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Published November 16, 2021

The Darkhold: Explained

Open the Book of the Damned, if you dare...

It is an ancient book of occultist lore, said to give its greatest devotees control over the black arts. The Darkhold’s every spell invites terror—it is of a demonic god borne.

Billions of years ago, the Elder God Chthon transcribed all of the dark magical knowledge of the time—the most repugnant and terrifying spells imaginable—on indestructible parchment. These scrolls were later brought together in the volume that would become known as the Darkhold. Other spell books, like the Necronomicon, took inspiration from it. Chthon left the book on Earth so that it could serve as a conduit for him to exercise his influence over the realm.

How the Elder Gods, and the Darkhold, came to be in HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (2019) #1.
How the Elder Gods, and the Darkhold, came to be in HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (2019) #1.

The Darkhold is ancient and evil, containing powerful spells that rob its readers of their hearts...and souls. Although, it's destructive nature is counterbalanced by the Book of the Vishanti. This spell book, created by a trio of magic gods named Agamotto, Oshtur, and Hoggoth, offers an antidote to the Darkhold's influence, including light magic alternatives. Where the Darkhold is chaos, the Book of the Vishanti is order.

[RELATED The Book of the Vishanti: Explained]

Learn more about the history of the Book of the Damned. Who has known its pages and invoked its spells? Who has mastered it all?

Greg Smallwood variant cover to THE DARKHOLD ALPHA (2021) #1.
Greg Smallwood variant cover to THE DARKHOLD ALPHA (2021) #1.

It’s a well-traveled book, and it has been at the center of more than its fair share of dramatic episodes over the centuries. For example, it was used to create the first vampire. Back when Atlantis was still above water, a warrior named Kull killed the dark sorcerer Thulsa Doom. Doom’s followers, the Darkholders, then used a spell from the book to create Varnae, the first vampire. But, as one would expect of a creature of the night, Varnae turned on his creators when they tried to command him and used the book to start creating more vampires.

In the following centuries, the book was passed through the hands of sages, priests, and scholars. By the Middle Ages, Mephisto was using it to imprison a demon named Darklove.

By the 17th century, the Vatican had custody of the book. Dracula sent a thief to steal it from him, but that didn’t exactly go as planned—and the sorcerer Cagliostro ended up with it instead.

The intrigue surrounding the book hasn’t died down in more recent times. In the 1920s, a group of archaeologists were rendered insane when they tried to translate hieroglyphics relating to the book.

One of Doctor Strange's deadliest brushes with the Darkhold was when Dracula reemerged to cause trouble for the Sorcerer Supreme—and all of Earth—in DOCTOR STRANGE (1974) #59-62. This time, Dracula did not just want to use his own power, but that of the ancient book.

After a failed attempt to steal the tome from Avengers Mansion, Strange learned of a spell kept in the Darkhold called the Montesi Formula that could rid the whole world of vampires. To implement the spell, he recruited WongHannibal King, Frank Drake, and Blade to help him retrieve the book from its new hiding place: Baron Mordo's castle. After a bloodcurdling battle with the vampire in present reality, Strange took him to another plane, which gave the others time to concoct the Montesi Formula. The combatants returned just in time for those assembled to succeed and rid the planet of vampires...but only for a time as the spell was later undone.

Stephen Strange nearly succumbs to the Darkhold in DOCTOR STRANGE (1974) #62.
Stephen Strange nearly succumbs to the Darkhold in DOCTOR STRANGE (1974) #62.

And that’s just one example of the might of the text within the Book of the Damned. Around 1930, a man named Gregor Russoff, ancestor of Jack Russell (AKA Werewolf by Night), acquired the book. Accounts of how it found its way to his hands vary, with some saying he bought it and others claiming he purloined it from a sorcerer. Either way, it contained information about the origins of werewolves. When Gregor read it, he became a werewolf himself. In 1958, Russoff raised Chthon, hoping he would cure him of his affliction. Instead, Chthon struck out at him, apparently killing him at the time, but Russoff managed to survive.

Throughout the 20th century, the Darkhold was sought after by Red Skull, Nick Fury, and a cast of other notable individuals. Doctor Doom located a part of it at one point. In addition, Interpol agent Sam Buchanan, occultist Dr. Louise Hastings, and Victoria Montesi—whose family was historically tasked with safeguarding the book—sought out the tome and managed to collect a number of its pages in DARKHOLD: PAGES FROM THE BOOK OF SINS (1992).

Doctor Strange finds the present-day seekers of the Darkhold in DARKHOLD: PAGES FROM THE BOOK OF SINS (1992) #5.
DARKHOLD: PAGES FROM THE BOOK OF SINS (1992) #5

In the 21st century, modern day Darkholders became interested in Carnage, thinking he played a part in a prophecy they were interested in. They tried to sacrifice him to awaken Chthon...but this being dark magic, things went sideways and Carnage somehow became empowered by the Elder God.

After that, the book found its way to Baron Zemo, who used the book to engulf Manhattan in a shroud of Darkforce shadows.

Carnage learns of the Darkhold's might in CARNAGE (2015) #4.
Carnage learns of the Darkhold's might in CARNAGE (2015) #4.

In the most recent "Darkhold Saga" starring the Scarlet Witch, Doctor Doom, one of the greatest sorcerers in the Multiverse, finds the Darkhold⁠—and Chthon has found him. To save all of existence, the Scarlet Witch gathers some of the world's greatest heroes from Wasp, Blade, Iron Man, and Spider-Man…and has them unleash their inner darkness. Because the only way to stand up to the forces unleashed by the Darkhold is give in to its call.

Read the Darkhold's complete history in this Marvel Unlimited Reading Guide, or try the latest "Darkhold Saga" event!

 

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The Darkhold
It is an ancient book of occultist lore, said to give its greatest devotees control over the black arts. The Darkhold’s every spell invites terror—it is of a demonic god borne.
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