“The Horror at Martin’s Beach”

The Lovecraft series continues, but we’ve moved into what Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi calls “secondary revisions”, stories where Lovecraft’s hand is light.

Yes, it’s that Sonia H. Greene, the future Mrs. Lovecraft.

The inspiration for the story was Lovecraft and Greene strolling the beach at Magnolia, Massachusetts one evening in 1922.

The two, under a full moon hear a “peculiar and unusual noise … a loud snorting and grunting” with a rope connecting the submerged piles. Greene suggested the view could inspire an “interesting weird tale”. Lovecraft demurred and said Greene should write it, “Tell me what the scene pictures to your imagination”.”

So she stayed up that night and wrote a “general outline” which Lovecraft revised and edited.

Joshi says in H. P. Lovecraft: A Life the “wild and improbable story” of Greene’s was propped up with Lovecraft’s “typical verbal flamboyance.”

Raw Feed (2005): “The Horror at Martin’s Beach”, Sonia H. Greene [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1922.hm

It’s not a bad story.

It has, in its account of a sea monster fatally hypnotizing the men trying to drag it to shore by ropes and dragging them to their deaths in the sea, a certain weirdness which is perhaps spoiled by a rather explicit description of one of the monster’s relative in the beginning of the story.

I feel comfortable stating that he definitely wrote the penultimate paragraph which shows, in this 1922 story, typical Lovecraftian vocabulary.

 

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“The Diary of Alonzo Typer”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Diary of Alonzo Typer”, William Lumley [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1935.hm

This is a Cthulhu Mythos story primarily, according to S. T. Joshi, written by Lovecraft. It is another story that mentions Shub-Niggurath.

Lovecraft uses his typical device of telling the story via the diary of a man who has a fatal encounter with an entity from another dimension in a sinister old house.

 

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“The Horror in the Burying-Ground”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Horror in the Burying-Ground”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1933 — 1935.hm

This is another biter-bitten tale.

Here the would-be biters are an undertaker with an extensive knowledge of poison and the woman he wants to marry.  However, the woman’s brute of a husband will not let her re-marry, so she connives at the undertaker poisoning him with a petrifying chemical. He does that but, at the man’s funeral, he accidentally doses himself. Intimations are that the woman can hear both men whisper to her at night from their graves.

It was with this story that I realized that a motif runs through the Heald-Lovecraft collaborations as the snake motif does through the Zealia Bishop-Lovecraft collaborations.

That motif is petrification or, variantly, a conscious mind inhabiting a paralyzed body. There are the humans turned to stone in “The Man of Stone”. In “The Horror in the Museum”, the alleged mummy of Shub-Niggurath is alive. In “Out of the Aeons”, the sight of Ghatanothoa paralyzes T’yog. Here men are paralyzed and then buried alive.

The burial alive might have appealed to Lovecraft because of its resonances with Edgar Allan Poe, but Heald seems fascinated by the image.

 

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“Out of the Aeons”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “Out of the Aeons”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1933.hm

In a sense, this story is a reworking of Lovecraft’s own “The Call of Cthulhu”.

It deals with the rising of an island out of the Pacific and ruins on it intimating at a worldwide cult devoted to the ancient diety Ghatanothoa.

Both stories are related via papers found in the effects of dead men and intimate that others have died at the hands of the cult.

However, this story does not feature “The Call of Cthulhu”’s sweep of ideas.

There are no artists and psychics picking up strange visions in their work and dreams.

The story is much more limited in geographical scope. (I believe that, at least for the environs of Earth, “The Call of Cthulhu” has Lovecraft’s most dispersed settings.)

The story’s largest flaw is a plot, full of too many details and names which began to strike one as silly unlike Lovecraft’s more disciplined efforts under his own name, involving T’yog the High-Priest of Shub-Niggurath who meets a bad end when he climbs a mountain top to confront the Dark God Ghatanothoa. (The end, where his brain is revealed to be still living in a seemingly mummified body, is predictable but then so are a lot of Lovecraft endings.)

Lovecraft not only references Clark Ashton Smith in a mention of Averoigne, France (setting of a cycle of Smith stories), but his earlier Randolph Carter cycle since Randolph Carter is mentioned in the guise of Swami Chandraputra and so is De Marigny (the dates do link up to Lovecraft’s “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (finished earlier in 1933).

It’s middle grade Lovecraft.

 

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“Winged Death”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “Winged Death”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1933.hm

An interesting biter-bitten story, interesting because of the scientific (or pseudo-scientific) details of using African flies infected with disease. Heald and Lovecraft mix the science with the supernatural transmigration of victim’s souls into the flies whose bite killed them.

Unlike the craxed artist Rogers from Heald and Lovecraft’s “The Horror in the Museum”, at least Dr. Slauenwite kills for the understandable motive of revenge, specifically because his victim intimated that he stole his theory from the work of another scientist. Slauenwite admits that the other scientist’s work would have anticipated his had he lived to publish it, but he did not plagiarize it.

I’m suspecting the influence of Lovecraft in the plot of the story given that it uses a typical Lovecraft device: a protagonist leaving behind a written record of his demise and the reasons behind it.

 

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“The Horror in the Museum”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Horror in the Museum”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1932.hm

In paging through his biography of Lovecraft, I see that S. T. Joshi regards this story as so bad that it has to be a parody of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

I’m not sure I agree it’s a parody.

It certainly does have an overwrought flavor in parts, mostly because the artist and Shub-Niggurath worshiper (the actual form of the god is retrieved from Alaska) is just plain vicious and insane sounding. Most Lovecraft “villains”, like Herbert West are after power or immortality or knowledge. Rogers just gets mad when Stephen Jones doubts his stories or that the odd, macabre figures in the “adult” section of his wax museum are preserved bodies and not sculptures.

Because of his less than convincing lack of motivation, I found him a weak villain. Mostly this story reminded me of other Lovecraft works and other authors and other types of stories.

Orabona, Rogers assistant, is reminiscent of Surama in the Lovecraft-de Castro collaboration of “The Last Test”.  The whole setup of Jones spending a night in the museum and becoming unhinged even before he sees gods walking about reminded me of “Monsieur Redoux’s Phantasms” by Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (though, given Villiers’ spotty history of English translations, I’m not sure Lovecraft read this particular story though he mentions Villiers in his 1927 Supernatural Horror in Literature) with its protagonist finding horror after hours (albeit psychological horror) in a wax museum.

Then, of course, there’s the whole idea of wax statutes being preserved bodies and not creations from scratch. I don’t know how far that idea goes back in horror fiction.

This is the first place I’ve heard of the glass plant models of Blatschka (as Lovecraft spells it) aka Leopold Blaschka. I looked them up online. They look quite remarkable.

 

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“The Man of Stone”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Man of Stone”, Hazel Heald [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This story seemed awfully familiar to me like I had read it before, but I can’t remember when.  [I read in 1996 in the anthology New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any notes on the stories, but it’s a worthy historical anthology covering women writers from Francis Stevens to Nancy Kress.]

It might seem familiar because, essentially, it’s a biter-bitten tale of the sort that goes back to at least The Canterbury Tales (perhaps I read a version of this in Boccacio’s Decameron Nights). Anyway, the cruel, jealous sorcerer who plots the poisoning of his wife and a sculptor via a potion that literally petrifies them gets a dose of the same medicine.

The only really Lovecraftian touches are certain occult tomes (The Book of Eibon) and some mentions of Cthulhu deities.

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“Medusa’s Coil”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “Medusa’s Coil”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This is, in general plot, that old ghost style formula of visiting the odd house at night, seeing horrifying things, leaving the house in the morning only to be told by a local that that house and its owner (seemingly alive last night) burned years ago.

Of course, the narrator, as they always do in these stories, finds material proof (the hair of the home’s owner) that what he saw was reality.

However, in this general framework is an interesting take off on the Medusa story with the mysterious Marceline being the descendent of a long line of priestesses serving in a cult older than Atlantis — specifically Cthulhu deities.

The final sentence, in which it is revealed she is part Negro, is less racist (though parts of the story certainly play into old stereotypes of blacks) than a linkage of her with the horrible cult out of Zimbabwe.

Her hair really does turn out to be a hideously alive. (Therefore, all three Bishop-Lovecraft collaborations have snake motifs.)

I liked the horrible portrait painted of her, and the brief asides and explanations of the Decadent philosophy spoken of approvingly and personified here by Marsh.

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“The Mound”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

It’s actually one of Lovecraft’s more significant stories not only for its length and its satirical elements on contemporary society, but, according to Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, he wrote basically all the story with Bishop contributing the plot idea:

There is an Indian mound near here, which is haunted by a headless ghost. Sometimes it is a woman.

Raw Feed (2005, 2017): “The Mound”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1930.hm

This 1930 story is a dry run for the great Lovecraft stories of “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Out of Time”.

Like those stories, it features the exploration of an alien civilization with detailed descriptions of its science, mores, culture, and history.  t does mention some of the Cthulhu dieties but does not try to fit in an overarching history, linking other Lovecraft stories, like those latter works do.

Another obvious point of difference is that this underground civilization is genetically related to humans, its members originally — at least they believe — brought to Earth by Cthulhu.

Joshi has described it as a satire on “machine civilization”, and it sort of is.

At one point, the narrator, examining the manuscript of a Spanish conquistador who lived in this underground world, says that it might be a hoax as social satire. The satire is interesting because it is a repugnant, decadent civilization whose increasingly jaded entertainments run to torture, ghastly modifications to the condemned bodies, and reanimation of the dead (usually in a mutilated form).

However, this civilization sort of embraces Lovecraft’s personal morality (as shown by his “The Silver Key”) of there being no objective morality or purpose in life. Yet, Lovecraft shows us a world increasingly superstitious and unable to understand their scientific accomplishments of the past, given to sexual excess (the narrator remarks more than once on the conquistador’s unfortunate “pious reticence”). Their jaded tastes, unlike Lovecraft — who shares their ultimate nihilism — don’t run to learning and creating beauty.

They do, however, start to post more guards to the entrances to their underground world once they realize Europeans are moving in to the American Midwest (the story, likes the Bishop-Lovecraft collaboration “The Curse of Yig” is set in Oklahoma, shares some characters, and the narrators of both seem to be the same ethnologist).

I suspect Bishop’s original plot idea included the liasion between the conquistador and a woman from the underground. Again, that’s not a Lovecraft feature.

As with his “At the Mountains of Madness”, there is mention of genetic engineering being done as well as ancient wars and even older ruins.  A interesting and good effort from Lovecraft.

On reading this story a second time a few months ago, I noticed that the style is different than Lovecraft’s usual as well as the plot. There is a dearth of adjectives though still the final crescendo of revelation.

The whole thing seems a bit Edgar Rice Burroughish with the strange, horrible steeds, the underground civilization, and the aborted love plot. It is interesting how much was added to the Mythos in this story and that hasn’t been used much by other writers.

 

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“The Curse of Yig”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Curse of Yig”, Zealia Bishop [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1928.

An ethnologist of Indians comes across the hideous offspring of Yig, a hideous snake god, in Oklahoma. Yig raped a woman and the result is in an asylum.

 

 

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