The Dunwich Horror: Meet the Whateleys

Lovecraftian Gothic

Lovecraftian Gothic – The Whateleys by Will Beck (www.thelovecraftsman.com)

Noah Whateley, also known as Old Wizard Whateley lived in the rural backwoods of Dunwich with his albino daughter Lavinia who had a child, Wilbur, and a twin.  According to Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” Lavinia gave birth to the twins as a result of a very strange and unique sexual union with Yog-Sothoth (more on that in a future article).    The subject for this article is a discussion of the Whateley family, focusing primarily on the Noah and Lavinia Whateley.

The families of Dunwich have been accused of forming…”a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding.”  They have also been accused of…”half-hidden murders, incests and deeds of almost unnamable violence and perversity.”  However, these accusations may be just prejudism against members of rural communities.  With that said, the families of Dunwich did know to stay away from Old Wizard Whateley, who could be accused of dabbling in degenerate and perverted activities.

dunwich_family_portraits_1__noah_whateley_by_sorrowking-d5xzbgo

Dunwich Portraits:  Noah “Old Wizard” Whateley by Sorrowking (www.deviantart.com)

Very little was known about Noah Whateley except that as a resident of Dunwich he was generally shunned for his reputation of dealing with black magic.  Another reason was the unexplained death of his wife when their daughter, Lavinia, was twelve years old.  Lavinia was described as being a “somewhat deformed, unattractive albino.”  Albinism is a recognized recessive human trait, such as color blindness, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia and Sickle-cell anemia.  In the case of albinism, a mutation involving a metabolic block associated with tyrosine, results in preventing the production of melanin pigments.  This mutation, which can be past to offspring but is a recessive genetic trait, results in the lack of pigment production and thus albinism (Concepts of Genetics by W. S. Klug & M.R. Cummings, 1983).

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Lavinia Whateley by Hokova (www.deviantart.org)

Although albinism has been associated with inbreeding, it does not necessarily indicate inbreeding.  It is true that inbreeding of any species increases the probability of recessive genes to be manifested phenotypically – that is, they show up as an observable or detectable trait.  However, the appearance of such recessive traits does not only appear in cases of inbreeding.  Two individuals within a population not closely related but heterozygous for a recessive trait (like color blindness) can still result in offspring with the manifested recessive trait.  For example, two individuals having the heterozygous genes for color blindness have a 25% chance of having offspring that are color blind.  The ability to predict the genetic outcome of offspring for a specific genetic trait was discovered by Reginald Crundall Punnett and William Bateson.  In the early 20th century Punnett developed the “Punnett Square” to depict the number and variety of genetic combinations, and had a role in shaping the Hardy-Weinberg law of genetics. Punnett and Bateson co-discovered this “coupling” or gene linkage, moving from genetic probabilities to phenotypic manifestations of observable traits (www.dnaftb.org). William Bateson brought Mendel’s laws of genetics to the attention of biologists in general by translating Mendel’s work into English.

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A dihybrid Punnett Square for a recessive genetic trait such as albinism (from http://www.00edu-cdn.com)

My understanding is that albinism is associated with a dihybrid cross, which involved two distinct traits (or phenotypes).  Specifically the two traits involved with albinisms is production of the pigment melanin and blood type.  Again, while the probability of the manifestation of many recessive traits can increase with inbreeding, the appearance of such traits does not necessarily indicate inbreeding.  Indeed, relative to Old Wizard Whateley and his daughter Lavinia there is no direct evidence that her albinism is the result of inbreeding.  Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case with the birth of Lavinia’s twins and that is the focus of the next article.  Thank you – Fred.

dunwich_portraits_2__lavinia_whateley_by_sorrowking-d5xzhca

Dunwich Portraits:  Lavinia Whateley by Sorrowking (www.deviantart.com)

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9 thoughts on “The Dunwich Horror: Meet the Whateleys

  1. Hokova’s portrait of Lavinia is too attractive. Lovecraft describes her as “slatternly,” which means dirty and untidy. She Knows what she Knows, but I’ve always thought of her as fairly dull and uneducated.

    1. Thank you for the comment Gene. Martin does make a good comment – in Bobby Derie’s “Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos” he cites that slattenly can mean “dirty and unkempt” or “promiscuous.” Also, I will enjoy providing various interpretations of Lovecraftian themes when selecting artwork – maybe that was Lavinia on a good day! Thanks again for the input.

      Fred

  2. Your post title made me realize they’ve already got a theme song:

    “Whatleys, meet the Whatleys!
    They’re a modern Lovecraft family.
    From the town of Dunwich,
    They will bring the end of history.

    Let’s climb with the family up the hill.
    To the sound of calling whippoorwills.

    When you’re with the Whatleys,
    Have an Ia Yog-Sothoth time.
    A Yog-Sothoth time.
    You’ll have the End Of Time!”

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