TO COMBAT February’s annual deluge of romantic clichés, some look for creative new dating options. Others, repulsed by society’s enforced mating rituals, seek the solace of darkness. One Portland bar offers both.

Lovecraft bills itself as a bar “paying tribute to the world of horror in all its forms,” and takes its name from seminal (incredibly weird) horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. On a recent visit to what the inner-Southeast bar calls “Unhappy Hour,” the atmosphere and people seemed, at first glance, to fulfill the mission.

A man in his early 20s, who very much resembled an early Ozzy Osbourne, sat alone and motionless across from the bar, watching a soundless projection of Stephen King’s Creepshow on a big screen. An interloper, sipping her first-ever absinthe cocktail, noted the barkeep’s three-inch-circumference earrings.

“Are those snakes?”

“No, dragons, actually,” came the polite reply.

The walls of Lovecraft mix black, pea-soup green, wood, and many bleached animal skulls, a steer cranium dangling from a metal chain being the most impressive. A baby doll with no arms loiters by the exit sign. An elaborate, mysterious painting—a symbol from Lovecraft’s fictional arcanum, it seems—dominates the ceiling.

But despite the ominous trappings, before long that inescapable Portland homeyness crept out of the shadows. A Scrabble board game sat nestled in the bookshelf alongside H. P. Lovecraft books. A men’s roller derby team showed up, as did a young woman wearing black combat boots and black lipstick, carrying a Mt Tabor Veterinary Care tote bag.

And while one can enjoy an absinthe cocktail, PBR tallboys were the standard order—clutched, of course, by hands wearing black fingernail polish.