Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cosmic Nihilism: Loren Eiseley, A Different Voice

Chripsy wants to continue to push the philosophical limits of Lovecraft's thoughts. The late archaeologist and ecological philosopher, Loren Eiseley, had a profoundly conservative passion and unique perspective on mankind as a blight, a "world-eater".

Lately, Chripsy has been considering the effect of parasites and viruses on humans. If a virus can allow a rat to be eaten by a cat to pass on the virus' genetic material - perhaps our madness - and even the madness of the old ones - is caused by an as yet undetected virus. All the yog-sothery by men and alien gods alike, is all caused by an unthinking bundle of RNA trying to make star hoppers and dimension walkers infect that madness to as many as possible throughout time and the universe?

Well while you ponder that brain-searing thought, read a true philosophical genius. I've abridged these comments to make them easier to read and digest.

"It came to me in the night, in the midst of a bad dream, that man, like the blight descending on a fruit, is by nature a parasite - a world eater. Under a microscope mold amoebas streaming to their meeting places ... single amoeboid frontiersmen swarm into concentrated aggregations .. thrust up overtoppling spore palaces, like skyscrapers. ... man's motor throughways resemble slime trails ... man's cities are only the ephemeral moment of his spawning - that he must desend upon the orchard of far worlds or die.

"The cycles of parasites are often diabolically ingenious .. to the unwilling host ... tehir ends appear mad. Has earth hosted a new disease - that of the world eaters?

"Everyone imagines that he knows what is possible and impossible, but the whole of time and history attest our ignorance. ... The future, formidable as a thundecloud, is still inchoate and unfixed upon the horizon.

"Not many years ago I fell to chatting with a naturalist who had .. experience among the Cree ... What had struck him ... was their remarkable and indifferent adjustment to their woodland environment. ...while totally skilled ... in their surroundings, they had little interest in experiment on a scientific sense ... they were ... careless with equipment ... given them ... things might be discarded or left hanging on a branch. Their reliance on their own powers was great ... based on traditional accomodation.

"Not all tiny beings of the slime mold escape to new pastures ... some are sacrificed to make the spore cities ... it is so in the cities of men.

"A span of three centuries has been enough to produce a planetary virus, while on that same planet others with brains the biological equivalent of our own peer in astonishment from the edges of their last wilderness. ... Such an episode parallels the rise of a biological mutation as potentially virulent ... there is no comparable episode in history. ... To climb the fiery ladder that the spore bearers have used {space rockets} one must consume the resources of a world ... the accessible crust of the earth is finite, while the demand for minerals increases ... so quick and insidious has been the rise of the world virus that its impact is just beginning to be felt.

"Like all earth's other creatures, man had previously existed in a precarious balance with nature ... it was impossible for his numbers to grow in any one place. Only with plant domestication is storage granary possible and three primary changes: a spectacular increase in numbers, diversification of labor, and the ability to feed the spore cities.

"Modern man and his bush contemporaries have arrived at the same conclusion by very different routes. Both know they are shape shifters and changelings. Modern man, the world eater, respects no space and no thing green or furred or sacred, the march of machines is in his blood. The bushmen speak softly the age old ritual words.

"Beginning on some winter night the snow will fall steadily for a thousand years and hush the spore cities whose seed has flown. Halley's comet will pass like a ghostly matchflame over the unwatched grave of the cities.

____
Abridged from The World Eaters of The Invisible Pyramid by Loren Eiseley.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Vampirella

Our resourceful Tom Lera has uncovered a past note on a curiosity.

Lovecraft had a huge surge in the late 60's and 70's - and there has been no reduction in passion for Ech-Pi-El. However, many have discovered that the Gentleman from Providence has a sex-appeal and the presence of his name will HYPE a magazine or book sale.















OK, now back to ... the ... subject.

Here is what "lovecraft" was all about in this issue.

"If you've ever read an H.P. Lovecraft story, chances are you've thought of the man himself - or at least to his state of mind. Was the 20th century writer the keeper of some dark and arcane knowledge that he hid in plain sight in his short stories? Or was he a literary madman, capable of generating a myriad of mythologies, yet tunable to truly exist in his own world? Maybe it was the fact his mom made him wear dresses because she always wanted a girl (you weren't expecting that). [*] In Lovecraft, a new missive published by Vertigo (from a Hans Rodionoff screenplay), comic writer Keith Giffen (Lobo) and artist Enrique Breccia (Che) weave a dark tale of historical fact from H.P.'s bizarre upbringing and awkward adult life with a brilliant but twisted fictitious backdrop - where the Necronomicon, Arkham, Mass., and the elder Gods exist just beyond the borders of reason. H.P. becomes keeper and guardian of the ancient book of the dead. He writes his tales in hopes of sating the hungers of the "unimaginable horrors" bound by the tome. But it's a losing battle, one where Lovecraft must dive into the mouth of madness, forsaking all hopes of a normal life. It's a choice that only a madman, or the secret savior of the world, could make. " - Tom LaSusa

Yep, pure hype. If you actually did buy a copy of the Giffen/Breccia 'zine, post comment below.

Thanks, Tom! for your diligent research into the archives.

___
* Yes, Lovecraft as a child wore a dress. Virtually all Victorian children were placed in dresses - male and female. In my childhood (the Eisenhower era) hair was left uncut for a very long time - I must have been 3 before I ever had my first hair cut. It was long indeed.


Keith Giffen art

Enrique Breccia art

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ian Derbyshire

If you don't know of Ian's work, he has graciously consented to introduce a new, short fiction, Mythos story here. Thank you!

Ian's an aspiring writer from the wintry city of Ottawa, Canada and currently works the high glamour job of Senior Technical Advisor in a call centre - but hopes to step down soon into a smaller role as a professional writer. He lives happily with his girlfriend and two cats in a high rise one bedroom mansion.

Ian has been published at www.darkrecesses.com and is a featured writer at www.horrorlibrary.net. His latest major project:
www.livejournal.com/users/dravenport is outstanding work.


_____

Jade's Escape: The Ominous Return


The straw in the corner was stained an ominous shade of red in places. Water dripped from the stone ceiling created a steady ‘plonk, plonk’ that threatened to drive Jade insane. There was only one door, made out of iron, and it opened out into the corridor. Jade had spent a lot of time throwing herself against it in an effort to tear it out of the wall but the decrepit looking stone walls were stronger than they looked. Jade’s body twitched, apparently it still remembered the futile abuse it had suffered, indeed if she took off her shirt she knew she’d see a mass of purple and green fading bruises painting her arm and shoulder.

Is this all there is left?

A discouraging thought, Jade beat it senseless and resumed her pacing. She had no idea how long she’d been kept down in this dungeon, there were no windows just a small gate on the door where torch light barely illuminated her cell, but it had to have been days.

She had been given food twice, she never heard or saw the person who brought the bowl of stew, but twice when she hadn’t been able to stay awake anymore she had woken up to find it steaming on the ground.

Jade had tried screaming, but all it did was echo painfully off of the walls. She’d also crammed her head against the gate on the door, trying to look up and down the corridors for any hint of where she may have been, but all she saw was a scratching on the wall across from her, directly under the torch.

Nyarlathotep comes

Whatever that meant.

Jade’s legs grew weary and she sat down hard, her back falling against an unyielding wall. The urge to cry rose again but she quelled it. Just then a black wing flew through her mind and she started violently. She shook her head from side to side, trying to clear it. Her mind ran from the winged darkness to a safe place, her father’s old summerhouse where they vacationed when she was a child. Jumping in the lake.

She swam and swam until she saw something sparkle on the floor of the lake. She called to her Daddy and dove deep. She kicked and kicked but it seemed like the distance was growing, the shine was getting further away instead of closer. Jade pushed hard and had almost reached the object when her foot was jerked backward. She turned to see that her ankle had become trapped in seaweed. She yanked but couldn’t free herself. Her lungs burned and she flailed uselessly. Her vision began to dim and her mouth opened involuntarily as she cried out Daddy!
Then the burning sensation was gone. Her vision cleared and she was standing in a city sunken below the surface of the water. Her hands leapt to her throat but needlessly, she was breathing!
Jade gazed at the marvelous city, taking in the high fluted columns, the giant domed buildings, the bizarre statues of bipedal frogs. She had to crane her neck to view these structures, as small as a nine year old is, Jade was certain that if she was as tall as her Daddy she would still be forced to crane her head.

She wandered the city for hours, taking in the statues, each stranger than the last, until she came to the most magnificent building yet. It was another domed building, with huge archways for doors, but carved on top of the dome was an octopus, glaring down at the square in front with malevolence in its eyes. Jade felt compared to walk beneath the archway and into the building. She struggled to climb the large steps inside, they obviously weren’t meant for the short legs of her kind, but eventually reached the theatre, wear she saw Him sitting atop his throne, awake, waiting. She screamed, her mind detaching from her corporeal self forever, and she never saw the small humanoid figure standing at His ‘right hand.’ Slight, dark featured, he held a walking stick with the handle carved in an intricate squid, its tentacles wrapping around each other until they formed a point at the bottom.

Nyarlathotep smiled.

Her eyes opened but Jade never woke again. Her body stood and walked out of the open cell, down the corridor, up the stairs and out of the basement. Soon the thing that had been Jade was standing with the rest of a group, in what had been someone’s living room before he took over the house.

They stood there, facing the old-fashioned Victorian lounge chair. He sat there, hands braced on his intricate walking stick, and he smiled to himself.

Across the city people woke screaming.

Nyarlathotep was back.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lovecraft Goes Ebay

Actually, with virtually 1400 Lovecrfatiana items offered each and every day on ebay, Lovecraft seemingly owns ebay.

This is the start of an infrequent and sporadic attempt to see how Lovecraftiana and ebay have merged into an unholy weirdness.

This installment is all about HYPE! MARKETING! SEX! ... and ... CTHULUCULA!

Gods of Pegana! Ia! What Yog-Sothery is this?

Toyzz (tm) is said to be "the world's fastest growing toy and collectible site ..." and this item, "Yes, you have finally found it! ... one never been touched, factory sealed, and very hard to find Limited Edition Toyzz Exclusive 6" Halloween "Dracthulhu" Dracula Cthulhu Plush! ... the impossible-to-find ... variants ... Toyzz exclusive ...". [recent ebay ad]

Ebayiaaaaie!

Actually, to be serious for a moment ... before we glance below at the pic ... Chrispy wants to make a point.

Lovecraft wanted to shatter the hold theologic gods had upon humanity with his inventions so what are we to do now? His myths are as homey as Betty Crocker (tm) and teddy bears. What is the horror in a cute cuddly cthulucula? Um, none. Lovecraft is mainstream and one thinks he would smile at the yoggish silliness, but cringe at the mockery at his nihilistic cosmicism.


[An extract from a recent ad on ebay (c) by Toyzz. Used for scholarly discussion.]

A Southern Indiana Hillside


On a business trip, it was a horrendously cold day in January 2003. On a lonely road my fascination seized upon this scene.



"Beside the road at its crest a still higher summit rose, bleak and windswept, and I saw that it was a burying-ground where black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse." - The Festival.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lovecraft: Portrait



"Those studies and pursuits which partake of the dark and occult in nature most strongly claimed my attention."

-The Alchemist.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thank you!


The previous blog post was our 100th! Yes, you've been faithful, my HPLian bloggers. I appreciate each of the 1100 reads of my blogs, essays, stories, comments and factoids.

Those of you who have shared comments, guest essays, private correspondence, and more - thank you, too.

We have only begun to explore the excitement of Lovecraftiana. *














* With 100 blogs under our belt, there is plenty to read and digest - and Chrispy does have to create his own fiction, so if I slow down on blog posts, don't fret. I am here. You can see my fiction and non-fiction over at HL.net and also my weekly blog turn at HLblog. But, I have an endless set of ideas and essays for the future.

Coming up in the weeks ahead: "ebay and Lovecraft", more deconstruction of Lovecraft fiction by Chrispy, and a comparison of the nihilist cosmicism of late Transcendental ecologist, Loren Eisley, and Lovecraft's.

Astronomer Lovecraft: The Real Deal

Lovecraft as a teen was deadly serious about astronomy. His math skills were weak - and would get worse - but his intuitiveness and studiousness was quite astounding.

In his Pawtuxett Valley Gleaner article of September 26, 1906: "...such an occulation happens ... when the moon, a large crescent, hides the star called "X2 Sagittarii" .... these occulations are among the most important occurences in astronomy, as they are the means of finding out that the moon has no dense atmosphere."

Lovecraft devoured everything he could get in the library, his star books, Scientific American , and what Dr. Winslow Upton (of Brown U. and the Ladd Observatory) loaned him.

____
* Occulation of a star on 25th of this month, an interesting phenomenon, Collected Essays: Volume 3: Science, Joshi, Hippocampus.

____

Interestingly, this week at science news astronomers report that they used the transit of a star passing behind Charon to determine its size and other physical properties just as Lovecraft knew scientists did with the moon.

"In the Jan. 5 Nature, two teams report that Charon's radius is 606 kilometers. Combined with Hubble Space Telescope measurements of Charon's mass, the new size estimate reveals that the moon has a density 1.71 times that of water—and about one-third the density of Earth.

"The lack of a substantial atmosphere supports the theory that Charon was released when an object struck Pluto. Scientists have similarly proposed that Earth's moon formed when a giant object struck the young Earth. "

Lovecraft Lets His His Hair Down

I've read more of HPL's letters than I should admit. However, my recent acquisitions have included the remnants of HPL's correspondence with Sam Loveman.

Oh my.

Lovecraft says [April 29, 1923, p. 17], "How will all my undignified language look a century hence?"

Indeed.

With Loveman, he was loose as a goose and as jive as Clive. In corresponding about amateur journalism affairs, he really lets loose.

[same letter] "Hell, but this has been some month! The trip tired me out like the devil ... I'm snuffling, wheezing, coughing - and just for novelty - nearly stone deaf. My left ear couldn't hear a cannon - or George Julian Houtain ... "

"... but gawdamighty, I think I ought to have at least a bit of a vacation! If Mortonius {James Morton} doesn't thank me all the rest of his life for taking this theokratermene {i.e. Lovecraftian circumlocution for 'goddamned'} presidency, I'll denounce him for a fat ingrate! Bah!

" Jhesu! But I'd like to get to Cleveland ... for Pegana knows that bimbo Eglinus {Elgin} doesn't loosen up enough to put you in the opulent division {i.e. $} ... "

HPL even turns on his other close friend, "...And say - what do you think about some illustrations by Clericus Ashtonius? {Clark Ashton Smith} I was just on the point of asking him point blank when I noticed how in certain cases he failed to follow the text in H.B. {Home Brew, "The Lurking Fear" illustrations}."

There you have a few select expletives from the tee-totaler & weird tale writer when he was at his most relaxed.

I wouldn't have a tribute blog for good ol' Ech-Pi-El if I didn't admire - and in many ways identify with - him. However, Lovecraft was more than a legend, he was a man. We must celebrate the man in all his shades, hues, chromas and prismatic flavors.

Recently Seen Autograph

August Derleth on the Lovecraft of Legend

August Derleth wrote a touching defense of the memory of HPL in 1949. [1] However, you can be the judge whether he assisted in dispelling misapprehensions or contributed his own level of myth to the man.

"Within a year of the death of Howard Philips Lovecraft on March 11, 1937 {sic} [2] the myths about him have begun to grow. Perhaps there is no more valid testimony of his place - a minor one to be sure but welcome one - to the halls of notable Americans in literature than the fact that in the dozen years since his untimely passing, he has become an almost legendary figure leading credence to V. Starrett;s early judgment that Lovecraft was "his own most fantastic creation". Moreover the myths have spread to become associated with all who have had to do with Lovecraft or his work, and like many myths they do him and his friends an injustice either on the right or the left. An examination of them - at this point, in the view to publishing the facts persistent therein is appropriate.

"That Lovecraft died of starvation? ... Lovecraft had been invalid through most of his early years, and he was not well during most of his life. He suffered from an allergy to cold and all its complications and when he died eventually at the Jane Brown Memorial Hospital in Providence of a combination of cancer of the intestine and Bright's disease {sic?}. That Lovecraft spent days and perhaps weeks at a time in a state of undernourishment is probably true; it might be said that his condition was occasionally aggravated by the irregularity of his eating habits but not that he dies of starvation. It would be going too far to suggest that Lovecraft lived in a state of chronic undernourishment as some writers suggested he did. To this legend Lovecraft's sometimes wife gave some unjustifiable support for while he attained some girth and was for a time fat during his marriage {this predicament} with his weight began in 1923, during which year his letters refer to his ailment with embarrassment to his need for having his clothes altered, and in 1924, the year of his marriage (Lovecraft lived with his wife less than 2 years) and his gained weight did not outlast his marriage. He was normally thin rather than heavy though his aunt with whom he spent his last years was a plump woman shorter in stature than he. His eating habits were often dictated by necessity, but just as often as by choice."

____

Recall that on an earlier blog post - I wondered about a comment by Moskowitz that I found. "...suffered from a kidney ailment, as well as Bright's disease (also an affliction of those organs) which was eventually to prove a major factor in his death at the age of forty-seven. Since kidney disorders decrease the tolerance to cold in some people, it seems quite logical that for a man suffering from such a condition the term 'cool air' would evoke horror."

This Bright's Disease legend obviously circulated widely before 1949 and at least through Moskowitz' comment in 1967.

The term is old-fashioned and the pathology is simply elevated albumin in the urine and necrosis - or disintegration - of the kidney tissue. It is rarely used as a medical description now. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright.

Obviously, if Lovecraft had kidney failure, it might be hard for the doctor to determine if the cancer led to the condition - but seeing that it is a secondary cause, too much may have been made of this.

Feel free to discuss in comments, below.

____
1 Essay in a May 1949 fan circular - Said to be produced and published by Ray Zorn.

2 Joshi in A Dreamer and a Visionary (2001) corrects this to March 15, 1937. On p. 385, Joshi quotes the detah certificate, "the principle cause of death was given as 'Carcinoma of the small intestine'" and a "contributory cause was 'chronic nephritis', or kidney disease.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Jeffrey Thomas and Peter Worthy

I have just cracked open the cover of an exciting new Mythos book and omg the horrors that have crept out - Ia!

Jeffrey Thomas is no stranger to horror, nor it to he. His newest book Unholy Dimensions is enough to make you tremble, but the illustrations by Peter Worthy will make you want to crawl under the covers and hold your Teddy Bear - assuming it does not come to life ... with fangs ... and ... ```shudder```.

I'll start the review with Red Glass. Brevity is not a prerequisite or restriction of deep terror - and I dare say Peter Crowther or James Herbert could not have done so well as Mr. Thomas has in this fine and creepy tale.

Take these pericopes ... "...a knife to scrape off some of the paint on his wall..."; "...more chilling than the sudden, barking sound itself..."; "...silhuoette in the second floor windows was..."; ...jagged, swirling paisley designs like an orgy of psychedelic tadpoles...".

And as to Peter's worthy illustrations, the one for Red Glass has a supposedly tranquil sunrise scene - but the dark shadows close in on the reflecting alien sun and glow ... like ... an eye watching ... or a maelstrom about to unleash. There is a vortex forming below the surface which summons the hint of lightning on the horizon. Oh, that water may be seemingly calm, but so too was the day before tomorrow at Hiroshima. The poet said, "the sea is cold, but it holds the hottest life." And it holds the most frightening death. Ask this - are we afraid or afraid because the 'other' is fleeing a terror beyond our understanding and will simply trample us to get away from the terror THEY behold and is INVISIBLE to us?

This is the real thing, folks. Nihilistic, apocalyptic, cosmic, horrific ... and ick!

Run! But not for your life, but for the bookstore and buy this one. Stay tuned for future reviews of the stories from Unholy Dimensions.

Lovecraft's Last Days

Ebay has become the historical museum of Lovecraftiana. As each item is circulated and sold, revelations unfold. I suppose that one could spend years in libraries and archives and not see the unique items that are presented on ebay.

Recently, an item [1] came up for auction and I will judiciously quote it. The occasion was a May 1949 limited release publication with a keynote essay by August Derleth refuting scandalous remarks about his departed mentor.

He starts out by saying that “in the dozen years” since March 11, 1937 many had whispered that Lovecraft committed suicide.

“This legend was actually propagated by people who belong to that scurrilous group of mentally unbalanced souls who are somehow mysteriously “in the know” of facts or so-called facts no one else can ascertain. Fortunately, the records of the Jane Brown Memorial Hospital contain all the ... details.”

Derleth was obviously furious at the gossip and lashed out at it. The document, however, sheds light on the legend of Lovecraft and suicide at such an early date from his death – a mere twelve years after his death – and no doubt the concept originated sometime prior to the Derleth rebuke.

Joshi [2] reports that the progression of the cancer was rapid. First signs were noted in January of 1937, which was diagnosed as terminal on February 27. Specialists were consulted, but the pain raged. Friends (the Probsts) visited and others wrote and sent telegrams. March 6 reported hideous pain, March 9 HPL could not eat, March 11 he was ambulated to the hospital and intravenously “fed”. He spoke feebly and little on March 12 and 13. On March 14 the fluids built so badly that 6 quarts were drained. Thus, Lovecraft expired on March 15.

_____
[1] Said to be produced and published by Ray Zorn and this ebay copy was inserted into a National Amateur Press Asssociation mailer from 1949.

[2] p. 389 ff. A Dreamer and a Visionary, S T Joshi, Liverpool University Press, 2001 (an apparently abridged version of Joshi's longer American biography)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Gibbous

I love that word. Gibbous.

Gibbous is a special word derived from Latin, meaning humped-back. Later, it came to mean to some writers "pregnant". The swollen belly of the woman with child is reminiscent of the curve of the hunchback.

Chris Perridas considers 'gibbous horror' (and hopes that HPL felt the same way) as a walking, loathsome thing near birth. That unnamable evil is so much greater than the stomping around full moon horror of a werewolf or a vampire. The potential of new birth fear is so much more intense that the already born and already known and named fear.

Lovecraft came to the term early through (I believe) Poe and (for sure) his astronomy lessons.

[E A Poe, 1850, The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal] "In examining the boundary between light and darkness (in the crescent or gibbous moon) where this boundary crosses any of the dark places, the line of division is found to be rough and jagged; but, were these dark places liquid, it would evidently be even."

Good old Poe. Surely the teen-aged Howard devoured this story about a charlatan who tried to get everyone to believe he had sailed to the moon.

As a 16 year old, he used the archaic Victorian and classical terms of astronomy because he used very old star atlases and texts. And he liked old words! :)

July 26, 1906 The Heavens for August "Venus is, without doubt, the chief planet for August, shining each night in the West with unrivalled brilliancy. In the telescope it appears gibbous, like the moon a few days from full. Next in order of interest comes Saturn, which rises about 7:30. "

October 19,1906 The Moon "From then on, the illuminated portion becomes more and more convex (or "gibbous," as it is called) until, seven days after the first quarter, our satellite rises at Sunset in the east, a complete circle of light. "

In another decade, he would burst on the amateur journalism scene with weird stories using those funny, archaic, and old fashioned words and terms. And things would never be the same.

Dagon (July 1917) "I know not why my dreams were so wild that night; but ere the waning and fantastically gibbous moon had risen far above the eastern plain, I was awake in a cold perspiration, determined to sleep no more. ... It is at night, especially when the moon is gibbous and waning, that I see the thing. "

Transition of Juan Romero (Sept 1919) "A storm was gathering around the peaks of the range, and weirdly shaped clouds scudded horribly across the blurred patch of celestial light which marked a gibbous moon's attempts to shine through many layers of cirro-stratus vapours. "

The Doom That Came to Sarnath (Dec 1919) "However this may be, it is certain that they worshipped a sea-green stone idol chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug, the great water-lizard; before which they danced horribly when the moon was gibbous. ... And it was the high-priest Gnai-Kah who first saw the shadows that descended from the gibbous moon into the lake, and the damnable green mists that arose from the lake to meet the moon and to shroud in a sinister haze the towers and the domes of fated Sarnath. ... That idol, enshrined in the high temple at Ilarnek, was subsequently worshipped beneath the gibbous moon throughout the land of Mnar. "

The Unnamable (Sept 1923) "Moreover, so far as esthetic theory was involved, if the psychic emanations of human creatures be grotesque distortions, what coherent representation could express or portray so gibbous and infamous a nebulosity as the specter of a malign, chaotic perversion, itself a morbid blasphemy against nature?"

The Call of Cthulhu (Sept 1926) "That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings. "


It struck me interesting that September stories tended to use the word "gibbous" but I'm sure that is a coincidence. If I missed any gibbous uses or passages, please post below in comments.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who was Brown Jenkin?

T. Peter Park, our Fortean and Lovecraft expert extraordinaire, has brought to my attention that the human-headed rat-like familiar spirit "Brown Jenkin" in HPL's (Feb. 1932) "Dreams in the Witch House," may have in fact been inspired by "Gef" or "Jef," the "Talking Mongoose," a once world-famous poltergeist case from the Isle of Man in the 1930's.

A neurotic teen-age girl and her possibly abusive father on an isolated Manx farm were plagued for some time by a poltergeist phenomenon including a voice claiming to be an entity or spirit named "Gef."

On a few occasions, they saw a mongoose- or weasel-like creature - which they assumed to be "Gef." The case was publicized at the time in both British and American newspapers, and American psychoanalyst-parapsychologist Nandor Fodor later devoted a chapter to it in one of his books on poltergeists.

The article pointed out similarities between "Gef" and HPL's "Brown Jenkin," and argued that HPL probably modeled the human-headed rat-bodied demon of his own story on the Manx poltergeist creature.

Here is more on the case at http://www.prairieghosts.com/harryprice.html:

“Harry Price’s strangest case was that of Gef, the Talking Mongoose of Cashen’s Gap… The case began in 1931 with a disembodied voice claiming to be that of a mongoose, a weasel-like creature. It began at an isolated place on the Isle of Man and according to the Irving family, who lived at Cashen’s Gap, this creature ate rabbits, spoke in various languages, imitated other animals and even recited nursery rhymes.”














Hmm. This pic. (see http://www.forteantimes.com/gallery/gef.shtml) allegedly shows Gef, the Talking Mongoose on the ridge of a sod hedge at Cashen's Gap, the Isle of Man.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Interlude

It's time to spring my newest art purchase on you. On a cold winter's trip through the woods at Bernheim I moved into their art gallery to get warm. There was a considerable array of Russian folk art, but in the back I was astonished to see a number of clay fired pots and sculptures.

The artists live there for several days, becuase once the furnace kiln is lit, it has to be constantly monitored. Eventually the work emerges.

One piece captivared me. I've blogged about it in my Musings and Meanderings, but the piece is sufficiently "weird art" enough to qualify for a Lovecraftian viewing. Page Candler is usually a whimsical artists, but this goes far beyond fairy tale figurines. And ...now ... Chrispy has it.

Yes, a story shall emerge from this.
















My new artistic obsession ... "The Potter"

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Disney

This has been making the rounds, most lately and notably at shocklines.

Disney's new movie has a Cthulhuesque "Davey Jones". There is no doubt whatsoever that this is a clear use of Lovecraft's monster-god. Take a look at the still and the concept art and compare it to HPL's sketch.
























Announcement

Darklines has been inactive so long, many have forgotten it. Not Chrispy. There are many fond memories of the place - and ... now ... it ... has ... resurrected.

Go to www.darklines.com and watch for the building excitement to tonight, Saturday!

I will have an interview with one of the creators up and running at my current home base: www.horrorlibrary.net , but here is a taste of that interview.


Chris for HL: Anthony, the Darklines site was a creative success and jump started many discussions and budding careers. You showed many writers a new way of creating horror on the internet. What happened? Where have you been?

Anthony for Darklines: Thank you for the kind words. You know, when we started Darklines I didn't actually think it would be as enjoyable and rewarding to build as it turned out to be. The members were all fantastic and the feeling of community was palpable. There was a camaraderie between our members that I would have never thought possible. Bringing it down was painful, but necessary in my opinion. Probably the first thing that started the ball rolling in the bringing down of the site was the fact that my partner, Ritchy, for his own reasons, had to bow out. That left me to maintain, enhance, and administer the site on my own. This didn't leave much time for the expansion and reengineering of the site that I felt needed to occur. Toward the end of Darklines Ritchy came back into the fray.

Unfortunately, however, the site wasn't built using a solid technological foundation and it became quickly apparent that enhancing it the way we wanted to using the existing architecture would have been excruciating to say the least. Right at the very end I attempted to do an incremental reengineering of a few key pieces of the site without completely tearing it apart, but alas, I determined that the only way to do the site justice would be to rebuild from the ground up.

...to be continued March 1, 2006 at www.horrorlibrary.net and in the meantime watch at www.darkines.com.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lovecraft’s Visit to Endless Caverns

It's a pleasure to offer Tom Lera's guest essay today at HPLblog. He is a world recognized expert of caves and a keen fan of Lovecraft. Thanks, Tom.

***
Lovecraft wrote in The Shadow Out of Time: “Later in that year I spent weeks alone beyond the limits of previous or subsequent exploration in the vast limestone cavern systems of western Virginia – black labyrinths so complex that no retracing of my steps could be considered.”

Joshi says these are the New Market Endless Caverns which HPL visited in July 1928.
Having visited the caverns several times I wondered what they looked like in the 1920’s. A short history of the caverns relates that they were discovered in October 1879 on the farm of Reuben Zirkle and opened commercially in 1920 as Endless Caverns then operated by Major Brown and his father Colonel E.T. Brown (no relation to Steve Spielberg’s ET).















[above] View of the entrance in the 1920s














[above]
View of formations along the tourist trail.


The Caverns contain over 8,300 feet of passage on multiple levels including a lower stream passage. There are two sections - the Tourist Section about 4,000 feet of trails which takes about 1 ½ hours on the guided tour and the Explorer’s Trail section which covers some of the lower levels, including some 50 to 60 foot pits.


























Today’s view from the Interstate and the current entrance to the caverns.


Note:
Additional old 1920 photos can be found in the Norfolk and Western Historical Collection housed at the University of Virginia.

A post office opened at the Caverns in 1929 and remained open until 1943. Perhaps some correspondence of HPL was mailed from the Caverns on a later visit.

1. Caves of Virginia by Henry H. Douglas, 1964, page 409
2. Descriptions of Virginia Cave by John R. Holsinger, 1975 pages 218 - 219.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lovecraft on the Weird Tale.

In a letter to Henry Kuttner, Lovecraft adds a special note to his interpretation of the Weird Tale.

[1] "The best & most potent horror is the subtlest - - what is vaguley hinted but never told. ... Atmosphere is the one supreme desideratum of the weird tale."

- and later in another letter -

[2] "To my mind the most effective method is to suggest certain things through unmistakable eveidences & let the reader do his own imagining. ... I don't agree on the importance of plot ... the best weird tales are those in which the narrator ... remains (as in actual dreams) largely passive ...".


1 H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Henry Kuttner, Necronomicon, 1990. March 12, 1936.
2 op. cit. April 16, 1936

Lovecraftiana: Henry Kuttner

Robert Bloch introduced Kuttner and Lovecraft via correspondence. In 1990, Joshi and Schultz brought forth the extant texts of their correspondence. [1]

Their correspondence lasted from Feb. 10, 1936 {*} to Feb. 8, 1937. In the first preserved letter of Feb. 16, 1936, Lovecraft graciously and warmly accepts Kuttner's "black book" to the Mythos.

"Clark Ashton Smith and I frequently use each other's hellish books & devil gods - - giving Tsathoggua & Yog-Sothoth a change of environment, as it were! Some time I'll quote darkly from your "Book of Iod" {**} - - which I presume either antedates the human race like the Eltdown shards and thr Pnakotic Manuscripts, or repeats the most hellish secrets learnt by man in the fashion of the Book of Eibon, De Vermis Mysteriis, the Comte d'Erlette's {***} Cultes de Goules, von Junzt's Unausspechlichen Kulten, or the dreaded & abhorred Al Azif or Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred."

The book is a treasure trove of Mythos lore and there are pen sketches of bits of Salem by HPL and history lessons from Druids, to Salem, to Roman Britain. So stay tuned in the months to come. [2]


1 H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Henry Kuttner, Necronomicon Press, 1990.
* The Feb, 10, 1936 letter not extant.
** Lovecraft never lived long enough to publicly acknowledge the Book of Iod.
*** August Derleth.
2 After John 21.25 ... if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

Lovecraftiana: Swords and Sorcery, 1963

Chrispy has been busy. I just obtained a rare copy of the 1963 de Camp anthology. [1]


This has a lengthy introduction and series of story prefaces for :

The Valor of Cappen Varra, Poul Anderson
Distressing Tale of Thangbrind the Jeweller, Lord Dunsany
Shadows in the Moonlight, R E Howard
The Citadel of Darkness, Henry Kuttner
When the Sea King's Away, Fritz Lieber
The Doom that Came to Sarnath, Lovecraft
Hellsgarde, C. L. Moore
The Testament of Athammaus, C. A. Smith (our beloved KlarkashTon)

Most exciting is that it illustrated ... by ... omg ... Virgil Finlay !! The black and white reproductions resemble wood cuttings, so I have a mixed feeling about them. They are eerie in a gothic sense, but Finlay always should get the best reproduction media. Still, it was 1963.

I'll share more of the contents in a future HPLblog-post.

Swords & Sorcery, ed. L. Sprague de Camp, Pyramid, 1963 [The cover price is 50 cents!]

Lovecraft Meets The Jersey Devil















I finally got my copy of Tales Out of Dunwich. [1] This is a classic. The inclusion of Stanley C. Sargent's The Black Brat of Dunwich is worth the price. The feature is Price's recovery of The Thing in the Woods.

This blog entry is about Robert M. Price's discussion in the preface about what influenced Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror. Each of Machen's stories sowed seeds into Dunwich: The Great God Pan; The Novel of the Black Seal; The White People; and The Terror.

However, it was Price - back in 1982 - that wondered if Lovecraft used the Jersey Devil legend. The prompt to Price by Joshi to look into the 1924 story by Harper Williams, The Thing in the Woods, uncovered a rare copy in a Mississippi library, and upon reading he found that Williams made use of the Jersey Devil.

Both of these scholars agree that Lovecraft clearly used this, mixed it with Machen and set the scene within the Wilbraham-Hamden-Munsen area of Massacusetts. Mix it all together and you get '`'`shudder`'`' Dunwich Horror.

Soom, I will do a review of Williams' story. It rightfully deserves its place as a Dunwich prequel in the "Dunwich Mythos Cycle".

1 Tales Out of Dunwich, ed. Robert M. Price, Hippocampus, 2005. Wow, what great cover art by Philip Fuller!



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jersey_Devil

http://theshadowlands.net/jd.htm


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Was Lovecraft Suicidal?

Hi, HPL fans. Chrispy has just opened his copy of Letters to Samuel Loveman [1, p.13], March 24, 1923] and found this to share.

“My perception of cosmic futility is so unalloyed with blind emotion that I frankly admit that my object in life is to keep fed, warm, & amused till death comes to end the boredom. I admit brutally that death is better than life, and would commit suicide tomorrow with genuine cheerfulness & and unforced jest on my lips if I had any perfectly easy, painless, & certain means at my disposal. The only reason I haven't long ago is that I am too lazy to look up a good way, & have never had sufficient discomfort to make life really unbearable.”

So, was HPL just pulling Samuel Loveman's leg? This is not the first time he talked of suicide, but all evidence shows he only talked about it.

Recently, worry and anxiety were found to be predicters of suicide. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9042444. Lovecraft, in 1923, showed no more signs of stress than at other times in his life. In 1904 He lost Grandfather, home, legacy, money, a career in astronomy, and standing in the community. As a teen, that would have been a critical time factor and high risk - and he did say he thought about it.

The NIMH says, “If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, you should take their distress seriously, listen non-judgmentally, and help them get to a professional for evaluation and treatment.

"People consider suicide when they are hopeless and unable to see alternative solutions to problems. Suicidal behavior is most often related to a mental disorder (depression) or to alcohol or other substance abuse. Suicidal behavior is also more likely to occur when people experience stressful events (major losses, incarceration).

"Some right-to-die advocacy groups promote the idea that suicide, including assisted suicide, can be a rational decision. Others have argued that suicide is never a rational decision and that it is the result of depression, anxiety, and fear of being dependent or a burden. Surveys of terminally ill persons indicate that very few consider taking their own life, and when they do, it is in the context of depression."

In 1937, even as the pain increased, HPL seemed not to reach out and ask his friends to assist him to suicide then. He succumbed naturally, and in pain.

"It is estimated that about 60 percent of people who commit suicide have had a mood disorder (e.g., major depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia).Risk factors include mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, history of being sexually abused, and impulsive or aggressive tendencies. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/suicideprevention/suicidefaq.cfm

While Lovecraft's father died of syphilis complications and his mother had mental erosion, there seemed little tendency toward suicide in the family. As far as I can tell, the only addiction Lovecraft had was to ice cream – he was a sworn prohibitionist and only wrote about drugs in his stories.

He was indeed sick, and had many ailments over the years. None of them drove him to suicide - or even attempted suicide, as far as any friend has reported, or scholar uncovered.

It seems clear that while he talked about suicide, he never attempted it, and the dialogue in the letter above was merely to make a philosophical – nihilistic - point.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Deconstructing From Beyond: Part 4

The picture was very vivid
for a while,
but gradually gave way
to a more horrible conception;
that of utter,

absolute solitude
in infinite,
sightless,
soundless space.


The magician's hand is at work in this pericope. We have “picture”, “vivid”, “conception” contrasted against “a while”, “gradually”, and “gave way”, the latter three portraying a fading or passage of time.

Next, Lovecraft is deep in sibilant alliteration. The snake hisses and t'sks in “absolute solitude”, “sightless” and “soundless space” with 8 s's and 7 admixtures of labials and linguals: b/t/d/p's.

The language used in this sentence is uniquely Lovecraftian in its combinations.

The term “vivid/picture” is a Hegelian coupling that Lovecraft uses in The Whisperer in the Darkness (1930), “the deep things I saw and heard, and the admitted vividness the impression” and “the wonder was lessened by the fact that the old legends, shared at one time throughout the hill country, furnished a morbidly vivid picture which might well have coloured the imaginations of all the witnesses”. The term “vivid” is used at least five times in The Whisperer in the Darkness.

In At the Mountains of Madness (1931), Lovecraft writes similarly, “...hitherto withheld photographs, both ordinary and aerial, will count in my favor, for they are damnably vivid and graphic...” In a 1927 letter to C A Smith he says, “I was exceedingly pleased to hear of your vivid vacation, & can picture something of the strangeness & fantastic wonder ...”. The Silver Key (1926) has, “into twilight realms where magic moulded all the little vivid fragments and prized associations of his mind into vistas ...”.

“Soundless space” is also a recycled expression seen in a Poe-et's Nightmare (1918): AletheiaPhrikodes, “Demoniac clouds, up-pil'd in chasmy reach
Of soundless heav'n, smother'd the brooding night ...”.

The Horror at Red Hook (1925) has the key phrase, “... would admit but few visitors to his absolute solitude; eschewing close friendships and receiving his rare acquaintances ...”. In Dagon (1917), “...I began to despair in my solitude upon the heaving vastnesses of unbroken blue...” & “Perhaps I should not hope to convey in mere words the unutterable hideousness that can dwell in absolute silence and barren immensity.”

Deconstructing From Beyond: Part 3

During the interval
that Tillinghast was long silent

I fancied myself
in some vast incredible temple of long-dead gods;
some vague edifice of innumerable black stone columns
reaching up from a floor of damp slabs
to a cloudy height
beyond the range of my vision.


We have met the Tillinghast's before and have blogged on them. As a reminder, the family name is associated with the Rhode Island Vampire legend.

The first phrase which I've broken into two prose-poem lines, is clearly tacked onto a very different thought that follows. The next six prose-poem lines tell a story, whereby the protagonist warps into another dimension or time.

Before we pursue this a little further, I must add that I have rarely met a Lovecraft story that didn't have the word “black” in it. HPL obsessed over it. The significance, I believe, goes back to Grandma Rhoby's death and funeral – but that is for another day.

Now, after the previous sentence of aether mists and shadows, we have a stark reality indeed. The protagonist's psyche flits through to an ancient, long dead, temple – no doubt never made by man.

Despite using “vague”and “cloudy” the vision that Lovecraft “fancied” is bone chilling. It hearkens back to The Outsider(1921) “Nothing I had before undergone could compare in terror with what I now saw; with the bizarre marvels that sight implied. The sight itself was as simple as it was stupefying, for it was merely this ...there stretched around me ... nothing less than the solid ground, decked and diversified by marble slabs and columns, and overshadowed by an ancient stone church, whose ruined spire gleamed spectrally in the moonlight.”

Then, Lovecraft has a sly allusion to his chosen story title, “...beyond the range of my vision,” which brings us back to the peripheral horror of which HPL was so fond.

I have always wondered at Ambrose Bierce's influence on Lovecraft. In this case, a pericope of Bierce's is hauntingly familiar. In Birece's Vision's of the Night

"The dream whose skeleton I shall now present occurred in my early youth. I could not have been more than sixteen. ... I was alone on a boundless level ... no habitations of men, no streams or hills. The earth seemed to be covered with a short, coarse vegetation that was black and stubbly, as if the plain had been swept by fire. ... My course lay toward the west, where low along the horizon burned a crimson light beneath long strips of cloud, giving that effect of measureless distance that I have since learned to look for in Dore's pictures, where every touch of his hand has laid a portent and a curse. As I moved I saw outlined against this uncanny background a silhouette of battlements and towers which, expanding with every mile of my journey, grew at last to an unthinkable height and breadth, till the building subtended a wide angle of vision, yet seemed no nearer than before. Heartless and hopeless I struggled on over the blasted and forbidding plain, and still the mighty structure grew until I could no longer compass it with a look, and its towers shut out the stars directly overhead; then I passed in at an open portal, between columns of cyclopean masonry whose single stones were larger than my father's house. ... Within all was vacancy; everything was coated with the dust of desertion. A dim light--the lawless light of dreams, sufficient unto itself--enabled me to pass from corridor to corridor, and from room to room, every door yielding to my hand. In the rooms it was a long walk from wall to wall; of no corridor did I ever reach an end. My footfalls gave out that strange, hollow sound that is never heard but in abandoned dwellings and tenanted tombs. For hours I wandered in the awful solitude, conscious of a seeking purpose, yet knowing not what I sought. At last, in what I conceived to be an extreme angle of the building, I entered a room of the ordinary dimensions, having a single window. Through this I saw the same crimson light still lying along the horizon in the measureless reaches of the west, like a visible doom, and knew it for the lingering fire of eternity. Looking upon the red menace of its sullen and sinister glare, there came to me the dreadful truth which years later as an extravagant fancy I endeavored to express in verse:

"Man is long ages dead in every zone,
The angels all are gone to graves unknown;
The devils, too, are cold enough at last,
And God lies dead before the great white throne!"

I believe that this short story of Bierce's bridges the gap between the "King in Yellow" Chambers' Mythos and the Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.

Latest Elder God Research News !

In honor of Feb. 13ths Valentine Full Moon - - This just in! Scientists trace elder god impacts on far side of moon, aeons ago...

Shock waves from ancient lunar impacts may be responsible for creating the Earth's single most famous face – the “Man in the Moon”. People have long interpreted a series of dark patches on the Moon’s surface as a human face but no one knew how they formed. Now, scientists at Ohio State University, US, appear to have solved the mystery by creating a topographical model of the Moon and mapping gravity signatures of rocks all the way to the core.

Their findings suggest that the impacts of ancient collisions on the far side of the Moon were so great they caused a corresponding bulge on the near side, and the Earth’s gravitational pull further tugged at this bulge. Those colossal movements opened cracks in the crust and let magma from the lunar mantle flood onto the surface, at a time when the Moon was still geologically active. This solidified to form what we now see from Earth as the eyes, nose and mouth of the Man in the Moon.

...

“The impacts were huge enough to disrupt the Moon to its core and at the same time Earth’s gravity field moved mass preferentially to the nearside. Because this happened when the Moon was solidifying, the movements of mass produced a gravity anomaly that we can measure four billion years later.”

The full story here.

Deconstructing From Beyond: Part 2

The far corners were all shadows
and the whole place took on a hazy unreality
which obscured its nature
and invited the imagination to symbolism and phantasm.


Lovecraft's theme was always to place the horror on the peripheral vision. Just out there - on the edge - to terrify. [Hitchcock would later be a master of this technique. One classic case was to place Jimmy Stewart in a wheelchair with a broken leg who sees a murder, totally helpless. (Rear Window)].

HPL piles up the peripherals here. “far corners”, “shadows”, “hazy unreality”, “obscured”, “imagination” (as opposed to seeing the real), “symbolism”, “phantasm”.

We also see he uses three 'ands' in the sentence in order to really stack things up for the reader. It is this very technique that tires some modern readers, I believe.

There is a clever parallelism of the previous sentence's phrase “which the every day eye cannot see” with “which obscured its nature”. The juxtaposition is interesting.

The archaic term 'phantasm' conjures a sentence from Dagon: “Often I ask myself if it could not all have been a pure phantasm -- a mere freak of fever as I lay sun-stricken and raving in the open boat after my escape from the German man-of-war.” Elsewhere we find in the poem The Poe-ets Nightmare(1916): Alitheia Phrikodes: “...till all a wild phantasmal glow became, Now burst athwart the fulgent formlessness ...”.

And we also might consider the poem “Fungii from Yuggoth” I. “The place was dark and dusty and half-lost ...with queer curls of fog ... smoke and frost ...” when we read "hazy unreality".

This sentence, then, bridges and sets the mood in the reader's mind that reality is past and unreality beckons.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lovecraft ... Meets ... Lorre!

E-bay has been a profound source of fun for Lovecraftiana. It comes an goes so fast though, so one has to be quick to see new connections.

Forest J. Ackerman - the man who allegedly coined "sci-fi" and has been plugged into Hollywood Horror since Ray Bradbury was a teenager - has a wonderful collection of HPL stuff.

Recently a typescript of a letter showed up on e-bay. I am respectful of copyrights, so I try carefully to only reference reather than copy except when scholarly usage applies.

Lovecraft recieved a still of Peter Lorre's 1935 release, Mad Love.

I believe this is the picture he received. (http://www.scifilm.org/images/madlove1.jpg)












He wrote in part:


Dec. 24, 1935

Let me thank you most sincerely for the malignly hypnotic photograph of the egg-domed gentleman ... Surely this pleasant chap looks as if he had but recently wriggled forth from an accursed tomb, & were prepared to wreak upon mankind any & every sort of evil from mere vampirism to cosmos-blasting invocation of the ultimate black powers of horror! It's a wonder that the accompanying lady doesn't look more frightened than she does .... {HPL's elipsis} & one may imagine the hideous bass dissonances which issue forth from that shadowy chickering as clammy corpse- fingers draw a danse macabre time-stained ivory keys!

"...many correspondents have been urging me to see some film - in fact, any film - in which the sinister Mr. Lorre is featured. "Mad Love" has been especially recommended ... Ordinarily I see very few films -- & most of the allegedly weird ones which I have seen ("Frankenstein"...) {was} so naive and conventional in their appeal that they did not encourage persistence in the quest for thrills.

Lovecraft was a hard person to please when it came to cinemagraphic horrors.









http://re2.mm-c1.yimg.com/image/1450815882

[Note, if you are over 18 and a Peter Lorre fan, you might try ... http://depravity.depressed.net/aboutmystories.html - but I do mean over 18.]

Deconstructing From Beyond: Part 1

Blogs, by their nature, are to be hors d'oeuvres and not feasts. There is so much to savor in Lovecraft's writing of this passage, we will take it ... in ...slow ... sensual ... ^ bites ^!

I first show how Lovecraft, the poet, actually uses a very stylistic method to his prose. There is a great deal of parallelism, and though he was bitterly against modernistic poetry, he does write a mean prose-poem. However, as we progress into sentences in this paragraph, we will find that Lovecraft's prose lays it on thick, very thick. He is prone to lists and he piles it on with ...and ... and ... and!

I looked about the immense attic room
with the sloping south wall,
dimly lit by rays
which the every day eye cannot see.



We start:

"I looked about the immense attic room
with the sloping south wall ..."

The first sentence phrase could easily have been Poe until he got to "the sloping wall". That is all Lovecraft. All HPL embracing non-Euclidean space. Lovecraft is eternally obsessed with this phenomenon and explores it unceasingly. It is the essential part of his cosmicism.

In Dreams of the Witch House(1932), a concluding pericope states, “When the slanting wall of Gilman's room was torn out, the once sealed triangular space ... {held a terrible horror}.”

Earlier, in Dagon (1917), Lovecraft writes, “the slopes of the valley were not quite so perpendicular as I had imagined.”

And that Dagonish statement became this, in Call of Cthulhu (1926 ), “..he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles ... the geometry of this dream-place was abnormal, non-Euclidean...”.

Next we look at:

"... dimly lit by rays
which the every day eye cannot see."

Of course, Lovecraft has in mind the electromagnetic spectrum which he also alludes to in Colour Out of Space. Ultra-violet radiation, x-rays, microwave radiation and other invisible frequencies are all manifestations of the frequencies of light our rods and cones cannot pick up. Of course, our skin feels the IR and we sunburn under UV, and our bones are x-rayed, we can hear radio (once it amplifies and energizes a speaker), so all these frequencies interact with us. The rays Lovecraft's protagonist discovers opens us to ... the ... Beyond. '`'`shudder`'`'

Still, all that said and done - Hello, Ambrose Bierce!

Ambrose Bierce puts it this way in Damned Thing, “... with colours. At each end of the solar spectrum the chemist can detect the presence of what are known as 'actinic' rays. They represent colours--integral colours in the composition of light--which we are unable to discern. The human eye is an imperfect instrument; its range is but a few octaves of the real ‘chromatic scale.' I am not mad; there are colours that we cannot see.” {my emphasis}

That is a lot to absorb, so let's stop there. If you have any comments along the way, please! post!

Next: Sentence Two!

Lovecraft and Mathematics

Before we tackle From Beyond, we need to pause and discuss Lovecraft and his complex relationship to mathematics. How did someone with poor math skills write such incredible scienti-fiction based on eerie quantum mathematical principles?

In the Dreams of the Witch House, HPL makes explicit references to Reimannian mathematics. However, he alludes to his poor performance in mathematics with the reference, “As it was, he failed in Calculus D and Advanced General Psychology...”. [1, p. 306].

Elsewhere we see a statement he made in 1931 [2, pp.63,64], “...I was not bad – except for mathematics, which repelled and exhausted me ... it was algebra that formed the bugbear ... the whole thing disappointed me bitterly .. of course advanced astronomy is simply a mass of mathematics ... it was clear I hadn't the brains to be an astronomer and that was a pill I couldn't swallow with equanimity.”

In The Thing on the Doorstep we read, “Derby went through Miskatonic University in Arkham ... {and matriculated at} sixteen and {he} completed his course in three years, majoring in English and French literature and receiving high marks in everything but mathematics and the sciences.”

Lovecraft was accurate, he did struggle and fail. A 1992 study [3] clearly shows not only what was his problem as a child but most children today. The study set out to answer the perplexing question: Why do very intelligent children do well in humanities but even our brightest so so terribly in mathematics and science?

The results came back quickly. The young brain learns humanities by association and mathematics by logical memorization. These are very different parts of the brain. When a big gap in attendance – like illness or the usual 3 month summer vacation – occurs the humanity subject is quickly recalled and progress made. But the lack of applied work during the time gap erases huge portions of the accumulated mathematical building blocks which have to be relearned. Thus, in those few months back in school that the math is relearned, the humanities has moved ahead by leaps. Math never catches up.

However, good students who took summer math camps and studied even lightly during those time gaps outperformed the other students and sometimes by enormous amounts. Nations in which students had shorter breaks tended to have exceptional mathematical and foundational skills and constantly score years ahead of American students.

As long as Lovecraft had excellent tutors drawn from the Brown University elite and good health he did well. After 1904, there was no money for tutors and his health continued to plague him. Susan often kept him home and he even missed most or all of whole years. There was no way he could succeed. He quit high school.

Yet, as an adult autodidact, he tackled the philosophical aspects of mathematics with a vengeance and wrestled with Einsteinan and quantum physics. In some cases, he was more comfortable with quantum philosophy than even Einstein – who refused to accept critical and fundamental aspects of the uncertainty principle.

Lovecraft could intuitively guess at ramifications of the non-classical model and so we will see in From Beyond, that time, space, and multi-dimensionality are used as a basis for his story. However, he could no more work out a wave equation than flap his arms and fly to the moon.
I leave you with an amusing anecdote. In 1920, his Aunt Gamwell was called upon to substitute teach the 7th grade and the math portion was proportioned out (on the hush) to HPL. He states [4, pp.67ff], “...but then arose the grim specter – the hated, damned thing – arithmetic! Fancy ... a person out of schoolbooks since the '90's ... most of the methods are new to me ... the text-book is a crime ... but natheless {sic} the principles of mathematics are ... unvarying ... and brains were made to use ... i still remember enough to do {the word problems} detest them as I do! {I corrected} papers covered in everything from vulgar fractions to cube root ... much as I loathe arithmetical pursuits, I'd have been ashamed in my grammar school days to turn in such work.”


1 H. P. Lovecraft: The Dreams of the Witch House and Other Weird Stories, Penguin, 2004.
2 H.P. Lovecraft In His Time: A Dreamer and A Visionary.
3 http://www.udel.edu/PR/UpDate/93/1/21.html
4 Letters to Alfred Galpin

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lovecraftiana: Frank Belknap Long, Jr.












Much can be said about FBL, and there are several internet sites filled with information. He was a devoted friend to Lovecraft, who adored him. He became an icon to an early scienti-fiction audience when Bradbury and Asimov were but teenagers.

However, today's post is a personal discovery. In pursuit of arcane treasures, I've been looking through numerous old book shops. A few weeks ago, an aged copy of a Magnum Easy-Eye edition form 1971 struck me as strange. Chrispy usually passes by frilly goth books, but this The Witch Tree had an author "Lyda Belknap Long". Hmm, I think. I definitely recognize the ...Belknap Long, but who is Lyda. The book was selling for $1.00 so I dropped it in the overflowing cart and placed it in my even more overflowing library.

Today, I caught a copy of Survivor World by Frank Belknap Long, also for $1.00. Also by Magnum. Also published 1971. Hmm.

So, off to do some research and sure enough, Lyda was an alias for Frank. In fact, Lyda was Frank's wife.

To be honest, neither has much to do with the Mythos and after more than 40 years one suspects that Long grew tired by the 1970's of being in the shadow of Lovecraft. But he was loyal to the end, and even appeared at the centennial Lovecraft conference in Providence.

To find the incredible publishing record of Long see here .

Frank Belknap Long, Jr. (April 27, 1903 - January 3, 1994)




Lovecraftiana: Letters From Outside

Always reliable, Tom Lera sends in this internet gem of a find. Go to Letters from Outside at http://members.fortunecity.com/moderan/ and peruse the offerings. There are book reviews, fiction, essays and more.

And then, don't forget to come back and visit good ol' Chrispy's site here! I have a lot of Lovecraftiana left to share and debate with you as we march toward our 100th blog post in a few weeks.

Night Terrors

Lovecraft at an early age - about 6 - had terrible dreams. In these dreams, night-gaunts came and lifted him up high and attempted to dash him against rocks below. He never lost that intensity, that dream-emotion placed within. Later, HPL contracted a serious disease, fever, St. Vitus dance, and later had poikilothermism – which made him pass out in low temperatures.

It seems clear where he got the night gaunt image – Dore’s woodcut images in Dante’s Comedy. The diseases may or may not have contributed, but after Lovecraft’s rejection of Sunday School, he quickly delved into child’s versions of mythology and read voraciously of Arabian Nights, Dante, looked at Dore pictures, and devoured Poe. Grandpa told him lots of gothic ghost stories and often made him sleep in the dark to cure him of his fear of it. Early on, his Grandmother passed, and his Father, too.

One thing that has always stunned me, is that he focused on the demons of Dore and totally ignored the naked bodies and decapitations so vividly portrayed int he gothic wood cuts. They never seem to come up, and Lovecraft is always surprisingly bloodless for a horror writer.

All this said, I noted recently, at www.horrorlibary.blogspot.com that night terrors was the subject. My colleagues have given me permission to share their experiences.

Boyd … “At nine years old, I missed my first Boy Scouts soap box derby because I was at home, in bed with a … case of scarlet fever. My temperature rose to 103 … I lay in bed in my room for days, barely able to get up, and the dreams were not only vivid, but purely horrific. I remember screaming myself awake and my mother coming to my door … I couldn’t speak, but as she stood there … her silhouette in the doorway drew further and further away, she said, “I guess he’s just not going to make it.” She backed away from the door and closed it, leaving me in an auditorium of darkness. … Alone.”

“Within months of my recovery, my folks took me to the doctor, because I wasn’t sleeping well. Damn right, I wasn’t. Every night, throughout the night, I suffered intense dreams, and they led to paranoia during my waking life. I was literally a mess.”

“Well, the doctor told my parents I had a sleep disorder called Night Terrors or parasomnia, which is a condition that disrupts the normal pattern of REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep stages. There are really five sleep stages - REM and the 4 stages of non REM, which work in a progression of depth 1-4. Night terrors typically occur during the transition from stage 3 non-REM sleep to stage 4 non-REM sleep. Somewhere around 60 minutes after falling asleep, the affected enters a light sleep stage and suddenly encounters symptoms of autonomic discharge.”

“Night Terrors are generally found in 4 to 12 year olds, and they affect about 2 - 6 % of the population of that age. They are a nightmare so intense, the child usually has no memory of them come morning. Not so with me. In fact, I still remember some of these dreams, and I often still experience short flashes of them.”

Jeff said...”I know what you mean. My daughter, who is almost five went through a stage where she was going through Night Terrors … there was nothing we could really do … except make sure she doesn't hurt herself. She would thrash about in her bed and scream and scratch at things that we couldn't see. Then she would just wake up and look at us like we were crazy because we were in her room all scared looking.”

“I explained to my wife that I went through something similar as a kid when I had an accident and was in a coma for a while. When I came [to myself] I was hallucinating … after that I had very vivid dreams. I still have those dreams, just about every night …”

Clara said... “I had night terrors; all my children had night terrors. My youngest brother had night terrors (horrific ones at that) and walked in his sleep. He also tended to run high fevers -- 105 was a seasonal routine for him -- when we were younger.”

Fran said... “I had the terrors, too, and I was an active sleep walker. I also had a lot of waking "hallucination" while falling asleep. I also had very high fevers, a brief coma and both my legs were paralyzed for several months when I was eight.”

Each of the above colleagues writes horror. Subsequent to these statements, others discussed this night terror and how it influenced their stories into adulthood. Lovecraft was one of the world's great dreamers. Could have a common childhood phenomenon impelled him to horrific genius?

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Trail of Cthulhu

Treasure found!

Browsing a seedy little strip mall used book store tonight, I discovered a copy of August Derleth's The Trail of Cthulhu, 1996. I'd never read it, and the cover was a little cluttered but interesting.

After the author's name in bold, folllowed “a novel of supernatural horror in the Cthulhu Mythos”. Two snakish eyes colored in green and some stellar photograph hovered over the surface of a planet. Whether the thing in the center, quite camouflaged by the even bolder title, is a volcano, emerging birth-thing, or what is anyone's guess.

The book is not a novel, though it does appear heavily edited to resemble one. In fact it is a collection of short stories*. It also tells a few “truthisms”. It states on the back cover that Derleth was a collaborater of Lovecraft, when he actually took notes and wrote most of the stories himself after HPL's death. It also proclaims that Deleth had published the best American Horror of the 20th century.

I wanted to extract a bit of the afterward**. “Lovecraft saw it as 'based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practising black magic, lost their foorhold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take posession of this earth again.”

“Its similarity to the Christian mythos ... will be immediately apparent to the literate reader.”

Apparently the 1962 Derleth was already smarting over the charge of his Cthulhu Catholicism!

“The deities of Lovecraft's ...Mythos consisted of Elder Gods, which though beyond ... good and evil ... were nevertheless ,,, forces of enlightenment against the forces of eveil ... the Ancient Ones or the Great Old Ones ... and were thrust – like Satan – into outer darkness. ... The Elder Gods ... existed ... near Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion.”

Fascinating theology – or should I say Cthulology?

If you've read these stories or have any other notes you can share on this or previous editions, please post a comment for the community.

* The stories are: The House on Curwen Street (c. 1943); The Watcher From the Sky (c. 1945); The Gorge Beyond Salupunco (c. 1948); The Keeper of the Key (c. 1951); and The Black Island (c. 1951).


I traced this book's existence through some used book store offerings on Amazon. My copy was issued by Carol & Graf, 1996. However, there was a previous edition isbn 0586041389 issued 1989. Prior to that, I saw Ballantine issued it as isbn 0345250176, (2nd printing) 1976. Prior to that edition, a company named Beagle printed in July 1971 as edition number 95108. It appears that the first edition was by Arkham House in 1962 and that edition had the afterward ** A Note of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Fun of Reading H.P.L.

I reread Polaris and The Doom That Came to Sarnath recently - written respectively in early 1918 and late 1919.

The vocabulary! "...corruscations ... somnolent ... uncorporeal ... inchoate ... chrysolite ..."

Astronomy! "...Cassipoeia ... Charles' Wain ... Arcturus ... Coma Berenices ... Aurora ... horned waning moon ...Aldebaran... gibbous moon ..."

And that eerie Lovecraftian technobabble! "...the streets of Olathoe ... news of Daikos' fall ... the wisdom of Zobnarian Fathers ... tall, grey-eyed men of Lomar ... the palteau of Sarkis, betwixt the peaks, Norton and Kadiphonek ... my friend Alos ... the hairy, long-armed, cannibal Gnophkehs ... the Pnakotic manuscripts ... the land of Mnar ... the mighty city of Sarnath ... the grey stone city of Ib ... written on the brick cylinders of Kadatheron ... in the papyrus of Ilarnek ... Thraa ... Ai * ... likeness of Bokrug ... Taran-Ish ** ... Zokkar the king ... Lobon ... Nargis-Hei the king ... ancient wine of conquered Pnath ... isles of Nariel ... Bnazic desert ... Cydathian groves ... wave-washed Mtal ... greay rock Akurion ... oil of Dothar ...".

Lovecraft may have been an atheist, but could he ever talk "in tongues".


___
*Ai is clearly from the Bible, for instance, Joshua 7.5. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

** This may be Tarshish of the Old testament, Genesis 10.4. (Cp 1 Chronicles 1.7) "And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim" - and 2 Chronicles 9. 21. "For the king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks."

Interlude: Unnamable

"... that daemonic sixth book which no one should read after dark ..."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Robert M. Price

Chris! Every blog article you write cites Sunand Tryambak Joshi. Isn't there another voice of Lovecraft scholarship?

Indeed.

Robert M. Price is a distinctive voice that offers a deep passion for all things Lovecraft. A powerful theologian, he also cherishes HPL's writing. His lecture [*, pp.31-41] “Lovecraft's Mythology of the Old Ones” is singular in its advocacy of religion in Lovecraft's writing.

Arguing a middle ground between Derleth's Cthulhu Catholicism and the full atheistic nihilism of Joshi, et. al., Price brings a measured sense of Lovecraft's artistic nuances.

He paraphrases Lovecraft's sly remark, “to write effective weird fiction one must bring to bear all the cunning of a hoaxer.” As I argue, Lovecraft's stories are philosophical treatises. Price refers to this as, “pessimistic philosophical statement”. In any event, Lovecraft shattered the Classical Western myths and replaced them with a blend of creatures derived from nihilism, elitism, and cosmicism.

The fun part of Price's lecture is his theologian's ability to elucidate a scheme of the Mythos pantheon in six tiers. In reverse order, he exposits that the fuzziest and most irrational portion of the mythology is that most familiar. The dreaded Necronomicon is tortuously reported on by those who least understand it, the ceremonies handed down but only half understood are observed by bookish men and anthropologists of little understanding.

These all point to a fifth level. These are the cultists and seekers such as the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Even the mad Arab penned down arcane gibbering with little understanding.

The higher level, a fourth plateau, are the pre-human races that strode the primordial earth to seek what we can only glimmer. These are the Deep Ones, the Outer ones, the crinoids – all seeking and leaving behind vast knowledge our apish ancestors copied but were clueless.

These of the fourth level really were clueless, too, they only had millennia to make more sense of chaos. The third level beings are well known: Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Dagon, Yog-Sotthoth.

These divine monsters were themselves seekers and servants of those gods in the higher realm.
The bridge between the monsters and the great – and perhaps unknowable – cosmogonic essences was embodied by Nyarlathotep. Appearing in many guises, fleet as Hermes, but as incarnate as the Logos, s/he/it intermediated and revealed the glory of the highest realm.
This high realm of the nameless mist, cloud-entities, Shub-Nigguruth, Nug, Yeb, and Azathoth were a bizarre assortment of beings at which can only be whispered or hinted.

Price warns us not to be too harsh on Derleth for he got a lot of Lovecraft's inner thoughts correct. He also warns us not to out-Lovecraft the master. Perhaps these nameless mists were also seekers of something else, worshippers of higher gods or dark energy, just as ignorant of reality as men, but Lovecraft did not reveal this.

And, Dr. Price tells us one more thing in his lecture as a stern warning. The mythos is to add color and terror, and should not be the end all and be all of our Lovecraftian stories. To make the monsters the protagonists is to cheapen the thrill and demystify the weirdness of the tale.
Like shadows, things that creep in the night are best left dim. Light purges shadow, and there is no chill in the warmth of day.



* Dr, Price's lecture is found in, The Lectures of August 17-19, 1990 of the Lovecraft Centennial, Books at Brown, 1991-1992, Volumes 38, 39, The Friends of the Library of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

The Inventive Mind of Lovecraft

Lovecraft responded to his fans by adding dark, black grimoires to his canon every chance he could. He chuckled to mix real and conjured names and authors into the library. Sometimes he got in a hurry and made errors.

S. T. Joshi points out one from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. [1] The Qanoon-e-Islam is a very real book stated to have been held by Curwen from 1746. Not possible, since the author, Ja'fur Sharif, was translated by one G. A. Herklots (The Customs of the Moosulmans of India) in 1832. Lovecraft cribbed the name from his Encyclopedia Britanica under "Magic"!

What is your favorite Mythos book? Post comments below.

***

Here is a neat interview by Mythos and dark fiction writer C J Henderson.

C J Henderson Interview Here.

***

1 H. P. Lovecraft: The Thing On the Doorstep and Other Weird tales, ed. Joshi, Penguin, 2001. pp. 102, 396. n53

Monday, February 06, 2006

Speculation

In these dozens of posts, I've purposely avoided the Mythos genre. There are many sites, movies, books - Ia! the books! - on great Cthulhu and the hosts of eldritch gods. Frankly, what Lovecraft started out as a means to dispel tired mythology has become oh so familair and cuddly. The fearsome Dagonish Cthulhu has become a Ty(TM) stuffed animal.

Lovecraft would be both amused and sad, I guess.

I think it began because HPL loathed fish. He must have been one of those folks whose olfactory senses were overwhelmed by the high amine content of fish. I'm sure you know many who just can't eat a shrimp, lobster or even a sardine. One day we'll understand just which gene causes this.

But I dabble in Mythos writing and you can catch a few of my stories if you scan to the margin and click over to them. I think that when Cthulhu arrived, s/he/it looked about and saw a gentle intelligent creature and decided to assume that form - the architheuthis.

Copper-blooded, tentacled, sensitive, changeable as its surroundings, this animal plied the seas living its short existence in a hostile environment. Lonely. Surrounded by sharks, mono-brained fish, Devonian relics of anemonae and coral - the poor octopus, the giant squid, the tiny cuttlefish and myriad more pined awaywith no companionship in coves and caves - lonely.

Great Cthulhu - on a quest that is unfathomable to mere homo sapiens - took compassion and transmogrified. S/he/it coalesced out of dark energy and took the form of the octopus. Our foolish pride sketches it with arms and legs and even a face - but how stupid we are. The octopus is more noble, more aesthetic, more altruistic than we are. It is blasphemy to paint Cthulhu in our image.

Beware!

So remember, the next time you munch a fried tentacle at that fast food Chinese restaraunt - Cthulhu and the Old Ones and the Great Ones and the Deep Ones ... might ... just ... deep fat fry you ... and ... eat you.

Interlude: Hypnos

"The tension of my vigil became oppressive, and a wild train of trivial impressions and associations thronged through my almost unhinged mind."

Lovecraftiana: Edith Miniter's Legends

In Unnamable (circa September 1923) Lovecraft uses his pseudonym “Carter” and juxtaposes philosophies of the weird tale with “Manton” who is Maurice Moe. [1, p,283].

I continue, in these blog essays, to express the opinion that HPL's stories are fictional representations of philosophical treatises. Each has a thesis, discussion and methods, and a long discourse culminating in a precise conclusion. However, this blog post is about delving into the mind of Lovecraft.

“I knew that Joel Manton actually half clung to many old-wives' superstitions which sophisticated people had long outgrown; beliefs in the appearance of dying persons at distant places, and in the impressions left by old faces on the windows through which they had gazed all their lives. To credit these whisperings of rural grandmothers , I now insisted, argued a faith in the existence of spectral substances on the earth apart from and subsequent to their material counterparts.”

Anytime Lovecraft uses the term “grandmothers”, this is a perjorative. The term is found in Shunned House discussing the Rhode Island tuberculosis vampire tradition. HPL ridicules gothic or rustic folklore to make room for his evolving philosophy of the weird tale. In 1923, he still had a long way to go to perfect this concept, but already he knew what he didn't like.

Another “buzz word” Lovecraft perpetually used in his writing was “superstition”. This is always a flag that what comes next is frowned upon. Sometimes he refers to Christianity and more often to common folk myths. Lovecraft set out to shatter traditional Gothic, Victorian, and Edwardian mythology. He had no use for it and violently desired to purge it from the weird tale.

However, the mention of this particular tradition of “ the impressions left by old faces on the windows through which they had gazed all their lives” can actually be traced to an actual event in Lovecraft's life.

In his touching and expansive tribute to the passing of Edith Miniter (written October 1934), he writes of his trip to see her years earlier. “Mrs. Miniter supplied many legends and particulars which no guidebook could furnish – and it was on this occasion {early 1923 with Miniter and Cole} that I first heard of the rustic superstition which asserts that window-panes slowly absorb and retain the likeness of those who habitually sit by them, year after year.”

Miniter, you recall, turned down the editorship of the Stoker manuscript of Dracula. She also provided the “whippoorwill” myth in Dunwich Horror. One suspects a pre-Sonia romantic attachment by HPL of Miniter, though obviously never acted upon.

1 An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Joshi & Schultz, pp. 168, 169, 174, 175, 283, 284.

2 Collected Essays, Vol. 1: Amateur Journalism, Joshi, pp. 382, 387 n. 8,9.

Interlude: Dagon












"It is at night, especially when the moon is gibbous and waning, that I see the thing."


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Shunned House: Werewolves

Metafiction is a text in which the writer directly addresses the reader and engages the reader into the text. Rod Serling ( a fan of HPL) was a practitioner of breaking down the fourth wall in television with his scripts and directorial magic.

Before all that, there was HPL.

In Shunned House (circa 1924), one passage stands out.

“I wondered how many of those who had known the legends realized that additional link with the terrible which my wider reading had given me; that ominous item in the annals of morbid horror which tells of the creature Jacques Roulet, of Caude [1], who in 1598 was condemned to death as a daemoniac {sic}, but afterward saved from the stake {burning} by the Paris parliament and shut in a madhouse. He had been found covered in with blood and shreds of flesh in a wood, shortly after the killing and rending of a boy by a pair of wolves. One wolf was seen to lope away unhurt.”

Lovecraft certainly told the reader that he was a fastidious researcher. Like his earleir use of Skinner, HPL was in a mood to crib notes from folklorists the month he wrote Shunned House.


Joshi [2, p 420, n.39] reports that this entire passage was taken from John Fiske's Myths and Myth-makers: Old Tales and Superstitions Interpreted by Comparative Mythology, 1872: “In the year 1598, 'in a wild and unfrequented spot near Caude [sic], some countrymen came one day upon the corpse of a voy of fifteen, horribly mutilated and bespattered with blood. As the men approached, two wolves, which had been rending the body, bounded away into the thicket. The men gave chase immediately, following their bloody tracks till they lost them; when suddenly, crouching among the bushes, his teeth chattering with fear, they found a man half naked, with long hair and beard, and with his hands dyed in blood. His nails were long as claws, and were clotted with fresh gore and shreds of human flesh.' This man, Jacques Roulet, was a poor, half-witted creature under the dominion of a cannibal appetite ... it is certain that Roulet supposed himself to be a wolf ... he was sentenced to death, but the Parliament of Paris reversed the sentence, and charitably shut him up in a madhouse”. Joshi further says that the initial passage of Fiske is derived from S, baring-Gould's Book of Werewolves (1865) which HPL did not read until 1934. [3]

Don't be too hard on HPL for cribbing Fiske. Another famous folklorist did the same – with a number of ammendations. Montague Summers says, “Jacques Bocquet [4], a werewolf, who was sentenced ...{with} Francoise Secretain, a notorious witch, who confessed to having attended the sabbat on numberless midnights ... was accused of werewolfery by the warlock Jacques Bocquet ... she was executed in July, 1598. ... On the 14th December of the same year at Paris, a tailor of Chalons was sentenced to be burned quick for his horrible crimes. This wretch was wont to decoy children of both sexes into his shop, and having abused them he would slice their throats and then powder and dress their bodies, jointing them as a butcher cuts up meat. In the twilight, under the shape of a wolf, he roamed to woods to leap out at stray passers-by and tear their throats to shreds. Barrels of bleaching bones were found concealed in his cellars as well as other foul and hideous things. He died ... unrepentant.

“In the same year again, a werewolf trial took place ... In a remote and wild spot ... an archer ... and some rustics came across a nude body of a boy aged fifteen, shockingly mutilated and torn. The limbs, drenched in blood, were yet warm and palpitating ... two wolves bound{ed} away ... {they} gave chase ... {and found} a fearful figure, a tall gaunt creature of human aspect with long matted hair and beard, half-clothed in filthy rags, his hands dyed in fresh blood, his long nails clotted with garbage of red human flesh. So loathly was he and verminous they scarce could seize him ... Jacques Roulet. On 8th August, 1598, he confessed ... that his parents ... had devoted him to the Devil ... by use of unguent ... he could assume the form of a wolf with bestial appetite. ... He confessed to attendance at the sabbat. This varlet was justly condemned to death, but for some inexplicable reason the Parliament of Paris decided that he should be rather confined in the hospital of Saint Germain-des-Pres.” [5]

1 {see Joshi, below} p. 420 n. 36. S, Baring-Gould makes a typo and calls the town of 'Cande' by the name “Caude”. It is reproduced as such by several copyists, including HPL.

2 H. P. Lovecraft, The Dreams of the Witch House and other weird stories. ed. S. T. Joshi. Penguin. 2004.

3 Montague Summers, The Werewolf in Lore and legend. Dover, 2003. original 1933. pp. 229-231

4 I wonder that Summers has two Jacques's with virtually the same name in the same year: Jacques Bocquet and Jacques Roulet. This is an eerie coincidence.

5 Joshi, op.cit. Above, p. 420, n.39. HPL tells Clark Ashton Smith in his letter of Feb. 11, 1934 that he had just read S. Baring Gould. Joshi reports that this letter is in a private collection.

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