encierra el caso de Charles Ward no es en ningún momento desconocido para el lector, pero aun así se trata de una novela muy disfrutable en la que encontramos los elementos más característicos de la obra de Lovecraft, y que se encuadra dentro de los conocidos "mitos de Cthulhu".
En mi opinión, es un punto de partida muy bueno para cualquiera que quiera iniciarse en el terrorífico universo del autor de Providence, puesto que aunque es su obra más larga, se lee de manera muy ágil y entretenida.
Profile Image for Guillermo Valencia.
212 reviews78 followers
July 7, 2020
El gran H.P. Lovecraft nos muestra su calidad como maestro del horror y el suspenso, presentándonos una historia fascinante donde con audacia maneja el género de manera espectacular. Charles Dexter es un joven apasionado por la historia pero que está  enfrascado en descubrir sobre la vida de un misterioso antepasado suyo al que borraron de la historia; el excéntrico Joseph Curwen. Cada pasaje está nutrido de su estilo único y sus toques de misticismo envuelven al lector en una atmósfera oscura y de constante intriga.

El autor nos presenta una de sus más extensas obras, siendo un genio de la narrativa breve. Aquí nos muestra un peculiar personaje al que vemos consumirse en el deterioro físico y mental hasta llegar a la locura por alcanzar su objetivo a toda costa. Una historia llena de descripciones escalofriantes pero precisas que crean todo un escenario aterrador oportuno para entrar en una trama nigromántica. El caso de Charles Dexter Ward es una de las mejores novelas del autor tanto por la construcción de increíbles personajes como por ese sensacionalismo tétrico y misterioso que se extiende en toda la novela.

Profile Image for Kenneth McKinley.
Author 2 books192 followers
February 22, 2015
This is my fourth HP Lovecraft story and, so far, it's my favorite. That says a lot. Because, I'm really enjoying discovering his writing and connecting his influences to my favorite horror authors of today. For some odd reason, Lovecraft wasn't happy with his novel. He wrote it in 1927 and he didn't try to get it published. It wasn't until after his death that August Derleth and Donald Wandrei published it in the May and July issues of Weird Tales in 1941 did the story see the light of day. I find this curious. Like his Herbert West: Reanimator, which he also wasn't fond of, I find these stories to be some of his best work and highly influential in the world of horror fiction and film.

Charles Dexter Ward is a young man from Rhode Island that is reported to have disappeared from a mental asylum after being a patient there due to downward spiral into insanity. His main doctor and family friend, Dr. Willett, retells the story of his investigation into how Charles slipped into madness.
Ward was always a history buff and this led him into looking into his ancestry. In particular, one Joseph Curwen. Curwen's legacy seems to have been erased from the surface with very few details about him coming to light. After digging deep into learning more about his ancestor, Charles discovers that the reason Joseph's past has been hidden is due to the town's dealing with a man that not only was an 18th century shipping baron who was also rumored to be a wizard and an alchemist. Upon further investigation, Ward unearths that Curwen had to flee Salem, MA during the time of the infamous witch trials due to his peculiar habits and experiments that he was conducting caused uneasiness amongst his neighbors. Curwen moved to Providence and started a new life and it wasn't long before his new neighbors noticed strange habits. Joseph kept odd hours, had strange deliveries to his home, was seen visiting graveyards in the middle of the night, odd sounds and lights coming from his home at all hours, and that Curwen never seemed to age. The townspeople eventually had enough of these strange happenings and a group descended upon his home one night and discovered unspeakable horrors. Curwens home was destroyed and the owner perceived to have been killed. Painstaking efforts were made by the townspeople to cover up any trace of his existence.
Charles to great lengths to discover the hidden grave of his ancestor and unravel the mystery of who Joseph Curwen was. After finding Joseph's hidden journals and ashes, Ward begins to delve into his relative's work and begins to hole himself up after turning his family's attic into a laboratory. Strange sounds and odors begin to emanate from the attic. Charles begins acting strange and keeping odd hours. He then announces that his studies require him to visit various locations overseas and is gone for a few years while only keeping little contact with his family. After he returns, Ward eventually purchases the house that was owned by Curwen and continues his experiments. It appears to his family and neighbors that he is slipping into madness. A strange Dr. Allen shows up and is helping Ward. Soon, Dr. Willet commits Charles. After investigating his home, it is learned that Charles is dead and that Dr Allen is indeed the resurrected Joseph Curwen in disguise.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a real page turner and I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys Lovecraft or wants to see where Stephen King and many of today's horror icons got their influence from.

5 out of 5 stars

You can also follow my reviews at the following links:




TWITTER - @KenMcKinley5
Profile Image for Dustin Domingo.
86 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2020
"Incantations of black magic unearthed unspeakable horrors in Providence, Rhode Island. Evil spirits are being resurrected from beyond the grave, a supernatural force so twisted that it kills without offering the mercy of death!"

It takes a while to get going for me but the final half of this novel is so otherworldly, I got chills. Per the usual Lovecraft style, there isn't much room for dialogue. Sometimes I thought this complemented the story and a lot of times, I wanted to get in the heads of the characters. I liked Dr. Willett as a protagonist in the latter half of the story but I understand that, of course, Charles' story needed to be told first. Overall, there's plenty of alchemical what-the-fuckery to keep you satiated and I can definitely see why this is one of Lovecraft's popular stories. I chuckled a bit at the Randolph Carter reference!
Profile Image for Aldo Meza.
32 reviews12 followers
February 24, 2019
Me ha gustado, un horror diferente, intrigante que engancha y no paras.

Aunque siento que para disfrutar de lleno a Lovecraft hay que recorrer sus obras, para estar más apegado a su universo y tener mayor entendimiento de sus obras.

Espero poder adquirir más obras de el y poder entender a profundidad su obra.
Profile Image for Ravenskya .
234 reviews36 followers
February 19, 2009
Lovecraft is a special writer, capable of twisting the mind of the reader in ways that all of the visual horror we are forever shown in this day and age can never accomplish.

What WAS the thing at the bottom of the pit? What was it that the good Doctor saw? So many open questions to let our minds fill in the blanks with the things that horrify us above all else.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is Lovecraft's longest work (at least that I've encountered) and there is so much in the meager 120 or so pages that it's amazing. We follow the Doctor as he relates the tale of his patient Charles Dexter Ward and his supposed decent into madness. In doing so we learn of an ancient relative who may have gone beyond dabbling in the black arts. Though the case revolves around Mr. Ward... the true story is that of his ancient relative.

Lovecraft has a grasp of the language that is beyond beautiful. He is eloquent, descriptive, engaging and thought provoking without ever coming across as pompous or arrogant. His description is effective without being obnoxious (Unlike J Fenimore Cooper), his dialog is realistic and meaningful (not like Jane Austin)and his plot is engaging, grabbing the reader from beginning to end (unlike "The House of the Seven Gables"). Highly recommended for those who like either the writing style of the time, or simple horror fans.
Profile Image for Omaira .
324 reviews140 followers
August 7, 2018
UPDATE: Segunda lectura: 07/08/2018-Nota: 5 estrellas. Objetivamente no sé qué nota le pondría porque no soy una IA. En 2015 le puse 4 estrellas porque me leí todos los relatos de Lovecraft (casi) del tirón y me parecían que otros trabajos suyos más breves eran mejores o, en su defecto, más dignos de mención. Pero de manera aislada y alejada de sus otros escritos me parece El caso de C.D.W. una novela notable e interesante. Me ha gustado mucho más que la primera vez porque he podido apreciar aspectos de la trama que en aquel entonces no. Porque, sí, Lovecraft consigue que te intereses por la historia de Providence. ¿Cómo no hacerlo con ese lirismo del que reviste cada anochecer? ¿Cómo no hacerlo cuando habla de su pasado con tanta pasión? Yo me enamoré de Nueva Inglaterra a través de la visión que Lovecraft tenía sobre su tierras. Vamos, que soy una friki de la arquitectura colonial y la historia de NI. Para no serlo a estas alturas...

A muchos lectores les parece pobre la justificación que usa Lovecraft, es decir, el recurso de las sales. A mi me da igual lo que piense Fulanito, Menganito y Zutanito, pero que me parece intensamente irónico el hecho de que luego a la misma gente les parezca creíble que se pueda clonar a un ser humano valiéndose de un pelo. Si Lovecraft utiliza el recurso de las sales no es porque no se le ocurriera otro medio para justificar el aspecto más importante de la trama. Hay una estética, una estética de los siglos XVII-XVIII en la historia. No hubiera pegado que pusiera un método más moderno que el que emplearía cualquier alquimista en los siglos XVI y XVII. Por esa estética de nigromantes y alquimistas se usa lo del tema de las sales. Me parece patético tener que explicar esto.

Es una buena historia; sin pretensiones.
Pd: He leído mi vieja reseña y tampoco da mucha vergüenza ajena. ¡Es muy cuqui!

"Y, ojo por ojo y magia por magia, que el resultado mostrase hasta donde había aprendido la lección del abismo"

Como todos podéis intuir, este año me he propuesto –sin quererlo, la verdad– leer toda la obra de Lovecraft este año. Como no, no podía faltar esta novela corta, El caso de Charles Dexter Ward, la más extensa de todas las que escribió.

Todo comienza cuando Charles Ward indagando sobre sus ancestros, se topa con Joseph Curwen, un extraño individuo que huyendo de Salem se instala en 1692 en Providence. Este individuo,en apariencia, un simple extranjero, con el tiempo su extraña facultad para no envejecer hará que se le atribuyan todo tipo de sucesos paranormales, ya sean voces o extrañas desapariciones.

Charles, lejos de sentirse horrorizado al ser descendiente de algo tan monstruoso, siente una extraña fascinación y poco a poco la profundización en los estudios y vida de este personaje lo lleva a relevarlo en sus ominosos descubrimientos. Todo ello, le conducirá a locura un tanto especial.

Dividido en cinco capítulos, el autor lleva al lector a los entresijos de la magia más oscura y poderosa.

La obra me ha gustado bastante, pero el principal problema es que me hubiese gustado que la historia hubiese sido contada por Charles Ward y no por un narrador omnisciente. Para mi, uno de los puntos fuertes del autor es cuando el protagonista de su relato – la mayoría de veces, es él mismo– no puede negar que siente una plena satisfacción por el descubrimiento aquello que está más allá de los límites de la razón pero a la vez se siente perdido, desolado, destrozado y al borde de la locura y en esta narración de esto, vemos muy poco. Es como si Lovecraft hubiese querido escribir un relato con el que el público no se escandalizase y fuera, en cierto modo, fácil de digerir. Creo que muchos, si hubiese sido Ward el que contase la historia, les habría dado un jamacuco.

La historia es muy fácil de entender y dinámica. De verdad os digo que no entiendo cuando alguien dice que “escribe muy recargado, y repite mucho”. Si repite – que lo hace, pero a ver, yo creo que exageráis un poco los que decís esto– es para que el lector no se pierda. Yo sé que si no lo hiciese muchos dirían “ay, es que es muy difícil de entender, que lenguaje más raro usa, ay qué raro es este tio…” *FACEPALM*

Seguramente es una de las historias que más le costó a Lovecraft escribir. El hecho de que me parezca así es que solo el esfuerzo de documentación para escribirla ya sería grandísimo, y luego porque siempre al autor le ha costado mucho escribir novelas cortas, aunque no por ello son menor calidad ni nada parecido.

Todo el tema de lo paranormal está muy bien logrado y culmina , rozando casi la perfección, en el quinto capítulo, el mejor escrito de toda la novela – también porque es cuando más directo va a lo macabro y a lo lovecraftiano, vamos – Y ya por si no me había quedado satisfecha, menciona a Randolph Carter, que cuanto menos, me hizo sonreír – patético; deberíais haberme visto suspirar y sonreír como una imbécil–.

"Una vez, un amigo suyo que tenía sueños morbosos, se lo había dibujado en un papel y le había explicado las cosas que significaba en los oscuros abismos del mundo onírico. Era el signo de Koth, que los soñadores ven sobre el arco de la entrada de cierta torre negra que se alza solitaria en el crepúsculo...A Willett no le agradaba lo que su amigo Randolph Carter le había contado sobre su poder"

El final, me lo esperaba por un lado y por el otro no, es decir, tenía una teoría algo parecida a lo que sucedió pero hubo un punto que me impresionó y me sorprendió bastante.

Concluyendo, para empezar a Lovecraft la recomiendo. ¿Por qué? Porque es fácil de leer, de hecho me ha parecido mucho más sencilla de entender que otras como por ejemplo "La búsqueda en sueños de la ignota Kadath" y también porque es tan bonito como ves que el autor ama la ciudad que lo vio nacer, vivir y morir, la vieja y hermosa – y gélida a estas alturas del año, todavía– Providence.

"¡La vieja Providence! Este lugar, y las fuerzas misteriosas de su larga e ininterrumpida historia, le habían dado el ser y le habían transportado a maravillas y secretos del pasado cuyos limites ningún profeta sería capaz de trazar [...] las viejas y hermosas mansiones que sus ojos infantiles habían conocido, y las singulares aceras de ladrillo que piblanca [...] estaba anocheciendo; y Charles Dexter Ward había llegado a casa"

Cᴀᴛʜᴜʀʏᴀ ғᴜᴇʀᴀ.
Profile Image for Marilou K..
146 reviews35 followers
March 27, 2017
Ε ναι ρε παιδί μου!!Τώρα μάλιστα, κατάλαβα γιατί ο Λάβκραφτ κατέχει τέτοια θέση στον τρόμο!!!Παρόλο που είναι προφανές απ'τη μέση σχεδόν τι έχει γινει και σε ορισμένα σημεία θα ήθελα πιο πολλές λεπτομέρειες και τρόμο (ο συγγραφέας είναι αρκετά φειδωλός,σα να θέλει απλώς να καταγράψει κάποια γεγονότα), το μοναδικό του μυθιστόρημα με "κέρδισε" και με αγχωσε!!

υ.γ. Η έκδοση απ'τον Αίολο είναι χάλια (λανθασμένες ημερομηνίες, λείπουν εισαγωγικά όταν σταματάει κάποιος να μιλάει, ανάκληση λέξεων/φράσεων με διαφορετική αυτή τη φορά μετάφραση.....)! Με έβγαζε απ' το κλίμα! Επιλέξτε κάποια άλλη!
Profile Image for [Name Redacted].
779 reviews389 followers
October 12, 2012
This was the first work by Lovecraft I ever read, but I have not re-read it in nearly 2 decades. I had odd tastes, even as a child. I remembered very little, aside from the broad plot-points, so you can imagine my consternation when, upon re-reading it this week, I discovered that I am merely one step away from following in the footsteps of young Charles; so many of the descriptions of him sounded like the man i have become and, as it happens, 3 years ago I began to dedicate myself to exactly the sort of studies young Charles pursued (albeit in a professional capacity). I was able to distinguish which of the names and words used in this book's incantations were actual ancient "magical" words and which were Lovecraftian inventions, and I can even contextualize those former employed by Lovecraft's characters herein. Apparently I missed my true calling. Maybe it's not too late?

"It was this place and the mysterious forces of its long, continuous history which had brought him into being, and which had drawn him back toward marvels and secrets whose boundaries no prophet might fix. Here lay the arcana, wondrous or dreadful as the case might be, for which all his years of travel and application had been preparing him."
Profile Image for Azumi.
236 reviews166 followers
February 14, 2018
Es una novela corta muy bien contada en la que se van desvelando la trama a cuentagotas, destapando cada vez un poquito más. No te da todos los detalles del misterio y no se detiene en descripciones macabras, no es nada densa y no se hace pesada de leer. Pero por contra me ha resultado bastante previsible.
3 estrellas, interesante.
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