Monday, January 30, 2006

Lovecraft & Charles M. Skinner

Lovecraft was fascinated with the Schenectady legend, though he transfered it to his home town in Providence. He obtained a great deal of the legend in The Shunned House from Skinner's book.

In a cellar in Green Street, Schenectady, there appeared, some years ago, the silhouette of a human form, painted on the floor in mould. It was swept and scrubbed away, but presently it was there again, and month by month, after each removal, it returned: a mass of fluffy mould, always in the shape of a recumbent man. When it was found that the house stood on the site of the old Dutch burial ground, the gossips fitted this and that together and concluded that the mould was planted by a spirit whose mortal part was put to rest a century and more ago, on the spot covered by the house, and that the spirit took this way of apprising people that they were trespassing on its grave. Others held that foul play had been done, and that a corpse, hastily and shallowly buried, was yielding itself back to the damp cellar in vegetable form, before its resolution into simpler elements. But a darker meaning was that it was the outline of a vampire that vainly strove to leave its grave, and could not because a virtuous spell had been worked about the place. ... But the Schenectady vampire has yielded up all his substance, and the green picture is no more.

Lovecraft wrote:

I wondered what it would look like - what its form and substance would be, and how big it might have waxed through long ages of life- sucking. ... At length, upon a suggestion of my uncle's, I decided to try the spot nocturnally; and one stormy midnight ... the mouldy floor with its uncanny shapes and distorted, half-phosphorescent fungi. ... I saw - amidst the whitish deposits a particularly sharp definition of the "huddled form" ... the thin, yellowish, shimmering exhalation ... anthropomorphic patch of mould by the fireplace ... a subtle, sickish, almost luminous vapour which, as it hung trembling in the dampness, seemed to develop vague and shocking suggestions of form, gradually trailing off into nebulous decay ... truly horrible ... the spot.

Suddenly my spade struck something softer than earth. ... I scraped away more dirt ... the surface I uncovered was fishy and glassy - a kind of semi-putrid congealed jelly with suggestions of translucency. I scraped further, and saw that it had form. ... like a mammoth soft blue-white stovepipe doubled in two... still more I scraped, and then abruptly I leaped out of the hole and away from the filthy thing ... this unthinkable abnormality whose titan elbow I had seen. {after destroying it} The dampness was less foetid, and all the strange fungi had withered to a kind of harmless greyish powder which blew ashlike along the floor.

Charles Skinner and HPL had one thing in common, they enjoyed telling weird tales!

1 comment:

Fran Friel said...

Hmm...I'll have to keep an eye out for that mold in the shower from now on. Sounds like a good companion story subject for "Under the Dryer." :-)

Good to see your blog is still bursting with HPL goodness.



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