The Things (also called The Croatoan and The Ancient Enemy) are shape-shifting aliens from John W. Campbell's 1938 novella, "Who Goes There?"
"Unwrap it, Blair! How the hell can they tell what they are buying if they can't see it? It may have a different chemistry, I don't know what else it has, but I know it has something I don't want. If you can judge by the look on its face - it isn't human so maybe you can't - it was annoyed when it froze. In fact, 'annoyed' is just about as close an approximation of the way it felt as crazy, mad, insane hatred.... They haven't seen those three red eyes, and that blue hair like crawling worms... Hell, I've had bad dreams ever since I looked at those three red eyes, nightmares! Dreaming The Thing thawed out and came to life, that it wasn't dead or even wholly unconscious all those twenty million years, just slowed and waiting.... I had some swell nightmares - that it wasn't made like we are - ...but of a different kind of flesh that it can really control. That it can change its shape and look like a man - and wait to kill and eat!"
— John W. Campbell, "Who Goes There?"
"I wonder if we ever saw its natural form; it may have been imitating the beings that built that ship... it found the dogs, and somehow got close enough to Charnauk to get him... the Thing we found was part Charnauk, queerly only half-dead, part Charnauk only half-digested by the jellylike protoplasm of that creature, and part the remains of the Thing we originally found, sort of melted down to the basic protoplasm. When the dogs attacked it, it turned into the best fighting thing it could think of, some other-world beast, apparently...."
— John W. Campbell, "Who Goes There?"
The Things are shape-shifting horrors from another world. At least one apparently hitch-hiked to Earth on another race's "flying saucer" ages before the dawn of human civilization by imitating hapless members of the saucer's crew, until the saucer crash-landed in one of Earth's polar wastelands, freezing the Thing in ice to wait patiently until the ice thawed or until someone or something arrived to find it, thaw it out, and give it a chance to begin imitating and replacing Earthly life. The Things might not have a form of their own, existing instead in a natural form of amorphous primordial goo which can be controlled by The Things to imitate any living creature The Things consume. The Things do not seem to be single, coherent organisms - instead, any collection of the Thing's cells is a decentralized ad-hoc, independent Thing in and of itself, such that a Thing's severed limbs, spilled body fluids, etc. are living Things as well, capable of their own independent life, movement, thought, and consumption and imitation of victims. In fact, it may be possible that it only takes a few living "cells" or even "molecules" of a Thing, and a short period of time to gain a foothold and then reproduce and spread like a disease to infect and then consume and replace its victim. The Things seem to be capable of great intelligence or of knowing not just the mere forms of things that it has consumed, but convincingly accurate approximations of the thoughts, memories, personalities, languages, and technologies of the creatures the Things have consumed, able to recall them at will in order to more perfectly imitate its victims, and even to construct great technological, engineering, scientific, and other feats as needed in order to spread the Things to other locations, continents, and worlds as needed for proliferation and survival.
Heresies and Controversies
- There is a correspondence between Things, Lovecraft's Shoggoths, and Koontz's "Croatoan"/"Ancient Enemy" from Phantoms (fan speculation)
- The Things might be telepathic. (hinted at in the novella)
- a vast Thing may live deep under the Earth, emerging occasionally in various terrifying forms to consume entire villages and cause mysterious mass disappearances such as the disappearance of the Mayan civilization, Roanoke village, Hoer Verde (Brazil), Lake Anjikuni Inuit village, Ashley Kansas, Indus Valley civilization, Easter Island civilization, Angkor, Viking Greenland settlement, etc. (Phantoms novel)
Associated Mythos Elements and Keeper Notes
The Things have no direct or implied ties to the "Cthulhu Mythos", but Keepers might choose to identify them with the following similar mythos elements:
- Fiction: "Who Goes There?", a 1938 novella by John W. Campbell
- Film: The Thing from Another World (1951), Horror Express (1972), The Thing (1982 film), The Thing (2011)
- Film and Fiction: Phantoms, a 1983 novel by Dean Koontz and Film: Phantoms (1998), based on the Dean Koontz novel
- Film: Doctor Who (1963 franchise) - story "Seeds of Doom" is another adaptation of Campbell's original story: scientists in Antarctica uncover an alien pod, which infects one of them and initiates a shocking transformation from human to alien, with a grim emphasis on body horror.
- Video Game: The Thing (2002)
- Boardgame: Stay_Away!
- Sourcebook: Malleus Monstrorum