Friday, August 22, 2008

Lovecraft's Legacy: Now a ghost?

Erik Smetana, my +HL+ writer colleague sent me this article.
Thanks, Erik!!

New York Post
August 14, 2008
In 1927, legendary horror writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote a tale of evil in Brooklyn called "The Horror at Red Hook." It was inspired by his apartment, the soul of which he once described as being "something unwholesome, something furtive, something vast lying subterraneanly in obnoxious slumber."
Nellie Kurtzman knows how he feels.
Kurtzman now lives in that apartment - actually located on Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, not Red Hook - and says that the spirit of the maniacal visionary is both pervasive and not entirely welcome.
"I feel like H.P. Lovecraft is associated with creepiness," says Kurtzman, a children's book marketer. "Everything I know about him is fairly creepy, so every indication he's around is creepy."
These indications began, she says, even before she and a roommate moved in this past April.
"A friend of mine lives on the top floor of this building," she explains, "and I remember her saying, 'There's this huge apartment in our building where the people seem to have disappeared.' "
The ground-floor two-bedroom apartment had been left unlocked by the tenants who left mysteriously, without notice. Kurtzman and several friends checked it out, and when one of them, a Lovecraft fanatic, figured out it had been the writer's apartment, they brought in a Ouija board and held a midnight seance.
"My friend Martin had this friend Jeff, who died about two years ago," says Kurtzman, who was not at the seance but heard about it afterward.
"Before he died, Martin had left his dog under Jeff's care. He came back late, and Jeff was irritated. Well, Jeff died a few weeks later. So they have this seance, and Martin is like, 'Is anyone here? Are you upset about anything?' and the Ouija board spelled out 'Lucy' - the name of Martin's dog."
Another of the seance participants, the Lovecraft fan, had been in the apartment the previous evening and quietly took a brick as a souvenir. When his turn on the board arrived, it spelled out "brick."
Fascinated by the tale but also enamored with the apartment's spaciousness, Kurtzman decided to rent it. (Part of her attraction to the place, she says, is a penchant for the unusual that she got from her father, pioneering Mad magazine animator and founding editor Harvey Kurtzman.)
"When I first moved in, I was sitting on the dining room floor with some friends, and there was this humming noise," Kurtzman says. "It wasn't the fridge. There's nothing in the basement that would be humming. It [still] happens, and I have no idea what it is."
But the real haunting became apparent when things began to move on their own.
Several weeks after moving in, Kurtzman tried to hang a picture. She hammered a nail into the wall, securely hung the picture on it and shortly after, the picture mysteriously leaped off the nail, crashing onto the floor. When she left the room and then returned, the hammer she had used to hang the picture was gone. She never saw it again.
Then the dreams began. Several nights after the incident, she began having unusually vivid dreams about the person who had given her the picture - an ex-boss whom she hadn't seen or thought of in years.
"I have not had such vivid dreams [until] I moved in," Kurtzman says. "That could be just adjusting to the apartment, or, it could be a message from H.P. I don't know what the message is."
Vivid dreams of old acquaintances have now become commonplace, Kurtzman says. And she's noticed other items vanishing as well, including a credit card that disappeared from her wallet. She canceled it, and then it reappeared in her wallet days later.
Could the ghost of H.P. Lovecraft be the cause of these disturbances in his old stomping grounds? The notoriously racist Lovecraft, who, in the Red Hook story, called the area "a maze of hybrid squalor," could be reacting to "having two Jews living here," says Kurtzman.
But there's no way to know if this apartment is just a natural magnet for oddities, or if the ghost of Lovecraft is truly lingering, spewing his resentment on his old home's inhabitants.
"There's no way this is a ghost. I don't believe in ghosts," says Kurtzman, who nonetheless keeps a small shrine to the author in her living room as an "offering to the gods."
"But it's weird, right?"

Lovecraft, an atheist, would be appalled by any sense of the paranormal. He firmly denied it, despised anyone who did believe it. However, his memory and legacy lives on ... and on ...

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