Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lovecraft's First Book & His Dear Friend Johnathan C. Hoag

Here is a rare and precious experience. You have to love ebay.

This is a copy of Lovecraft's first book and has Hoag's signature! S. T. Joshi relates the story thus:

Hoag was a very old man and a poet (born 1831 in Troy, NY). Lovecraft began writing poetical birthday odes to Hoag in 1918 to everyone's delight. Hoag pushed to have his verse put into a book, and enlisted Lovecraft to edit it. LOveman and Morton were enlisted to help. LOvecrfat commissioned Loveman to get $1 per 24 lines edited (1/3 the going rate). Lovecraft had no money, so Hoag financed the project. In April, the galleys came in, and the book bound shortly thereafter. Lovecraft refused payment and received 20 copies of the book instead. Lovecraft wrote the introducyion, and while HPL was usually blunt with criticism, he gushed over Hoag's lifetime work. Joshi read the verse and found it weak. The book has 6 Lovecraft odes to Hoag, also. Hoag died in 1926 at age 96. (1)

This says "To Charley and mary Wilbur, family // Please accept compliments of the author. J. C. Hoag. // Vista Buena. Junne 14, 1923."

Ebay anouncemnet read: This is one of H. P. Lovecraft's first books. It includes--at the very least-- six of his poems and his "Biographical and Critical Preface" of the author. The book is: The Poetical Works of Jonathan Hoag, Privately Printed Author's Edition, 1923, first edition. This book measures 9 1/4" x 5 3/4" and is 72 pages. It is in Near Fine condition with some gentle wear to the binding, some inevitable age-darkening to the pages, and some foxing to the first few pages. Hoag was a friend of Lovecraft, and this Hoag poetry collection concludes with poems by Lovecraft and others to celebrate Hoag's 87th-92nd birthdays. Lovecraft also has written the five-page introduction, and, reference materials indicate that two of the book's poems attributed to Hoag (i.e., "To the American Flag" and "Death") were actually written by Lovecraft and that, in addition, Lovecraft was this book's editor. There is a frontispiece photograph of Hoag, who has inscribed and signed the book on one of the blank front pages (please see image #2 below). There is no former owner's bookplate inside, no writing inside (except Hoag's), the top page edge is gilt, and all pages are firmly attached to the very-solid spine. This book is included in "Collected Books-2002" by the Ahearns.

(1) H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, 1996, p.292


(c) 2006, Chris Perridas

"But as I stood in the tower's topmost chamber, I beheld the horned, waning moon ..." Dagon, H.P. Lovecraft.

{I thought the twigs reaching to the sky in prayer to the horned moon was an eerie sight. I hope I captured the weird mood for you.}

H. P. Lovecraft Interested in Spiritualism: According to Letter to Clark Ashton Smith

Still unsure if this prooves anything, but Lovecraft explicitly is pursuing "spiritualist" pamphlets in late 1925. To what end? Curiosity? To write a new story? For ... Houdini?? I guess that is wild-eyed speculation. You read and decide ...

I've never read any of the jargon of formal "occultism" ... I am ... an absolute materialist ... not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism ... spiritualism ... How much is the brochure you have been reading? If any of these crack-brained cults have free booklets, I wouldn't mind having my name on their "sucker lists" ... when you see my new tale "The Horror at Red Hook", you will see what I make of the idea ...

Lord of a Visible World, H. P. Lovecraft: An Autobiography in Letters. Ohio University Press, 2000, To Clark Ashton Smith, 9 October 1925, p. 176

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Unique Houdini Letter circa 1925: Same time HPL is in New York

We know that on 28 September 1924 Houdini wrote to Lovecraft and said he would introduce him to someone significant. We are unsure who that "someone" was. However, Houdini had numerous acquaintances and friends.

Don Carlos Seitz was one. Here is a rare signed item by Houdini. Even here, he has received a pamphlet on spiritualism. His spy network was indeed vast - and Houdini seemed to like to choose writers for some reason. Here Seitz, and Henneberger, Eddy, and ... Lovecraft?

Don Carlos Seitz (1862-1935) was born in Portage, Ohio. From 1890 onwards he was a newspaper manager and publisher in New York. He was a prolific writer including:
Whistler Stories (1913); Surface Japan (1911); Horace Greeley (1926); and The Bucaneers (1912).

This item was on ebay and described thus: From the collection of Lewis Capen. Typed letter ( *8 1/2" x 5 1/2") addressed to Mr. Don Seitz, on Houdini's stationary, saying "My dear Don Seitz:-Thanks for your pamphlet 'Modern Spiritualism'. I read with interest the criticism on your book of Pirates. Kindest regards and best wishes, Sincerely your, Houdini". Letter is dated June 24, 1925.

John Rowlands Helps Chrispy Go to the Bats

Writer colleague from, John Rowlands, sends this photo along. He thinks this is the type of bat I tried to take a picture of - and they tried to take a bite out of Chrispy. For the previous blog entry on this, click here.

Lovecraft Loved Ice Cream

One afternoon Lovecraft, Morton, and I ... took a bus for Warren, Rhode Island, ehere they promised a great treat. ... we wlaked into an establishmentcalled Maxfield's ... it's specialty was ice cream ... thirty-two varieties on the menu.

"Are they all available?" Lovecraft asked.

"No." the waiter replied, "only twenty-eight. today, sir."

"Ah, the decay of modern commercial institutions ... only twenty-eight."

We each ordered a double portion of a different flavor ... the trays camoe on and on - chocolate, vanilla, peach, black raspberry, pistachio, black walnut, coffee, huckleberry, strawberry, orange, plum, mint, burnt almond, and exotic types whose names I do not recall. ... on the twenty-first variety I was beyond capacity ... I watched in awe while the remaining flavors arrived in ... huge portions ... Lovecraft and Morton ate on ... with a wealth of literary allusions on the oirigins of ice cream, its preparation in Italy ... the distinctions between mirigues, ice-creams, and ices. ... I would estimate that Lovecraft and Morton consumed between two and three quarts ... the occassion was so memorable that we wrote a note of appreciation ... signed it, and left it on the table.

A year later when we revisited Warren, we were surprised to find our tribute decorating a wall.

"The Dweller in the Darkness", Donald Wandrei, Marginalia, collected by Derleth and Wandrei, 1944, pp. 368,369.

Update: More on Houdini's Sea Monster

The first three installments of the footnotes of Houdini: America's First Superhero are now online and this reference is included for Houdini's escape from the "sea monster".

p. 267 footnote 35, "a giant 1,600 pound sea monster ... by the fumes...", "Houdini Escapes from Monster", Boston Herald, September 27, 1911, clipping found in the Robinson Locke Scrapbook #247, p. 102, in the collection of the New York Library.

See below for the previous posts. Click here (1) and here (2).

Recall that Dagon was written in 1917.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


(c) 2006 Chris Perridas

"The rolling fields, the hoary oaks,
The road meand'ring lone."

H. P. Lovecraft, from Solstice, 25 December 1925
In a cemetery, I often find weird and distorted trees as if they have absorbed and been conduits for the restless spirits. Here we often call them haints, a variation on "haunted ones", i.e. ghosts. In this case, a tree is filled with mistletoe. Technically these are not witch's broom, but they are allusive of witch's broom and very eerie. I found that this gave an impression of a Medusa towering to the sky this day.

Lovecraft and the Hatred of Seafood

Wandrei wrote:

{In Providence} while the sun was still up, we walked to downtown... "There's a place called Jake's on the waterfront that offers great portions of viands for a modest charge," {Lovecraft} suggested ... I ordered something I had never had - swordfish steak. When it arrived I noticed a curious aversion in Lovecraft's face, an expression of disgust so strong that I remarked on it.

"I can not tolerate seafood in any form ... the very sight and smell of it nauseate me. Don't let it disturb you - by all means consume the horrible stuff. Yunger and stronger constitutions than that of the old man can absorb such punishment. But one mouthful would manke me actually and violently ill.

"I have hated fish and feared the sea and everything connected with it since I was two years old ... but I can not recall what earlier experience gave me such a profound and lasting aversion to the sea and seafood."

For himself he had Boston baked beans with bacon, apple pie with ice cream, and heavily sugared coffee.

"The Dweller in Darkness: Lovecraft, 1927", Donald Wandrei, Marginalia, Collected by Derleth & Wandrei, Arkham House, Sauk City, WI, 1944, p. 364.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bats: "The Hound" and Chrispy in the Park with Bats.

(c) 2006 Chris Perridas

"I approached the ancient grave I had once violated, and frightened away an abnormally large horde of bats which had been hovering curiously around it."

Actually, I pulled over to the park to watch the sunset and see if I could get a picture to go with Lovecraft's prose-poem ode to a sunset (see below, another blog entry). I saw a bat, and watched. It did it's usual bat thing, flitting to catch mosquitoes, moths, and what not.

I got out and took a few pictures of the moon, the sunset, and then walked closer. The bat was joined by companions, so I thought - go for it. Being dusk, I set the digital camera and flashed away. That's when I discovered two things. My camera is not made to take bat pictures, and bats do NOT like their pictures taken by flash papparazzi. They started to zip at me and I decided to move away - quickly.

Here are a couple of surrealistic bat pictures for you.

Lovecraft's Copy of Houdini's "A Magician Among the Spirits".

Houdini's book was published by Harper and Brothers in May 1924. It was a social history of Spiritualism and included chapters on the Fox sisters, D.D. Home, Palladino, and Dr. Slade (a slate writer). One chapter included the many poisonings associated with the cultists. In Providence, R.I., a 14 year old medium named Almira Bezely purchased arsenic and tapped out a message her brother would die. She poisoned him, and he did die. Also in Providence, years later, Ruth McCaw poisoned her stepson Leon (who survived) and her handicapped stepdaughter Elsie. The "spirits" made her do it, she claimed before being sentenced to 12 years. (1) (3)

Lovecraft's personal copy was given to him by Houdini. It states in the autograph, "To my friend, Howard Lovecraft / Best Wishes, / Houdini / "My brain is the key that sets me free." (2)

(1) The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, Kalush and Sloman, p.410.
(2)Lovecraft's Library: A Catologue (Revised and Enlarged), S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2002, p. 81, entry 443.

(3) The Spiritualists howled when the book was released, and Harper's who rushed the copy to press, cut 100,000 words out of it, and did not assist in proofreading the errors out of it lay the book open to deep and just criticism. It's impact was profound, but lessened by the weakness of the editing process. The Secret Life of Houdini, op. cit. , p. 411.

A Tired and Ranting HPL Blurts About C. M. Eddy?

In a 11 January 1926 letter to Aunt Lillian (1) HPL vents in a very long diatriabe against New York, modern life, ethnic diasporas, and fianlly, "As for me, I'm sick of Bohemians, odds & ends, freaks, & plebians - C. M. Eddys & satellites & miscellany &c".

Why his long time friend Eddy (since August 1923) would even end up in a diatribe of invictives is strange. The phraseology is also peculiar. In 1926, sattelite did not have the "Sputnick" connotation that it does today. It clearly did not mean "moons of planets" as HPL is far from the subject of astronomy here. No, it seems clear it has the classic and original meaning of "hired agent". But agent of whom?

Meriam Webster: Entry: sat·el·lite - noun
Etymology: Middle French, from Latin satellit-, satelles attendant
1 : a hired agent or obsequious follower : MINION , SYCOPHANT

(1) Letters From New York, S. T. Joshi, 2005, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, p.271

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pause to Contemplate Lovecraft and Houdini's Crusade Against Spiritualism

Much of what we have blogged together is anecdotal - if not conspiratorial in tone. Still, ther eis a great deal of coincidence in C. M. Eddy, Jr. persuading HPL to submit to Weird Tales (perhaps in November of 1923 associated with Houdini), and Henneberger desperately trying to connect Houdini and Lovecraft.

The buzz that Lovecraft was the next Poe was already building, even if the substance and phaseology had not yet crystalized. That HPL was a solid materialist and had debunked mysticism as a youth certainly must have made the rounds of the amateur journalism circuit and perhaps back to Henneberger.

Between the Houdini commission of "Under the Pyramids" until Houdini's Halloween 1926 death, there was a long - if intermittant 0 contact with Houdini who paid handsomely.

We see that deCamp knows of an offer for HPL to go on the road to Detroit and to write an essay debunking witchcraft. De Camp was a longtime member of skeptic societies and as such could easily have had access to oral traditions of Houdini's clandestine, anti-spiritualist activities.

For sure, Detroit was an offer for HPL to finally be on the front lines. How much did he know? Was the dinner the moment of Houdini asking Lovecraft to be the ultimate spy?

The unwritten chain of events whereby Bess gets food poisoning and in a matter of weeks Houdini is attacked - and dies is profound.

Stay tuned as we gather more information - to see if there is truly evidence to back up these wild suggestions.

In honor of H.P.L. and Kappa Alpha Tau

From Sunday, 26 Nov 2006 Courier Jurnal ... Cat-astrophe averted: Feline, couple reunited after scary adventure in Louisville ... This year, Linda and Robert Berzok's Christmas card will feature a picture of their 13-year-old cat Rommie, and words about their Louisville miracle. Thanks to the generosity and caring of strangers, the Berzoks' longhaired gray, white and black cat is home again in Arizona after an unplanned adventure.

The Berzoks were driving from ... upstate New York to their winter place in Arizona on Nov. 1 when they stopped in Louisville .... As they opened the car door Rommie leaped out. The cat, rescued from the streets 13 years earlier, always had been nervous. It took 10 years before she would jump onto Robert Berzok's lap. Linda Berzok, a 63-year-old writer and food historian indicated that the toothless, clawless and extremely timid, Rommie's fate unfolded.

Their "little girl" hid under cars and bushes around the parking lot - then she disappeared. After hours of searching, Robert Berzok, a 62-year-old retired communications director, didn't do much sleeping. Every few hours he would get up, get dressed and search. Then, filled with dread, they continued home.

Once in Arizona, they placed a new advertisement in the newspaper, this time with a photo of Rommie, and made more detailed fliers, which they sent to several Louisville organizations, including Alley Cat Advocates -Vicki Litton, a retired BellSouth worker and others called to tell them about a cat she had spotted matching Rommie's description. Robert Berzok flew to Louisville that night.

Cheryl Jewell, a volunteer with Alley Cat, worked nearby and kept an eye out for the cat. Berzok was paying his hotel bill when he heard that a woman searching nearby had heard a cat's cry. Litton had spotted a culvert and decided to drop a little cat food in front. That's when she heard a hiss. She closed off the culvert But it wouldn't budge.

Jane Harper, of Alley Cat, and her husband showed up. Capt. Ann Camp with Metro Animal Services. She brought a pole. Cat food and sardines were placed near the traps. Berzok got down on the muddy ground and edged closer to the cat, which slowly edged closer to him. When it was about 2 feet away he grabbed it. Rommie emerged -- muddy, scrawny and scared, but well.

Berzok began to cry, then Litton, then the rest.

"It was sweet; it was just the best feeling in the world," Litton said.

Robert Berzok has instituted a strict car policy. "She can have the run of the car," he said. "But before any door is opened, she must be in a carrier cage."

Hurrah for K. A. T. and member Rommie

C. M. Eddy, H.P.L., & Houdinii: According to L Sprague de Camp

"Lovecraft passed some revision work on to Clifford Eddy, who had been acting as Houdini's booking agent. Houdini had taken the place of david Bush as Lovecraft's most demanding and best paying ghosting client. When Houdini played Providence early in October 1926, he invited Lovecraft and the Eddys to his show and afterwards took them to supper with his wife Beatrice. Houdini payed Lovecraft $75 (**)for an article exposing the fallacies of astrology. He wanted Lovecraft to write another for hm on witchcraft and to come to Detroit to colalborate. Dreading another exile, Lovecraft put Houdini off. The next he ehard, Houdini had been stricken with his terminal illness." (1)

{deCamp is under the impression that Houdini died of cancer.}

Maddeningly, de Camp gives almost no footnotes on where he extracted this information.

However, we have testimony that Houdini was in Detroit at the Garrick Theater when he collapsed with a 104 F fever. (2)

(1)H. P. Lovecraft A Biography, L. Spague de Camp, 1975, 1996, Barnes and Noble, pp. 264, 265
(2) The Secret Life of Houdini. Kalush and Sloman, p. 511.

(**) Updated information. Research shows that the 1926 mimimum wage was $6 per day - based on From World's Work, October 1926 pp. 613-616. "HENRY FORD: Why I Favor Five Days' Work With Six Days' Pay" By SAMUEL CROWTHER. Lovecraft's pay of $75 for an article was a truly significant sum and demonstrated Houdini's generosity.

Curious Conjecture on the "HP" in H.P.Lovecraft

Many of his friends called him Howard, which seems natural. Yet he almost lawyas signed H.P. Lovecraft. I was reading through a 1904 story by Sabine Baring-Gould featured in his A Book of Ghosts. The story is entitled, "H.P."

Spoiler Warning.

Still time to stop reading ...

H. P. stands for Homo Praehistoricus. An explorer through a series of events is confined through accident and collapse of the roof in a cave. Inside, H.P. appears with a rather viscious temperment and the enlightened scientist has a civil conversation - via telepathy - as means to calm the savage. A debate of sorts ensues about the merits of the ancient and Victorian era. At the end, svaiours rush in and the ghost of H.P. vanishes. The scientific-adventurer exclaims, "Let H.P. lie where he is ... I have enough of prehistoric antiquities."

You, gentle reader, be the judge of this, The Beast in the Cave and a dislocated, high school dropout and wannbe astronomer named Howard.

{Barng-Gould wrote Onward Christian Soldiers, many other hymns, and was a prolific author of many subjects.}

Lamark, Lovecraft, The Beast In The Cave & Evolution

This excerpt from Science News:

Did Cavefish trade eyes for Good Taste? A certain cavefish seems to have thrown away its eyes for a bigger jaw and a more sensitive palate. The cave fish {Astanax Mexicanus, hereafter A.M.) in Mexico (according to William R Jeffrey of University of maryland: College Park). Its seeming ancestor is a terrestrial dweller. The A. M. has eyes as an embryo, but quickly degenerate. The bigger jaws, more teeth sort of push out the eyes, but the nervous system is enhanced in the taste buds. A special protein drives eye degeneration in cave fish and also enhances the jaw and taste bud enhancements. The enzyme - or lack of it - modifies both A.M. and its surface dwelling ancestor. It seems that to survive, the enzyme was selected so that the cave fish can more appropriately detect its food supply.

Lamark and Lovecraft might find this interesting. In this case, it appears that Darwin and Lamark are both needed to make the case of this evolutionary pathway.

Lovecraft circa 1904-5 was quite interested in Lamark and Ernst Haekel. I believe that he came by this through some acquaintance of the work of Alpahaeus Spring Packard, Jr. - a Brown University Professor who was an expert in Mammoth Cave species.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sunset over Providence

{updated. This was taken tonight at Iroquois Park, Louisville, Ky. (c) 2006 Chris Peridas. Hope it gives a little of the flavor HPL was expressing}.


The scene now became wildly beautiful by reason of one of the most beautiful sunsets in the history of Providence. The whole west flam'd forth as if the door of some Cyclopean furnace had been thrown wide; and the old mansion stood out black against a veritable holocaust of empyreal fire. The spectacl was a chromatick tumult uneartly and iridescent, nearly every colour having its place - even a vivid and sunset green which seem'd to typify the poisonous corrosion and putrefaction of the decaying elder America. It was like the phrensy of hysterical cymbals and brasses translated into light and colour - a screaming terrible thing while it lasted. And because it was violent and terrible, it was very beautiful.

The only reference I have is SL I.263-264.


(c) 2006 Chris Perridas. One of my sometimes "interludes" from my artistic side that sometimes I feel are reminiscent of the mood of HPL's stories. This from today (25 Nov 2006 on an afternoon walk in Iroquois Park.


Ever wonder, as Chrispy has, why there is a Tillinghast in so many stories? The hoary name is from Providence's College Hill past. In March of 1675 during "King Philip's War" (1) Providence was burned except for two houses. In 1700, Elder Pardon Tillinghast erected a meeting house "in the shape of a haycap with a fireplace in the middle". This was at the (then) corner of North Main and Smith Streets. (2)

Tillinghast obviously made an impact on Lovecraft, he used the name in many stories.

(1) King Philip was the name of a tribal leader, and is a forgotten but heinously bloody war of the New England colonies. It shaped paranoia for decades.
(2) College Hill: Providence, R.I. Planning Commission, 1967. A survey of the area Lovecraft resided, and in Chrispy's collection.

A Dagon Predecessor?

Here are some eerie notes and a few old photos of a "sea monster" that washed ashore in Saint Augustine in November of 1896. The images show not much more than mishapen lumps. There is absolutely no evidence HPL saw these pictures. Still ... could some report or other like this have given him the chills and evolved the dreams of krakens from the deep?

Two boys cycling along the beach south of St. Augustine, Florida, came across the body of an enormous creature that had been washed up by the tide. Dr. DeWitt Webb, a local amateur naturalist and President of the St. Augustine Historical Society, took an interest in the remains. After an examination of the mutilated and decaying body he believed that he'd discovered the carcass of a huge octopus.

The portion of the creature that remained, the body minus the arms, was eighteen feet in length and ten feet wide. Parts of arms, unattached to the body, stretched as long as 36 feet with a diameter of 10 inches. Dr. Webb estimated weight at four or five tons.

Realizing this was an important find Webb wrote to Yale Professor Addison Verrill, a leading expert on cephalopods, about the creature: "You may be interested to know of the body of an immense Octopus thrown ashore some miles south of this city. Nothing but the stump of the arm remains, as it had evidently been dead for some time before washed ashore."

Based on photographs sent by Webb, Verrill concluded that the creature was indeed a colossal octopus that might have had a diameter of one-hundred and fifty feet when living. Strangely enough, despite the importance of the find, Dr. Verrill, nor any other scientist, traveled to St. Augustine to view the carcass in person.

Over the years the remains ahve been examined and tested and even DNA tested. The last note about 1993 indicated that the remains might indeed have been a cephalopod of some sort.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Houdini: December 1923

The same time Lovecraft and Eddy were talking, fellowshipping, and writing stories for Weird Tales, Houdini was in the midst of the greatest battles and attacks of his life against the Spirtiualist Crime Syndicates.

This extract is from the Skeptical Inquirer, July-August, 2005 by Massimo Polidoro.

There once was an Italian ... medium who had both the pleasure of astonishing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the "honor" of being unmasked by Harry Houdini ... Nino Pecoraro (born in Naples in 1899). Pecoraro's first big break came when Conan Doyle visited the United States in 1922 for a lecture tour on Spiritualism. During his trip he visited a number of mediums and, on April 14, he attended a seance with Pecoraro. The meeting had been arranged by Hereward Carrington, a well-known psychic investigator. Nino was tied with picture wire and placed in a darkened cabinet. There were shrieks, a toy piano on the table tinkled, and, between hymns, Sir Arthur spoke with the spirit of Palladino. ... Sir Arthur was very impressed by the medium.

Houdini's turn to be impressed came the following year. Scientific American had launched a challenge to all psychic mediums to perform their feats under controlled conditions and win a prize. Houdini, formed a committee to decide how to prepare the tests. In December 1923, the committee ... stumbled upon Pecoraro.

... Carrington, a member of the committee ... proposed ... Pecoraro held four seances for the Scientific American judges, on December 10, 14, and 18. During the first seance, Nino was tied to a chair with sixty feet of rope, beside him was a table with tambourines, bells, and trumpets; he was then hidden from view by a curtain. After a while, noises were heard from behind the curtain: raps, rings, and shrieks by Nino. At the end of the seance, Nino was found lying on the floor, still tied to the chair. The same things happened during the second seance. O.D. Munn, the editor of Scientific American, suspected that Nino had been able, somehow, to free one hand and to play the instruments. He thus wired to Houdini ... Houdini took the first train and, when he arrived at the December 18 seance, he was amazed ... Nobody, he explained, could be securely fastened with one long piece of rope: it was too easy to get some slack and get flee. He cut the rope into dozens of shorter pieces and with those proceeded to tie Pecoraro: it took him almost an hour and forty-five minutes to finish the job. After that, all the phenomena disappeared and Nino did not win the prize.

... Houdini described the episode to his friend Harry Price in a letter dated December 19, 1923: "Last night I tied up a medium for the Scientific American. He is called the 'boy wonder' but is 24 years of age. There were no manifestations with the exception of raps which he managed to make by striking his foot on the side of the cabinet. They asked me to tie him up so that he could not move--and he stayed put. Personally, I believe the man is mad and thinks the 'spirits' help him. " be continued ...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Houdini, Lovecraft, and C. M. Eddy: Part IV


A last get together with C. M. Eddy with HPL occurred on 27 December 1923 when Morton came to town. They toured Providence, and then they went into the First Baptist Church of Providence (1775) on North main Street, ascended the organ loft, and HPL claims to have attempted to play the organ [Yes we have no Bananas] but the machine had no air. (1)

The Christmas season waned and 1924 dawned for Lovecraft and Eddy. At this same time, Houdini was bursting spiritualist crime rings and in a battle royal with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - publicly and privately.

... to be continued ...

(1) H. P. Lovecrfat: A Life, S. T. Joshi, Necronomicon Press, 1996, p. 322 - Joshi quotes from 5 June 1924 letter by HPl to Sam Loveman.

Houdini, Lovecraft, and C. M. Eddy: Part III

Two incidents in November 1923 are mentioned. One seems apocraphal, the other substantiated. However, even apocraphal tales can be elucidating.

A lengthy passage (1) can be summarized here. On 4 November 1923, Eddy and Lovecraft go legend tripping (2) to the Chepacet area. HPL and Morton had toured this area 6 weeks earlier. Eddy and Lovecraft - somehow on foot - follow the trail of the Dark Swamp which Edddy had heard "sinister whispers from te rusticks". They went to the town clerk who confirmed the rumors, but did not know where the place was. Farmers and others were contacted to no avail but collected rumors that "people entered the swamp but never came out". They found a swamp on the farm of Ernest Law but were unable - because it was dark? - to enter and investigate. Lovecraft had nearly collapsed and Eddy carried him back to a trolley stop.

Joshi rightly claims this does not seem to hold water. HPL often made many mile treks and wore his fellow companions out by walking for hours. In addition, HPL would have never believed a fanciful tale, but may have went along for fun.

However, Eddy could have been very interested in making a report to ?? Houdini on some local group or groups at this time. If , indeed, we could ever find that one piece of evidence that linked Eddy and Houdini in a Rhode Island spy group.

The second event, on 28 November 1923, Eddy and HPL went walking through Providence south of the Great Bridge (3).

(1) H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, S. T. Joshi, Necronomicon Press, 1996, p. 307.
(2) A legend trip is a pursuit to locate the origin of a weird, supernatural, or mythical word of mouth story. It could be to find "George Washinton Slept Here", but mostly it is an attempt to find a location reported by a FOAF (a friend of a fiend) and often results in a non-happening. However, in many cases an actual location is found and becomes a focal point of many people being attracted to it. Mercy Brown's grave is such a place.
(3) Confirmed in an anticapatory HPL letter to Maurice Moe of 24 Nov. 1923.

Houdini, Lovecraft, and C. M. Eddy: Part II

OK, we see that at least by October 1923, Lovecraft knew Eddy. He quickly adapted a friendship that included rewriting Eddy's manuscript stories. Muriel Eddy, by 1961, claimed acquaintanceship all the way back to 1919 through Susan Lovecraft - Joshi vehemnetly disputes there is no evidence of this early relationship.

Lovecraft certainly has a great deal of contact with Eddy, though between October 1923 and February 1924 when he and Sonia run off and elope. Prior, Jacob Clark Henneberger and J. M. Lansinger founded (1) Rural Publications, Inc. in 1922 and selected Edwin Baird as editor, with assistants Farnsworth Wright and Otis Adelbert Kline.

Lovecraft sent Baird five stories (Dagon, Arthur Jermyn, Cats of Ulthar, The Hound, and Statement of Randolph Carter.) Lovecrfat had a brief letter appear in the Sept. 1923 issue, and then ended up in 5 of the next 6 issues from Oct. 1923 to April 1924.

Lovecraft, Edy, and Weird Tales seem to have quickly become knotted together in a span of several weeks. Life has its odd coincidences. However, recall that Houdini was tied quickly to Weird Tales, also.

"Ask Houdini" appeared in issues starting March 1924. Two stories (ghosted by Walter B. Gibson later of The Shadow radio fame) (2) appeared in March - July 1924 "The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt" and "The Hoax of the Spirit Lover". We see the "ghost-busting" of Houdini quickly at work. We have already seen a fast commission to HPL for the next Houdini story by the end of 1923.

Now we need to ask - was Weird Tales somehow a recruiting bed via Henneberger for his friend Houdini? be continued...

(1) H.P. Lovecraft: A Life, S. T. Joshi, 1996, Necronomicon Press, p. 296.
(2) op.cit. p. 328.

Houdini, Lovecraft, and C. M. Eddy

How did Lovecraft and Eddy meet? That's not an easy question. S. T. Joshi (1) researched this and is still puzzled. The basis of evidence lies on three forms of documentation. The first, a memorial by Muriel Eddy in 1945. The second memorial in 1961 which adds a great deal to the first, yet seems to faintly apocraphal. (2) The third is Lovecraft's extant correspondence.

Sometime in October 1923 Eddy is called "the new Providence amateur" (3).

At this time, Eddy was probably unknown to Lovecraft - though this is highly debated - and established as a writer. "Sign of the Dragon" appeared in Mystery Magazine on 1 September 1919.

Eddy moved into amateru journalism, and met Lovecraft. Muriel Eddy and her husband encouraged Lovecraft to submit to Weird Tales. They knew Edwin Baird well. Eddy was also pushing stories to Weird Tales "Ashes" and "Ghost Eater" were rejected. Lovecrfat took them, amended them, and baird quickly accepted the new versions.

On 20 October 1923, Lovecraft writes "Here ... is "Ghost Eater" ... I made two or three minor revisions ... it ought to be fairly acceptable to an editior...". In late October, Eddy is writing "The Loved Dead" about a necrophile. It apparently was wholly rewritten by HPL with much of his typical verbosity of the period (Joshi compares "The Hound".). This was published and was the tale that made Weird Tales a household name. The scandal rocked Indiana and had the censors banning it. Naturally, everyone wanted to read Weird Tales. In a sense, this saved Weird Tales from bancrupcy.

One last story was revised by HPL - "Deaf, Dumb, and Blind" revised by HPL in Feb. 1924. be continued ...

(1) H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, S. T. Joshi, Necronomicon Press, 1996, pp. 304 - 307.
(2) Joshi states, "I am frankly skeptical..." and "{the 1961 version} written in a gushing and histrionic manner, makes statements not found in the first..." and "the first seems on the whole quite reliable".
(3) Joshi quotes from a letter to Frank Belknap Long on 7 October 1923.

Lovecraft and Houdini: Speculation

Fear not, Gentle Readers, Chrispy is still mulling over and searching for new tidbits on Lovecraft, Houdini, and whether HPL was an active or passive means for Houdini tobreak the tethers of spiritualists.

Houdini did not go after Mom and Pop spiritualists. He seemed to feel that they were misguided, but relatively harmless. Maybe Houdini would have chuckled at Art Bell and George Noory's nightly revelations ? However, he was furious at "Spiritualists" who bilked people out of millions by preying on their need to have closure with departed loved ones. These were literally crime rings, and suckered in luminaries and commoners alike. To those Houdini (and Lovecraft) had nothing but hate and a lust to destroy and undo.

I think we have seen that Lovecraft, through Henneberger and maybe Eddy, had several years of contact with Houdini. The climax was a major expose The Cancer of Superstition. This was an Eddy commission, but Houdini had to have seen the power of Lovecraft (already the whispers of "the new Poe" had started) on a book of this magnitude. In fact, had Houdini lived and the book published, Lovecraft could have been catipulted to the fame he deserved in his lifetime. It certainly would have been a New York Times best seller, and the men associated with it would have been rewarded, Houdini was generous to his friends as to a fault.

I think that HPL was a passive and not an active means to Houdini's end - at least I do not yet see a smoking gun.

OK, well leave it there for now. Stay tuned, I have much more to copy for you to read.

Thanksgiving 2006

Lovecraft was not a romantic, but Chrispy is.

Thank you for reading the blog - and to many of you who have allowed me to feature your work, stories, and essays. You have much to do in a day, so your few moments to read my tribute to HPL is nice. Even more so, those of you who endure my stories over at Horrorlibrary.

This is the best HPL I can find ...

Thanks for the gift, nor blame me if I Teter
And slip into mine antient{sic} vice of meter,
For sure, your kindness piles Temptation on
With this new Handy Guide to Helicon.

"An Epistle to the Rt. Honble Maurice Winter Moe, Esq. of the Ztthopolis, in the Northwest Territory of HIS MAJESTY'S American Dominions" July 1929.

The Octopus and Lovecraft

Surprisingly, there is little comment by Lovecraft on cephalopods. They obviously fascinated him, or at least he fixated on them. The classic artwork of a squid in battle with the whale influenced a portion of Dagon and Call of Cthulhu. HPL hated sea food, the odor made him nauseated.

In an article by Jaron Lanier, we read, "This video is so shocking ... shot in 1997 by my friend Roger Hanion ... off Grand Cayman Island {a researcher at Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole} he swims up to examine an unremarkable rock covered in swaying algae. Suddenly, astonishingly, one-third of the rock and a tangled masss of algae morphs and reveals itself ... the waving arms of a bright white octopus. Its cover blown, the creature squirts ink at Roger and shoots off into the distance - leaving Roger, and the viewer slack-jawed."

April 2006, "Why Not Morph", Discover, p. 26.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Lovecraft had a practical knowledge of alchemy from years of study of chemistry and qabbalism. The July 31, 2006 issue of Chemical and Engineering News (p. 15) discussed the International Conference on the History of Alchemy and Chymistry, The conference took place between July 19 and 22 in Philadelphia, Pa.

We usually (as did HPL) think of alchemists as a dark bearded medievalist in pursuit of a means to convert lead into gold or to find the elxir of life.

Prior to this gathering, the last conclave of scientific historians was in Groningen, the Netherlands, 17 years prior.

A highlight was Indiana University's William R. Newman who argued that mid-17th century American alchemist George Starkey had a pivotal influence on the English chemist Robert Boyle. Newman also revealed that isaac Newton's manuscript (Dibner 1031B) was written backward and upside down over two manuscript pages in Latin were a list of Newton's elaboration on the subject 'sal nitrum theory of metallic generation'. Metals form in the earth via interaction with sulfurous vapors rising and vitriolic salts descending. Newton exclaims, "these wander all over the earth and bestow life on animals and vegetables".

Political machinations of alchemists were considered at the conference as were the many items in use by alchemists.

Lovecraft would have loved to have attended this!!

Ian Derbyshire: Invaded by Cthulhu

Actually, he picked it up at a comic book store in Ottawa. They had 3, Dagon, a ghoul (from Pickman's Model), and Cthulhu.

Thanks for the head's up, Ian!

While you're at it, check out his great horror stories at >

Strange Maine: Miskatonic Acid Tes

Chrispy won't steal their thunder. Go there! Now!

Hint: New HPL movie.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lovecraft and Continental Drift

"That the antarctic continent was once temperate and even tropical ... is a matter of common information...". At The Mountains of Madness. In fact, continental drift was not accepted until the 1960's. Lovecraft firmly believed and understood it, though.

Now we have this update...


A section of the Appalachian Mountains discovered in Mexico is forcing scientists to redraw their maps of ancient Earth.
The Appalachians are a series of mountain ranges in eastern North America that extend from Southern Quebec in Canada to northern Alabama. A piece of the chain was recently uncovered in a large Mexican outcropping of rock, known as the Acatlan Complex. Analyses of the rocks revealed they were formed on the ocean floor, and dating showed they were much younger than previously thought.

It also challenges current theories about the creation of the Appalachians - scientists thought that 420 million years ago Earth contained two main land masses that were separated by a large expanse of sea, called the Rheic Ocean. In the south was Gondwana, a supercontinent consisting of South America, Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica. And to the north was Laurussia, made up of North America, Greenland, Europe and parts of Asia.

According to the standard scenario, the Acatlan Complex was once part of Gondwana, but it broke off the supercontinent about 500 million years ago. The complex, along with a few other chunks of land, drifted northward, and in the process blocked a stretch of sea known as the Iapetus Ocean. The Acatlan Complex eventually collided with North America, and with the force of a colossal bulldozer sent the once-flat land into mountain-size ripples — forming the Appalachian Mountains.

But the recent analysis of the Acatlan Complex rocks revealed they once existed on the Rheic ocean floor, not the Iapetus, suggesting that the Appalachian-forming collision occurred about 120 million years later. According to this scenario, the Acatlan Complex remained a part of Gondwana, and the entire supercontinent slammed into North America. The collision closed the Rheic Ocean, created the Appalachian Mountains and formed the goliath land mass known as Pagaea. The study is detailed in the October issue of the journal Geology.

Another Critical Discovery: On Ebay

Lovecraft's amateur journalism photo uncovered and for sale (starting at $1500). here is the accompnaying text with the auction...

H. P. LOVECRAFT: original photograph with a signed card This week I (1) offer another unique HPL item from a wonderful collection. An original vintage photograph of H. P. Lovecraft measuring approximately 4" x 5" taken by his friend and executor of his estate, Robert H. Barlow in 1934. One of the sharpest images of HPL I (1) have ever seen, one can discern a scar on his chin and a face displaying the rigors of shaving with antiquated technology! But not an unpleasant face certainly. Framed with the photograph is an official amateur press card nominating Hyman Bradofsky - current vice-president of the organization, for president, signed in full by HPL with his address. Hyman Bradofsky was the subject of a nasty anti-semitic smear campaign which prompted HPL to defend him with his famous paper - "Some Current Motives & Practices". These pieces came to me when I purchased Hyman Bradofsky's Lovecraft collection from him in 1988. Note that full "H. P. Lovecraft" signatures are scarce, as he most often signed his name "HPL", or "E'ch-pi-el"...and numerous other variants.The full measurement of the framed items is 12" x 16", an excellent presentation. Any shadows or dullness of the photographs are caused by my own shadows and are not present on the pieces themselves. (1) Offered by Terence McVicker, Rare Books

Lovecraft and Lamarck

HPl was a devout evolutionist, but he was far from a darwinian. His stories from "The Beast In the Cave", through Dagon and the Innsmouth look to his final stories all show that he was influenced by Ernst Haekel.

However, he seemed to be a Lamrakian. He believed that traits and characteristics can de-evolve people to their lowest and apish mannerisms. Therefore, they could also devolve to saurians, amphibians, penguins, or cephalopods.

50 years before Darwin, Jean Baptiste-Lamark believed that organisms evolve because they try to. The environment changes the animal by "inheritance of acquired characteristics.".

Therefore, if you cut off all mice tails, they will evolve to tailless mice. In HPL's world, put a man in a cave and he and his descendents become pale, blind, and insane. This quickly leads to racism and thus why social darwinism was condemned.

Darwin, by the way, believed that because there is wide variation in animal species and as environmental stresses begin to eradicate non-conforming animals, new animals will "evolve" to claim the modified environment.

Epigentics, however, has picked up traces of lamark. Diet, behavior, and environmental changes can pass on not just genetic changes, but acquired characteristics. Not losing tails, but things like tool building, problem solving, and exploitive tactics.

Some of this is extracted from Jessica Ruvinsky, "Lamark's Last Laugh", Discover, Nov. 2006, p. 37.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Speculation: Why is Cthulhu a Cephalopod?

Most of you know that I write ( and it is a gratifying hobby. At alone, over 30,000 have stopped by to check out my fiction, essays, and non-fiction.

Sooo, Chrispy has put his imagination to work.

Long ago, when Cthulhu came to sleep beneath the waves, we can gather that humans were non-existent. However, as the mighty sleeper shut down consciousness - if such can explain the alienness of the others - a part played. Looking about by uber-telepathic means, insects and plants and saurian species were boring. Fish, sharks, and mollusks were also mundane.

Then, a spark of sentience.

Cthulhu looked and admired the sleek form of the cephalopod. The beauty of the flexible legs. Skin filled by chromatophores, the rubbery thing changed colors, forms, and shapes at will. When Cthulhu's interest touched the octopus, it was unlike other creatures on other planets. The octopus did not recoil, but rubbed it's modicum of a brain against it's master.

The cuttlefish scurried to curry attention, and Cthulhu played with pebbles that the cuttlefish pushed back.

Cthuhu smelled the iron blood of the land creatures and loathed the odor. It reminded the god too much of the molten mantle of Earth over which it slept. The cool copper blood of the octopus was clean and different.

Cthulhu shrigged, stretched, and - - changed. It adapted the new form of the cephalopod. It was pleased, and then dozed back asleep - - until anthropodic apes raised their heads and began to pray to the outer gods. Cthulhu was not pleased that men prayed to it.

Some of this was inspired by an article by Jaron Lanier, "Why Not Morph? What Cephalopods Can Teach Us About Language." Discover, April 2006, pp.26,27.

Providence in 1896 - During Lovecraft's Childhood

Lovecraft was 6, comfortable, and he and Susan were living in luxuriant style.

Market Street in turn of 20th Century Downtown Providence

Imagine Lovecraft among the bustling crowds or riding one of the street cars. Compare the gargantuan street car to the horse drawn cart in the foreground.

Art in Providence: Lovecraft's Opportunities Circa 1909.

From an ancient pamphlet, here are some places within Lovecraft's sphere. One imagines him peering through glass caes at antiquarian artifacts and ogling portraits of 17th century luminaries. I've omitted the times and other obscuranta, but they were all open midday and daily. If they were free or had a fee, I included it. It is unlikely that Lovecraft often had an extra quarter to go into paid areas. At least not often, so they would have been a treat. Or else he would have went on "free" days.


Art in Providence: The Rhode Island School of Design with the Handicraft Club and Athanaeum over the way, the Art Club and Fleur-de-Lis Studios close by; and just up the hill the Annmary Brown Memorial and Brown University with their fine collections of pinitings and famous libraries, give to Providence an art and education centre {sic} unsurpassed in this country.
Annmary Brown Memorial, Drown Street, ancient and modern masters; early printing and illuminated manuscripts. Free.

Athanaeum: corner Benefit and College Streets.

City Hall: portraits. Open to Public.

Fleur-de-Lis: Studio, 7 Thomas Street

Handicraft Hall: corner College and Benefit Streets. Progressive club of arts and crafts. Occassional exhibitions.

Manning Hall: Brown University. Reproductions of statuary and paintings of the Accropolis by Walter Brown.

Pendleton House: Entrance through the R. I. School of Design, 11 Watterson Street. Rare and valuable collection of antique mahogany furniture, rugs, mirrors, prcelains, china, an silver. 25 cents.

Providence Club: 11 Thomas Street. From autunm to spring the gallery is almost always open to the public with interesting exhibition of pictures.

Providence Public Library: Washington Street, corner Greene. Continuous exhibitions of photographs, school work, second floor Lectrue Room.

Rhode Island Historical Society, 66 Waterman Street. Library and historic relics. Portraits on first floor, relics in gallery of second floor and west wing of third. Open to public.

Rhode Island School of Design: 11 Waterman Street. {see full blog entry below}

Sayles Hall: Brown University. Most extensive collection of portraits in the state. If not open apply at Superintendent's office, Unversity Hall.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rhode Island School Of Design

"His card bore the name ofHenry 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...". The Call of Cthulhu.

A 1909 brochure [Lovecraft would have been 19] had this advertisement:

Rhode Island School Of Design, 11 Waterman Street. Oil and water color paintings, engravings, casts of masterpieces of sculpture, Japanese pottery, metal work, lacquer and textiles. Open to public July 1 to September 15, 1 - 5 p.m. week days; 2-5 p.m. Sundays. September 15 to July 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. week days; 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, admission 25 cents. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Free.

Here is an interior shot of the Library just before 1920.

Here is the building shown in its corner location ascending a slight hill.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Houdini and Lovecraft According To Letters to Lillian Clark. IV.

final extract ...

[1925 February 10 to Lillian Clark] (6) "I was awaked the next day by the arrival of a most unexpected guest-who under divine Pegana but C M. Eddy, Jr., of The City! He was here on literary business, interviewing magazine editors & stopping with Houdini up in West 113th St. Let's hope he can soon do something with that extended note! I was really glad to see the poor chap - any breath from home--& shewed him my room with considerable pleasure. We then called on Kirk, & with him went out to the Taormina for dinner, later shewing Eddy the illuminated skvline from the "Prospect Terrace" at the foot of Montague St. Leaving Kirk at the subway, Eddy & I started out to explore the colonial mazes of Greenwich Village, when whom should we meet-on the Clark St. train platform-but Samuel Loveman, Esq., nonchalantly bearing in his arms the bronze Buddha which he had purchased at last! Introductions followed, after which the three set out for Greenwich. Eddy had an engagement at Houdini's house at midnight, so we had to hustle a bit! but we managed to include the salient points by brisk walking, bidding Loveman farewell at 11:30, after which I piloted Eddy to Houdini's home via the Bronx subway. I then returned to 169 & read "Lords of the Ghostland", by Edgar Saltus. Meanwhile I had word that S H would arrive on Tuesday, so had sent L D C a card to that effect. When Tuesday dawned, L D C telephoned that she would be in to that noon, staying overnight here, (the room next mine was temporarily vacant) & proceeding to Providence Wednesday afternoon. I met her at the Grand Central, shew'd her Loveman's outfitted room & Buddha, & thence conducted her to 169 Clinton, where we met Kirk just going out & induced him to return. A telephone call now came from S H, asking me to meet her for dinner at the Milan restaurant in West 42nd St., & after an affirmative reply I got Eddy on the wire & arranged for a general party there-L D C, Eddy, Loveman, Kirk, Kleiner, S H, & H P L. Kirk went down to get S L & R K, & L D C & I rested & proceeded to the restaurants very attractive Italian place which Eddy later learnt is a chosen haunt of Houdini & his wife. We all met successfully, & the dinner was delightful. Eddy then went to the Hippodrome to meet Houdini, Kirk, Loveman, & Kleiner went up to Belknap's, & S H, L D C, & I returned to 169 Clinton, where S H made lemon tea with my Sterno in Kirk's room. We then retired, S H rising early for business, whilst L D C & I observed more conservative hours. "

{We wonder what Eddy was up to with Houdini. How much did HPL know at this time? Why do the anecdotes to Lillian, his aunt, stop abruptly at this point about Houdini, when it was non-stop for several letters? Just not enough information to speculate.}

(6) pp.110, 111 of H. P. Lovecraft: Letters From New York, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2005.

Houdini and Lovecraft According To Letters to Lillian Clark. III.

continued ...

[1925 January 22 to Lillian Clark] (4) "In the morning I received telephone calls, & telephoned Houdini about some Hippodrome seats which he had offered me for his current performance-obtaining fine places for Thursday night. ... The next day I spent ... [running errands and planning surprises for Samuel Loveman with] Belknap [who] insisted on planning a gift for Loveman ... & at my suggestion hit upon writing materials, which the poet sadly lacked. In the evening I joined S H at the Hippodrome-a pleasantly immense house-& saw Houdini go through the same tricks he shewed in Providence about 1898. Then to a restaurant for a bite, & home. ..."

{Does this mean HPL saw Houdini as an 8 year old in Providence? Or is this just a put down?}

[1925 February 2 to Lillian Clark] (5) "C. M. Eddy has just blown in! On business in N.Y. to see Houdini & some editors."

(4) pp. 105 of H. P. Lovecraft: Letters From New York, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2005.
(5) pp. 108.109 of H. P. Lovecraft: Letters From New York, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2005.

Houdini and Lovecraft According to Letters to Lillian Clark. II

continued ...


[1924 September 30 to Aunt Lillian Clark] (3) "Did I say that Houdini has written, promising to find something for me? Probably I did - but I might as well transcribe in toto the note I received yesterday. (Monday).
"September 28, 1924
"My Dear Lovecraft:-
"Received your letter and will be back next Sunday and Monday, October 5 and 6, respectively, before I leave for the coast.
"Give me a ring on my private 'phone, Cathedral 8260, by all means, as I want to put you in touch with someone worth-while, In the meantime I am already spreading propaganda.
"With Kindest Regards,
"Sincerely Yours,
"Keith's Phila. Week Sept. 29."

{In early days, phone numbers were listed by alphabetic prefixes, that is Cathedral represents CA or 22-8260. Numbers were only 6 digits long.}

(3) pp. 75 of H. P. Lovecraft: Letters From New York, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2005.

Houdini and Lovecraft According To Letters to Lillian Clark. I.

Here are the first pertinent notes in chronological order...

[1924 March 9 to Aunt Lillian Clark] (1) "The headache prescription camesafely, and I shall get a bottle of my Old Reliable - although so far I haven't had a headache since the wearing off of the one induced by the Houdini-Henneberger rush." {Referring to the adrenaline rush of typing the ghosted story and then losing the manuscript.]

[1924 March 19 to Aunt Lillian Clark] (2) "As to literary stuff - Henneberger made a special trip to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to show my new story to Houdini, and the latter took to it marvelously - writing me a note at once, which I answered at his New York address, 278 West 113th St. This morning Houdini answered in a most cordial note, promising a longer reply soon, and asking me to call on him. He seems a very pleasant person in a mildly commonplace way, and I am sure that I shall enjoy meeting him - and his library." {In the same letter, Lovecraft reveals that Henenberger has offered him the job as editor of Weird tales whoch would mean relocating to Chicago. HPL turns it down.}

(1) pp. 41, 42 of H. P. Lovecraft: Letters From New York, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2005.
(2) pp. 46, 47 of H. P. Lovecraft: Letters From New York, ed. Joshi & Schultz, Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2005.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Houdini and Lovecraft According to George Kirk

Mara Kirk Hart has recently released her father's letters relevant to his observations of Lovecraft and the Kalem Club. (1)

Here are the only brief extracts of his comments on Lovecraft and Houdini.


[1924 August 19, i.e. the day before HPL's birthday] "Tuesday. HL is Howard Lovecraft. He writes: stories, etc., and rewrites: Houdini's stories, poems for one Hoag, something or other for David B. Bush, etc. " (2)

[1926 October 18] "HPL wrote lately. Is doing work for Houdini." (3)


These are very brief extracts, but clearly show that almost from the moment Kirk met HPL, he was conscious of HPL's association with the very famous Houdini, and that it was no secret to anyone within the Kalem that HPL was in loose association with Houdini for a number of years.

(1) Lovecraft's New York Circle,: The Kalem Club, 1924-1927; ed. Mara Kirk Hart and S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, NY, 2006.
(2) p. 24. These are: Harry Houdini, the (then) elder Jonathan E. Hoag {1831-1927}, and Bush, a pop psychologist that HPL ghosted for. Kirk wrote these letters to his (then) fiancee Lucille Dvorak.
(3) p. 104. This refers to The Cancer of Superstition that HPL and CM Eddy, Jr. were writing. It would cease upon Houdini's death on October 31, 1926.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is this the Houdini Sea Creature - and did it Influence Dagon?

The facts seem well dcumented, but beyond this pericope, we don;t have enough evidence to speculate.

Starting in this century, the geographic reach of recorded beachings has grown more widespread. In March 1909, Massachusetts recorded its first giant squid. (The second would not appear for another seventy-one years.) Off the Cape Cod village of Truro, the fishing schooner Annie Perry found a giant squid floating on the surface. In an anonymous letter written to Henry Blake (who quoted it in an article in the malacological journal Nautilus),

It was perfectly fresh, and the crew took some of it for bait and caught quite a number of fish. I saw one of the tentacles ... and it was seven feet six inches long, and the suckers were as large as a silver quarter. A piece of the body was, I should think, four inches in thickness, and the tentacles must have been four inches in diameter at the larger end.... The captain of the vessel who took the squid says it was a very little larger than their dory, which is 16 or 17 feet long ... The whole body was about as large around as a fish barrel.

Richard Ellis, The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea Creature, Penguin Books, NY, 1999, p. 94.

Ellis cites on p. 270: J. H. Blake, 1909, A Giant Squid, Nautilus 23:43-44,83.

300 th Post!

Thank you for reading! It has been a fun and fast track to 300 posts. Here is an copy of an interior illustration from the April 1936 Astounding Stories Finale of At The Mountains of Madness. I also show some details you might not othewise see on-line. If you click the main photo, it will enlarge greatly.

Letter From 1936 Astounding Tales

Here is a treat from Chrispy's personal collection, extracted from the letters section of April 1936's Astounding Stories.

Page Mr. Lovecraft!

Dear Editor.

Congratulations! Your magazine is once again astounding! In addition to the fine stories I wish to congratulate you on the improved appearance of the magazine - the trimmed edges, and the seemingly better grade of paper.

The cover, as usual is good. The interior illustrations are all right, but the artist who
illustrated At the Mountains of Madness lacks the Imagination of the others. Schneeman should have illustrated this. Marchioni is unbelievably improved, and Schneeman is fine. Wesso is far below his old standard.

May I, Mr. Lovecraft, criticize the first installment of your serial? It is only because it is a fine story that I consider it worthy of the time to criticize. Invariably, In reading a story of this I compare it with Merritt's Moon Pool, is, of course, the perfect story in so far as perfection can be attained by mortals.

In your story compared, not to the usual standard, but to perfection, I find a few faults: a lack of attention to detail and too much repetition; too many specific references to Necronomicon. Could you not have suggested the occult and the mystic in other ways? This is the fault of all your stories. But At the Mountains of Madness was really good because you are an emotional master of words, and of the mystic mood.


Thank you.-L. M. Jensen, Box 35, Cowley, Wyoming.

So, next time you get a critical fan letter, you know how HPL felt!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Harry Houdini's 1911 Sea Monster - a Lovecraft Influence?

One always wonders about what Lovecraft may have absorbed to create Dagon. We are sure that Irving Cobb's FishHead and at least one vivid dream came together to create Dagon. Still, what made him think of the Philistine FishGod? *

In any event, here is the text from the new Houdini book. **

The procession started on the Long Wharf of Boston Harbor and continued through the winding streets to Keiths Theatre. Crowds of people followed the bizarre parade, others just stood on the sidewalk and watched in awe as Houdini's next great challenge was publicly displayed. "It" was a giant 1,600 pound sea monster that had been fished out of the ocean, a "what is it" that locals had identified as a cross between a whale and an octopus. Ten prominent Boston businessmen had challenged Houdini to be fettered with handcuffs and leg irons and escape from the hollowed-out "belly of the beast.'

The scene onstage on September 26, 1911 was unbelievable. It took a dozen stagehands to carry out the "turtle-tortoise-fish or whatever it is," and turn it on its back on the center of the stage. Its abdomen had been sliced open, affixed with metal eyelets, which held a long thread of steel chain. Before the escape was attempted, Houdini was forced to sign a document that would release the owners of this monster from any liability should Houdini fail the test.

Then the steel chain was slackened, and Houdini crawled into the carcass, pausing to spray some strong perfume where his head would lie. He gave a signal, and handcuffs and leg irons were fastened to him. Then the committee went to work. Smiling through their labor, they tightened the chain, passed it around the creature's back, and secured it with locks. The cabinet was then placed around the beast and the orchestra struck up.

After fifteen minutes, the screens of the cabinet were thrown open, and there was Houdini, "grease-covered, pallid and perspiring," holding the handcuffs and leg irons aloft in triumph. On examination, the beast was as securely locked as it had been before. Houdini was not unscathed. His first words were to the stagehands, requesting them to open the windows and give him some air. Houdini had underestimated the toxicity of the arsenic solution that the taxidermist had used to preserve the sea monster, and, locked inside, he had been adversely affected by the fumes.

From: The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, William Kalush and Larry Sloman, Atria Books, NY, 2006, p. 267

* It really was not a Fish God, but 19th century etymology mistook dagon as a metaphor or semitic root word of fish and god.

** The Fortean Group with T. Peter Park and Loren Coleman, among other notables, are researching this anecdote for fuller references in newspapers or other literature. Stay Tuned!

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sea Monster

The Swampscott fishermen still relate
How a strange sea-monster stole their bait;
How their nets were tangled in loops and knots,
And they found dead crabs in their lobster-pots.

This was an interesting pericope from Oliver Wendell Holmes Broomstick Train of 1892 with illustrations by H. Pyle.

Very eerie and allusive of so many Lovecraft under water ... things.

When HPL was 2 years old, he sat on Holmes' lap and claimed he recalled it vividly.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Houdini Takes HPL to the show

It is no secret that Joshi's biography revises much of deCamp's 1975 biography. Still, one muct have both Joshi and deCamp at the desk when one researches. This anecdote is priceless. *

"While Lovecraft lived with Sonia in Brooklyn ... Houdini ... treated the Lovecrafts to tickets to his show at the old Hippodrome on January 15, 1935."

Further, "Among other commissions, Houdini suggested a collaboration among himself, Eddy, and Lovecraft ... The Cancer of Superstirion ... Houdini to furnish the basic ideas ... Lovecraft the outline ... Eddy to write the actual book. Lovecraft prepared an outline of 12 chapters, Eddy wrote a chapter ... Lovecraft corrected it ... then Houdini fell ill of cancer ** and died on October 31, 1926.

"Lovecraft considered Houdini to have presented ' one of the worst instances of misdirected intellect' because although ' an accomplished man with talent and intelligence' he was satisfied to be 'merely a clever showman.'

"Lovecraft and Eddy struggled through two more chapters, failed to find a publisher, and dropped the project."

Considering the new revelations of this month, these words are chilling. Houdini was a generous man. However, if Eddy was indeed a spy, and Houdini knew of Lovecraft's deep loathing of the spiritualists through Eddy, was he courting Lovecraft?

* p. 214, H. P. Lovecraft, A Biography, 1975, Barnes and Noble, 1996.
** Apparently, Houdini did not die of cancer, nor of ruptured appendix. The new Houdini book indicates there was much mischief - and perhaps an assasination - that led to Houdini's death. More on this later.

The Materialist & Walter Coates

In H. P. Lovecraft: A Life *, S. T. Joshi states:

"...Walter J Coates (1880-1941) in touch with Lovecraft through Cook ... not sure what reason ... they ... hsared a fondness for backwoods New England ... {and probably} discussed this subject in their correspondence ... Coates ... had founded The Driftwind, and in one early issue he published Lovecraft's essay The Materialist Today (Ocober 1926). Lovecraft declares it was at Coates' insistence. Coates also issued it as a pamphlet in a print run of 15 copies making it one of the rarest of Lovecraft's seperate publications ... for many years it was thought that no copies survived, but lately one or two copies have surfaced. ... The essay is short, compact, and somewhat cynical ennunciation of materialist principles. Coates ... published Lovecraft's verse in Driftwind."

1996, Necronomicon Press, p. 427

The Materialist Located - on ebay - only copy ever discovered


As stated in S. T. Joshi's "H. P. LOVECRAFT: An Annotated Bibliography - Kent State University Press, 1981 - "No copy of this pamphlet has ever been located. Previous bibliographers have obtained data for it only from "A CHECKLIST OF PUBLICATIONS OF DRIFTWIND PRESS" by Walter J. Coates, appearing in Driftwind, November, 1931.

On page 17 is this entry:"THE MATERIALIST TODAY" Howard P. Lovecraft. n.d., n.p. [May, 1926]. Not for sale. Only 15 copies printed."

This copy was found glued into the back of a handmade book after the sale of a large H. P. Lovecraft collection, in a bookstore in Southern California in 1983.

The brown streaks were from two newspaper clippings that had been laid on top of the piece fifty years prior. The pamphlet is printed from set type probably linotype, not offset and is in excellent condition with the original tie-string still in place.The only known verified copy of this legendary Lovecraft paper.

The fountain-penned notation upon the cover errantly stating that it is a "reprint" from Drift-Wind, is in an unknown hand but very similar to W. Paul Cook's hand writing; Cook noted in 1944 that he once owned a copy.

The ultimate Lovecraft rarity!Offered by Terence McVicker, Rare Books $Starts at $22,000 !

Lovecraft On Houdini via letter to Frank B. Long

In a letter to Frank Belknap Long dated February 14, 1924, HPL wrote:
It seems that once Houdini was in Cairo with his wife on a non-professional pleasure trip, when his Arab guide became involved in a street fight with another Arab. In accordance with custom, the natives decided to fight it out that night on the top of the Great Pyramid; and Houdini's guide, knowing the magician's interest in exotic oddities, invited him to go along with his party of seconds and supporters. Houdini did, and saw a tame fistic encounter followed by an equally mechanical reconciliation. There was something off-colour and rehearsed about it all, and the wizard was hardly surprised when suddenly the frame-up was revealed, and he found himself bound and gagged by the two Arabs who had faked the combat. It had all been prearranged--the natives had heard of him as a mighty wizard of the West, and were determined to test his powers in a land where wizards had once ruled supreme. Without ceremony they took him to an aperture in the roof of the Temple of the Pharaoh's (Campbell's Tomb) where a sheer drop of fifty-three feet brings one to the floor of the nighted crypt which has but one normal entrance--a winding passage very far from this well-like opening. Producing a long rope, they lowered him into this abode of darkness and death and left him there without means of ascent--bound and gagged amidst the kingly dead, and ignorant of how to find the real exit. Hours later he staggered out of that real exit, free, yet shaken to the core with some hideous experience about which he hesitates to talk. It will be my job to invent the incident, and give it my most macabre touches. As yet, I don't know how far I can go, since from a specimen Houdini story which Henneberger sent me I judge that the magician tries to pass off these Munchausens as real adventures. He's extremely egotistical, as one can see at a glance. But in any case, I guess I can weave in some pretty shocking things ... unsuspected lower caverns, a burning light amidst the balsam'd dead, or a terrible fate for the Arab guides who sought to frighten Our Hero.

1911 Sea Beast

In 1911, Harry Houdini was manacled and slipped inside the carcass of a "sea monster" that had washed up on a beach near Boston (Cape Cod). The unidentified corpse was then sewn shut and chain was wrapped around it. Houdini escaped, although the fumes of the rotting beast mixed with arsenic (which was used to preserve it for the stunt) very nearly killed him. Fortunately, Houdini was able to stay conscious, and managed to escape from his organic prison.

Lovecraft was always on the watch for sea creature stories. I wonder if this deteriorated sea thing influenced the writing of Dagon? *

* It is generally recognized that HPL dreamed most of the story and that also Irving Cobb's story of 1913 "Fishhead" were primary influences. Still ... HPL often mulled over an idea for years before it came to fruition.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Houdini and C. M. Eddy, Jr.

Before I get to the HPL revelations, I need to recite a few notes on his pal - C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Houdini and Eddy apparently knew each other in passing and enough that Eddy is mentioned in Joshi's biography (1) as working in 1926 [with HPL] on The Cancer of Superstition.

Kalush and Sloman (2) have tantalizing things to say about Eddy.

[p. 461] "...a few men worked as secretive operatives. Clifford Eddy, Jr., a magazine writer who was collaborating with Houdini on a few literary projects, filed many field reports."

The context is in the section primarily concerned with 1925. Chrispy has asked the author's web site what the status of the expansive on-line footnotes but as of Tuesday, the editors have not had a chance to upload them.

[p. 502] "In Providence [early Oct 1926], the next stop of the [Mystery of the Sphinx] tour, Houdini and Bess [Houdini's wife] went to dinner with H. P. Lovecraft and Clifford Eddy, Jr. Both men were working on a book for Houdini called The Cancer of Superstition but Eddy was also an undercover operative for Houdini, filing many field reports on his visits to fraudulent mediums. ... Shortly after meeting with Eddy and Lovecraft, Bess was stricken with a non-specific form of poisoning, probably from food."

When I first read this I nearly fainted! Lovecraft and Eddy and poisoning?? I'm sure the authors did not intend to link Lovecraft with a plot, but it sure reads as a pot boiler!

In any event, the charge of spying they make on Houdini which rocked both the secular and magic world, has now painted HPL's Mythos insider group.

If any of you have comments or read any additional details blog them here.

1. p. 407, 408, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, Necronomicon Press, 1996. This is the exhaustive version.
2. The Secret Life of Houdini: The making of America's First Superhero, Atria Books, NY, NY, 2006.

What's Chrispy up to?

Working a lot. Writing every month at I also have my Weird Beast blog that many of you also read. Thank you. Megg Roper talked me into doing NaNoWriMo this month and it is my first attempt at novel length writing. Thank you, Megg, for all your kind words of encouragement. I'm trying!

However, never fear. Whatever my far flung activities in the cyber and real world may be, HPLblog will always be an exciting part of what I do.

But, please be patient with me! I am frequently time management challenged and have a back log of things I want to share with you. Still, there are nearly 300 essays, stories, news blurbs, Lovecraftiana trivia and more if you search the archives for your favorite story or subject.

Thank you loyal readers and fellow fans.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Has Cthulhu's Lair Been Found?

Oceanographers have discovered a broad, almost-bare patch of seafloor in the remote South Pacific. An unusual combination of circumstances has left the region without the mineral and organic sediments hundreds of meters deep that are typical elsewhere in the world's oceans, the scientists say.

The sediment-poor region is about the size of the Mediterranean Sea and centered approximately 4,000 kilometers east of New Zealand. Researchers discovered the area, which they dubbed the South Pacific Bare Zone, during a cruise early last year, says David K. Rea, a marine geologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The scientists were surprised when their seismic equipment indicated that there was no sediment in that region. A unique combination of factors seems to have dictated the area's dearth of sediment that's accumulated since the basalt crust below formed between 85 million and 34 million years ago, Rea and his colleagues report in the October Geology.

Recall, "The ... Alert ... was sighted April 12th in S. Latitude 34d21m , W Longitude 152d17m with one living and one dead man aboard."

Be afraid. Be very afraid!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Robert W. Chambers

This photo is from The King in Yellow and is of Robert W. Chambers captured in the art of painting (F. Tennyson Neely 1895). Chambers was prolific and only a few times dabbled in horror. He made a tremendous living as a popular and prolific writer of (today) mostly forgettable works.

Fresco Spring 1958 Memorial Symposium

I found this rare item of great interest because of its inclusion of Samuel Loveman. I've not properly traced its origin, but after Lovecraft's death Samuel Loveman became distraught at the revelation of HPL's antisemitic stance - long hidden from his colleagues and friends. It would be interesting if he had given his bitterness pause to write an essay in this memorial work.

The University of Detroit Quarterly Fresco, Volume 8, No. 3 from Spring 1958. This issue was published as the Howard Phillips Lovecraft Memorial Symposium and is 100 percent related to Lovecraft. It featured the work of Joseph Payne Brennan, August Derleth, David H. Keller, Fritz Leiber, and more including a bibliography and The Music of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft.

Fantasy Fan March 1934

A rare edition being auctioned * on ebay.

The MARCH 1934 issue of the fanzine THE FANTASY FAN, Volume 1 Number 7, edited by Charles D. HORNIG, featured:
-Our Readers Say
-Gods of the North (an early CONAN story) by Robert E. HOWARD
-Supernatural Horror in Literature, Part 6 by H.P. LOVECRAFT
-Your Views Revenant (verse) by Clark Ashton SMITH
-The Words in the Sky (a true experience) by Kenneth B. PRITCHARD
-How to Write a Weird Tale by Hoy Ping PONG
-A Sad Story of the Future by Forrest J. ACKERMAN
-The Time Machine (A Bibliographical Note) by R.H. BARLOW

This is an interesting mix of old (Mythos) guard and new guard. Howard, Lovecrfat and Barlow were of the "Lovecraft circle", while Ackerman, Bradbury, Hannes Boc, and Ray Harryhausen were the new guard. The latter were high school buddies who rode street cars to movies and fan meetings prior to their exlosion of the science fiction and horror scenes.

I copied a bit of the text below - as best as I could.

"Clark Ashhton Smith's story, 'The Ghoul" is fascinating all the way through and the plot {is} one that fits in with the (?) I am ardently waitng for more poems by him.
"Supernatural Horror in Literature" grows ever more absorbing with the dawn odf the Horror Tale. It is certainly something to tuck away and think over. Especially interesting is how the genre started and gained (?) in our own century from the European and the fact that super is more prominent is northern blood than in southern speaking (?) - latin and the like.
Very glad to see the new issue. Smith's article is extermely apt and timely. I find that James Tale (?) to be proppopularly underappreciated. Harker's (?) tale is the best yet - he seems to improve continually. The It's a good idea to substitute a department of general discussion for "The hailing Point". - H P Lovecraft.

* (As of 9 Nov 06)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The rise of Lovecraft

If you are a fan or have been reading Chrispy's blog, you know that HPL wanted to be a poet and as an side exercise wrote horrific stories. In 1914-15 he came out of the gate and joined the amateur journalism movement. Within ten years he had a following and fans and many good friends.

However, he was still not always a front page "name" in the trade magazines.

Here is an example. In this 1926 issue of Weird Tales, he is not featured on the cover like he would be 10 years later. However, this issue is jam packed with his perrenial competition.

The contributors to this one are:

Cover art by C. Barker Petrie, Jr. and art by Andrew Brosnatch. The Cats of Ulthar story by H.P. Lovecraft reprinted from a fanzine. Other authors this issue include, Pettersen Marzoni, Seabury Quinn, E. Hoffmann Price, Roy Wallace Davis, Frank Walker, Feodor Salogub, Sewell Passlee Wright, William James Price, Walter Detrick, Eli Colter, Edwin Sabin, Charles Bandelaire, and W. Elwyn Backus.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Voynich Manuscript by Kennedy and Churchill

In 1912 a scrounger of old manuscripts rooted through an Italian moanstery (Villa Mondragone) to make a startling discovery. In the late nineteenth century, the Vatican parceled out parts of its library to peripheral and remote locations to safe guard them. In the clutch of books at the monastery, Wilfred Voynich found and purloined a strange and startling manuscript. It was written in a cryptic and still unknown language and filled with sketches of alien plants, naked nymphs bathing in green liquid, cosmological charts, and symbolic sexuality. In essence, this was a qabbalistic work of alchemy by an unknown scribe.

For the purposes of Fortean Lovecraft scholarship, Kennedy and Churchill (1) suggest that both Colin Wilson and H. P. Lovecraft knew of the Voynich document and made use of it. I can't speak to Wilson, but we can examine the possibility that HPL might have.

The authors quote only one "smoking gun", that of Lovecraft's playful but horrific poke (2) at young Robert Bloch in The Haunter of the Dark. The key passage is quoted that begins, "...a samll leather bound book...". In this, the authors believe that Lovecraft has conflated his Necronomicon with the Voynich manuscript. Whether it is an additional inside joke or a ploy to gain additional notoriety for the Necronomicon, the authors do not say.

Could or did HPL know of the Voynich document? It was discovered in 1912, and Voynich made private enquiries about it advocating that it was written by Roger Bacon (3). It was exhibited in Chicago in 1915 (4), and a lecture was given by Voynich in Philadelphia on 21 April 1921. The document resides at yale University today.

I'd like to see hard eveidence that HPL had an interest in the Voynich document - or even knew of it. Beyond that, if any of the "Mythos Circle" knew of it at an early date would also be profound. If you have any ideas or specualtion, please mention it in comments below.

1 The Voynich Manuscript: The Mysterious Code That Has Defied Interpretation for Centuries; Gerry Kennedy and Rob Churchill, Rochester, VT; 2006; ISBN-13: 978-1-59477-129-3. The notes on Lovecraft and Colin Wilson are on pp. 254,255.2 Lovecraft's answer to Bloch's Shambler From the Star wherein Lovecraft is killed as a joke.
3 Based on a Latin letter slipped inside the manuscript and dated 19 August 1665 by Joannes Marcus Marci de Cronland who makes the claim.
4 Little is known of Lovecraft's interests at this time, but we can conclude that cryptography, alchemy, and qabbaism were certainly among them.


Blog Archive


Google Analytics