The Rats in the Walls
H. P. Lovecraft
Written August through September of 1923
Published in March of 1924
The Rats in the Walls
On 16 July 1923, I moved into Exham Priory after the last workman had finished his labours. The
restoration had been a stupendous task, for little had remained of the deserted pile but a shell-like ruin;
yet because it had been the seat of my ancestors, I let no expense deter me. The place had not been
inhabited since the reign of James the First, when a tragedy of intensely hideous, though largely
unexplained, nature had struck down the master, five of his children, and several servants; and driven
forth under a cloud of suspicion and terror the third son, my lineal progenitor and the only survivor of
the abhorred line.
With this sole heir denounced as a murderer, the estate had reverted to the crown, nor had the accused
man made any attempt to exculpate himself or regain his property. Shaken by some horror greater than
that of conscience or the law, and expressing only a frantic wish to exclude the ancient edifice from his
sight and memory, Walter de la Poer, eleventh Baron Exham, fled to Virginia and there founded the
family which by the next century had become known as Delapore.
Exham Priory had remained untenanted, though later allotted to the estates of the Norrys family and
much studied because of its peculiarly composite architecture; an architecture involving Gothic towers
resting on a Saxon or Romanesque substructure, whose foundation in turn was of a still earlier order or
blend of orders -- Roman, and even Druidic or native Cymric, if legends speak truly. This foundation
was a very singular thing, being merged on one side with the solid limestone of the precipice from
whose brink the priory overlooked a desolate valley three miles west of the village of Anchester.
Architects and antiquarians loved to examine this strange relic of forgotten centuries, but the country
folk hated it. They had hated it hundreds of years before, when my ancestors lived there, and they hated
it now, with the moss and mould of abandonment on it. I had not been a day in Anchester before I
knew I came of an accursed house. And this week workmen have blown up Exham Priory, and are
busy obliterating the traces of its foundations. The bare statistics of my ancestry I had always known,
together with the fact that my first American forebear had come to the colonies under a strange cloud.
Of details, however, I had been kept wholly ignorant through the policy of reticence always maintained
by the Delapores. Unlike our planter neighbours, we seldom boasted of crusading ancestors or other
mediaeval and Renaissance heroes; nor was any kind of tradition handed down except what may have
been recorded in the sealed envelope left before the Civil War by every squire to his eldest son for
posthumous opening. The glories we cherished were those achieved since the migration; the glories of
a proud and honourable, if somewhat reserved and unsocial Virginia line.