Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Meteorite in Colour Out of Space

Greetings fellow bloggers. Your response, while not always public, has been wonderful to this blog. Many of you are sending me information and articles for future posting. Thanks! I hope you like the word of the day feature. A dear friend suggested it!

The Colour Out of Space is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories. It is filled with chemistry, astronomy, neat nineteenth century geeky gadgets, and is one weird tale!

It was written in March 1927, but describes the events of June 1882 and following.

I have looked for a number of years, but I've not been able to find a New England meteorite of June 1882 to fit the story. Maybe one of you can post some information?

There was one at Stevens Point, Wisconsin on Saturday, March 18, 1882 "An immense meteortie fell about fifty miles southeast of Fort Assinaboine, Arizona, on the night of the 10th ... its glare lighting the country for many miles around. Four minutes after striking the earth the report was heard ... sounding like the discharge of a heavy-gun, and the earth was perceptibly shaken."

However, John McEnnis [1, p.89] believes the model that impressed HPL was the Willamette, Oregon event of 1902. The full scientific article can be found here.

"This ... meteorite ... was found ... in the autumn of 1902. The region ... is a series of hills ... steeply sloping sides cut into by streamlets flowing into the Willamette ... wild ... covered by a primeval forest of pines and birch, little visited and largely inaccessible. Here, on the spur of the hill ... lay the great iron mass, lightly buried in soil and the carpet of accumulated vegetable debris. In the valley, half a mile away, there lives with his family, a humble, intelligent Weishman, Mr. Ellis Hughes ... dug and found its great dimensions; also that it was iron. .... For some months they kept the find a secret ... {until} Mr. Hughes conceived the idea of bringing the great iron mass to his house, a distance of nearly three-fourths of a mile. This seemed an almost impossible task, he having only his son of 15 years and a small horse ... but he was an old miner, full of mechanical resources, and also full of pluck and energy. With infinite pains he fashioned a simple capstan with chain to anchor it, and a long braided wire rope to roll up on it, as his horse traveled around it as a winch. Then he fashioned an ingenious car with log body-timbers and sections of tree trunks as wheels; also some heavy-double-sheaved pulleys. By wearisome blocking-up and leverage he succeeded in capsizing the great mass directly upon the car and lashing it securely...

McInnis explains that the meteorite ended up at one of Lovecraft's favorite places, the American Museum of Natural History in New York. If time permits, tomorrow we'll blog together on other autobiographical elements in CooS.

[1] Books At Brown, 1991-1992, Vol. XXXVIII-XXXIX, pp. 67-100. McInnis deconstructs CooS as a model to understand HPL's feelings toward his father and grandfather.
[2] THE WILLAMETTE METEORITE, HENRY A. WARD: Proceedings of the Rochester Academy or Science VOL. 4, PP. 137—148, MARCH 24, 1904.

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