Herbert West--Reanimator
Created: February 2017 | Updated:

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Herbert West–Reanimator
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"Herbert West—Reanimator" is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was written between October 1921 and June 1922. It was first serialized in February through July 1922 in the amateur publication Home Brew. The story was the basis of the 1985 horror film Re-Animator and its sequels, in addition to numerous other adaptations in various media.


According to his letters, Lovecraft wrote the story as a parody of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein . He drops in numerous Frankenstein references (even hinting at the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as Shelley did).


Lovecraft claimed to be unhappy with the work, writing it only because he was being paid five dollars for each installment. Moreover, he disliked the requirement that each installment end with a cliffhanger, which was unlike his normal style. He also had to begin each installment with a recap of the previous episode. The book Science Fiction-The Early Years calls "Herbert West–Reanimator" "wretched work". Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi claims that "Herbert West–Reanimator" is "universally acknowledged as Lovecraft's poorest work."

Plot summary

Lovecraft originally serialised the story in Home Brew Vol. 1, No. 1–6, an amateur magazine published by his friend George Julian Houtain.


The story first saw adaptation in EC's Weird Science in 1950. In issue #14 of the magazine From the Tomb, released in June 2004, edited by Peter Normanton, various other 1950s horror comics homages to Herbert West are discussed, including "Atlas' Adventures" in Weird Worlds #24, where Dr. Karl Veblen created a "life generator" serum. He had a co-conspirator arranged to revive himself after death with it, but the co-conspirator returned Cleopatra instead.

It was Stuart Gordon's 1985 film Re-Animator that would prove the most famous adaptation. Updated to a contemporary setting, Re-Animator takes its plot and characters from the first two episodes of the serial, depicting West as a medical student at Miskatonic University, while Bride of Re-Animator uses material from the last two episodes.

Bride was followed by 2003's Beyond Re-Animator which moved Herbert West to a prison, and had very little to do with Lovecraft's story.

More recently, Dynamite Entertainment has produced a comic, Army of Darkness vs. Re-Animator, inspired equally by the film Re-Animator and the Lovecraftian roots of the story, with West as a villain in league with Yog-Sothoth, amongst other Lovecraft references, battling Ash Williams from the Evil Dead film series.

"Herbert West, Reanimated" written as a round-robin serial by Robert Price & others, for Crypt of Cthulhu #64 (1989), was a sort of sequel in which Sir Eric Moreland Chapman-Lee resurrects and reassembles Dr. West, who then escapes, kills and resurrects his assistant and resumes his increasingly wild experiments with life & death, leading to mind-transfers & cloning.

An audiobook version of the story, published in 1999, is performed by Jeffrey Combs, who played Herbert West in the three film versions.

The story's narrative forms part of the plot of a video game based on Lovecraft's work, Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land.

The Friendship of Mortals (2010) is a novel by Audrey Driscoll that expands on Lovecraft's story. Driscoll's primary focus is the relationship between West and the narrator, who is neither nameless nor a physician, but a Miskatonic University librarian named Charles Milburn. The plot roughly follows the original, but adheres to the premise that West is undone by his experiments.