Saturday, April 08, 2006

Billopp House: A tiny horror fragment

When Chrispy writes horror, it appears from the most obscure and common place things. So, too, Lovecraft.

"A short walk out of Tottenville, embowered among antique pines on the south shore and now is a state of vast decrepitude, is tehe old Billopp House, {1,4} a stone pile built by the first British circumnavigator of the {New York} island about 1664. There is something both impressive and terrible in its steep and hoary gable - one could write a story about it. I talked with the owner. a crude man whose family have inhabited it for ninety years. He does not appreciate his habitat, though he knows is is popular with the visitors from the outside world." [2]

Do you see how HPL slid from travelogue to horror story in a seamless manner? This has basically become an outline for a new horror story - never undertaken. This shows the quickness of his mind, his visual accuity to find a cue for a new story. All the elements are there - antiquarian ship captain, modern era devolved miscreant, eldritch house in near-ruins, and a Poesque family with a tainted past.


1 The Conference House so named because of a peace conference held September 11, 1776. It is quite restored now. see [3]

2 Letters from New York, to Lillian Clark, Sept. 29, 1924, ed. ST Joshi, p. 69

3 From the National Park Service:

A British naval officer, Capt. Christopher Billopp, built this two-story, stone house sometime before 1688, and in September 1776 a "peace" conference was held here between Admiral Lord Howe and an American delegation consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge. Even though it came after the British victory on Long Island, the conference ended without agreement because the patriots insisted on independence and Howe required the withdrawal of the Declaration of Independence. The city of New York acquired the house in 1926 and 3 years later placed it in custody of the Conference House Association under whose auspices it has been restored and furnished in the Revolutionary period. NHL Designation: 05/23/66

4 Sadly, Chrispy has found a few poor pictures of Billlopp House on-line but all are listed as copyrighted. If you google "Billopp House" or "Conference House" you will see a few.

1 comment:

cheesemeister said...

My son says that what he enjoys most about Lovecraft is his "scientific, journalistic" writing style. As opposed to Stephen King, who writes as if he's talking to a friend. Neither is inherently better or worse it's just interesting to note the difference.

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