The Lurking Horror

The Lurking Horror is an interactive fiction game released by Infocom in 1987. The game was written by Dave Lebling and inspired by the horror fiction writings of H. P. Lovecraft (including his Cthulhu Mythos). Like most of Infocom's games, it was released for several platforms simultaneously thanks to the Z-machine.

The Lurking Horror
Amiga cover art for The Lurking Horror
Designer(s)Dave Lebling
Platform(s)Amiga, Amstrad CPC/PCW, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64/128, Macintosh, MS-DOS.[1]
ReleaseRelease 203: May 6, 1987

Release 219: September 12, 1987

Release 221: September 18, 1987
Genre(s)Interactive fiction

The original release included versions for DOS, the Apple II, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit family, and Commodore 64. Later, it was ported to the Amiga with the addition of sound effects, making it the first title with that feature. The effects would play at appropriate times in the game in an effort to intensify the horror atmosphere. This marked one of the few major additions to the Z-machine with the exception of graphics; traditionally, Infocom had eschewed such changes in favor of expanding the parser capacity and overall size of game files. It was Infocom's 26th game; Infocom rated it as "Standard" in terms of difficulty. Lurking Horror was the only horror game ever released by Infocom.


The game starts with the player trying to finish a term paper at G.U.E. Tech, a large MIT-like American university. The player has braved a snowstorm to travel to the school's computer lab to work on the report. The document is now mangled beyond repair, however; with the help of a hacker, the player finds that the file has been partially overwritten by the Department of Alchemy's files. Although the game begins as a quest to try to salvage the term paper, alarming events soon unfold, revealing a powerful evil within the school's depths.

What began as a mere snowstorm has strengthened into a full-force blizzard. The player must traverse the University grounds in an attempt to recover the term paper's data. Much of the campus is deserted and covered in snowdrifts, rendering walkways impassable. The only accessible avenues are steam tunnels and a small complex of buildings. In the course of unraveling the mystery, the player encounters demons, zombies, and sinister references to a recent campus suicide. Failing to set things right in the hidden passages beneath the school will result in a literal fate worse than death.

Development and release

The name of the university, G.U.E. Tech, is an obvious nod to Infocom's Zork games, which are set in the Great Underground Empire. In The Lurking Horror, G.U.E. Tech is an abbreviation for "George Underwood Edwards Institute of Technology". Many features of G.U.E. Tech, including the steam tunnels, are modeled after MIT, which many of Infocom's developers attended. In particular, the Infinite Corridor is a central feature of the MIT campus, and a door marked "Department of Alchemy" actually exists in Building 2 thanks to a late-20th-century hack.[2]

All of Infocom's game packages since Deadline included extra content in their game packages called "feelies". The feelies for The Lurking Horror included: a student ID card; "G.U.E. at a Glance", a guide for freshmen of the school, including maps of the campus and buildings and background information on the school; a rubber centipede-like creature reminiscent of one of the monsters in the game (this was not mentioned on the package, and made for a creepy moment even before the user played the game). In addition to maps and other information necessary to complete the game, the "G.U.E. at a Glance" booklet contains many jabs at technology-oriented schools like MIT and Caltech. These straight-faced jokes include "In spite of what your roommate will tell you, G.U.E. Tech does not have the highest suicide rate in the country" and "Women: There's no need to go anywhere. With a male/female ratio of 6:1, someone WILL say hello to you." G.U.E. Tech's motto, seen on the student ID card in the feelies, is "Omne ignotum pro magnifico", a Latin phrase meaning "Everything unknown is taken for magnificent."


The game was very well received. Computer Gaming World wrote of Lurking, "Stephen King couldn't have done it better".[3] In 1996, Next Generation ranked it as the 24th top game of all time, calling it "the best adventure game of all time," as well as "one of only two in the horror genre that has ever seemed genuinely scary (Resident Evil is the other)." They elaborated that "Not only are the puzzles spot on genius, the writing is fantastic - a brilliant combination of the realism of Stephen King ... and the nameless, strangling horrors of H.P. Lovecraft."[4] In 2004, The Lurking Horror ranked number 10 on GameSpy's list of the scariest games of all time.[5]


  1. Adventureland by Hans Persson and Stefan Meier
  2. "IHTFP Hack Gallery: Department of Alchemy Door". Retrieved 2008-03-01.
  3. Ardai, Charles (Aug–Sep 1987). "Titans of the Computer Gaming World / Part IV of V: Ardai on Infocom". Computer Gaming World. p. 38.
  4. Next Generation 21 (September 1996), p.63.
  5. GameSpy: Top 10 Scariest Games
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