- "A few persons had half seen it in the dark, and said it was white and like a malformed ape or anthropomorphic fiend..."
- "There was no sound, but just then the electric lights went out and I saw outlined against some phosphorescence of the nether world a horde of silent toiling things which only insanity—or worse—could create. Their outlines were human, semi-human, fractionally human, and not human at all—the horde was grotesquely heterogeneous."
- -H.P. Lovecraft, Herbert West--Reanimator
Spanning a broad cross-section of origins and purposes, reanimated corpses do exist in the Cthulhu Mythos. There are some that would be defined as biological experiments, such as the work of Herbert West and Dr. Muñoz. Others such as the so-name "The Thing on the Doorstep" is seem to be by-products of both magic and will.
The work of Herbert WestEdit
The qualities of the reanimated corpses of Herbert West and the unnamed narrator's efforts in the "Herbert West-Reanimator" vary dramatically as their research and methods progress. All of the dead subjects are reanimated by means of chemical "reagent" serum, and eventually accompanying chemicals (like embalming fluid) to prevent deterioration of the corpse. The reanimated corpses display varying levels of awareness, agency and mobility.
The experimental results are recounted in order as follows:
- A male construction worker, dead less than 8 hours from unknown accident, serum formula 1 injection, delayed effect, subject screamed and apparently was able to navigate its way out of a burning house and to a graveyard where it desecrated a grave.
- Numerous unknown subjects, varying times of death by typhus, serum formula 2 injection, quick effect on some subjects, subjects immobile and only were capable of opening their eyes.
- Dean Halsey, dead less than 8 hours of typhus, serum formula 2 injection, quick effect, subject fully mobile and highly aggressive; subjects severely injures the experimenters and proceeds to commit acts of murder and cannibalism before being apprehended and incarcerated, officials seem to note no recognition of a post-mortem status.
- A male african-american boxer, dead less than 4 hours of head trauma, serum formula 3 injection, long delayed effect (mistakenly thought a failure), subject fully regained mobility and some semblance of intelligence, climbing out of grave and also engaging in a act of murder and cannibalism before being killed by West.
- A male salesman, dead less than 8 hours from heart failure, serum formula 4 injection in combination with a preserving agent, gradual effect, limited mobility and initial inability to speak, but eventually able to scream before expiring.
- A male army medic, Major Sir Eric Moreland Clapham-Lee, dead less than 8 hours from gross trauma and decapitation, decapitated corpse subjected in both head and body with serum formula 5 (containing a new chemical component derived from an exotic reptile), quick effect, wild motion of headless body with eventual control, head exposed through immersion in the serum capable of a semblance of speech, eventual full cognition, motion and speech regained
- Various unknown victims, unknown details of death, injected with numerous iterations of serum, success unknown, all subjects destroyed
It is revealed in the story that Major Clapham-Lee made a complete "recovery" in spite of the initial difficulties of his reanimation. While never reattaching his own head, he appears to have continued the work of West, which he learned as an assistant to West before Clapham's death. He reappeared commanding a group of apparent reanimated corpses sporting a false wax head, while his head commanded them verbally from concealment in a carried black case. He and the group of the reanimated storm the asylum where Dean Halsey was still imprisoned. It is unknown what exactly happened to Clapham after this time. It is implied that he is the source of the package sent to West, and West is killed by a surprise attack by the reanimated after he destroys the package.
It seems unlikely that the package contained the head of Clapham, as this would have been a hindrance to any of Clapham's further plans. However, since Clapham was aware of the capacity of a reanimated head and body to have remote communication, it may have instead been Halsey's head in the package. Perhaps Clapham had been observing and tracking West's movements and was aware of the location of West's lab, its accessibility through the basement walls via the city catacombs, and his preferred method of disposal in the basement incinerator. Clapham could not have know whether West would open the package, but he could reasonably suppose that whether he discovered the reanimated head inside or not, he would dispose of the package in the basement. When the head of Halsey was destroyed the body would likely react, providing the signal to attack.