Besides the Lovecraft art book by Centipede Press (noted last issue), there’s The Art Of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos (Fantasy Flight Games, 2006), edited by Pat Harrigan and Brian Wood. According to an Amazon reviewer, this is strongly weighed toward the “Call of Cthulhu” game, not Lovecraft’s Mythos. *** Bruce Timm—who has done Batman: TAS and other animated series—has an able caricature of HPL. *** Artist Stephen Bissette notes that his home address is “Mountains of Madness, Vermont.”



     According to Frank Brinkmann (see under “Criticism”) Der Cthulhu Mythos: Horrorgeschichten (LPL Records, 2002) by H. P. Lovecraft and others was awarded two prizes, Bestes Hörbuch des Jahres 2003 and Deutscher Phantastik Preis 2003. *** Read Joe Goldman’s liner notes about both Roddy McDowall and HPL (sounds like a rhyme) on the back of the album Roddy McDowall Reads the Horror Stories of H.P. Lovecraft. There’s also commentary by August Derleth.    


Comic Books

      Carl Kolchak (Richard Matheson’s news reporter character that once had his own television series) meets HPL in Kolchak: The Night Stalker–The Lovecraftian Horror (Moonstone, 2007).



     There’s been at least two Lovecraft meetings in Second Life, a virtual environment with avatars. 



      Weird realism” and HPL is the subject of this (so far) two-part discussion. *** The 2005 “Following the Road to Madness: The Literary Influence of Edgar Allan Poe on Howard Phillips Lovecraft” by Frank Brinkmann (Universität Duisburg-Essen) is available for download, for a price. However, you can read the introduction.   *** “New England Narratives: Space and Place in the Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft” by Rebecca Janicker appeared in Extrapolation (Spring 2007, p56-72). Part of it concerns regionalism in “The Colour out of Space.” *** A 2007 master’s thesis produced in the Netherlands (University of Utrecht) is Cult Fiction: A Definition, a Concise History and an Analysis of its Place in Literature by Marije Machteld Takens. It examines three “novels”: Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Lovecraft's “The Call of Cthulhu,” and Charles Bukowski's Pulp. The full text is promised to be available online beginning in mid-October. *** In a 22 page essay from Sweden Kristoffer Gustafson writes about Beyond the Mountain of Madness: A Look at the Shared Themes of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft (Luleå University of Technology, 2005).   



     Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown is a documentary-in-the-making (as of this writing) by Frank Woodward, and is to have interviews with various Lovecrafterati.


      In the 1960’s a fanzine by one Ben Solon was called Nyarlathotep.



     According to a blogger, “De Profundis: Letters from the Abyss” was an epistolary role-playing game where people wrote letters to one another as if they were characters in a Lovecraft universe. 



     Able to be downloaded, Os Melhores Contos de Medo, Horror e Morte (Editoria Nova Fronteira, 2005) is a Brazilian anthology of scary and fantastic works including “Os Ratos nas Paredes” (“The Rats in the Walls”). 



     There’s a review of the new dvd release of Re-Animator at Turner Classic Movies, a great channel.  *** And there’s a review of the Italian made Road to L (Il Mistero di Lovecraft) at  *** A mysterious trailer announcing a January date has sparked some views that the upcoming movie may be a Lovecraft adaptation. The website has noted the movie concerns a war of gods upon earth, which will bring terror. J.J. Abrams (Lost) is involved. However, true to my character, I am skeptical it will be an adaptation, or even based on HPL.



     The Prague Post has an article about the Tiger Lillies and how one of the group channels HPL before a song. *** In Australia there is a group(?) called Mothership Lovecraft. *** “Do the Necronomicon” is the title of a song from Evil Dead: The Musical. Sample tracks from the album are under Unfilmable’s May news



     Four hour-long lectures on Lovecraft and aspects of the occult by Dr. Justin Woodman can currently be heard from this site. *** Gary Lachman’s Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius (Disinformation, 2001) has one chapter dedicated to HPL, while another deals chiefly with REH.



     A quote from Kant is compared with “The most merciful thing” one. 



     A 1953 animated short film of “The Tell-Tale Heart” is narrated by James Mason as a YouTube.  


     Sometimes pulp magazines appear in the movies. Take The Night of the Hunter (1955), a wonderfully stylized Gothic film (based on a novel by Davis Grubb) that gets better with repeated viewing. For one scene in front of a magazine rack there’s a detective magazine and Fantastic, presumably a real issue. In the case of the 1929 German Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon), a boy shows a magazine with a story by the author of Nick Carter (who Lovecraft read), and among the illustrations to which we are treated is a moon vampire. *** If you like octopi on pulp covers, gander at “Pulpe Pulps”.  



     “Appointment in Tomorrow” by Fritz Leiber has been dramatized as a science fiction radio play, among others. *** The HP Lovecraft Historical Society–who did the best Lovecraft adaptation ever with The Call of Cthulhu–have made a radio play of At the Mountains of Madness.



     The fossils of “giant ancient penguins” have been discovered. They stood around five feet. (Think of the penguins in At the Mountains of Madness,  “huge, unknown species larger than the greatest of the known king penguins.”)  *** Along similar lines, Australian paleontologist John Long, who wrote Mountains of Madness, has been featured on a PBS documentary (“Bone Diggers”) about the discovery of mammal fossils. There was no mention of HPL. (See Criticaster 31 (2001) for a little more on Long’s book.)



     Should you be interested in watching Lovecraft videos online, search for “lovecraft at .  When I did it I found on the first page alone the opportunity to enjoy “The Picture in the House,” part two of “The Whisperer in Darkness, a podcast of Justin Woodman lecturing on the work of Jason Colavito, and Horror Hotel.



     Necrotelecomnicon is a list of dead telephone numbers, and is found in the Discworld series. *** World Fantasy Award nominee Theodora Gross finds that Lovecraft makes her happy *** Ghouls, changelings, and Providence figure in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Daughter of Hounds (Roc Trade, 2007). *** In the 2001 documentary The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick, writer Ray Nelson tells how Dick called his attempt to commit suicide “pulling a George Sterling,” referring to the poet he liked who did succeed in his fatal endeavor. Later, telling of an anonymous letter received by Dick, Nelson works in references to things-man-was-not-meant-to-know, Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu Mythos. *** What happens when a real-life Italian historian and archaeologist writes a fantastic novel? Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s The Tower has “certain suppressed and possibly blasphemous ancient texts” plus star alignments connected with an evil dwelling. *** “One can argue that Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and the centuries-old tradition of Gothic fiction have had an equal, perhaps a greater, influence over all than Kafka and Beckett.”—Joyce Carol Oates in a New York Times book review (19 July 2007). *** Standup comic Patton Oswalt, who plays Remy the rat in the critically acclaimed Ratatouille, is a “big fan” of Lovecraft’s works, according to the Providence Journal. *** “Lovecraftian” is one word William Meikle uses to describe his vampire novel Island Life (Spectral Visions, 2001).



      An audio of Robert E. Howard’s “Red Shadows” is available as MP3 files. *** The Journal of Popular Culture (vol. 40, no. 3, 2007) carries “‘Do You Love Mother, Norman?’: Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’ and Metalious’s Peyton Place as Sources for Robert Bloch’s Psycho” by John A. McDermott. For other things Bloch “The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website” has recent news, plus interviews.   *** Since R. Alain has written about the author, I am mentioning the availability of a 2005 biography, Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure (McFarland) by Brian Taves. There’s also a substantial wikipedia article about him and a website, which includes an essay about his involvement with the Theosophical Society.  *** “Arthur Machen: Master of Holy Terrors” was an event honoring the author at the University of Wales, Caerleon. He received a sculpture on the 60th anniversary of his death. But in 1928 he received another form of recognition in The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett. One of the novel’s character notes that malefactors “rigged up a cult that pretended to be the revival of an old Gaelic church, dating from King Arthur’s time” and another corrects “Arthur Machen’s.”*** The End of the Story (Night Shade Books, 2006) by Clark Ashton Smith is the first volume (ironically titled?) in a planned five to collect all of his stories. It is edited by those eminent clarkashtonians Scott Connors and Ron Hilger. Ramsey Campbell does the introduction. Professional and amateur reviews of it are at *** 2005 saw the publication of M. P. Shiel: A Biography of His Early Years (Roger Beacham) by Harold Billings. *** I’m twenty-two years late in noticing this book: Lost in the Rentharpian Hills: Spanning the Decades with Carl Jacobi (Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985) by R. Dixon Smith. *** Always keeping up with old news, I note the collection of Exit into Eternity: Tales of the Bizarre and Supernatural (Fenham Publishing, 2000) by Lovecraft friend C. M. Eddy, Jr. The same publisher has The Gentleman From Angell Street: Memories of H.P. Lovecraft (2001) by Muriel E. Eddy & C.M. Eddy, Jr.*** Gerald M Adair’s Feasting with Banquo: The Ghost Stories of Fritz Leiber is a 2000 dissertation from Florida Atlantic University.  


Lovecraft and Chemistry

     On his blog for May, Chris Perridas posts scans of census and other data about Lovecraft. For example, here is a copy of his draft registration, which is unreadable unless one is willing to tempt heroic eye strain.

     The most interesting document is the census form for 1910. Under a column for trade or profession or particular kind of work Lovecraft, age 19, is listed—and this is blurry—as a student; while the next column (“general nature of industry, business, or establishment in which the person works”) has the word “chemist.” (Apparently, by this time astronomy had been replaced by chemistry as the thing he wished to identify himself with.)

     There are three columns for education. The first two ask about the person’s ability to read and write, and the answer to both is “yes.” But there is also a “yes” to the query “Attended school any time since Sept. 1, 1909.” Does this mean that Lovecraft was working on his high school credits— it wouldn’t have been college—during the fall or spring? Or perhaps we glimpse, in these answers about occupation and education, how Mrs. Lovecraft wanted to present her son, if she were the respondent to the questions.

     This was my reasoning thus far. Then I consulted Joshi’s H.P. Lovecraft, and that clarified matters. During the time of the census Lovecraft was taking a correspondence course in chemistry. Going by this situation, Lovecraft could fairly call himself a student.

     Astronomy has received much more publicity than chemistry in the life of HPL. It is more obvious, as in his writing those newspaper astronomy columns and in its connection through many of his famous stories, with things coming from the stars and the overarching concept of cosmic horror. Yet you don’t have to peer too hard to find the science of chemistry in several tales, from the early (1908) “The Alchemist” to “Herbert West, Reanimator,” The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and “The Colour out of Space.” More could be named.


136 and Counting

     Wilum: A pedantic observation: in the epigraph to “A Phantom of Beguilement” (The Fungal Stain and Other Dreams) the line by Shakespeare should not be “Like a phantasm or a hideous dream” but “Like a phantasma, ...”

     Ben: I wish your essay on Lovecraft and King, like “Lovecraft’s Ladies,” had been longer and deeper. On both subjects much remains to be thought out.

      Fred: To maintain “that everything pertinent, interesting, or critically valuable” has been said about HPL is like saying the same about Shakespeare, Melville, Faulkner, et al. Yet the critical works and their readers keep coming, and will continue to do so. Art is not finite, but infinite. *** You mention that you were formerly an expert with an M-1 Garand and could kill with your bare hands. Remind me never to get in an argument with you. *** HPL devotes about a sentence-worth to Graeco-Roman horror in his landmark essay. *** You’ll note that Lovecraft does weave witchcraft into his story “The Dreams in the Witch House.”

      Indubitably you may appreciate his work better by reading the same books that he did, but your perspective might be more scholarly than readerly. If you like to dig into the sources and influences of his stories, this is a good way. Whether you consider the effort is compensated by what you find is your call. *** Allow Dark of the Moon to elude you no more, if you want to buy it on, for example, e-bay for one-hundred smackers. In reflecting on the collection’s title, I wonder if it was taking advantage of the buzz created by the Howard Richardson and William Berney play with the same title that came out a few years before its publication. *** Even in two parts that is an evocative sonnet you quoted; though I am unsure of the subject of “lest we should fail.” On the other hand, of what little I’ve read of Clark Ashton Smith’s poetry I find uninteresting. Enthusiasm for him passeth my sensibility. *** A “hedge-poet” I imagine would be somebody like Robert W. Service or the jingle-ists of Madison Avenue. *** You’ve incorrectly given the G. Rachel Levy title, which should be Religious Conceptions of the Stone Age: And Their Influence upon European Thought; though I grant that yours is sexier. *** Some of Lovecraft’s readers didn’t think his stories were escapist but the real deal, a concept that Lovecraft (and me) rejects out of hand, and with prejudice.

     Your reference to Professor Lauric Guillaud led me to discover he has a book titled L’Aventure Mystérieuse de Poe à Merritt ou les Orphelins de Gilgamesh, which has a brief chapter on Smith. *** You end your issue with this statement: “I suspect that while Lovecraft believed that the universe could not contemplate Man, Smith believed that it could.” I position this next to a famous poem by Stephen Crane, which runs: “A man said to the universe:/ ‘Sir I exist!’/ ‘However,’ replied the universe,/ ‘The fact has not created in me/ A sense of obligation.’”

     Are you sure that the carol you sang to remind people of “The Music of Erich Zann” wasn’t really titled “IT Came upon a Midnight Fear”?

     Linda: I recommend that you put your name on a prominent place in the front or back of the issue; otherwise, to the casual reader Squiddy’s Ink appears anonymous. *** Coincidentally, a few days before I read your article about HPL and fountain pens I was discussing fountain pens with a co-worker, who likes them. I used one over forty years gone, and as a result associated them with dripping, running dry, and splotchiness on the paper, so have not cared for them. Yet the conversation at work led me to wonder about HPL and his Waterman–a point that your piece fortuitously addresses. The view that Lovecraft’s script was legible was not necessarily shared by all his correspondents, who might struggle to distinguish one letter or word from another.

     Scott: Re your essay on the ghoul–it appears to be a monster in search of an identity. Is it or isn’t it a cannibal demon? Yet it’s like the vampire in that it depends on humans for its livelihood. Your mention of Ray Russell’s “Sardonicus” reminds me of the movie–Mr. Sardonicus–based on the story; produced by William Castle, it naturally had a gimmick, a small picture of a thumb given you with the price of admission. At movie’s end Castle asked if Sardonicus should or should not be punished, and the audience held up their cards with thumbs up or down and Castle seemingly counted them, after which the rest of the movie played out according to the verdict.

     Re Continuity: For me Spenser’s Faerie Queene is one of those works that may be more important as a mine for later poets, such as Keats. *** I chuckled over S.T.’s disproportionate comparison of the Modernist movement’s destruction of poetry with “the Gothic barbarians” destruction of Roman civilization. There is an echo of this in what another critic said of a new poet: “Upon this mother tongue, upon this English language has [this poet] trampled as with the hoofs of a buffalo. With its syntax, with its prosody, with its idiom, he has played such fantastic tricks as could only enter the heart of a barbarian, and for which only the anarchy of Chaos could furnish a forgiving audience.” This is not HPL discussing T.S. Eliot, but Thomas de Quincey on his contemporary, the aforementioned John Keats (and remember that Clark Ashton Smith was called “the new Keats”). When there is a transition it so often seems that the uncouth or iconoclasts win.

     David D.: You mention The Haunt of Horror. I have at least two copies. I remember the title because it published a story by Harlan Ellison, written in the new wave or experimental way. In the following or later issue the story was reprinted, the explanation and apology given that in its original appearance the last two pages had been transposed, and Ellison objected. The humor of this was that I hadn’t recognized there was a mistake–I thought that was how it was supposed to end. It was after all, as I said, experimental. *** I have a “best of” C.M. Kornbluth anthology. It’s been awhile since I’ve read his stories, but out of perversity I suggest he has been spoken of with too darn much awe by you and other writers.

     Douglas: Concerning a reference to the musical instrument called a “serpent”: it was incorporated into the score of the Jules Verne movie Journey to the Center of the Earth by the formidable Bernard Herrmann. Wittily the instrument is used to represent the on-screen presence of a giant lizard.

     Gavin: In contrast to your–and the majority–opinions on Stuart Gordon’s Dreams in the Witch House, mine is that the story has been eviscerated. The concept of hyperspace is reduced drastically, while the baby sacrifice replaces it as a main situation. The nudity is a cliché, and it distorts the character of the crone Keziah Mason. To my taste the make-up for Brown Jenkin was amateurish, unconvincing, and Addams Familyish. However, the discovery of all those baby skulls was effectively disturbing, almost distasteful. Even though everyone else I’ve read really praised the story, I cannot.

     John N.: I probably read Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery and Bar the Doors around the same time as you, and I still have ‘em. I read the stories in Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural in sequential order–I almost always do with an anthology–so the two Lovecraft ones were a suitable climax, out-performing every previous work. *** Thanks for the contribution of Lovecraft’s Weird Mysteries.

     Ken: There have been a flurry of adopters for “Lovecraft’s Pillow.” Now you’ve pitched in. *** Hasn’t Ralph McInnerney’s idea of a Lovecraftian Guide to Providence been pre-empted by Henry L.P. Beckwith’s Lovecraft's Providence and Adjacent Parts (Donald M. Grant, 1986)?

     Sean: You write that HPL’s “description of drinking as ‘sinful’ is significant in a lifelong atheist.” I’m not sure that I follow your train of logic. Atheism refers to a disbelief in a deity, which is not the same as disbelief in morality. The word “sinful” can be used in a lay sense, though in his essay Lovecraft appears to be speaking of those who “preach” about it and is not in his own voice using this word. 

     Wilum: My opinion about the term “Lovecraftian” fiction is the reverse of yours. To me it means that such writing is in imitation of HPL, but definitely not by him. *** As for your wish to have approval rights on letters by you before they are published–ethically I sympathize with you, and legally you may be the copyright holder, so your letters could not be legitimately published without your consent. *** You are right about the difference twixt e-mail and letters, and the superiority of the latter. But I’ve got old-fashioned tastes. *** There’s inevitably a trade-off of lifestyle with group approval, and you make the choice which is most important to you, keeping mind that there are always consequences. At different degrees that is true of everybody. *** Your discovery of finding something objectionable in a King or Lovecraft adaptation and then finding it originates with its source is the same experience I’ve had. I’m not sure that crosses were used by Lovecraft as a defense, other than having characters believe in them as such.

     Derrick: I wonder how many Austrians it took for you to conclude that they were not “a friendly people”? (The beginning of this sentence makes it sound like a lightbulb joke, viz “How many Austrians does it take to change a lightbulb? None, because they're still discussing it over coffee and cake.”) Though I’ve not given it any reflection, I’ve got no reason to agree with you, based on my experiences (e.g., in Salzburg I was lost, asked a random stranger for help, and she gave me welcome information).

     Henrik: I noted in my last issue–which you had not seen when writing your book list–that there is another version (Marblehead) of Richard Lupoff’s Lovecraft’s Book (that may be too many possessives), which you may also want to also obtain–it could be an improvement. *** Erik Davis’ defense (if I may so call it) of belief in magic, etc. is very well-argued, even if I have big quibbles. For example, people who insist that their subjective experience is actually objective makes me uncomfortable–it is up to them to supply the objective proof through something beyond their psychological outlook or calls upon specious authority.

     David S.: The idea of a searchable Lovecraft (since it is on a cd-rom) gladdens me immensely. That will be a boon to researchers, more so than readers, since reading online must be one of the minor punishments of hell.


Lovecraftisms (Quotes) from the Mainstream

     “Sometimes,” the priest said, “at night I think I hear the claws of evil things scratching on the shutters. This was the last place in Europe to be Christianized. Perhaps it wasn’t ever even Christianized and they’re here yet.”–Ford Madox Ford, Some Do Not... (1924), Part 1, Chapter 2



     In The History of the Science Fiction Magazine Mike Ashley calls Hugo Gernsback’s acquisition of “The Colour out of Space”(Amazing Stories, September 1927) “one momentous scoop.” At least superficial evidence does not show that Gernsback felt so. The issue’s cover shows a hapless explorer, rifle and pith helmet falling in mid-flight, being hoisted into an interested flower with a mind of its own. Prominent names on the cover are H.G. Wells, Otis Adelbert Kline, and Miles J. Breuer; in smaller letters are “Hugo Gernsback, editor.” Lovecraft was not important enough to blurb.  


Return to Providence

     More than 16 and one-half years after my last trip to Providence–to attend the Lovecraft Centennial–I returned for about eight hours. I was in Boston where I was to deliver a paper on HPL at the Popular Culture Association conference that would begin next day (for a description, see “Baltimore, Boston, and Poe,” this issue). Months before I had hoped on making this return to Rhode Island, provided the weather cooperated. Since it kind of did, I went.

       It was an overcast, chilly 3 April morning when I arrived at Boston’s South Station and charged my credit card for a round trip ticket on an Amtrak train. I was surprised that Providence was only 40 miles away. I thought it was further. “It isn't so very far from the elevated as distance goes, but it's centuries away as the soul goes” might be an appropriate line. As I rode there, enjoying my anticipation and the countryside, I felt a sense of colonial history and a kind of nostalgia, though the east has nothing to do physically with my personal past. I’ll just record it and not seek an explanation.

     I left about 8:30 and was surprised to arrive so soon, around 9. Disboarded, I asked a station worker the direction of Brown University, and she gave me a Providence map. I walked across Providence’s canal. I didn’t know it had one–and as an after thought, I wonder if here is the seed for “The Canal”? After a walk along Canal Street I took a side way. Perhaps I remembered it, for I recognized the Providence Art Club (i.e., the Fleur-de-lys building), which turned out to be across from the Baptist Church. I took digital photos of the former and looked around at the latter, then continued. I had a quest, the John Hay Library, and as if by dimly remembering I wound my way there without detouring or looking at the map. I was on the street of HPL’s last home. As I approached up the steep hill I tried to place its position, figuring it must have been at that parking lot or part of a building I saw.

     I had a specific object in going to the library. About 2000 I was re-reading “The Shadow out of Time,” and as I mentioned in my Criticaster 36 (2001), when I came across the line “I reflected that the excitant folklore was undoubtedly more universal in the past than in the present” I was more than half-convinced that the word was wrong. I had written the library about this, but not gotten much of a response; so I would find out from the source, HPL’s notebook.

     Into the library I went with trepidation of forbidden things. Shoot, even though I was a librarian, I was not a Brownie, but an outsider, a commoner, who was confronting an Ivy League giant. What were my rights? I found out the rules, and made my request. I went into the library’s large reference room where the librarian was going through a cart of new books, some on a table, perhaps numbering sixty, all dealing with Lovecraft. I asked about browsing the books, but was told that it was better that I ask for them by name, and not to disorder what was in order. That was a bummer. I yearned to turn through the books at random, making one discovery after another.

     The librarian told me to wait while she fetched the notebook, suggesting that when it arrived it would be better not to handle it. In the interval I looked at the new Lovecraft books’ spines, or occasionally covers. Here I will skip ahead some minutes, and state that after finishing with looking at the notebook (a matter of seconds), I returned to the works and perceived that they were arranged by language. There were some in French, others in Turkish, a stack in Cyrillic, and more. I can see why anyone compiling a Lovecraft bibliography would be in hog heaven here, and that efforts such as my Critic’, with its random interjection of titles, are a collection of pebbles from a beach, though inclusion serves as a timely stop-gap.

     Back to the non-linear narrative. The librarian brought the notebook, but embarrassedly I had forgotten the exact section that the sentence lay in, so what happened was that she got me a commercial volume–the Penguin?–to use as an index, and after a few minutes I located its position in the text. I recall that she didn’t wear gloves while handling this brown-covered notebook, and wondered about the oils from the skin that must affect the paper. I was a bit aghast at my audacity in asking to see something whose handling could only weaken it, shorten its life for more significant Lovecraft scholars. I was a bit keyed up, and as she went through the pages, searching for the text I wanted to examine, I felt as if I was watching a bomb expert tinkering with a mechanism that might just blow up. bang, Bang, BANG! Except it didn’t. And if it did, I wouldn’t be able to see the section of HPL manuscript. Which I did.

     His penmanship was clear enough. The word was indeed “excitant.” I am better informed, but no wiser, for my question remains, What is “excitant folklore”?

     The librarian put away the notebook, and I browsed the reference collection, there being a few works dedicated to the Gothic and fantastic. I also conceived the idea of photographing the uncataloged collection of new Lovecraft books, but by this time the books had either been moved or were arranged in such a way that the photograph couldn’t show the variety. I could kick myself for the belatedness of my notion.

     I finally parted from the room, first asking about a couple of previous special collection (Lovecraft) librarians. At the circulation desk is a large catalog between hard paper covers of Hay’s Lovecraft holdings that days before the 1990 conference had been completed by John Stanley, the librarian at the time. I’m afraid it hasn’t been updated since. In it is a list of Lovecraft correspondence, both that which he sent and that which he received, arranged by correspondent. The greatest revelation was the prolificity of E. Hoffman Price, who seems at times to have written to HPL daily.

     I left the Hay never to return (well, until a possible next time). I am the most qualified librarian who could professionally deal with the Lovecraft collection, but there are at least three major obstacles to that–Brown wouldn’t hire me, it couldn’t afford me, and I won’t move there.

      My intention was to wander Lovecraft’s Providence, first going down to Benefit Street, which held a temporal magic when I was there that Hallowe’en night when attending the World Fantasy Con in 1986. (I saw the street then, for the first time, in a drizzle.) Somehow I contrived to go past the Providence Athenaeum. It being a library, I was naturally sucked in. Rightly or wrongly I associate it with Lovecraft. It seemed homey and historic. I roamed round in it, going to the creaky upstairs where some of the books are kept. In this way it is like a library from my old hometown.

     Back on the ground floor I asked a librarian about the whereabouts and distance of Lovecraft’s grave, for I had been to the Poe grave in Baltimore, and a visit would make for a Gothic and historic symmetry. She told me about the bus route. However, I had limited time in Providence, and how much would I want to invest it in the logistics of finding and waiting for a bus?; which meant sacrificing some other Lovecraft association. Despite the Athenaeum being a library, earlier in my visit I began to hear a voice of someone talking loudly. I noticed there was a downstairs, whence the voice was coming. I descended (might as well see the whole structure). The voice turned out to belong to a man who was lecturing (might as well listen). It was an author talking about his book, the biography of the comic poet Ogden Nash, a Lovecraft contemporary, though there was no reference to HPL.

     Before leaving the library I noticed a stand of books, obviously a leftover display from that pulp conference in Providence a few weeks before. One of the books was a collection of HPL-inspired poetry–with one poem having ST as a subject–that was composed by Brett Rutherford, who has been mentioned before in these pages.

     I turned south on Benefit Street, following it. Near the street’s end was a rough-hewn stone monument that bore information about the big-lettered, reverberant name of “Pardon Tillinghast,” a colonist from the early history of Providence. I’ve noted that a fellow called “Tillinghast” was an eccentric inventor who I suspect supplied the name of a principle character in “From Beyond” (see ‘aster 37). Maybe the name choice was re-enforced by this Providence eminence.

     With this new fact (and there must be an abounding many for he-who-is-on-the-spot) I am persuaded that to do a proper study of HPL it is necessary to live in Providence, or minimally visit it frequently. In other words, I can never excel in this area of research, and must be content with crumb-gathering.

     I doubled back along a parallel street to Benefit and in early-to-mid afternoon had my first meal of the day, a bagel, at a place that specialized in them. It was a poppy-seed, and as I consumed it the seeds spilled down over a counter. I brushed them up before I left.

     I went by a grand house that headquartered the Rhode Island Historical Society, which I learned was not open to the public, unlike the John Brown house, which I had passed on Benefit. My object, such as it was, was to wander to the other side of College Hill, to Lovecraft’s Barnes home. By zigs I got to Thayer, which goes along the east edge of Brown, past both eateries preying on student appetites and the University bookstore. I gluttoned at Au Bon Pain on some sweet pastry, then across to the store. I can’t claim a thorough inspection, but I found no Lovecraft books. It was as though he had been erased from Providence. So much for the University store’s credibility.

     Strolling further, I saw a Rhode Island souvenir shop, and went in, hoping here there might be some presence (presents?). As I went through it at first I found nothing, but at one end was a small stand of books, among which was Muriel Eddy’s The Gentleman from Angell Street, which I glanced into. Where Brown had failed, private enterprise had succeeded, so a visitor had a chance of being introduced to something that represented some of the finest in Rhode Island. (Speaking of Angell, I crossed that street, with its biographical and “Call of Cthulhu” associations.)

     At some point, perhaps well before then, I was struck that HPL was hidden in the mundane fabric of the city, someone who the average citizen did not think about, or if known about, then he was no big deal; and that Providence was just a city. My two previous trips were taken at a time when a coterie of fans were celebrating Lovecraft and his genre, and that atmosphere had infused the town. Now in Providence it was anyday (to sound a bit like ee cummings), and I was seeing the Lovecraftian without anyone paying particular attention to it. I observed the city banally functioning, kids going down the street from school, and the like.

     It was a relief to turn from busy Thayer back to the Lovecraftian past of Barnes, where existed one of the Old Gent’s homes. But I had a problem. I was not positive of his Barnes address. I had at home a copy of Lovecraft’s Providence, but since I was unsure if I could make it from Boston to Providence–perhaps the day would prove rainy or some episode would intervene–I thought before I left Missouri, well, why encumber myself for all that distance when I was doubtful about the need for the book. Too, that could mean unnecessary wear and tear on my copy.

     “66 Barnes” was the address I had in mind. I got closer, closer, and then I was “there”–except the street numbers jumped over 66. Had the house been torn down–but there was no vacant lot–or been renumbered? If I was wrong about the number, I couldn’t recall the right one. I went several blocks down, hoping for a revelation or memory jog concerning the house of my imagination, which I had seen twice before on my previous Providence trips.

     I veered off Barnes to see Prospect Park, where I knew the man wrote. The first time I was there someone had cranked up a boom box, doing away with the civility of the place. The statue of Roger Williams remains ugly, and I think there was a broken place on it. I went down to catch Benefit Street, and paused to read each plaque on each historic house–there is almost nothing but–including one that stated, approximately, at this site and on this date in 1898 nothing happened. Of course, I paused at The Shunned House, with its “beware of dog” message enigmatically in French.

     Down one side of the street I went, to the north limit where it vanished into a major thoroughfare, then back, completing the circuit started at the Athenaeum. Along the way I saw Geoff’s, an eatery mentioned by Ken in one or more of his articles. I don’t recall that it had any Lovecraft significance, though it does for the stomachs of Brown students. The vague program I had outlined completed, I was at even more loose ends. I doubled back on a street paralleling Benefit (Prospect), through more of Brown, and wound up at what I reckoned to be (and once at home verified I was right) HPL’s last residence, across the street from that monstrous church. I took a photo of the house. The time being between 4 and 5, I thought I better make my slow way to the train station. (One place I did miss, thinking that I would come across it around Benefit Street or Prospect Park, was that graveyard in which HPL composed “Where Once Poe Walked.” It must still be there, lurking.)

      I left College Hill, crossed the canal bridge, and realized that I had not seen any of downtown Providence, nor would I be able to. I knew the train schedule. Unfortunately, when I got to the station I learned the train was delayed 20 minutes. I later looked at the timetable board, and found it was now 30 minutes. When it reached 45 minutes I asked if an earlier train returned to Boston. It did, and I took it. 


Baltimore, Boston, and Poe

     For those of you masochists who like such things, this is my account of a trip to Baltimore and Boston, from which I have separately excerpted a discussion about a day trip to Providence. I’m a librarian, and I went to Baltimore because of a library conference. I arrived there the day before the conference, and my first tourist stop was Westminster Cemetery, where the tomb of Edgar Allan Poe stands at the entrance gate of the small churchyard. Paths that went off into the cemetery and around the back of the church were littered with “no admittance” signs, which made little sense for a place designed for tourists, as plaques along the forbidden walks showed. So I ignored them. It was worth it. Behind the church is a tombstone, a raven on it, that states “Original Burial Place of Edgar Allan Poe” and adds that his mother-in-law and wife lay on either side of him (here is grist for the comedian). Another tombstone marks Poe’s “patriot” grandfather. There was also information about unusual type of grave markers, with four columns or so supporting each “table” that is bowed down a bit. Additionally there were cenotaphs and obelisks of varying heights.

     This part of town was so-so on my comfort scale, but I wanted to see Poe’s house and museum, several blocks west. This was in a black area that was home to the poorer. With Baltimore’s high crime rate, I felt more uneasy than usual as I walked there. Teenagers and those around that age sat outside, or were about. Once or twice I thought about turning back, then saw a sign that suggested the Poe home was near. When I got to the corner where I thought it was, I saw buildings but not it. I walked halfway up a street, but saw it not. Jumpy and feeling like crime fodder, I had enough by then, and doubled back, wondering what had become of the house.

     The next day I visited the Enoch Pratt Library and found in there Poe-associated items on exhibit. I also looked in at the locked H.L. Mencken room, housed in the library. Neither author received any acknowledgment at the library convention, to my simmering indignation.

     From Baltimore I took a plane to Boston, then the subway to Cambridge where I stayed with a generous acquaintance. The following day I walked to Mount Auburn Cemetery, which I had first visited before, previous to attending the Lovecraft centennial. The weather was chilly and drizzly, but I saw as much of the cemetery as time and energy allowed. It is a wonderful combination of hilly landscape and history, as shown by the grave stones and monuments. Toward the end of my visit, on a ridge I came across a marker that said “Lowell” and later a large tomb that said “Longfellow” (“Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow Lie Buried in Mount Auburn”); flowers were strewn on the latter, but I saw no identifying name of “Henry Wadsworth.”

     As I moved back in the direction of Harvard I enjoyed the sight of all the colonial houses, some massive, several with plaques boasting of their heritage. Probably it was the assistance of the overcast (autumnal?), but I felt a sense of nostalgia, as of the neighborhood when I was a boy. That is peculiar, since the houses didn’t look like those houses, and as I have repeated I have had no connection with New England, and only first visited it in 1988. Yet a trip to Maine, Concord, and Cambridge have awaked or recovered these feelings. It ain’t reincarnation, but perhaps one of those inexplicable quirks of the mind.

     The remainder of the day, from about 1:30, I spent in getting ice cream and visiting bookshops, and being a flaneur. The next day I spent in Providence (see separate section) and the next I began my attendance of the Popular Culture Association, which had brought me to Boston–I was to deliver my paper on Lovecraft, Bradbury, and “The Outsider.”

     The conference began Wednesday at 12:30 and ran to Saturday. Each program (consisting of three or four speakers) was 90 minutes, and over 40 could be running simultaneously. If one went consecutively to regularly scheduled programs from the first day to the last, one could attend 28 total. I attended 25. My interests and curiosity are wide enough that I could go to a variety without risking outright boredom. Moreover, I could have gone to more horror programs, but I found there are things more interesting than horror, if not Lovecraft. Thus I began with talks about Stephen Foster, a composer I favor, for I like American popular music up to the 1950s. (During the talks I discovered–or verified–a thematic pattern, and this was the subject of race, which frequently re-appeared in many of the presentations.) Regardless of the topic, during the question and answer session I usually contributed a question or remark. In this case I noted that the character of Stephen Foster was represented in a Gunsmoke episode.

     The next program targeted food, one of which subjects was Rhode Island weiners. However, I didn’t ignore horror programs. At least one of the four talks on Stephen King’s The Shining referred to “The Fall of the House of Usher.” As a demo of King’s popularity, this was one of the most actively attended program. Whereas others might have five or so in the audience this might have had thirty, and some of the audience were hard to shut up in their commentary. For the 6:30-8 p.m. slot I attended parts of two programs, first hearing something on the Gothic, then going to a horror one especially to hear “Poe and Lovecraft as Race(ist) Historians.” In the q-and-a I pointed out there was a cherry-picking of facts to convict HPL of racism (while admitting that he was a racist), and that because HPL named the cat “Nigger- Man”(in “The Rats in the Walls”) this did not of itself mark him as a racist; true to his naming conventions, he was calling the cat after one from youth that bore the moniker.

     On Thursday the first group discussed golden-age radio, with two of the four about Orson Welles’ contribution–one about adapting Joseph Conrad and the other about the notorious, “War of the Worlds” broadcast. Ever since Mollie affirmed that Welles had read Lovecraft I had been looking for a connection. Nothing at the talks revealed anything, though I was pleased that the first quote that the presenter used from “Heart of Darkness” was a Lovecraftian one (I think a reference in the text to “unspeakable rites”). The next program dealt with Poe and Hawthorne as they wrote mystery fiction. For some reason, I offered a comment where I identified Arthur Conan Doyle’s worst Sherlock Holmes story as “The Adventure of the Creeping Man.”

     Then it was my turn to formally participate. During my talk (the second) I felt my voice tremble, for I was struck by a certain poignancy about what I was saying. Three other people also presented, one about the influence of Poe on Walter de la Mare–both favorite poets–and a mother and daughter on the thriller Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber. Being of a dimmer intellect, I couldn’t lucidly follow the arguments. There was about seven in the audience, but no follow-up questions were for me.. Before the program commenced, the daughter–a psychiatrist, I think–asked me several questions about HPL, and I inundated her with answers.

     With that talk out of the way I could relax for the rest of the conference. The next program I chose concerned the 19th century Gothic. One talk about Walter Pater and his novel of Roman decadence Marius the Epicurean had me stumbling through my memory. Who was it that did something similar? Ronald Firbank? Baron Corvo? (After returning home I discovered I was mis-remembering a work by Corvo, Hadrian the Seventh, that was not a story of decadent Rome, though it dealt with a commoner who became Pope, and it was by an author of a lush style.)

     A program tackled dime novels, pulps, and juvenile series books. In a talk on John Bellairs, Lovecraft was noted as a source, while an Australian on Australian science fiction from 1948-1952 referred to “queer” (i.e., weird) stories and stated that if writers were to sell stories to a pulp market they were to follow a certain formula–and somehow HPL got mentioned about this time, though I don’t know as a style of writing to emulate. The evening group considered mythology as it particularly related to catastrophe. One speaker targeted the classical mythology character Erysichthon, who for cutting down a grove was punished by the gods with an insatiable appetite, so that he sold everything, including his daughter, for food, and eventually consumed himself. That, pleaded the speaker (an academic with degrees in several fields), is what we are doing to the earth. His sincerity tore at the heart, and I don’t know how he managed to deliver his message, full of reflection, without breaking down. Afterward there were still an allotment for a few simultaneous programs, but I wanted to eat, so left.

     Friday morning began with the Victorians. This included a look at Peter Ackroyd’s Dickens. In q-and-a I lambasted this work. I had tried to read it, but found it a novelization of a life. No thanks. Instead I recommended what I wound up reading, Edgar Johnson’s standard biography, in my case the one volume abridgement. For 10 o’clock I heard about popular culture at the time of Teddy Roosevelt. One subject concerned the differing views of Roosevelt and Jack London.

     The next elective program dealt with the vampire in literature, but I decided to go for a walk in downtown Boston, which I hadn’t seen at all. I had no fixed purpose. I went to a park, where I saw a bird perched on the head of a George Washington statue. Somebody said it was a pigeon, but I identified it as a hawk, which surprised me. What symbol was this? More wandering. I saw a bookstore down the street and aimed for it. A motto of mine, unspoken, is not to leave a public plaque unread. It will contain something of historical interest. When I saw a faded one on the building I was passing I naturally paused. Near here, it said, was born the author Edgar Allan Poe. I was pleased, not only for the discovery, but in appreciation of the accidental symmetry. I had been to the burial place of Poe, and as if the universe wanted to balance that, I happened on the place where he was born. I wasn’t aware that Poe was a Bostonian. In Providence, if I had gone to the grave of Lovecraft, the uniformity would’ve been ideal. Still, it is nothing to kick about.

     So far as the conference was concerned I was not done with Lovecraft. He was the first subject to be discussed in the 2:30 program about Vermont. “Real Horror in the Hills: H.P. Lovecraft and the Eugenics of Vermont” presented by Faye Ringel revealed–this was astonishing–that the Nazis borrowed ideas about race purity from Vermont’s law which dated from the 1920s or 1930s. I was further surprised that one advocate of this was HPL’s friend Vrest Orton. I left after this one to break into another program, about pets in culture, where someone talked about cats in the media. What an animal! Next I did another split, hearing under the rubric of the vampire in literature something about popular science in Dracula and I Am Legend, then leaving, not interested in Buffy (another talk about Richard Matheson didn’t materialize, the speaker being absent). I moved onto something about horror in fiction and film, entering in the midst of commentary about Frankenstein. A few more simultaneous programs were held in the late evening, as well as a showing of The Beginning of the End (the monsters were giant grasshoppers/locusts), which I had first seen at the show in 1957; but again hunger was stronger.

     Saturday morning Poe was the subject of three talks. As it developed, this was a logical lead-in to (at long last) the 10 a.m.“H.P. Lovecraft and His Eldritch Influence,” the subtitle. I had wondered why I wasn’t placed in this group, and I saw why–the speakers were four college students, all from the same institution.  I kept no notes, though two talks curiously tackled a minor work, The King in Yellow, and another looked at “Reanimator,” perhaps just the story rather than the film (don’t recall). One student said that he had read that HPL was this great “humanitarian” –his mis-application of the word–but he couldn’t see it, and spent more time on discreditable elements about HPL. Needless to say, at the end I made several remarks and asked the students questions. After it was over I was surprised by the professor, who was the chaperone of the beginning scholars, thanking me for addressing the students. It was my pleasure.

     That was the end of Lovecraft for this conference. At 12:30 I attended something about “travel culture.” One speaker talked about his collection of switchblade knives, and observed that of the dozen or so jd novels he had read, all were junk, with one exception. He wordlessly held up an old paperback that on the cover had Rumble, by Harlan Ellison. Mentally I recalled Ellison’s autobiographical story about selling such knives to customers, men-who-wanted-to-be-cool. He would flourish the knife, clicking open the blade so that it stopped an inch from the man’s throat. This guaranteed a sale. Another speaker looked at the crisis facing parts of New England, with economics crushing the natives while the rich and better off were doing a number on the coast.

     Though there was one more track, I had to leave; probably like the reader, though in his or her case, maybe several pages ago.



Thanks for reading the 53rd  issue of The Criticaster (for August 2007, Esoteric Order of Dagon mailing 139) by Steve Walker. Eventually published on the Net as The Limbonaut (no 24).