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In the Vault

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"In the Vault", first published in 1925 on press journal Tryout, is a short story by the master of horror fiction H.P.Lovecraft about an undertaker imprisoned in a village vault where he was removing winter coffins for spring burial, and his escape by enlarging a transom reached by the piling up of the coffins. "In the Vault", first published in 1925 on press journal Tryout, is a short story by the master of horror fiction H.P.Lovecraft about an undertaker imprisoned in a village vault where he was removing winter coffins for spring burial, and his escape by enlarging a transom reached by the piling up of the coffins.


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"In the Vault", first published in 1925 on press journal Tryout, is a short story by the master of horror fiction H.P.Lovecraft about an undertaker imprisoned in a village vault where he was removing winter coffins for spring burial, and his escape by enlarging a transom reached by the piling up of the coffins. "In the Vault", first published in 1925 on press journal Tryout, is a short story by the master of horror fiction H.P.Lovecraft about an undertaker imprisoned in a village vault where he was removing winter coffins for spring burial, and his escape by enlarging a transom reached by the piling up of the coffins.

30 review for In the Vault

  1. 4 out of 5

    Orient

    A spooky BR with Craig, to let Lovecraft play with our minds a bit :) What a nice shortie, a quite interesting atmosphere, a quite creepily funny accident. Quite spectacular revenges and a great moral to watch where you put your feet and know that everything comes with a price! :) P.S. I expected a monster, but found none, ah well :S A spooky BR with Craig, to let Lovecraft play with our minds a bit :) What a nice shortie, a quite interesting atmosphere, a quite creepily funny accident. Quite spectacular revenges and a great moral to watch where you put your feet and know that everything comes with a price! :) P.S. I expected a monster, but found none, ah well :S

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    I'm not much of a fan of the horror genre (it tends to freak me out a little) but I am a fan of short stories, so I decided to give this 1925 H.P. Lovecraft shortie a read. I'm also no real fan or connoisseur of Lovecraft, but this one isn't a typical Lovecraft story, though it's definitely in the horror genre. It's a little more down to earth and has a distinctly morbid sense of humor. George Birch is the phlegmatic, practical undertaker and gravedigger in a small village, with little sense of I'm not much of a fan of the horror genre (it tends to freak me out a little) but I am a fan of short stories, so I decided to give this 1925 H.P. Lovecraft shortie a read. I'm also no real fan or connoisseur of Lovecraft, but this one isn't a typical Lovecraft story, though it's definitely in the horror genre. It's a little more down to earth and has a distinctly morbid sense of humor. George Birch is the phlegmatic, practical undertaker and gravedigger in a small village, with little sense of imagination and less sense of morals. He's given to sloppiness and cutting corners in his work as an undertaker - things like cheaply-made coffins and mixing up who's supposed to be buried where. One winter day he accidentally locks himself in a vault with several caskets of long-dead people awaiting burial in the spring, and no tools to help him escape. He calls for help, but is too far away from anyone who will hear him. But over the tomb's door is a small opening that might be enlarged ... if he can just reach it. What's a practical-minded guy to do? Maybe - just maybe - he should have had a little more respect for the dead. This is a darkly humorous kind of story that saves the real jolt for the end. An enjoyably creepy read, not as strange and eldritch as his tales of Cthulhu and the elder gods. There are lots of free copies of this online; I found mine here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    An undertaker is trapped within a vault and builds a 'Tower of Bable' with the coffins to leave his confinement. When he tries to get out he is held back by something that claws into his tendons. Will he survive the situation unharmed and alive? Even though there is a great characterization of Birch, the smalltown and the people he buried I personally didn't like that story as much as others by Lovecraft. It is well plotted and well told but for me there was no spark. Others might find it more i An undertaker is trapped within a vault and builds a 'Tower of Bable' with the coffins to leave his confinement. When he tries to get out he is held back by something that claws into his tendons. Will he survive the situation unharmed and alive? Even though there is a great characterization of Birch, the smalltown and the people he buried I personally didn't like that story as much as others by Lovecraft. It is well plotted and well told but for me there was no spark. Others might find it more interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    C.H. Smith, editor of the amateur mag Tryout, suggested the idea for this conventional tale of horror: what if a New England undertaker, trapped in the churchyard’s receiving vault (the place where they store the coffins each winter until the ground thaws enough so they can dig the graves), attempted to escape through an upper window using a pile of his customer’s coffins for a step-stool? Lovecraft took the challenge, and turned the idea into a coldly amusing tale of sharp New England business C.H. Smith, editor of the amateur mag Tryout, suggested the idea for this conventional tale of horror: what if a New England undertaker, trapped in the churchyard’s receiving vault (the place where they store the coffins each winter until the ground thaws enough so they can dig the graves), attempted to escape through an upper window using a pile of his customer’s coffins for a step-stool? Lovecraft took the challenge, and turned the idea into a coldly amusing tale of sharp New England business practices punished by a grisly poetic justice whose reach extends beyond the grave. This story is not a favorite with the critics, but I must admit I liked it quite a bit. Lovecraft dials back his hyperbolic vocabulary, adjusting it to what is after all a simple, around-the-campfire tale of horror. Besides, the gruesome details here have a disturbing physicality about them, disturbing enough that the story was rejected not only by Weird Tales (in 1925) but by the even more despised pulp publication Ghost Stories (in 1926).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    A re-read (I've read this one more than once before). An undertaker accidentally locks himself inside a tomb full of coffins awaiting burial. Although he's an unimaginative, workman-like sort - not one to be bothered by the proximity of corpses - after what transpires that night, he'll never be the same. Objectively, this is an exceedingly well-crafted piece, but the 'big reveal' just doesn't bother me as much as it's clearly supposed to. It's predicated on an assumption of a religious belief in ( A re-read (I've read this one more than once before). An undertaker accidentally locks himself inside a tomb full of coffins awaiting burial. Although he's an unimaginative, workman-like sort - not one to be bothered by the proximity of corpses - after what transpires that night, he'll never be the same. Objectively, this is an exceedingly well-crafted piece, but the 'big reveal' just doesn't bother me as much as it's clearly supposed to. It's predicated on an assumption of a religious belief in (view spoiler)[the necessity of the integrity of dead bodies. If you're one of those people who believes that your body needs to be interred intact in order to be resurrected at the end of days, then yes, you will find the undertaker's 'transgression' disturbing. But I'm not one of those people. (hide spoiler)]

  6. 5 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    After a horrible winter that caused the earth to freeze so the people from Peck Valley, New England, couldn’t bury anyone, a lazy undertaker George Birch has to prepare the stored coffins for normal funeral. He gets stuck for nine hours in a tomb thanks to a tomb door he should have fixed ages ago. He doesn't expect anything more than an inconvenient and physically exhausting afternoon and possibly night. Even though Lovecraft may have not intended this to be funny, he acknowledges its comedic sid After a horrible winter that caused the earth to freeze so the people from Peck Valley, New England, couldn’t bury anyone, a lazy undertaker George Birch has to prepare the stored coffins for normal funeral. He gets stuck for nine hours in a tomb thanks to a tomb door he should have fixed ages ago. He doesn't expect anything more than an inconvenient and physically exhausting afternoon and possibly night. Even though Lovecraft may have not intended this to be funny, he acknowledges its comedic side.'Mention a bucolic Yankee setting, a bungling and thick-fibred village undertaker,and a careless mishap in a tomb, and no average reader can be brought to expect more than a hearty albeit grotesque phase of comedy.' The story is a combination of humour and dread.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chi

    I have to admit a weakness for horror. Not the type of weakness that induces one to read loads and loads of horror; more the type that can't stomach it. Ad yet, I absolutely loved the kick to the story. I scanned it, but gathered the gist of it quite easily, and my goodness - it was vicious! Love it! I read it here. I have to admit a weakness for horror. Not the type of weakness that induces one to read loads and loads of horror; more the type that can't stomach it. Ad yet, I absolutely loved the kick to the story. I scanned it, but gathered the gist of it quite easily, and my goodness - it was vicious! Love it! I read it here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Britt

    This story is not for claustrophobic people! Haha. I liked it enough. A little hard to follow as well and I’m not sure I caught the twist but it was entertaining and had very descriptive writing and was well paced.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melli

    Ah this short story was fantastic. Lovecraft starts out as usual with the clearly forecast bad ending for a character that will be explained with the subsequent story, this one about a lazy undertaker whose indolent ways end up biting him in the butt when he accidentally locks himself in a vault full of caskets he has put off burying. It is also pitch black. He must hope to break his way out, and that those bodies don't hold any grudges for his laziness! I really felt the atmosphere of that dark Ah this short story was fantastic. Lovecraft starts out as usual with the clearly forecast bad ending for a character that will be explained with the subsequent story, this one about a lazy undertaker whose indolent ways end up biting him in the butt when he accidentally locks himself in a vault full of caskets he has put off burying. It is also pitch black. He must hope to break his way out, and that those bodies don't hold any grudges for his laziness! I really felt the atmosphere of that dark vault filled with corpses in unrest. Great ending, Lovecraft always ends with a bang that elevates the entire story. Darkly comical and karma-cal. Hah.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    I'm certain this short story about a man who gets trapped in a vault isn't really meant to be funny, but I laughed my head off at it, especially at the overly sensitive horse that was thrown in repeatedly... I'm certain this short story about a man who gets trapped in a vault isn't really meant to be funny, but I laughed my head off at it, especially at the overly sensitive horse that was thrown in repeatedly...

  11. 5 out of 5

    JL Shioshita

    This is straight up Tales from the Crypt style. All those great Eerie horror comicbooks that evolved out of all hose great weird pulp fiction serials owe a debt to these wonderful writers. Campy creepy fun.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Saul the Heir of Isauldur

    A gothic tale, very much in the style and vein of Poe. It has plenty of atmosphere and a simple, yet engaging setting. Worth a read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Holm

    "Horrible pains, as of savage wounds, shot through his calves; and in his mind was a vortex of fright mixed with an unquenchable materialism that suggested splinters, loose nails, or some other attribute of a breaking wooden box. Perhaps he screamed. At any rate he kicked and squirmed frantically and automatically whilst his consciousness was almost eclipsed in a half-swoon." Most people only witness human death as its compounded with ‘-bed’ – or perhaps, intermittently, at the ensuing funeral se "Horrible pains, as of savage wounds, shot through his calves; and in his mind was a vortex of fright mixed with an unquenchable materialism that suggested splinters, loose nails, or some other attribute of a breaking wooden box. Perhaps he screamed. At any rate he kicked and squirmed frantically and automatically whilst his consciousness was almost eclipsed in a half-swoon." Most people only witness human death as its compounded with ‘-bed’ – or perhaps, intermittently, at the ensuing funeral service. Few people, by vocation, regularly observe death as it happens. Others again deal exclusively in the aftermath, be it spiritual matters or that which calls for a rather mundane hands-on approach. “In the Vault”, written in September 1925, is a tale of the maniacally macabre which literally goes ankle-deep in the dead. (*SPOILER* all right, not-totally-dead!) The story was initially rejected by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its “extreme gruesomeness”, which he thought would positively short-circuit the whole censorship apparatus. Yes, gruesome it is … and not just underneath the coffin lids. George Birch, undertaker made protagonist, is a truly heartless lowlife, whose transgressive conduct among the recently deceased and their purposely jerry-built coffins would make even the most phlegmatic prosaists rattle in their graves. “In the Vault” is not at all Lovecraft’s finest in regards to plot originality, storytelling, or language, but its climax has a sky-high gooseflesh factor, and the ending line (italicized, naturally) shows the full extent of Birch’s taboo-wrecking malpractice in the corpse-handling business, leaving little pity for both his physical injuries and mental woes. Revenge, in truth, has no bounds.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    A twisted Lovecraftian tale with a moral.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    Out of the four stories on this compilation the one I liked best was "The Rats in the Walls". The other three were average and had a bit too much filler text for my liking. It's peculiar but interesting to read Lovecraft's recurrent themes of interracial breeding and incest, both eventually leading to the birth of a deformed new race. I still have a long way to go with this author but I've been liking him a lot so far. Out of the four stories on this compilation the one I liked best was "The Rats in the Walls". The other three were average and had a bit too much filler text for my liking. It's peculiar but interesting to read Lovecraft's recurrent themes of interracial breeding and incest, both eventually leading to the birth of a deformed new race. I still have a long way to go with this author but I've been liking him a lot so far.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Netanella

    An undertaker with a procrustean solution to his coffin problems learns the hard way that kismet is a bitch on the feet when he gets trapped overnight in the vault. This is an earlier piece of Lovecraft's, apparently, and his prose is not quite as purple as it normally gets. Also, this is a straight up horror story, no weird dreams, no Cthulhu, no insignificance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors of the Elder Gods. I enjoyed reading this one. An undertaker with a procrustean solution to his coffin problems learns the hard way that kismet is a bitch on the feet when he gets trapped overnight in the vault. This is an earlier piece of Lovecraft's, apparently, and his prose is not quite as purple as it normally gets. Also, this is a straight up horror story, no weird dreams, no Cthulhu, no insignificance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors of the Elder Gods. I enjoyed reading this one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Godzilla

    A wonderful, darkly funny story, with characters evoked and painted beautifully. There's a real see saw of emotions in this tale, with tension and fear counterbalanced with offkilter humour and savage depictions of unworthy men. I could sort of see where the story was heading, but the ending still packed a punch and brought a wry smile to my face. A wonderful, darkly funny story, with characters evoked and painted beautifully. There's a real see saw of emotions in this tale, with tension and fear counterbalanced with offkilter humour and savage depictions of unworthy men. I could sort of see where the story was heading, but the ending still packed a punch and brought a wry smile to my face.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Sort of a very black comedy from Lovecraft. Man, can karma come back and bite you in the ass!

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Yelverton

    This is a classic horror tale with things which are literally going bump in the night. The ending is quite good, even if the story itself is not that grand or what we are used to from Lovecraft.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    This story was alright. It's eery and stuff, but, in the end, I really didn't get too much into it. This story was alright. It's eery and stuff, but, in the end, I really didn't get too much into it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    If you don't know what karma is. Read this story... If you don't know what karma is. Read this story...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Moiballȧgarràdth

    This is review for Czech translation of collected works from 1917-1920, including stories such as Nyarlahotep, Dagon, The Cats of Ulthar, Old Bugs and others (all in all 21 stories). My initial impression was underwhelming. Surely there is much mythology around the author himself and his work, so the anticipation is pretty high. But for me the content did not counterbalance the sheer legendariness. Yet given the fact it is his early and arguably still unmatured work, I am looking forward to re This is review for Czech translation of collected works from 1917-1920, including stories such as Nyarlahotep, Dagon, The Cats of Ulthar, Old Bugs and others (all in all 21 stories). My initial impression was underwhelming. Surely there is much mythology around the author himself and his work, so the anticipation is pretty high. But for me the content did not counterbalance the sheer legendariness. Yet given the fact it is his early and arguably still unmatured work, I am looking forward to read on chronologically and see how his prose unravel (there are 4 more books in this series). For what it's worth, the everpresent campiness is still quite enjoyable and if you keep your distance, dialogues (or uttered monologues I should say) compensate its sporadic occurence with its theatrical nature in the most guilty pleasure way. Besides that most of the stories are a bit of a drag to read and feel superficial, but hey, it is quite antique and in many regards it pioneered the slowly emerging genre, so I should cut some slack. Highlights for me were (view spoiler)[ Dagon (waking up in the sea of rotting slimy shit feels as good as it sounds), The Cats of Ulthar (vengeance like that sounds great, plus I would wanna live in city where pet killers go this way), Form Beyond (for its nice psychedelic atmosphere and pineal gland conjectures which came to be so much of a thing for psychonautic imagination) and The Picture in the House (this was by far the best in atmosphere, had solid story and it actually managed to creep me out at the end). (hide spoiler)]

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ashwin

    If there was ever a perfect 2.5/5 story, it would be "Into the Vault." Here we find Lovecraft settling for an average tale of an undertaker getting trapped in a crypt and his subsequent attempts at getting out. It is one of Lovecraft's best written pieces, filled with great lines like "At last the spring thaw came, and graves were laboriously prepared for the nine silent harvests of the grim reaper which waited in the tomb" and "Undisturbed by oppressive reflections on the time, the place, and t If there was ever a perfect 2.5/5 story, it would be "Into the Vault." Here we find Lovecraft settling for an average tale of an undertaker getting trapped in a crypt and his subsequent attempts at getting out. It is one of Lovecraft's best written pieces, filled with great lines like "At last the spring thaw came, and graves were laboriously prepared for the nine silent harvests of the grim reaper which waited in the tomb" and "Undisturbed by oppressive reflections on the time, the place, and the company beneath his feet, he philosophically chipped away the stony brickwork" among others. The biggest fault with "Into the Vault" is that its horror twist relies too much on a backstory that Lovecraft only vaguely gives us. The idea is that one of the corpses in the coffin was of a man who was, as one character puts it, "the devil incarnate," but we're not given any direct evidence or showcasing of that. It's simply something people in the village reflect on. And because that concrete authenticity isn't there, Birch (the protagonist) comes off as more petty/a worse person than the alleged perpetrator. Still, I'll round it up to a 3/5 because of how good the prose is, but make no mistake- no matter the tension Lovecraft builds up, "In the Vault" is a pure 2.5/5.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Austin Wright

    This story was written in 1925, and is just as dark as any Steven King story. Highly recommended. The disfigurement on bodies, and abuse/neglect of the dead was quite vivid. FROM WIKIPEDIA: The story was rejected by Weird Tales in November 1925; according to Lovecraft, editor Farnsworth Wright feared that "its extreme gruesomeness would not pass the Indiana censorship", a reference to the controversy of C. M. Eddy, Jr.'s "The Loved Dead". After being published in Tryout, the story was submitted in This story was written in 1925, and is just as dark as any Steven King story. Highly recommended. The disfigurement on bodies, and abuse/neglect of the dead was quite vivid. FROM WIKIPEDIA: The story was rejected by Weird Tales in November 1925; according to Lovecraft, editor Farnsworth Wright feared that "its extreme gruesomeness would not pass the Indiana censorship", a reference to the controversy of C. M. Eddy, Jr.'s "The Loved Dead". After being published in Tryout, the story was submitted in August 1926 to Ghost Stories, a "very crude" pulp magazine that specialized in "true" tales of the supernatural, which also rejected it. August Derleth urged Lovecraft to resubmit the story to Weird Tales in 1931, which finally published it in its April 1932 edition. An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia calls "In the Vault" "a commonplace tale of supernatural vengeance" in which "HPL attempts unsuccessfully to write in a more homespun, colloquial vein."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alex Mutton

    This was an excellent Lovecraft tale. From the outset the vernacular was far more Pleasant to read setting an atmosphere perfect in its simplicity. Taking me back even to one of Lovecraft first stories in the cave, the sense of dread you feel in complete Darkness and the uncomfortable ears of being surrounded by the Dead. I really wasn't sure what to expect going into this tail thinking something along the line of some reanimation of the Dead or indescribable horror, instead throwing me poop a lo This was an excellent Lovecraft tale. From the outset the vernacular was far more Pleasant to read setting an atmosphere perfect in its simplicity. Taking me back even to one of Lovecraft first stories in the cave, the sense of dread you feel in complete Darkness and the uncomfortable ears of being surrounded by the Dead. I really wasn't sure what to expect going into this tail thinking something along the line of some reanimation of the Dead or indescribable horror, instead throwing me poop a loop and just building tension and atmosphere with splashes of dark comedy. It also highlights someone called and monstrous nature of humans in his general indifference or the Dead.

  26. 4 out of 5

    JJ

    In the Vault is basically an H.P. Lovecraft story without the punch of his more famous works. It follows the same basic structure as many of his short stories -- you know something bad is going to happen to the main character, and there's going to be a twist that makes whatever happened more disturbing at the very end. That's really all there is to it! A very formulaic story with no reason to recommend it above any other of Lovecraft's tales. In the Vault is basically an H.P. Lovecraft story without the punch of his more famous works. It follows the same basic structure as many of his short stories -- you know something bad is going to happen to the main character, and there's going to be a twist that makes whatever happened more disturbing at the very end. That's really all there is to it! A very formulaic story with no reason to recommend it above any other of Lovecraft's tales.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

    This is more of a fun read than a typical eerie Lovecraft tale, for me, anyway. The prose is also on the simpler side, as opposed to his typical prose. Granted, a reader more disturbed by cemeteries and dead bodies may find it less "fun". It reads like a horror story you'd tell at a sleepover, with the twist at the end closing it very aptly. This is more of a fun read than a typical eerie Lovecraft tale, for me, anyway. The prose is also on the simpler side, as opposed to his typical prose. Granted, a reader more disturbed by cemeteries and dead bodies may find it less "fun". It reads like a horror story you'd tell at a sleepover, with the twist at the end closing it very aptly.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Pixton

    The protagonist makes this fun. A bumbling, careless buffoon that traps himself in a tomb. Outside of that it was so so. I understand he took the climactic moment as a writer's prompt and so deserves credit for writing outside his cthulhu cosmic horror mythos. The protagonist makes this fun. A bumbling, careless buffoon that traps himself in a tomb. Outside of that it was so so. I understand he took the climactic moment as a writer's prompt and so deserves credit for writing outside his cthulhu cosmic horror mythos.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Connolly

    Another short short story. It was ok. Very little suspense I thought and the twist at the end was a bit of a letdown. I knew halfway through it would be a letdown, and it still let me down. Haha. 3 stars for this one.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy (Other Amy)

    Attempted humor? This one's a miss. Attempted humor? This one's a miss.

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