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|“||Of my family before this date there is no evil report, but something strange must have happened then. In one chronicle there is a reference to a de la Poer as “cursed of God” in 1307, whilst village legendry had nothing but evil and frantic fear to tell of the castle that went up on the foundations of the old temple and priory. The fireside tales were of the most grisly description, all the ghastlier because of their frightened reticence and cloudy evasiveness. They represented my ancestors as a race of hereditary daemons beside whom Gilles de Retz and the Marquis de Sade would seem the veriest tyros, and hinted whisperingly at their responsibility for the occasional disappearance of villagers through several generations.||„|
|~ Delapore about his ancestors, the De la Poers.|
The De la Poer family are the posthumous main antagonists of H.P. Lovecraft's short story The Rats in the Walls. They are the ancestors of the American Delapore family, including the story's main protagonist, simply known as Delapore. Even decades after the destruction of the De la Poers, the local villagers still fear them irrationally, with the reason behind the fear being revealed at the end of the story.
The De la Poer family were a wealthy English family, the first record of whom was the grant of Exham Priory and the title of Baron Exham to Gilbert De la Poer by Henry III in 1261. However, by the time of 1307 the De la Poers had become "cursed before God" due to dark rites performed by them in the name of the Magna Mater, a deity connected with the Phrygian goddess Cybele whose worship had been forbidden since Roman times. It is also hinted in the story that the family worshipped Nyarlathotep.
Due to the rites supposedly performed by the De la Poers, they were hated and feared by all who knew their name. One member of the family, Lady Margaret De la Poer, became the demonic villainess of "a particularly horrible old ballad not yet extinct near the Welsh border". Another story tells of Lady Mary De la Poer who, the day after she was married to the Earl of Shrewsfield, was murdered by her husband and mother-in-law after they discovered dark deeds done by her during the De la Poer family rites. When they confessed their reason to the priest, he absolved them before God.
In about the 17th Century, Walter De la Poer, 11th Baron Exham, discovered a "horrible secret" about his family. Horrified by what he found, he and his servants killed the rest of the De la Poers in their beds. Walter De la Poer fled to Virginia and renamed himself Delapore before continuing the family line.
Years after the demise of the family, Delapore, one of their descendants, bought Exham Priory, and was kept awake all night by the sounds of rats clawing in the walls. He also discovered inscriptions praising the Magna Mater. Delapore, his friend Captain Norrys and several others investigated after discovering a secret underground complex, and found the horrifying secret of the De la Poers: They had constructed an underground city in which they bred humans, many of whom regressed to quadrupedal, barely human states, in order to kill and eat them during their rituals. It was this which had been discovered by Walter De la Poer, who had killed his family to end these rituals, except one who he sealed within the underground city, where the rats ate them and the remaining human cattle, growing to the enormous sizes of those inhabiting Exham Priory as a result.
Driven mad by the revelation, Delapore regressed into an animalistic state and savagely killed Captain Norrys before beginning to eat him while ranting about the Magna Mater, completely giving in to his familial urges as a De la Poer. He was then confined to an asylum, insisting that the rats killed Norrys, and Exham Priory was dynamited by the authorities to bury the city and with it the De la Poer's legacy.