Be still, my Halloween heart! On Discovering HP Lovecraft

Infernal potions, from Halloween 2009 at Hemlock Hall

Infernal potions, from Halloween 2009 at Hemlock Hall

Recently I took out a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories at the local library. I’d never read anything by this author before, except in the form of descriptions accompanying Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumes. Despite there being a vast community of Lovecraft fans “on the internet”, I’ve never heard him mentioned by anyone in real life, and was under the impression that I was going to be reading something tongue-in-cheek and comedic (try doing a Google Images search for ‘cthuluhu‘, and you’ll see a lot of cartoons and crochet toys). It turns out that Lovecraft’s writing is a lot easier to understand if you ignore the internet fandom. Similarly, you would expect a lot more “adult content” in Harry Potter if you read about it on the internet first.

There is an aspect of my personality which is drawn to anything spooky, so I’m really enjoying reading these tales – the title is ‘The Dreams in the Witch House (and Other Weird Stories)’, and it does what it says on the cover. Unfortunately, this new-found love of Lovecraft could turn out to be counter-productive so far as this blog is concerned. My pre-existing tendency towards excessively flowery language (- had you noticed it?) is not helped by reading passages like this:

“And in the autumn of the year, when the winds from the north curse and whine, and the red-leaved trees of the swamp mutter things to one another in the small hours of the morning under the horned waning moon, I sit by the casement and watch that star.”
(from ‘Polaris’).

That could pretty much be taken from this website. Except mine would read something like:

“In the late spring, when the lilac has begun to bloom, and the cats of the neighbourhood gather in groups about the carcasses of young birds, I sit in the garage and listen to the rain and think about writing my blog.”

What Lovecraft’s stories are great for (- and I imagine he would despair at this suggestion) is inspiring Halloween decorating schemes. I’m going to need my own copy of the book so that I can underline my favourite passages, and thus explain what the front garden has to look like come October 31st. Specifically, ‘with barren, gnarled, and terrible old trees, long, queerly pale grass, and nightmarishly misshapen weeds in the high terraced yard where birds never lingered‘. I had what I thought was a genius idea of listening to the Pan’s Labyrinth soundtrack while reading, which added a lot to the atmosphere.

If I could read and draw at the same time then maybe I would have had an image to accompany this post, but no such luck (ETA: added a photo from Halloween 2009). Tomorrow is a bank holiday and I have some quality time with my scanner scheduled in, so the visual content of future posts should be much improved. I will try to have some witches and infernal trees to show for it.

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