Monday, October 30, 2006

John Rowlands and The Endless Caverns

Previously (here) the Endless Caverns were discussed.

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.

Now, the adventurous John Rowlands has returned to these caves and shares these pictures.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Houdini: Breaking News

Most of us know of Lovecraft's tangential connection with Harry Houdini.

The new book (due 31 October 2006) tells a new and startling story. Houdini's career was catapulted as an undercover spy. This was not unusual at the turn of the 20th century.

The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero (Hardcover) by William Kalush, Larry Sloman

Handcuff King. Escape Artist. International Superstar.

Since his death eighty years ago, Harry Houdini's life has been chronicled in books, in film, and on television. Now, in this groundbreaking biography, renowned magic expert William Kalush and best-selling writer Larry Sloman team up to find the man behind the myth. Drawing from millions of pages of research, they describe in vivid detail the passions that drove Houdini to perform ever-more-dangerous feats, his secret life as a spy, and a pernicious plot to subvert his legacy.
At a time when spy agencies frequently co-opted amateurs, Houdini went to London and developed a relationship with a man who would run MI-5. For the next several years, the world's most famous magician traveled to Germany and Russia and routinely reported his findings.

After World War I was successfully concluded, Houdini embarked on a battle of his own. He created a group of disguised field operatives to infiltrate the seamy world of fake spirit mediums. In doing so, Houdini triggered the wrath of fanatical Spiritualists, led by the esteemed British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Death threats became an everyday occurrence, but the group would pose an even greater danger to Houdini's legacy.

Rigorously researched, and as exciting as a good thriller, The Secret Life of Houdini traces the arc of the master magician's life from desperate poverty to worldwide legend, initiating the reader along the way into the arcane world of professional magic. In this remarkable book, Kalush and Sloman decode a life based on deception, providing an intimate and riveting portrayal of Houdini, the man and the legend.

Frank Belknap Long On Lovecraft and Occultism

Q: Did Lovecraft take occultism seriously? It has been said ... in his youth he drew magical symbols on the walls and floor of one of the roomsin the Angell Street House, which was found by an elderly physician whose residence it later became.

A: nonsense. such an attempt ... would have seemed to him a silliness meriting nothing but contempt. His disbelief in the occult was absolute. ... Lovecraft was an extreme scientific materialist ... no patience with anything that went contray to modern biochemistry or astrophysics ... to him the Cthulhu Mythos was an artistic construct and nothing else. But as an artistic construct it was of supreme importance ... he was a dreamer on the nightside, an explorer of the Great Unknown...

Q: Was Lovecraft a mystic?

A: No. His approach to reality waould be so probing and rationalistic that he had much in common with Voltaire.

I recommend to anyone who can find a copy to read: Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer On the Night Side, Updated, Frank Belkanp Long, 1975, Arkham House. Mr. Long obviously looks back many decades to tap memories, and a few have been challenged as accurate by S.T. Joshi - as Mr. Joshi has recently been challenged by others in too narrow an interpretation of Lovecrfat's life with respect to cosmic nihilism. But it is a wonderful, warm read given to us by the late Mr. Long.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michelle at Strange Maine: Rats in the Halls

Local newspapers had a field day beginning in late September with news out of Richmond, Maine, that rats were running rampant in the town. Headlines included "Richmond residents revolted by ravenous rodents" and "Parents pepper officials with questions about rats."The issue became full-blown when local parents received a September 22nd letter that informed them that the Marcia Buker School was one of the recipients of this rat population explosion. Parents' main contentions were over the fact that the rats had been in evidence at the school since June, but exterminators weren't hired to deal with the problem until mid-September."Principal Deborah Soule said rats have been crawling out of the ceilng tiles at night and doing a little chewing. She said there have been no sightings in the hallway by children, but one staff member saw a rat running across the parking lot and another said she thought she saw a little face peeking out of a ceiling tile."

Strange Maine here.

Lisa Rogak, Stones and Bones of New England

"Swan Point ... famous permanent resident ... H. P. Lovecraft, the horror writer. Fans gather at his grave each year on or around the anniversary of his death - March 15 - to commemorate his work. Attendees say that Lovecraft himself often appears in the form of "something strange" at these gatherings. One year it was a cackle of crows loudly accompanying the spoken tributes, while another year it was an unexpected snow squall."

Lisa Rogak, Stones and Bones of New England, Globe Pequot, 2004, p. 161, 162.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lovecraft's Cryptid? The Awful.

Maybe some of you can help? This was posted on fantastic reality from The County Courier by "Theo". Any information you have on the Awful, post here and T. Peter Park will pick it up and forward to his workgroup.

In addition, Chrispy has tracked down two of the phrases as quoted by HPL as authentic, but no one has yet identified the source of the others. ***[See Footnote]

Has the Awful returned to Berkshire & Richford?

Written by H.P. Albarelli Jr.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

In 1925, renowned horror writer H.P. Lovecraft secretly traveled to Richford and Berkshire to investigate a strange phenomenon that was occurring in the two towns. Lovecraft had been visiting friends > in southern Vermont when he first learned about odd sightings in Richford.

Locals there were terribly afraid of a beast they had dubbed "the Awful." First spotted atop the Boright building at the corner of Main and River streets early one evening around dusk, the Awful, according to records of old, was a winged creature that resembled "a very large Griffin-like creature with grayish wings that each spanned ten feet." The creature possessed "a serpent like tail that equaled its wing length" and "huge claws that could easily grip a milk can's girth."

Three men, workers at a local sawmill, were walking across the Main Street bridge when they spotted the Awful perched on the building's rooftop staring menacingly down at them. One of the men was so petrified he suffered a heart attack on the spot and had to be carried home. For weeks afterward his wife and children woke up in the middle of the night to hear him screaming in his sleep.

Two weeks later the Awful was seen flying about 50-feet above a Berkshire field near Lost Nation road. The creature it was said clutched a small, wailing infant in its gnarled claws, but most > likely it was a small animal of some sort, a sheep perhaps. Over the next several weeks, numerous farmers around Richford and Berkshire reported seeing the Awful flying over their fields. Farmwife Oella Hopkins was hanging wash out to dry in her yard when see looked up to see what her dog was fiercely barking at. Following the dog's nervous glare she saw the Awful perched on her porch roof gazing down at her. Terribly frightened, she ran into her house and > hid under her bed, refusing to come out for hours. A year after the Awful was first spotted, sightings dwindled to a few each month. After 3 years, they stopped completely.

When H.P. Lovecraft returned to southern Vermont from Richford he told friends he was convinced that the Richford locals he had interviewed were "not in the least mistaken about what they had > witnessed." Lovecraft later wrote, "The Awful became ample sustenance for my > imagination" and "over time the creature became the basis for many of my own fictional inventions." In 1927 Lovecraft wrote, "entering > Vermont for the first time there is a sense of mystic revivification." He continued, "Something in the contours, something in the setting, has the power > to touch deep viol-strings of feeling which are ancestral if one be young and personal if one be old."

A couple of weeks ago, one of Richford's more solid citizens, a person who does not want to be identified in this article because "people would think I've gone out of my mind," reported seeing "an > unbelievable looking winged monster." The "thing swooped down from > nowhere and plucked a huge black crow" from the upper branches of a tall pine tree. "I didn't believe my eyes," said this person, "but when the thing circled my house?well, then there was no denying it."

Was it the Awful? "I remember my grandfather once talking about that thing, but I thought it was just a story, a tall folk yarn," said the person. And now? "What I saw was no yarn. Yarns don't fly and stories don't look like that. What I saw was real. And I hope to high heaven I never see it again."

*** [Chris Perridas:]

Albarelli's quote: In 1927 Lovecraft wrote, "entering Vermont for the first time there is a sense of mystic revivification." He continued, "Something in the contours, something in the setting, has the power to touch deep viol-strings of feeling which are ancestral if one be young and personal if one be old."

It is from Par. 1, sentence 1 and Par. 2 sentence 5 of the Driftwood 2, No. 3 of March 1928 - and that same Vermont travelogue was recycled by HPL in The Whisperer in the Darkness. Joshi's Collected Essays Vol. 4 has the reproduced text of the Driftwood

The other phrases are more obscure, although one phrase is eerily reminiscent of a Dan Clore phrase ... "the basis for many of my own fictional inventions" [Here] "Now, most of these are the fictional inventions of members of the Lovecraft circle, but the Book of Dzyan is another matter."

Autographed Postcard: 1934

Yes! Time travel via ebay back to 1934.

A fantastic find for the Lovecraft fan - your chance to own an original linen postcard view of the New Providence County Court House in Providence, Rhode Island. This postcard handwritten by the master of horror, second only to Edgar Allen Poe. Postmarked August 4 at 7 AM from Buttonwoods, R.I. and addressed to personal friend Howard Wandrei. The master addresses his friend, "Hail, Spawner of Daemons! Talks of enjoying ICE CREAM at the famous hangout of the master, Warfield's," and mentions the addressee's brother Donald Wandrei - another famous horror writer published by Arkham House. Wandrei started writing in 1926 and his writing career took off around 1932. He was active in pulp magazines until the late 1930s. He was a member of the H.P. Lovecraft circle, corresponded with Lovecraft and other members of the circle (Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, etc). He contributed two stories to the Cthulhu Mythos: "The Fire Vampires" (1933) and "The Tree-Men of M'Bwa" (1933). Wandrei and August Derleth later co-founded the publishing house Arkham House to keep Lovecraft's legacy alive. After World War II he continued writing speculative fiction stories, although at a greatly reduced rate. Awards World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (1984) The message goes on to speak of being by the shore at Buttonwoods. The bonus is that there is also a handwritten note in blue ink with Greetings out of the dark from the unknown but not malefic James F. Norton. What a great item for your collection or exhibition. Cthulhu would be proud.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lovecraft's Library #829: Switch On The Light

Ebay can be better than a time machine. The latest offering for sale * is an actual book from HPL's library. The book is described thusly:

SWITCH ON THE LIGHT. LOVECRAFT, H. P.) /THOMSON, C. C. (ed.) London: Selwyn & Blount (1931). Contains Lovecrafts 'The Rats in the Walls" as well as the HPL revision of Zealia Bishop's "The Curse of Yig" but what makes this volume really special is that it is from the Old Gent's library and bears Lovecraft's bookplate affixed to the front fixed endpaper. Books from Lovecraft's library with supernatural content are suprizingly few (see LOVECRAFT'S LIBRARY: A CATALOG Necronomicon Press 1980, where some 922 items are listed, the present book being item #829.) This is in fact the only hardcover book issued during Lovecraft's life to contain two stories by him. A significant book from HPL's library in very nice condition. Bound in original red boards, bit of tanning to rear endpapers else VG+ in a striking pictorial dust jacket with couple of creased tears. The present book came from a specialty dealer who sold it to a private collector in 1977; the dealer had purchased the book from long time fan-collector Virginia "Nanek" Coombs, who purchased the book from Robert Barlow early in the 1950's.

Apparently HPL's actual bookplate!

*as of October 20, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rhode Island School of Design

In the call of Cthulhu we read:

His card bore the name of Henry Anthony Wilcox, and my uncle had recognized him as the youngest son of an excellent family slightly known to him, who had latterly been studying sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and living alone at the Fleur-de-Lys Building near that institution.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ephermera_ The Alchemist

On Ebay! Oh, how I love Ebay and its time traveling possibilities.

The text: At the age of 26, this was the first story Howard Phillips Lovecraft saw in print. It was a monthly publication popular with budding authors. His contribution was "The Alchemist." That he should have such a humble beginning to his career is ironic. This six page pamphlet is in remarkable condition, and it's importance in Lovecraft's career cannot be over-stated. The paper has slight yellowing, but there are no tears, and no chips. There are slight rust stains around the staples. Some of the ink has rubbed off slightly. But the fact that it exists at all is what's remarkable! I wish I could tell you the story of how this came to be so lovingly preserved, but the collector I purchased it from, didn't know. Suffice to say, someone, probably from dear old Providence, kept it as part of their collection of HPL ephemera. I had a professional book appraiser in Scottsdale AZ look at it, and he remarked that frankly he couldn't put a value on it. It was just too rare for him to price, he had never seen one before. Those of us who treasure Lovecraft books are familiar with how many editions were printed, but this is a different matter altogether. I did my best to contact the librarian at Brown University in charge of the Lovecraft collection to get some idea of how many exist, but wasn't able to get ahold of them. It's entirely possible this is one of only five or six surviving specimens. The collector I purchased it from said that in all his years of collecting HPL books, he had seen only one other of these. This is truly a rare opportunity for a serious collector of Lovecraft books to acquire the cornerstone of his published works. It's not cheap, but considering it's rarity I think it's priced fairly. I will answer all email inquiries. All in all, an exceedingly rare item indeed!!

Cactus 957 is selling it and it will be there for a short while.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pick a legend, any legend: Corona Borealis

In Hypnos (meaning god of sleep) we read, "a spot roughly marked by the constellation Corona Borealis.

Lovecraft knew this was one of the original 48 Ptolemaian constellaitions, albeit named only Corona then. Why did he pick this of all constellations for this passage? Perhaps it is a sly reference to Theseus abandoning Ariadne to fall asleep by pining his abandonment of her?

Corona (Borealis to contrast with Australis) is the "Crown of Ariadne", the crown she wore on her wedding day and was forged by Haephestus in his underwater forge.

Alternatively, it is connected to Ariadne and her sometime consort Theseus. She was half-sister to the Minotaur, and daughter of Minos, king of Crete. The king ordered each year, as sacrifice, seven young men and seven maidens from Athens to be served up to the Minotaur.

Theseus, hero, son of Poseidon, and heir to the Athenian throne volunteered to be one of the seven young men. He courted Ariadne and secured her trick: Ariadne had a magic ball of twine that could roll out by itself and follow the path to the centre of the labyrinth, where the Minotaur was kept.

She promised to help Theseus kill the Minotaur if he would marry her and take her back to Athens. Theseus agreed, so she gave him the ball of twine. Theseus followed the rolling twine to the centre of the labyrinth and promptly killed the Minotaur.

However, the myth becomes more tangled. One correlary that centers on Ariadne's crown has him just arrived in Crete and challegnged immediately by Minos to prove he was indeed the son of Poseidon. Minos threw a gold ring into the sea, and told Theseus to fetch it. Theseus dove into the deep, and was met by dolphins which escorted him to the palace of the Nereids. Thetis, one of the Nereid sisters (or sea nymphs), gave Theseus a jewelled crown that Hephaestus had made. With the gold ring and the crown, Theseus swam back to Crete. This feat received the loving admiration of Ariadne.

A second correlary to the myth has Theseus jilting Ariadne.

A branch of this story has him marrying Ariadne, giving her a jewelled crown as a wedding present. And then he later abandoned her on the isle of Naxos, on the way to Athens.
Another branch of the story has Theseus marrying Ariadne, and then sailing off, leaving a sleeping Ariadne to pine for her loss. (Somehow, though, she implored her father, Zeus, to make amends. Zeus took pity and sent Dionysus to comfort his daughter.)

Still another version has Dionysus visiting Naxos and falling in love with Ariadne, so Naxos cast a spell on Theseus. Theseus then forgot all about Ariadne and sailed off for Athens. In any case, Dionysus took her for his bride and placed the jewelled crown of Hephaestus on her head. They raised four sons and `lived happily ever after'. When Ariadne died Dionysus took the wedding crown and placed it in the heavens between Hercules and Bootes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Constellation Felis: Is it slyly mentioned in The Dreams of the Witch House?

If you read carefully, there is a phrase, " was a point somewhere between Hydra and Argo Navis...".

This, first of all, is a clear allusion to the phrase in Hypnos, "... a spot roughly marked by the constellation Corona Borealis." We can talk about that later.

There were many star charts available in the early 20th century, but Lovecraft went back to Ptolemy's list of 48 constellations. This is explicit, as Argo Navis was an archaic reference to a large expanse of stars.

Argo Navis was a large southern constellation representing the Argo, the ship used by Jason and his "Argonauts" in the Greek legend. This was the largest of Ptolemy's 48 constellations, with Hydra being next largest.

An astronomer, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille broke the mass of stars into Carina (the keel of the ship), Puppis (the poop), and Vela (the sails). In addition, the small cluster making up the constellation Pyxis (the compass) occupies an area which in antiquity was considered part of Argo's mast. Still, Pyxis is not usually considered part of Argo Navis. It will be important in a moment, however.

On to Hydra, it represented the serpent of Lerna - a beast with the body of a hound and 100 serpentine heads. It had poisonous breath and it was so hideous that it caused most people to die of fear from simply seeing it. Hercules' great task was to kill this monster. When he started to fight it, he discovered that every time he cut off one of the heads, three grew back in place of it. Seeing this was getting him nowhere, he had his charioteer, Iolus, burn the stump after each time he cut off a head, which prevented the unfortunate regeneration. The last head was immortal, however, so after cutting it off, they trapped it under a rock. *

Later astronomers advocated smaller clusters making Sextans (the sextant), Crater (the cup), Corvus (the crow) and a new, reduced Hydra.

Now comes an additional footnote that only a devotee like HPL would recall and smile over. Jerome Lalande in 1805 advocated on his star maps a small cluster and called it Felis (Latin, the cat) between Hydra and Argo.

So, Brown Jenkin the rat, beware! Noble Felis is watching.

Like so many of Lovecraft's puns, you must be the judge of this one.

* Interestingly enough, by coincidence, CSI:NY featured this myth in its October 11 original broadcast, as a clue to discovering a murderer.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Breaking News: Ebay: Lovecraft Autograph

This on ebay in case you miss(ed) it.

"Colorful postcard depicting Esplanade on Charles River at Boston, with Autograph notes signed by W. Paul Cook(1880-1948), who first published Lovecraft on his Recluse Press and who wrote In Memoriam: Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1940), considered by some to be one of the finest memoirs ever written; H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) signed as H.P.L., legendary writer of supernatural and horror stories; and by W. Warner Munn (1903-1981), who wrote Merlin's Ring and King of World's End. Written to Walter J. Coates, Editor of The Driftwood who wrote a series of Vermont stories recently published by University of Tampa. The trio of friends and colleagues were touring Harvard and the Museums of Boston. Lovecraft's note reads: Gay life in the metropolis! Our standard speed is five museums per diem. Too bad you aren't around, also! Regards, H.P.L. Cook has added a Where I work with a line to a spot on the postcard's image. 5 1/2 X 3 1/2. Minor soiling, creasing to top corners. Lovecraft's writing lighter than Cook's, but very legible. Boston postmark, April 2, 1932. A very scarce autograph, with additional important writing of W. Paul Cook and W. Warner Munn! Purchased from Dawson Books in 1981. "

Breaking News: Ebay Ofering

Bibliomonster is offering a rare set of Tessarect issues. Here are some excerpts in case you miss(ed) the offering.


'Tesseract' - Six monthly issues; December 1936 - May 1937. Each 10 - 13 pps. Published by The Science Fiction Advancement Association - 434 Guerrero Street San Francisco. 1936 -1937. Each issue printed on standard old 8.5 X 11 inch paper on both sides. Stapled at left margin. Old fold crease to center of issues.Wear to front cover of blue wraps on 12/36 issue w/ some loss, else very good. Also tipped in is a small painting on tissue paper of a figure with his arms up-stretched to a starry sky....

INCLUDES THE KEY APRIL 1937 HP LOVECRAFT MEMORIAL ISSUE. This issue includes the first part of "The Crawling Chaos" by Lovecraft and W. V. Jackson. (concluded in the May issue; also contained herein)

This is an extremely rare and desireable set of the journal through which the SFAA communicated with those of like science fiction interests. The publication is among the earliest versions of a fanzine extant. The membership (which included H.P. Lovecraft before his passing) started New Fandom in 1938. Other authors included J. Harvey Haggard, Louis C. Smith, Raymond Van Houten, Arthur R. Mink, Edward E. Smith, Clark Ashton Smith, Roy A Squires II, Walter Jamieson, & Arthur Leo Zagat.

This is a truly important piece of Sci Fi ephemera that you will not find on your friend (or favorite book dealer's) shelf. The 'Tesseract' not offerered ANYWHERE else on the internet for sale. Of the 4 other known individual issues, 2 are in private collections and the balance in libraries according to OCLC...

About -

SFAA - Science Fiction Advancement Association, one of the organizations that blossomed at the beginning of the First Transition. Its founder was C Hamilton Bloomer; the later president, Raymond van Houten, signed it over in a dormant state to New Fandom, of which it provided the basic membership, except that certain Wollheimists were not accepted by New Fandom.

New Fandom - (Speer:Moskowitz) - Name derived from a series of articles entitled Annals of the New Fandom, altho they referred to the Second Fandom, while New Fandom rose and fell in the Second Transition. The organization was launched in the late summer of 1938, about the time that reaction was setting in against the Wollheimists and the Second Fandom generally. Moskowitz was the initiator of New Fandom, strongly assisted by Sykora and Taurasi, and to a lesser extent Racic, van Houten, and others. They started the organization with the membership of the old SFAA, turned over by van Houten. NF announced that it would put on the World Convention in 1939, and ignored all protests by Wollheim, who had been appointed by the defunct NYBISA to head a committee for that purpose. NF also ignored the existence of fan feuds, and won the support of the great majority who were opposed to their continuance.

Tesseract Part One 1936-1937

Tessaract Part Two 1936-1937

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vintage Providence

I thought this was especially interesting becuase of Lovecraft's susceptibility to cold and frequently fainting (poikilothermism) when the weather dipped to a cold temperature. This is vintage 1910.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Where has the time gone?

Chrispy greetings to all.

Where have I been? The day job has been very intense and it has called for a great deal of travel and extra time.

From T. Peter Park, this just in from the New York Times Book Review. It is so long, I will post it in comments ... whcih see.

I do have a lot to share on the HPL front. Don't forget to check out and my new offerings there.


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