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The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  13,634 ratings  ·  610 reviews
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!

Cover illustration: Michael Whelan
Paperback, 127 pages
Published April 19th 1994 by Del Rey Books (first published 1941)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,634 ratings  ·  610 reviews

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mark monday
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 hav

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 gourm
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it

" 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
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
“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 con
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, lovecrafty
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 girlfrie ...more
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 hor
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
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... seems that there wasn’t any mental asylum in H.P. Lovecraft’s work named it in that way)... the investigation of this psychiatrist who is obsessed with an ancestor involved in dark practices.

But sometimes, the pas
Nickolas the Kid
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror

Μια παλιά κριτική στο METAL INVADER!!!
Leonard Gaya
May 16, 2018 rated it liked it
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, Qaba ...more
Bill  Kerwin

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
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror

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 Charle
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of "horror" and horrific science fiction
Shelves: science-fiction
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 descripti
Ken McKinley
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
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 f ...more
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, classics
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
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: group-read, classics
[Name Redacted]
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 th ...more
Jun 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: HP Lovecraft fans
Shelves: horror-gothic
I'm rereading this based upon Stephen's review so if I do not appreciate it more, it will be entirely his fault :-)

In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward HPL ventures a novel-length story about his Elder Gods and one man’s tragic fate when he delves into mysteries better left unexamined. Charles Dexter Ward is the scion of a well established Providence family who begins investigating esoteric matters and discovers that an ancestor, Joseph Curwen, was killed by
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
“Do not call up that which you cannot put down.”
— H. P. Lovecraft, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward"

I first read H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short novel “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” when I was 11 years old, in the tacky Del Rey edition pictured. At the time, I was surprised by the difference between the densely erudite content and the pulp cover art. A horror writer with high-literary roots, Lovecraft remains a unique and original artist; at his best, he combines the ethereal sensibilities of “d
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: buddy-reading
Admittedly, a friend of mine and I were suppose to read—and of course finish—this last Halloween. Ha, what a turn of events; now that I have finished this.

This was my first time reading anything by H. P. Lovecraft even though I have quite plenty of his work on my to-read list, as well as physical copies waiting to be read. I can frankly say that I have enjoyed this one very much, the ending most of all. The descriptive and steady style of writing kept me thoroughly engaged in the story and I ca
Jan 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Horror fans, sci fi fans, goths
Recommended to Michael by: Dungeons and Dragons
Shelves: pulp-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Printable Tire
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Being from Providence, I feel I have to like things associated with Providence, and thus be a H.P. Lovecraft fan (of course, I don't like Family Guy, but that's another story). Fortunately a story like this makes it easy to like him. It certainly helps that I know and walk the streets and locations mentioned in this book, read parts of the book in Salem where some of the story takes place, am a fellow alumni of the same school as the protagonist, and also, when I get lost in Cranston, feel inexp ...more
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I have such mixed feelings about this book, it was a very interesting and spooky story, but on the other hand reading it felt like work the entire way to the end. The denseness of prose, the utter lack of dialogue, the constant verboseness didn't lend themselves to an enjoyable read. I have to say I'm glad to have read it and I plan on reading Lovecraft in the future, though most likely sticking to his shorter works.
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a re-read and it was just as good as the first time.
David Sarkies
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
Don't Rise Up what you Can't Put Down
5 December 2017 - Sydney

The first thing that I did when I started to read this book was to jump onto Facebook and search for a 'Charles Dexter Ward', Well, I found one, but he had his account locked down to tightly that you could only send him a message. Actually, I'm not at all that surprised because he probably gets lots of friendship requests (and messages) from Cthulu freaks out there. Actually, I'm almost tempted to set up an account on Facebook called
Evan Leach
”From a private hospital for the insane near Providence, Rhode Island, there recently disappeared an exceedingly singular person. He bore the name of Charles Dexter Ward, and 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.”

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, the longest work by H.
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovecraft's only full-length novel (though a short one) and a classic of the genre. It falls just short of masterpiece due to a slightly prosaic feel that never quite attains the scope of something like At the Mountains of Madness and the Shadow Out of time, to name two of his other longer works. Which isn't necessarily a criticism per se since it's a different type of story, more in common with the works of Poe and Hawthorne than Hodgson or Blackwood. It's simply that I prefer his more cosmical ...more
Feb 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first HP Lovecraft book, it is a well rounded and interesting story, and the perfect introduction to the Lovecraft mythos.

Background: Lovecraft wrote during the 20's and 30's, after Freud, but before Jung. To many, the human unconscious mind was still scary, dark, uncharted waters with untold depths of the unknown lurking beneath the surface. King would later pick that up, in a time when humans were more accustomed to dealing with their unconscious, and conversation between conscious and unc
Aug 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Lovecraft's writing doesn't appeal to me in the way that a Margaret Atwood, Roberto Bolaño, or Cormac McCarthy does. It's a bit dated, and dry, and academic. But the funny thing is, it feels entirely appropriate to the literary theme and content. It feels like a fragment of the happenings of the story, an actual account dating from the actual time and place of these events. That really appeals to me: if this were bound in leather and written by hand, it would be even cooler.

The slowness takes a
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I actually dont know why "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" took me so long to read because even though it is by far Lovecrafts longest story, it has still less than 200 pages. Maybe it was because I was in a kind of reading slump the last weeks or because Lovecraft sometimes used very long and complex sentences. Furthermore there were many flashbacks within the story, so I had to read some pages twice to comprehend the plot a bit more. But it was definitely worth it. The whole creepy atmosphere ...more
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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
“Do not call up that which you cannot put down.” 44 likes
“Memory sometimes makes merciful deletions.” 23 likes
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