The Shadow Out of Time – Part 4, Additional Notes on the Flying Polyps

Since placing the last article up on the Flying Polyps, I have had more time to think about these strange beings.  In addition, I have received a number of excellent comments on them.  Thus, this article provides some additional notes on this mysterious species.

Flying Polyp by Michael Bukowski (

As I previously mentioned, the Flying Polyps appear to be “partially” composed of the matter in our Universe.  Thus, they are not composed entirely of the same matter as humans, Elder Things, Shoggoths, Deep Ones or the Great Race.  In contrast, the Flying Polyps are not completely composed of matter from outside of our Universe like the Mi-Go or spawn of Cthulhu.  The Flying Polyps are, as I previously mentioned, “in-between” Universes; partially made of our matter and partially made of “other” matter.  Thus, in a way they are more of an enigma than something utterly alien from the outside such as the Mi-Go.

As previously mentioned, the senses of the Flying Polyps can penetrate all kinds of materials in our Universe but their bodies can only pass through certain materials.  In addition, they would frequently fly and could make whistling noises.  In contrast, there was some sort of limiting connection between them and the Earth.  In spite of frequently living and moving in the air, when on the ground the Polyps made large footprints that were composed of five circular toe marks.  In addition, the Polyps could only be imprisoned deep in the Earth.

Flying Polyp by Tryryche

While the Flying Polyps were originally predators of the Cone-Shaped Beings (CSBs), once the Yithians occupied their bodies and became the Great Race, the tables were quickly turned.  The Great Race produced technology that allowed them to subdue the Flying Polyps.  Specifically, the Great Race weapons of electrical energy would wholly destroy the Flying Polyps.  This high level of susceptibility and complete annihilation of the Polyp body due to electrical energy may provide some clues as to the make-up of their matter.

In humans and most Terran life a strong discharge of electrical energy, currents greater than 1 amp, results in permanent damage through burns and cellular damage.  Additionally, even lower currents, between 70 and 70 mA, can cause death but by triggering a fibrillation in the heart.  While such electrocution will cause death they do not “annihilate” the body as it does for the Flying Polyps.

In particle physics, the term annihilation is used to describe the result of when a subatomic particle meets or collides with its respective antiparticle.  When the particle (matter) and antiparticle (antimatter) meet, they mutually annihilate these other, typically in a flash of radiation such as a photon of light (Particle Physics:  A Very Short Introduction; Frank Close; 2004).  Given how the body of the Flying Polyp is completely destroyed and annihilated when hit with electric energy, is it possible that they are composed of an unusual semi-stable arrangement of matter and antimatter?

 Flying Polyp (by Infernalengines)

Living cells continue to live and reproduce by taking in energy, which in turn keeps cellular activities going so the cell constituents do not breakdown and decompose. A similar arrangement may be in existing for the Flying Polyps but instead of obtaining energy from a biochemical perspective, it may be from a subatomic perspective. Is it possible that Flying Polyps are a conscious or sentient form of electromagnetic fields and forces that utilize matter / antimatter repulsion to generate the energy they need to keep their quasi-cellular activities going? Maybe they extract antimatter from where they originate and need to feed on organic life, such as the CSBs, to provide “matter” fuel. In turn, this allows them to keep the matter / antimatter mix equal and thus exist. If this is the case, then the electrical discharge weapons of the Great Race may abruptly disrupt this balance between matter and antimatter, resulting in the observed annihilation of the Flying Polyps.

Yithian Hero (by Cryptdidical; Spore)

Obviously the experiments required to test such a hypothesis could be highly dangerous. However, placing a Flying Polyps into the Hadron Collider and bombarding them with various subatomic particles and anti-particles may be a relative “safe” means of testing this hypothesis. The real trick would be to get a Flying Polyp into the Collider.

In the next article the discussion will be how the Yithian move their consciousness through space and time.  Thank you – Fred.


17 thoughts on “The Shadow Out of Time – Part 4, Additional Notes on the Flying Polyps

  1. And are they polyps like coral or polyps like the kind you get in your intestine? Or maybe some blasphemous combination?

    If they do look something like coral polyps, then those five-toed “footprints” are probably marks left by their mouths “tasting” the ground.

    1. A number of times HPL states that they had senses unfamiliar to us so “tasting” the ground may be a good way to describe it. Also, there is some sort of connection with the flying polyps and “earth”. They leave prints in soil and they were sealed and contained in the inner Earth – Fred.

  2. I have always viewed the Flying Polyps as a sentient and malignant tumor that formed on the laws of Physics in this universe. The notion that they are formed of positronium, a substance that according to Physics will come to predominate at the end of the universe demonstrates that the Flying Polyps are playing the LONG GAME… Nice idea Mr. Consequence, it ticks many boxes.

  3. I feel quite silly, because when I was recently rereading The Shadow Out of Time, I thought the Flying Polyps were the Mi-Go (albeit a wingless variety of them).

    I’m not sure how fond I am of the Flying Polyps being the horror that the Elder Things shunned beyond the higher mountain range beyond their antarctic city (I drew other conclusions), but the evidence seems almost incontrovertible.

    Well, since the Flying Polyps are the “proto-shoggoths”, what can we make of this? Are the Flying Polyps some sort of ancestor to the shoggoths? Perhaps the Shoggoths are an attempt by the Elder Things to emulate the Flying Polyps’ strange form.

    And are the Flying Polyps related to the “white polypous thing” in the Louisiana Bayou? If so, perhaps the ability of the white thing to make men dream is shared by the Flying Polyps that encountered the Great Race and the Elder Things. And perhaps the Flying Polyps made the Elder Things dream of themselves, influencing certain Elder Things to create the shoggoths, which led to their eventual downfall; a kind of insidious attack on the Elder Things. They couldn’t be bothered to attack the Elder Things outright, so they toyed with their dreams and knack for biological invention, causing them to engineer the vehicle of their own destruction; the shoggoths, who were based on dreams of the Flying Polyps themselves.

    This might account for the term “proto”-shoggoth.

    1. Hey Jack – thank you for the great comments. Since Elder Things and shoggoths are residents of our universe but the flying polyps are not, I am now not sure if the flying polyps are proto-shoggoths. Please check out my more recent article on the White Polypous Thing – I propose its an “extension” of Cthulhu, which allows it to communicate with more people through dreams.


      1. Yes, the Flying Polyps come from “Outside”, but that doesn’t mean the Elder Things couldn’t attempt to recreate them as best they could with Terran matter. The Polyps might appear as amorphous blobs, changing shape and form as the need arises. The Elder Things might have tried to recreate them (or something like them) utilising the materials available to them. It wouldn’t be an exact replication of the otherworldly Flying Polyps, who as you note are not entirely composed of this universe’s material, but if the shoggoths were based on them, then the Polyps could be considered the “proto”-shoggoths since they came before and were the basis of the shoggoths.

        I think Lovecraft himself actually had the Flying Polyps in mind when describing the horror beyond the mountains that the Elder Things dreaded. And when Danforth saw what was there, his insane babble included the phrase “proto-shoggoth”. This term is oddly specific.

        Definitely, whatever horror (or horrors) that might lie behind those mountains includes what Danforth called the “proto-shoggoth”. Now, I feel (along with others) that it was the Flying Polyps that existed there. This definitely relates the Flying Polyps to whatever Danforth saw as the “proto-shoggoth”.

        Perhaps they are one and the same?

      2. To me, it makes a lot of sense. After all, the shoggoths were at least contributory towards the ultimate downfall of the Elder Things’ civilisation. Perhaps the Flying Polyps WANTED the Elder Things to create something in their likeness. Remember how the bas-reliefs depicted Elder Things sometimes “praying” to those mountains? Maybe the Elder Things somewhat deified the Flying Polyps, and the shoggoth was made in their image as a form of tribute, or their way of emulating the “divine”.

        And I read your article on the “White Polypous Thing” described in Call/Cthulhu, and I agree with your theory that it transmitted Cthulhu’s dream-impressions to the sensitive. However, I remember commenting on it that the White Thing probably had an existence independent of Cthulhu. As stated in Call/Cthulhu, there were “legends” of the thing that “made men dream”. Now, IIRC, R’lyeh only rose above the sea for a period not longer than 2 months – hardly enough time to cultivate “legends” about its dream-inducing powers. And Cthulhu had not been above the ocean’s surface since before man walked the Earth. If the “white polypous thing” could only send Cthulhu’s dreams, there couldn’t possibly be legends about it making “men dream”.

        That is why I suggest that the creature is not solely connected to Cthulhu, but rather a separate organism that had “made men dream” for a long time (hence the legends). It probably came under Cthulhu’s influence when R’lyeh broke the waters, giving men dreams of R’lyeh and Cthulhu, but before this, it probably transmitted different sorts of dreams, perhaps of its own making.

        And the fact that it is a white “polypous” thing causes me to consider that it might be related to the Flying “Polyps”. Now, if they are related, perhaps the Flying Polyps have similar dream-inducing abilities. And perhaps they used them on the Elder Things, or certain members of that race, appearing to them in dreams, influencing them to create something in their (the Flying Polyps’) likeness – the shoggoths.

        Why would the Flying Polyps do this? I posit that it was to destroy the Elder Things. Perhaps they knew that the creation of the shoggoths would backfire on the Elder Things; a form of subterfuge. As I pointed out in an earlier comment, the Flying Polyps might not have been bothered to engage the Elder Things in outright warfare, so they might have preferred to sabotage them via their dreams.

        In the closing paragraphs of Mountains/Madness, Danforth is said to mutter phrases like “The black pit,” “the carven rim,” “the nameless cylinder,” “the primal white jelly,” “the wings,” “the eyes in darkness,” etc. Only “proto-shoggoths” seems immediately relevant to the story. Whatever the case may be, there must be something to Danforth’s choice of the term “proto-shoggoths”.

      3. Hey Jack – interesting ideas, particularly your hypotheses on the white polypous thing, which I like. Related to the Flying Polyps, I see them as being far more alien than the Elder Things and shoggoths, perhaps even more alien than Cthulhu and the Mi-Go. The only Lovecraftian entity I see as more “alien” is the Colour Out of Space, which is scheduled for a set of its own articles in 2015.

        I try to keep my hypotheses limited to HPL’s writings (tales, essays, letter). Since he made no connection between the Elder Things and forces from “outside” they way he does with Cthulhu, the Mi-Go or the flying polyp I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea that the Elder Things created the flying polyps via the shoggoths (or visa versa). HPL provides evidence that Elder Things were masters of creating complex live and based on available information the Elder Things used the existing prokaryotic life on Earth to create eukaryotic life; most of this life they destroyed or allowed to exist either as a mistake or joke. Darwinian evolution then ran the progress of this discarded life on Earth. Meanwhile the Elder Things did create the shoggoths but they were created on Earth with known matter, just like the rest of life on Earth (including humans). While Elder Things were, in the past, masters of interstellar travel and master bioengineers, they dealt with the matter our of known universe. A number of times HPL compare the Elder Things to scientists or humans in general and there is no evidence that they dealt with matter from beyond our universe. That does not mean it did not happen – I just see not evidence for it.

        The primal white jelly is a very interesting idea – this may represent a massive Frankenstienian like experiment that the Elder Things did millions of years could that they could partial contain but not destroy. Steve Maschuck and I wrote a story called “To Sample the Primal White Jelly” on this subject that has not yet been published.

        To conclude, I really do enjoy your insightful and imaginative comments. Thank you!


      4. Hey Fred – You are right. There is nothing to suggest the Elder Things were able to manipulate the strange matter that the Flying Polyps were made of. But I’m not asserting that the shoggoths are composed of that matter. I’m merely saying that the shoggoths might be a conventional-matter-imitation of those creatures.

        It is unlikely the Elder Things were able to recreate the extra-dimensional/universal properties of the Flying Polyps, but the Polyps do have size and shape, and some capacity to change shape (the Polyps are described as having “a monstrous plasticity”). Perhaps that is what the Elder Things captured in their Polyp-imitations (i.e. the shoggoths); their amorphous, shape-shifting aspect. That would not require matter from another universe.

        If the Flying Polyps served as the model for the shoggoths even in this way, it would not be a stretch to call them “proto-shoggoths” (Danforth refers to them in the plural, by the way).

        I’m sorry if I seem to keep repeating myself. I just want to make it clear I don’t think the shoggoths are made of anything other than matter from this universe. I just think the size and shape-shifting ability of shoggoths might have been based on the the general outline of the Flying Polyps. Not their strange matter.

        I have always found the term “proto-shoggoth” to be one of the more tantalising hints given in any of Lovecraft’s tales. I’d be interested in your thoughts on what exactly is meant by “proto-shoggoth”.

        Thank you,

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