|“||It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and that they time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer's struggling breath If they can catch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body, they instantly flutter away chittering in daemonic laughter; but if they fail, they subside gradually into a disappointed silence.||„|
|~ HPL , "The Dunwich Horror"|
Whippoorwills are a type of bird with a distinctive call and a feature of several stories set in the fictional Cthulhu Mythos, including some by Lovecraft himself. They were most notably present at the death of both Old Whateley and his grandson Wilbur. The first's soul they failed to capture, and the second's fate is left unknown.
Behind the Mythos[edit | edit source]
Lovecraft likely pulled this plot device from the Native American superstition that Whippoorwills were able to predict death as a sort of Banshee in Scottish folklore or even being a sort of night spirit or grim reaper, but these stories can mostly be parallels to the 'Raven Mocker'.
Whippoorwills are common most often in the east coast and are considered a separate species from the Mexican Whippoorwill, Whippoorwills would have been a common sight in H. P. Lovecraft's life growing up in New England.
Whippoorwills were heard during the passing of several main characters in various works by numerous authors in the mythos.
Though this concept of the whippoorwills acting as a sort of psychopomp may represent the final passing into nothingness, it was used by Fritz Leiber in a fictional telegraph on H. P. Lovecraft's death. It can also be assumed that H. P. Lovecraft's final sight in the Ghooric zone was his "Father" that died of pneumonia when Lovecraft was at a young age, it can certainly be assumed that there is a sort of afterlife in Lovecraft's universe. However, it could be argued that, keeping in line with the original stories of Lovecraft and their theme of an unkind universe, any "afterlife" within Lovecraftian stories would be a bastardization of most people's concept of such.