Cacophilia, the Elephant in the Living Room


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
Apparently my word cacophilia, the love of the ugly, really is a neologism and not the invention independently of what's been invented before. This thread will be, I hope, a place to discuss why some people are drawn to creating and contemplating art that emphasizes the ugly.

Lovecraft seems preoccupied with the ugly in much of his fiction. The most detailed description of a person that he ever wrote, unless I'm mistaken, was that of the malformed Wilbur Whateley, in "The Dunwich Horror." Parodists have for decades targeted Lovecraft's indulgence in descriptions of rotting buildings, "mouldering" bones, ugly faces, etc.

One can hardly avoid the drawings and paintings of Lovecraft fans who try to outdo one another in the depiction of monsters.

I understand the appeal for a certain type of story of trying to crank up atmosphere and suspense with the threat of monsters.

And many an adolescent buy has amused himself with efforts to draw monsters. Is it mostly just kids who create and collect and contemplate these things?

I think there's something going on in some of this that I'll probably bring up before long, but here's a launching of a thread.

"Elephant in the living room" because it's so obvious that there's this phenomenon but it doesn't seem to get talked about -- as to why? Surely it is strange.

There are ugly creatures in much popular literature -- Tolkien's Orcs, for example. But he hardly describes them, if you read the books (as opposed to watching movies). And I don;t think the Tolkien fans spend endless hours drawing orcs and trying to outdo one another in the drawing of same. The Balrog is frightening, but I'm not sure "ugly" is exactly the description... And there's so much in Tolkien that is pleasant or even beautiful.

Lovecraft did describe some charming scenes -- sunsets, notably. It is not that he had no feeling at all for the beautiful.

All right -- there are some seed-thoughts and remarks; maybe others will comment.


Well-Known Member
Jul 26, 2015
You make me think of the saying "beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone." Ugly is interesting; beauty evokes a kind of perfection, and perfection can be rather boring. When I read HPL's stories, I am also drawn to his descriptions of features, especially facial features. HPL always struck me as someone who catches and thinks about every detail of what's happening around him.

I agree also - ugly doesn't quite fit it. He picks out imperfections and flaws and finds the grotesque in them. For example, his description of ghouls refers to a canine mouth and rubbery skin. They come across as grotesque though because they are not so fantastic and are imaginable, but really shouldn't be describing a person.


New Member
Aug 22, 2015
"Elephant in the living room" because it's so obvious that there's this phenomenon but it doesn't seem to get talked about -- as to why?
Lovecraft is considered primarily a horror writer, and monsters/scary things in horror, at least in Western horror, are more often than not "ugly" than "beautiful". It's not talked about often because people take it for granted. I guess it's harder to make beautiful things scary.


candycane shrimp
Dec 10, 2012
x(squared)+y(squared)=r(squared) : when x~infinity
We live in a world that tries to elevate beauty by making it seem as though it's the norm, when in fact it is more often the exception that what we call beauty, which could well be called perfection, is ever seen and that makes it much easier for someone like HPL to play off from to create grotesque out of the norm.

In reality perfect beauty is an ephemeral thing and quickly becomes the imaginary creature that resides in the mind and wants you to scream about the ugly 'elephant in the room' that is not really there, because it's nothing more or less than what is normal.

Often simple description of elements around you that people overlook daily with emphasis on all the flaws the eyes try so hard not to see, is enough to evoke an image of the grotesque.

As for the original post I would think that it can't be limited to just one of those abnormal affections; but instead what you might see from those who like HPL is a gross number of abnormal affections. In fact what HPL does is he plays off from any useful abnormality that he can work into the stories that goes beyond just an affection for what is ugly. In fact trying to limit it to one term might be a disservice to the author.
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