Miskatonic University

Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in Arkham; a fictitious town which is said to exist in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is named after the Miskatonic River (which is also fictional). After first appearing in the H. P. Lovecraft 1922 serial "Herbert West–Reanimator", the school appeared in numerous horror stories in the Cthulhu Mythos written by Lovecraft and other writers. The story "The Dunwich Horror" implies that Miskatonic University is a highly prestigious university, on par with Harvard University, and that Harvard and Miskatonic are the two most popular schools for the children of the “Old Gentry” of Massachusetts to attend. The university also appears in role-playing games based on the mythos.



Miskatonic University is evidently modeled on the now defunct (since 2000) Bradford College in Haverhill, Massachusetts on the Merrimack river. Haverhill is a mill town with hard lined class distinctions. The mills and their workers resided on the north side of the river, with the owners residing in the fine homes on the hill over the river in the town of Bradford. Haverhill is also the home of John L. Goldwater, Creator of Archie comics. Bradford college was created to train young ladies to be missionaries' wives, and then their students. Lovecraft's girlfriend attended the school and was exposed to the diverse community in an eerie location. In Lovecraft's stories, the university's student body is implied to be all-male, much like northeastern universities of Lovecraft's time. The only female student mentioned is Asenath Waite, of Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1937).[1]

For a location in which to shoot Miskatonic University scenes in their adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness in 2009, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society chose the campus of Mount Holyoke College.[2]

Miskatonic University is famous for its collection of occult books. The library at the university holds one of the few genuine copies of the Necronomicon.[3] Other tomes held at the library include the Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt and the fragmentary Book of Eibon.

Miskatonic has a medical school, as featured in "Herbert West—Reanimator".

Mythos fiction by other authors as well as fan interpretations of Lovecraft's Miskatonic University differ in whether mystical and Mythos studies are covert or overt. In the first interpretation, which follows Lovecraftian literary traditions, Miskatonic University is an ordinary university that also harbors secrets and has an unfortunately frequent number of run-ins with Mythos elements. In the second, more common in comedic and RPG works (and in Miskatonic University paraphernalia), Mythos and strange elements are overtly displayed at Miskatonic University and form part of its campus cultural identity.


Lovecraft's work

The following table lists the professors of Miskatonic University and their respective departments from Lovecraft's stories.[4]

Faculty (early 20th century)
Name Department Appearances
Dr. Henry Armitage Chief Librarian "The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Ferdinand C. Ashley Ancient History "The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor Atwood Physics At the Mountains of Madness
Professor Dexter Zoology "The Whisperer in Darkness"
Professor William Dyer Geology At the Mountains of Madness
"The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor Ellery Chemistry "The Dreams in the Witch House"
Professor Tyler M. Freeborn Anthropology "The Shadow Out of Time"
Dr. Allen Halsey Dean of the Medical School "Herbert West–Reanimator"
Professor Lake Biology At the Mountains of Madness
Dr. Francis Morgan Archaeology "The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Frank H. Pabodie Engineering At the Mountains of Madness
Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee Political Economy "The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor Wingate Peaslee Psychology "The Shadow Out of Time"
Professor Warren Rice Languages "The Dunwich Horror"
Professor Upham Mathematics "The Dreams in the Witch House"
"Old" Waldron College doctor "The Dreams in the Witch House"
Albert N. Wilmarth English At the Mountains of Madness
"The Whisperer in Darkness"

Other authors' work

Name Department Appearances
Tony Alwyn Assistant Librarian "Beyond the Threshold"
Dr. Dan Cain Hospital Bride of Re-Animator
Randolph Carter Unstated "The New Traveller's Almanac"
Professor Alice Derleth Occult Sciences "The Collect Call of Cathulhu"
Dr. T.W. Erwin Mathematics "The Revolution's Fine" in The Avengers vol. 1, #83 [5][6]
Dr. Graves Hospital Bride of Re-Animator
Dr. Carl Hill Medical School Re-Animator
Ms. Doris Horus Librarian (as of June 26, 1969) The Illuminatus! Trilogy
Professor Ted Klein Unstated "The Collect Call of Cathulhu"
Professor Lake Ocean biology The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu
Professor Seneca Lapham Anthropology "The Lurker at the Threshold"
Dr. Cyrus Llanfer Chief Librarian (following Armitage) "The Return of Hastur"
Professor Joshua N. Marsh Anthropology The Illuminatus! Trilogy
Professor Dominique 'Mo' O'Brien Philosophy The Atrocity Archives
The Jennifer Morgue
The Fuller Memorandum
Ward Phillips (I) First President (late 17th century) "The Lurker at the Threshold"
Ward Phillips (II) Chief Librarian (early 19th century) "The Lurker at the Threshold"
Professor Laban Shrewsbury Anthropology and philosophy "The Trail of Cthulhu"
Keith Brian Swerdlov Archaeology Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars
Ebenezer Tillinghast Geology "The Smoker from the Shadows"
Dr. Henry West MD Necrobiology Splatterhouse (2010 video game)
Nathaniel Pickman Wingate Physics Kamillions
Professor Brightmeer Chemistry Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land (2011 video game)

Reference guides

Chaosium Press published several guides to the 1920s Miskatonic University. The first was a lengthy section in 'Arkham Unveiled' (1990) by Keith Herber with others and put a full university setting around existing H. P. Lovecraftian Mythos references. The second was Miskatonic University (1995), a full-length book by Sandy Antunes. Subtitled 'Where Science Meets the Mythos', this edition tried to merge and reconcile the Chaosium setting of 'Arkham Unveiled', the original Mythos sources, and historical 'period' details derived especially from 1920s Boston University, while also added new items to the setting. A copy of this out-of-print book is in Boston University's Special Collections, and Chaosium granted rights in 1997 to Miskatonic University [7] to reuse some of this material for their website. The third was a new edition of 'Miskatonic University' (2005) by 'Sam Johnson & friends' published in late 2005. This edition reworked the previous book and added more mystical and mythos game elements.

Joan Stanley published a small book, Ex Libris Miskatonici: A Catalogue of Selected Items from the Special Collections in the Miskatonic University Library, which is a researched historical fiction reference for canonical Mythos book references regarding MU.

Work was started at Chaosium on a sourcebook Arkham 1990 including a modern-day Miskatonic University, but that has not (as of 2006) yet been published.

Mottos for MU have ranged from "Ex Ignorantia Ad Sapientiam; E Luce Ad Tenebras" (Out Of Ignorance Into Wisdom; Out Of Light Into Darkness) to "A Small Sacrifice for Knowledge", and their mascot has been stated as everything from the Badger to the Fighting Cephalopods (as in, "Go ′Pods!").


A likely origin for the word Miskatonic is that it is the phonetic contraction of the English prefix 'Mis-', indicating something wrong (as in ‘misplaced’), or bad (as in ‘misanthropy’), and Chthonic (from Greek χθόνιος – chthonios, "in, under, or beneath the earth"), which designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land. It evokes at once abundance and the grave.[8] A close approximation to the phonetic pronunciation of the word Chthonic is 'kuh-th-onic', where 'th' is pronounced identically as it is in the word 'thing'. Miskatonic thus read and understood, would clearly fit with Lovecraft’s wit and mythos.


  1. ^ Pearsall, "Miskatonic University", The Lovecraft Lexicon, p. 281.
  2. ^ "Lights, Action, Horror at MHC". MHC News & Events. 2009. http://home.mtholyoke.edu/news/stories/5681518. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  3. ^ Lovecraft, Howard P (1980). A History of The Necronomicon. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press. ISBN 0-318-04715-2. http://www.mythostomes.com/content/view/12/72/. 
  4. ^ A History of The Necronomicon. ISBN 0-318-04715-2., pp. 281–2. (List of professors.)
  5. ^ Avengers #83 reviewed on the Bronzeagebabies website.
  6. ^ T.W. Erwin's profile at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe
  7. ^ "Miskatonic University". website. 1997. http://www.miskatonic-university.org/policy.htm#permission. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  8. ^ Origin of the word ‘Chthonic’, .


  • Pearsall, Anthony B. (2005). The Lovecraft Lexicon (1st ed. ed.). Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Pub. ISBN 1-56184-129-3. 

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