In the footsteps of Mythos… (updated)

Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) is one of the most influential horror authors people have never heard of. He was a direct inspiration to most of the leading horror voices of this generation, including Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell.

I’ll have plenty to say about H.P. in upcoming posts. It’s worth noting that he was influential beyond simply writing oodles of good horror — he also actively corresponded with many of his contemporaries, and that correspondence has been preserved and is a treasure trove of insights into the thoughts of the pulp writers of the time. I want to quote from one letter to Frank Utpatel, dated Feb. 15, 1937:

… So you read Bloch’s article on my formidable ways? Thanks very much for the coming shipment from your local necropolis… Oh, yes — I have a local supply of such delicacies, but I always like to try exotic specimens — as subtly flavoured by different kinds of churchyard mould. My chief Providence source is the hidden churchyard of St. John’s on the ancient hill just north of here — a spectral, sloping ossuary completely concealed from every public thoroughfare & with interments dating back to 1723. The adjacent stone church dated from 1810. Poe knew of this place, & is said to have wandered among its whispering willows during his visits here 90 years ago. Last August I shewed this place to two guests, & we all sat down on an altar-tomb & wrote rhymed acrostics on the name of Edgar Allen Poe

Why do I mention this? Well, because the church and graveyard are still around, and I had the good fortune to visit them a few years ago while at a meeting in Providence (H/T to Personal Demon & friend, who actually had the idea to go). It’s well worth a stop, and is perhaps one of the most atmospheric locations I’ve ever visited. Pictures of the location seem to be scarce on the web; I’m disappointed I didn’t bring a camera with me.

Sadly, Lovecraft died only a month after the quoted letter was written, of intestinal problems.

Update: Personal Demon sent me a few ‘recovered’ pics of our visit to St. John’s; I post one below to show how nice it is:

St. John's cemetary

One of the pictures has the 2000 version of me in it. It took me a minute to recognize myself. Boy, I’ve changed…

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6 Responses to In the footsteps of Mythos… (updated)

  1. The Girlfriend says:

    Honey – what exactly was in that “shipment” that he was waiting on and what had he been eating with “churchyard mold”? Is that why he ended up with intestinal problems?

  2. skullsinthestars says:

    TG: I had left out the middle part of the letter, with the explicit description, for the sake of brevity! Here it is, after ‘necropolis’:

    No — I don’t demand any blood in exhumed specimens. Indeed, I always prefer to take my blood from living subjects. My really preferred diet is century-old vampire-flesh, obtained from the shadowed & moss-grown churchyards where certain evil sorcerers were interred 200 years or more ago, there to lie fat and fresh through the generations, silent & unstirring save when their misty emanations steal forth after sunset to afflict the countryside & exact a hideous toll from lone wayfarers. When I can find & dig up one of those old rascals, I have a genuinely deluxe feast — for they possess a mellow flavour not even approached by ordinary human carrion. If you know of any such specimens around your way (& ancient regional legends might hint of many) I’d surely appreciate a well-packed cargo. To ensure arrival in good condition, they ought to be packed in the earth of their original burial place.

    I’ll let you fill in the blanks on whether that that an effect on his intestinal problems!

  3. Personal Demon says:

    SkySkull wrote: “I’m disappointed I didn’t bring a camera with me.”

    Ah… actually “& friend” and I had an early digital camera during that trip. (Thank you Kodak!) I know I lost my pictures due to a hard drive disaster, but I may have copies of “& friends”‘s. I’ll see what I can dig up.

  4. skullsinthestars says:

    “I’ll see what I can dig up.”

    What can I say? Hooray!

  5. Warren says:

    Intestinal problems? It was cancer, sadly.

    BTW, I followed up your recommendation at Pharyngula and got a copy of Call of Cthulhu from HPLHS.

    Brilliant. Just wonderful. Thanks for pointing me to it.

  6. skullsinthestars says:

    Warren said: “Brilliant. Just wonderful. Thanks for pointing me to it.”

    Glad to do it! It’s such a lovely film and doesn’t seem to have gotten enough publicity. I should mention that my friend PD (Personal Demon) pointed me towards the film first… credit where credit is due!

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