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Halloween Countdown, Day 29

LINKS OF THE DAY: * LiveScience.com offers a list of Halloween's Top 10 Scary Creatures. Many of them once instilled real fear in the towns and countryside. Here LiveScience.com provides some real science and history of the scary stars of October 31.

* The Literature of the Fantastic Archive is a terrific place to do some Halloween reading. Check out the terrific stories here!

LITERATURE OF THE DAY: For today's reading, we must visit Providence, Rhode Island.
Originally built in 1763, this house on 135 Benefit Street in Providence was deserted and in poor repair during the lifetime of H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). The house inspired him to write two works, the poem "The House" and the story "The Shunned House."

The Shunned House 3
(Click for a larger version.)

"The House" by H.P. Lovecraft

'Tis a grove-circled dwelling
Set close to a hill,
Where the branches are telling
Strange legends of ill;
Over timbers so old
That they breathe of the dead,
Crawl the vines, green and cold,
By strange nourishment fed;
And no man knows the juices they suck from the depths of their dank slimy bed.

In the gardens are growing
Tall blossoms and fair,
Each pallid bloom throwing
Perfume on the air;
But the afternoon sun
with its shining red rays
Makes the picture loom dun
On the curious gaze,
And above the sween scent of the the blossoms rise odours of numberless days.

The rank grasses are waving
On terrace and lawn,
Dim memories savouring
Of things that have gone;
The stones of the walks
Are encrusted and wet,
And a strange spirit stalks
When the red sun has set.
And the soul of the watcher is fill'd with faint pictures he fain would forget.

It was in the hot Junetime
I stood by that scene,
When the gold rays of noontime
Beat bright on the green.
But I shiver'd with cold,
Groping feebly for light,
As a picture unroll'd -
And my age-spanning sight
Saw the time I had been there before flash like fulgury out of the night.

The Shunned House
(Click for a larger version.)

"The Shunned House" by H.P. Lovecraft

Excerpt from "The Shunned House" by H.P. Lovecraft:

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent. Some times it enters directly into the composition of the events, while sometimes it relates only to their fortuitous position among persons and places. The latter sort is splendidly exemplified by a case in the ancient city of Providence, where in the late forties Edgar Allan Poe used to sojourn often during his unsuccessful wooing of the gifted poetess, Mrs. Whitman. Poe generally stopped at the Mansion House in Benefit Street - the renamed Golden Ball Inn whose roof has sheltered Washington, Jefferson, and Lafayette - and his favourite walk led northward along the same street to Mrs. Whitman's home and the neighbouring hillside churchyard of St. John's whose hidden expanse of eighteenth-century gravestones had for him a peculiar fascination.

Now the irony is this. In this walk, so many times repeated, the world's greatest master of the terrible and the bizarre was obliged to pass a particular house on the eastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side hill, with a great unkept yard dating from a time when the region was partly open country. It does not appear that he ever wrote or spoke of it, nor is there any evidence that he even noticed it. And yet that house, to the two persons in possession of certain information, equals or outranks in horror the wildest phantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly, and stands starkly leering as a symbol of all that is unutterably hideous....

Read the complete story.


* For additional information about the local history and lore that inspired "The Shunned House" (including an episode of alleged nineteenth-century vampirism), go here.

* For additional pictures of the house, visit my virtual walking tour of Lovecraftian Providence.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 29th, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
thanks for all the HPL info!
I'm glad you've included "The Shunned House" in your Halloween countdown. I was in Providence in 2001 & walked past this place -- there is something vaguely disquieting about it, even now. (Of course, being a Lovecraftian does help.)
Oct. 31st, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
Re: thanks for all the HPL info!
I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for your kind words. You're quite right about it still being a disquieting place.
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
oooh nice Lovecraft shots. The romantic goth in me would love to own his last home. Wonderful place to live. Are they all still private homes?
Oct. 30th, 2008 03:01 am (UTC)
Awhile back my brother (recently deceased) and I were discussing our old house in the Philly 'burbs, which may
or may not have been haunted. Hope you find this interesting.

On Saturday, March 04, 2006 1:05 AM, I wrote:

> [Me] I looked the old house up on zillow.com recently. It's > worth about 390K now, The 'rents paid $26,000 for it
> in 1968. It was a bit on the ugly side, to be truthy, a three-story 4x4 with an enclosed front porch and mustard-
> colored asbestos siding. It had a real scary basement too, with two rooms (one at the rear and one to the side)
> which I was sure contained creatures I never wanted to see.
> On of the rooms was equipped as a darkroom, and had no windows. It was under the front porch. The other had one
> high window at the side of the house, where you might be able to scream for help. Both doors were solid oak an inch
> thick, with sliding bolts on the outside. Makes you wonder what the previous tenants used to keep in there. Or
> whom...
> One of the third floor rooms had a linoleum floor with some kind of kid's game markers printed on them. Pretty
> cool, I guess no one has played that game or even known the rules for some 60 years. Except for the ghosts of
> course.

[Josh] That room also had wallpaper with characters from nursery rhymes. The third floor bathroom had a sink and a
cast iron tub, both of which had claw feet. That alone is probably worth $50K.

One time I laid down on the bed or couch in that room and my mind was overtaken by images that I can only describe as
alien, and inimical to human life. That was when I knew the house was haunted. This is before I'd read much science
fiction, or even seen a sci-fi movie that didn't have special effects by Ray Harryhausen.

> [Me] That room had blue wallpaper with a diamond pattern of yellow lines, and Mom kept her sewing machine in
> there, right? [wrong room] I slept in there a few times for some reason and never noticed anything. You must be
> more sensitive than I am.

[Josh] But not in a gay way.

>> [Josh] The spectre that both of us saw in the cellar one day (and only once, thank God)
> [Me] I can only recall _thinking_ that a headless doll we had brought into the side room for a "seance" seemed to
> move (i.e., shift place, not become animated). But I'm certain it was my imagination.

Joe interjects:
> Or perhaps, more insane. Or more prone to hallucination. Or more stoned. Those three account for 99.9% of ghost
> stories. Marketing accounts for the rest.

[Josh] Do you have any imagination in your soul, Joe, or did those long Wisconsin winters and your psychotic relatives
beat it out of you? Everyone from Wisconsin has crazy relatives, you know. I bet your family changed its name from Gein
after the Plainsfield incident.

The kid that was with us that had instigated the whole thing (we didn't like going in the cellar for any reason, much less
contacting the spirit world) denied seeing anything, and seemed even more freaked out than we were.

> [Joe] So where was the apparition and what did it look like? I assume it was near the darkroom door. I don't know
> why, but that seems like the logical place for it.

[Josh] It was the headless doll, or a girl carrying it, and it floated _through_ the door to the darkroom, across the cellar
towards the stairs, and disappeared. Our mother was also afraid of the cellar, if you'll recall. Too bad for her the washing machine
and dryer were in the front of the house, next to the dark room. Bwaa haa haa!

Oct. 30th, 2008 03:04 am (UTC)
>> [Josh] and the carpet remnants that fell down the stairwell >> where they had been hanging for years only
>> convinced me further.

> [Me] I do remember that, although I don't think I had thought about it for decades until you mentioned it. We
> were of course watching a late night horror movie.

[Josh] We were both too terrified to scream, or even move, for ten minutes. The movie we were watching was called
'The Manster' by United Artists of Japan. It was about an American reporter who gets injected by a Japanese scientist
(a war criminal, of course, although that's not explicitly stated) with a serum that turns him into a monster. The
mad doctor keeps a whole cellblock full of his failed experiments, one of which was his wife. Of course, he had a
hot lab assistant now, so he didn't miss her too much. 'The Curse of the Fly' also had a wife who'd been turned into a
monster by her husband. But this one got out of her cage every once in a while. She looked just like a former coworker,
except, y'know, more deformed. But not by much.

Oct. 31st, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
I'm so very sorry for your loss.

This whole conversation is both spooky and outrageously hysterical. I bet you two could MST3K a movie like nobody's business.

And I wouldn't want to meet that former coworker - yikes!
Nov. 1st, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
I'm so very sorry for your loss. This whole conversation is both spooky and outrageously hysterical.

Thank you. He could be lolz incarnate when he wanted to be, one of the classic alt.tasteless regulars back when it didn't suck.

It wasn't until I was reformatting the email thread that I realized he had tried to take a nap in the third floor room, not the one I was thinking of. I rarely would spend any time alone up there, even in the daytime. I don't know what possessed him.

Don't get me wrong, that house was my favorite of any I've ever lived in. But it did have a few creepy areas.

"And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'tis that I may not weep"
Lord Byron, Don Juan
Nov. 1st, 2008 01:08 am (UTC)
And I always think of that third floor bathroom when reading Lost Hearts
Oct. 31st, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! I wouldn't mind being in one of his homes, either. I think all those houses in which he lived are still private homes - in fact, when I was there in June, the 10 Barnes Street property (where he lived from 1926-1933) was available for rent. Eerily enough, the Benefit-Dexter House (which was Knowles Funeral Home in his day, the place where his funeral was held) is now dorm space for Rhode Island School of Design. I have it on authority from a former student that at least some of those who live/lived there - perhaps unsurprisingly - think it's haunted.

Edited at 2008-10-31 01:43 pm (UTC)
Nov. 1st, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
I have read that funeral home hauntings are not that uncommon. And aren't almost all funeral homes based in huge old buildings? All except modern suburban ones seem to be.
Abbie [wordpress.com]
Oct. 29th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
"Legend tells of goblins hiding out in forests, pulling pranks and sometimes switching human babies for their own changeling spawn."

Sounds like some mothers didn't want to own up to the fact that those screaming infants were born of them. Sure, blame the goblins.
Oct. 31st, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC)
Sure, blame the goblins.

They never get a break. *shakes head sadly*
Oct. 30th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
The vinyl siding and Thermo-Sash windows do detract from the ambience somewhat.
Oct. 31st, 2008 01:33 pm (UTC)
LOL! This is true.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )