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In addition to his classics of horror fiction, it is estimated that Lovecraft wrote 100,000 letters — or roughly 15 every day of his adult life — ranging from one-page diaries to seventy-page diatribes. Perhaps 20,000 of those letters have survived, in the hands of private collectors and at the John Hay Library in Providence.

In each episode of this podcast, we'll read one of these letters (or part of it) and then discuss it. In his letters HPL reveals an amazing breadth of knowledge of philosophy, science, history, literature, art and many other subjects, and forcefully asserts some highly considered opinions (some of which can be upsetting).

And of course his letters offer a fascinating window into his personal life and times. Although we've been working with Lovecraftian material for over 30 years, we still find interesting new things in his letters, and while we don't claim to be experts we look forward to sharing them with a wider audience.

You can subscribe via iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts! Or listen right here!

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  • Episode 53
  • Posted October 25, 2020

HPL: Colonial Tourguide

In this letter to his aunt Lillian from two weeks after his marriage, HPL makes a very surprising proposal before describing in elaborate detail his recent honeymoon trip to Philadelphia and his walks through New York with his aunt Annie. CONTENT WARNING: Although racism is not a major topic in this letter or discussion, there are a couple of passing slurs that have been bleeped.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Family and Family Friends. They are also the publishers of Lovecraft and a World in Transition, a book of very interesting essays by S.T. Joshi, including one about Sonia and HPL's marriage.

Sidewalks CoverSidewalks PagesThis is a copy of the little leather-bound guidebook to New York that his aunt Annie gave to HPL for Christmas, highlighting the numerous colonial sites in the city. HPL used it in turn when escorting Annie on a tour of the city, and recommended this booklet to other correspondents who planned to visit NYC. Measuring a very tiny 3 x 4 inches and 124 pages, it features some simple line illustrations and very sparse maps like the one shown at right. It was written by Bernardine Kielty and published by the Bowman Hotel chain, which included the Providence Biltmore.

Butler ExchangeSuperman BuildingSeen at left is the Butler Exchange building, built in downtown Providence in 1872 and somewhat disdained by HPL for being "Victorian" in style. It served as an office and retail building and as a school before it suffered a devastating fire and was torn down in 1925. The Industrial National Bank Building, shown at right, was built on the same site in 1927. Lovecraft didn't like this building either. Known familiarly as the "Superman Building", it is the tallest building in Rhode Island. Sadly, it has been vacant since 2013, when the last tenant, Bank of America, moved out. Rather deteriorated, it has been appraised as having "no value", and there has been talk in recent years of tearing it down so that Hasbro can build a taller building there to use as a new headquarters.

Philly GuideHere's an itinerary page from the Royal Blue Line tour that HPL and Sonia took on their honeymoon. HPL mailed a copy of this pamphlet to Aunt Lillian in another letter.

To get a look at HPL and Sonia's wedding announcement, go on over to the Brown Digital Repository


  • Episode 52
  • Posted October 18, 2020

Clark Ashton Lovefest

Two letters from Lovecraft to Smith in the summer of 1923 display HPL's great enthusiasm for Smith's work as both writer and illustrator. He optimistically discusses a new magazine called Weird Tales which might prove to be a good market for their stories.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to listener Andreas Bylow Jensen for recommending this pair of letters. Thanks also, and as usual, to Hippocampus Press for their book Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. They are also the publishers of Lovecraft and a World in Transition, a book of very interesting essays by S.T. Joshi. (His essay "Lovecraft and Dunsany's Chronicles of Rodriguez" sheds specific light on subjects mentioned in this episode.)

Andreas wanted us to let folks know that a book we have discussed in previous episodes, The Haunted Castle by Eino Railo, has just been released in a new edition by Routledge Press. A study of the elements of English Romanticism, Lovecraft read the original edition when it came out in 1927 and recommended it to numerous correspondents.

CAS treesHouse of Souls 1906Here are Smith's illustrations for "The Lurking Fear" that HPL so admired. Necronomicon Press issued a facsimile version of the original Home Brew publication in 1977 with all of Smith's drawings, and have since offered an augmented version. We don't know if the trees are any sexier, but they are now in color!

Lovecraft mentions recently reading Arthur Machen's The House of Souls in this letter. HPL read a later edition, and so we don't know if he ever actually saw this cover design, but the first edition published in London in 1906 has this spectacular creature drawn by one of HPL's favorite artists, Sidney Sime. We haven't seen a copy of this book ourselves, and maybe this drawing is repeated inside the edition that HPL read. If you know, we'd be glad to hear from you!

CAS columnIn order to raise money to help pay for the publication of "Ebony and Crystal", Clark Ashton Smith wrote a column for his local newspaper, The Auburn Journal (and Placer County Republican). Pictured here is the column from July 3, 1924. There are a good number of other clippings of the column in the Brown Digital Repository, which demonstrate that sometimes the title was presented correctly. The paper in the 1920s was only 10 pages long, and two of those pages were devoted to automobile news. There was a brand of automobiles called Auburn in the 1920s, but they were manufactured in Auburn Indiana, not California.


  • Episode 51
  • Posted October 11, 2020

REH Part 2: Witch Cults

This is part two of a long letter from October of 1930 to Robert E. Howard. HPL provides his Texan friend with a fascinating look at the history of witch cults in Massachusetts, before reflecting on his own genealogy and the perils of immigration in his America. CONTENT WARNING: This episode involves issues that are still a hot-button topic today.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks again to Hippocampus Press for their book A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.


  • Episode 50
  • Posted October 4, 2020

REH Part 1: Rhode Island

In part one of this long letter from October of 1930, HPL writes to his friend, writer Robert E. Howard. After a discussion on the merits of Arab culture, HPL moves into a lengthy recapitulation of the history of Rhode Island and the dark forces that shaped its unique culture. CONTENT WARNING: This episode touches on slavery and racism and dubious anthropology.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

Today we recorded a special episode of the podcast as part of the live feed from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland. That episode also covered a letter to Robert E. Howard, but this is a different letter. Stay tuned for our special HPLFF episode which we will release here several weeks from now.


  • Episode 49
  • Posted September 27, 2020

The Case of Old Dolph

In a letter from October of 1934, HPL talks with one of his most difficult revision clients about the challenges of the job and whether or not Jesus ever really existed.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to Alfred Galpin and Others.

Tyrus of MayenceLike HPL, we had never heard of Tyrus of Mayence, but we found this interesting article from MacLean's Magazine from 1924. The story it tells is quite entertaining, but no one since seems to have taken it very seriously, because this article seems to be just about the last place it appears.

We couldn't find out too much more about the author of this piece, Henry W. Fisher. He seems to have been a well-known international newspaper journalist in his day, widely travelled and familiar with important people all over the world. He wrote a book published in 1922 called Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field: Tales They Told a Fellow Correspondent. Eugene Field died in 1895, and Mark Twain passed away in 1910, so the tales they might have told Fisher were decades old by the time Fisher produced his book.

To complicate matters, there was another writer at the same time named Harry W. Fischer, spelled with a C, who wrote a number of apparently fabulous books, including Behind the Scenes with the Kaiser (1888-1892) The True Story of the Kaiser as he Lived, Loved, Played and Warred, by the Baroness von Larisch [pseud.] of the Imperial Household. It's possible that the two writers were actually the same person, or that the story about Tyrus of Mayence was written by Fischer and his name was just misspelled or Anglicized in MacLean's. "Henry Fisher" is a very common name so it's hard to pin him down.

Both of them seem to have been interesting characters, on a par with DeCastro himself!


  • Update
  • Posted September 27, 2020

Delilah Townsend

In previous episodes we have encountered mentions of Delilah, a Lovecraft family servant. Our friend Donovan Loucks of the H.P.Lovecraft Archive has now provided us with her last name! He cites this letter from HPL to his aunt Lillian from August 1, 1924:

On this occasion I met for the first time the Michigan amateur Clyde G. Townsend (no relative of Delilah’s, but a fine Nordic specimen with yellow hair and blue eyes!), the prepossessing Alabaman W. Alvin Cook, my literary enemy Edna Hyde of New Jersey, and an attractive young man named Albert Rader, from Lorain, Ohio, whose tempestuous experiences have recently preëmpted front page space in the Evening Bulletin.

Delilah Townsend CensusDonovan goes on to say "The medium-length story is that I was tracking down the location of Curwen’s townhouse in Providence, found a home at 6 Olney Street that seemed to fit the bill, and then found a city directory that listed a Delilah Townsend at that address. The name “Delilah” sounded familiar, so I started digging in Lovecraft’s letters and found the above quote. So, Delilah and her husband, William, were the inspiration for Hannah and Asa in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and their home that of Joseph Curwen.

"I wrote an article about my discovery that appeared in the 2015 issue of Lovecraft Annual. It included part of a 1918 plat map, and the two photos of the house (demolished around 1931) that I miraculously discovered in the basement of the Stephen Hopkins House!

"I’ve actually been discussing the birth year of Delilah Robinson Townsend with Ken Faig recently. I’ve got data showing that she was born in December 1872 and Ken has data indicating she was born in 1868, backed up by an 1870 census indicating she was two years old. Of course, either of us might have information on a different Delilah Robinson or any of our information could be in error. So, we’re going to be doing our best to correlate all the contents!"

Listener and HPLHS Member Dan Pratt also added to the Delilah Townsend information by sending along the page from the US Census of 1900 shown here. About halfway down the page you can learn a lot about Delilah and her family, including the fact that she had a son named William who was just six years younger than Lovecraft himself. We thank Dan and Donovan both for shedding so much added light on this interesting woman.


  • Episode 48
  • Posted September 20, 2020

I Am Home

In a letter to Frank Belknap Long from 1926, HPL describes his unbridled joy at returning to Providence after his unhappy years in New York City.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their book Selected Letters II.

Met Pantheon modelSoane Pantheon modelThe model of the Pantheon that HPL admired in New York was part of a collection commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sculpted by A. Joly under the direction of French architect Charles Chipiez. The collection was on display in the 1920s but was moved into storage sometime in the 1950s, when the museum could afford to acquire genuine antiquities instead of plaster reproductions. We found the old postcard shown at left, but we couldn't find any clue as to where that model is now. Sean did find a gorgeous model of the Pantheon at Sir John Soane's Museum in London by François Fouquet that is well worth a look, seen at right. (And don't forget to view the gift shop and the VR museum tour!) There are also some spectacular model Pantheons at museums in Milan and Rome.

Packer's Pine Tar SoapGorton'sWe couldn't find any photos of the billboards that made HPL feel like he was finally home, but here are some 1920s ads for Packer's Pine Tar Soap and Gorton's Codfish, two longtime New England brands both still going strong.


  • Episode 47
  • Posted September 13, 2020

Oh Mighty Ar-Ech-Bei

In a letter from 1934, HPL tells his future literary executor that typing the manuscripts of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is not worth the trouble. This letter shines a light on why Lovecraft might have selected him for the job, as young Mr. Barlow is already at work protecting HPL's legacy. We also learn of some other very interesting fantasy fans and aspiring publishers of the time.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to listener @RossbyrneW, who recommended this letter via Twitter, and to S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz for their book O Fortunate Floridian: H.P. Lovecraft's Letters to R.H. Barlow, published by The University of Tampa Press.

Ninth SealHPL signed this letter using this very strange and slightly disturbing sigil. This letter is preserved in digital form and you can view the whole thing in the Brown Digital Repository.

Barlow never actually completed typing The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, but click here to see how much he did accomplish.


  • Episode 46
  • Posted September 6, 2020

A Lovecraftian Romantic Comedy

In a pair of short letters from 1921 and 1922, HPL tells his friends Kleiner and Moe of his early encounters with Madame Greene (who will go on to become Mrs. Lovecraft). Is HPL the leading man in a romantic comedy or is he merely a Providence tour guide caught up in forces beyond his control?

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz for their books Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Both are available from Hippocampus Press.

CrownExteriorCrownLoungeThe Crown Hotel, where Sonia stayed when she visited Providence, was located downtown on Weybosset Street, a few blocks around the corner from City Hall. Sometime after these letters were written, they opened a lounge with an undersea theme where Cthulhu investigators might have enjoyed a drink.

NormansWoeSonia invited HPL to visit her in Magnolia, Massachusetts, a fancy suburb of Gloucester where the rich and famous built vacation homes. HPL was more interested in the rugged coastal scenery. One of the sights is a reef off the coast called "Norman's Woe". The scene of numerous shipwrecks, it is rather reminiscent of Innsmouth's Devil Reef.


  • Episode 45
  • Posted August 30, 2020

Greetings From St. Augustine

A letter from June 28, 1934 in which HPL writes to a young friend of Clark Ashton Smith, telling of his travels in St. Augustine, Florida. The travelogue segues into useful advice about dealing with depression and communists.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz for their book Letters to Wilfred B. Talman and Helen V. and Genevieve Sully. We also read a bit of Helen Sully's memoir from Lovecraft Remembered, published by Arkham House.

DunkardSilverSpringsAt left is the little sketch HPL made of the strange man who interrupted him while he wrote. You can see this entire handwritten letter, and the envelope it came in, in the Brown University Digital Repository. You will also find there a postcard that HPL sent to Sully about a week before he wrote this letter, at the start of his visit to St. Augustine, showing one of the buildings he mentions.

BurialBelow is a later postcard view of the Timucuan burial site that had just recently been discovered when HPL wrote this letter. The graveyard remained on exhibit as a tourist attraction and grade-school field trip destination until 1991, when the remains were reinterred.

The Silver Springs folder HPL included with this letter does not survive, but there is an orange water stain on all the pages of the letter, so maybe it was a copy of this orange vintage brochure advertising the amazing electric glass-bottom boats that were popular in Silver Springs at the time. One of the original boats from 1934, the Princess Donna, is still in service in Florida, the oldest still-operating tourist boat in the state!


  • Episode 44
  • Posted August 23, 2020

Howard's Bombshell

A letter from March 9, 1924 in which HPL breaks some big news to his poor Aunt Lillian. HPL's run off and married Sonia Greene in New York! This letter is amazing not just for what HPL reveals, but for how he reveals this shocking news.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz for their book Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Originally published by the University of Ohio Press, the second edition is now available directly from Hippocampus Press. Be on the lookout for their new collection of Letters to Family and Friends!

Philly BrochurePenn StationHoward and Sonia were married at St. Paul's Chapel, the oldest surviving church building in Manhattan. George Washington and other Founding Fathers worshipped there.

HPL mentions Pennsylvania Station a couple of times in this letter. It was an iconic train station in New York City and we really wish we could have seen it in person, but it was torn down in 1963.

They spent their honeymoon in Philadelphia, and when they weren't busy typing "Imprisoned With the Pharaohs", they did get in some sightseeing. HPL included a copy of this Royal Blue Line brochure with this letter, so Lillian could get an idea of what they saw.

If you'd like to follow the exercise regimen that Sonia encouraged HPL to follow, then check out the Daily Dozen!


  • Episode 43
  • Posted August 16, 2020

Pronouncing Petaja

In a letter of February 8, 1935 to young writer Emil Petaja, HPL talks about just who is and who isn't a "weird" author and how hard it is to make that distinction. Also we finally learn definitively how to pronounce some of the names of HPL's friends and correspondents, including Petaja's own!

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book H.P. Lovecraft: Letters with Donald and Howard Wandrei and to Emil Petaja.

Hannes Bok Pickman's ModelBok WT CoverHere are a couple of illustrations by Petaja's close friend and roommate Hannes Bok. In black and white Bok's pointillistic style is similar to Virgil Finlay's, and here is his interpretation of Pickman's Model. At right is one of his covers for Weird Tales from 1941.

After moving to Los Angeles, Petaja hung out at storied Clifton's Cafeteria with Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Forrest Ackerman and others.


  • Episode 42
  • Posted August 9, 2020

The Dark Swamp

In a letter of August 1923 to original Weird Tales editor Edwin Baird, HPL talks a bit of business and literary theory before describing his plan to visit a legendary site of dark mystery and monster-inhabited potholes with his friend C.M. Eddy, Jr. Then as a bonus we'll hear him describe how the plan worked out in a letter to Frank Belknap Long from November 8 of the same year.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Necronomicon Press for their book H.P. Lovecraft: Uncollected Letters, to Arkham House for Selected Letters Vol. I and to Fenham Publishing for their book The Gentleman from Angell Street.

Vendig Letter FrontVendig Letter BackHere are the front and back of our exciting new acquisition, an actual handwritten letter from HPL to Clifford M. Eddy, Jr. This one was written in November of 1924, about a year after the letters that we read in this episode. Although it's written on stationery from the Hotel Vendig in Philadelphia, the fact that HPL turned the letterhead upside-down suggests he was not actually writing from the hotel. HPL and his wife Sonia used the stenographer's office at the Vendig during their honeymoon in March of 1924, so they could re-type the manuscript of "Under the Pyramids" to meet the Weird Tales publication deadline. It's possible HPL picked up some of the letterhead on that occasion and saved it for later use.

Just a few years after these letters were written, Chepachet, Rhode Island began to host an annual Ancient and Horribles Parade. Coincidence?


  • Episode 41
  • Posted August 2, 2020

I Wish I Were a Housecat

In this rare letter of March 1923 to the poet Samuel Loveman, HPL talks with great sensitivity about their mutual friend Alfred Galpin, and rather less sensitivity about his own wife, Sonia Greene. Loveman later burned all his letters from Lovecraft, and this is one of the few that survive.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others.


  • Episode 40
  • Posted July 26, 2020

I Genuflect, I Grovel

In which HPL writes to Wilfred Talman, abjectly apologizing for miscommunication regarding the idea of HPL writing a novel. This letter from late in Lovecraft's life is revealing about both his work and his concerns for his young friend's reputation.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to Wilfred B. Talman and Helen V. and Genevieve Sully.

Noh MaskBookplateNoh theatre makes extensive use of masks, and here's a wonderful example. This mask shows a different facial expression depending on the angle at which it is seen! Learn all about Noh theatre!

At right is the bookplate that Wilfred Talman designed for HPL.


  • Episode 39
  • Posted July 19, 2020

The YMCA

In which HPL writes to his friend Maurice Moe and questions the truth (or lack thereof) in religion, and defends the idea that a person can be moral without being religious. Lovecraft gives a spirited argument to his friend while leaving plenty of room for them to agree to disagree.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others.

Above is a 1904 cylinder phonograph recording of Enrico Caruso, one of the most famous singers in the world when Lovecraft was a boy, and a 1909 phonograph recording of John McCormack, another famous tenor who inspired young HPL.

HPL mentions a couple of magazines in this letter. The Outlook was a weekly magazine published in New York from 1893 to 1928. It started life in 1870 as The Christian Union, but changed its title when it shifted focus to social and political issues. There was a British magazine with the same title at the same time. The Truth Seeker was a prominent freethought journal founded in 1873, which is still being published and is headquartered in San Diego.

HPL quotes the popular newspaper character Mr. Dooley, created by Finley Peter Dunne. You can read more of Mr. Dooley's pithy sayings in Mr. Dooley Says.

The Bible verse that HPL cites at the end of the letter is "And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."


  • Episode 38
  • Posted July 12, 2020

Danger: Politics Ahead

Roosevelt ButtonIn which HPL writes to C.L. Moore, one of his female correspondents. Howard unleashes a torrent of thoughts on life in the Great Depression and the response of political parties to the challenge of the times. Not for the politically squeamish.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to the team at Hippocampus Press, including S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz.


  • Episode 37
  • Posted July 5, 2020

Laundry and Influenza

Written during his time in New York, this richly detailed letter to HPL's Aunt Lillian discusses quotidian issues like laundry, and more impactful issues like the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. A special thanks this week to Donovan Loucks, for pointing this letter out and for his work to find the Peck Garden, and to David E. Schultz for making the letter available for us to read.

W. Paul CookCharles V. ChapinWe found this clipping from the Burlington Free Press of September 20, 1941 about W. Paul Cook. And at right is a portrait of Providence public health titan Dr. Charles Value Chapin.

You can check out the archive of old Providence restaurant ephemera that Sean found here!

This letter is absolutely loaded with specific but glancing references and we couldn't talk about all of them in the episode. HPL refers to the price difference between coke and bituminous coal, which reminds us that in his day most American homes were heated by burning coal of some kind in a furnace. Coke is a kind of refined fuel made from coal that was once popular. It's better and safer than straight bituminous coal, and therefore more expensive, but producing it was poisonously devastating to the environment around coking facilities. Today fewer than 130,000 homes nationwide are heated with coal.

HPL refers to his friend Everett McNeil's book Tonty of the Iron Hand. The title character is based on a real person, Henri de Tonti.

HPL mentions the "Pemaquid idea". We don't know exactly what he's talking about, but he may have been referring to the Pemaquid Point Light, a lovely lighthouse in Maine.

HPL confessed to ignorance of the Rowan tree legends. You need not be ignorant if you click here!

HPL also talks about "Laswell's Corners & Characters". This was a column that ran in the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin in the 1920s, with drawings by staff artist George D. Laswell. Items were collected and published as a book in 1924, and it's loaded with lovely ink drawings of Providence architecture which HPL must have greatly enjoyed. You can see it online at the Internet Archive.

HPL mentions the "Peck Garden" which is next door to "Hathaway and Douglass". The garden was apparently the yard of a private home. His Aunt Lillian was staying at a boarding house in Waterman St., and must have discovered that the view from her window looked out over the neighbor's beautiful garden. Our friend Donovan Loucks is an expert on Lovecraftian sites in Providence, and with some amazing detective work he found the very location!

Peck Garden mapDonovan writes: "I've highlighted (in red) three buildings on the 1918 plat map seen at right: from right to left they are 115 Waterman Street, 113 Waterman Street, and 109 Waterman Street. 115 is the boarding house at which Lillian was staying, 113 is identified on the map as the home of "W. A. Peck" (which must be the site of the "Peck garden"), and 109 is shown on the map as "W. Douglas Co.". Armed with these addresses, I returned to the house directories. (Note that I only have house directories from 1895 to 1936.)

The house at 115 Waterman Street where Lillian stayed seems to have been a boarding house beginning around 1917 and all the way through 1936. It appears to have been a private home prior to that. At no point is Lillian listed among the residents. It’s likely that she only lived at this location for a few months.

The home at 113 Waterman Street was that of Walter A. and Louise L. Peck. The 1895 and 1903 directories just list Mr. Peck, the 1896 through 1901 directories list both Mr. and Mrs. Peck, and the 1905 to 1934 directories list Mrs. Peck only. These folks were probably Walter Asa Peck and Louisa (not Louise) Lyman Aborn Peck, who are both buried in Swan Point Cemetery. The only directory that indicates Mr. Peck’s occupation is the 1895 which merely says “wool”.

Note that on the map above I’ve also underlined what looks like the “L. L. Peck” property on Brook Street. I didn’t turn up anything in the house directories along that stretch of Brook Street between Waterman and Manning Streets, as if the lot was empty for decades. However, the map seems to show a driveway through this property to what may be a carriage house at the rear of the W. A. Peck property. It’s possible that a portion of the “Peck garden” was on this property as well.

Hathaway & DouglasFinally, the building at 109 Waterman Street is listed as William Douglas & Co., Contractors in the 1921 through 1934 directories. But there’s no mention of a “Hathaway”. Going back further, the company is listed as William Douglas & Co., Carpenters from 1920 back to 1905. Then the company name changes to William Douglass & Co., Carpenters in the 1903 and 1901 directories. Finally, Hathaway & Douglass, Carpenters appears in the 1900 directory, going all the way back to the 1895 directory. At left is their advertisement from the 1897 directory."

Donovan concludes: "Unfortunately, this entire area has been wiped clean and is now the site of the Brown University Sciences Library and Department of Computer Science."

In the postscripts to this letter, HPL asks his aunt if she can pick up a new calendar for 1926. We don't know if she did, but HPL's calendars from 1925 and 1927 are brilliantly preserved in the Brown Digital Repository.


  • Episode 36
  • Posted June 28, 2020

Herr Hitler

CONTENT WARNING: This letter covers some intense issues and contains explicitly and intensely racist language. Writing in 1933, HPL speaks candidly to his young friend Robert Bloch about the recently-elected Chancellor of Germany: Adolf Hitler. Lovecraft carefully explains his opinions about the ongoing rise of the Nazi party.

Bloch's Shub NiggurathWT 10/33 Robert Bloch drew this sketch of Shub Niggurath in 1933, the same year HPL wrote this letter. You can find a high-resolution version of it, along with a few other Bloch sketches, in the Brown University Library Digital Repository.

At right is the iconic Margaret Brundage cover painting from the Weird Tales issue of October, 1933, in which Lovecraft's tale "The Festival" was reprinted.

Our brother podcaster Chris Lackey recently posted a link to Your Heroes Were Monsters, an essay by D. G. Valdron that seems highly apropos this week.

It might bear repeating this week that the HPLHS unequivocally believes that Black lives matter. We can’t change Lovecraft, but we can help change our world. We must evaluate the past unflinchingly, see the present honestly, and embrace changes to create a future that brings justice and equality to everyone. To pursue that change, the HPLHS donates to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.


  • Episode 35
  • Posted June 21, 2020

Howard's Grandson

In part two of this long letter from the summer of 1921, HPL tells his buddies in the Gallomo of another key figure he's become acquainted with: Frank Belknap Long. This young man from New York goes on to become HPL's colleague, business partner, and one of his closest friends. HPL also sets the record straight on who wrote "The Crawling Chaos".

Willow Lane Our friend Donovan Loucks, who runs the H.P. Lovecraft Archive, also shared with us this photo of a page from The Tryout, the amateur journal edited and printed by HPL's Haverhill friend "Tryout" Smith. Here is the poem by Myrta Alice Little that HPL mentions in this letter.

Donovan writes: "As luck would have it, I happen to have the issue of The Tryout which includes Myrta Alice Little’s poem, “My Willow Lane” (March 1921, volume 7, number 2, page 32). Unfortunately, I have no idea of the location of the site Myrta wrote about. I do see there’s a swampy area behind the Little property with a brook that extends northwest and southeast out of it. However, I don’t see a “willow lane” in the immediate vicinity. Of course, much may have changed over the intervening nearly 100 years. In that letter Lovecraft also mentions the “Pinnacle”, which I suspect is a hill about one-third of a mile east of the Little house, easily accessible from the parking lot of the Hampstead Hospital. Pam and I took a hike up to the top of it the same day I took the photos of the Little house. It’s just an unremarkable pine-topped hill that’s no higher than any other hills in the area, though it is the highest hill in the immediate vicinity."

We thank Donovan for his graciousness and generosity.


  • Episode 34
  • Posted June 14, 2020

Recaptured Youth

In part one of this long letter from the summer of 1921, HPL tells his buddies in the Gallomo of a return to his boyhood clubhouse as a middle aged man. He regales his friends with accounts of his active social life, including a meeting with an intriguing woman: the future Mrs. Lovecraft.

The museum of the Haverhill Historical Society that HPL visited is now The Buttonwoods Museum. We look forward to visiting in person someday!

If you're interested, you can get your own copy of Swamp Yankee here. Thanks to listener Chris Kalley for pointing it out!

Autumn recordGMCC fireplaceHPL mentions these two old songs that he used to sing with his friends. Click the links below to listen to recapture some youth with vintage recordings in the Library of Congress! In the Autumn Time, My Sweet Elaine and When the Mockingbirds Are Singing in the Wildwood

Our friend Donovan Loucks runs the H.P. Lovecraft Archive, and one of his missions is to find and photograph every Lovecraftian site that still exists. He very graciously shared with us some photos he's taken of a few of the places mentioned in this letter! Seen below is all that remains of the Great Meadow Country Clubhouse: the stone fireplace built by Civil War veteran James McKay. Also below is a view of the home of Myra Alice Little and her family, where Lovecraft stayed on his trip to Haverhill. For more photos of HPL during his happy summer of 1921, be sure to visit Donovan's photo gallery, and particularly this picture of HPL and HBM.

GMCC fireplace Little House

  • Episode 00
  • Posted June 7, 2020

Shut Up and Listen

In view of recent heartbreaking events, we have decided not to read a letter from HPL this week. It's a time for other voices to be heard. We'll be back next week.

Instead of us, here are a couple of other podcasts we recommend.

The Memory Palace is always a wonderful show, but this particular episode seems very relevant: We've Forgotten James Powell.

Fanti is a relatively new podcast, but very much worth a listen.


  • Episode 32
  • Posted May 31, 2020

Divorce and Bigamy

In this letter of July 2, 1929 to Maurice Moe, HPL discusses his thoughts on marriage and, more importantly, divorce. Written after the collapse of his own marriage, Lovecraft is quite candid about the institution and his personal life.

Our thanks again to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to Maurice Moe and Others.

Nevada Divorce

Lovecraft has never been famous for the brevity of his style, but even for him the opening sentence of this letter seems long, weighing in at 164 words.

HPL mentions Judge Benjamin Lindsey in this letter, who co-authored The Companionate Marriage with Wainright Evans in 1927.

SLANG ALERT: HPL uses the word "flivvers" in this letter. The ubiquitous automobile of the 1920s was the Ford Model T, often referred to as a "flivver", but the word in general means "failure".

HPL mentions "flaming youth", a phrase which alludes to the shocking novel of 1923 and/or the notorious film adaptation of it. The novel was written by Samuel Hopkins Adams, but published under the pseudonym "Warner Fabian" to protect his reputation. You can read Flaming Youth here. Only one reel of the film version survives, kept in the Library of Congress.


  • Episode 31
  • Posted May 24, 2020

Shea Part 3 — War, Peace, & Justice

In the sometimes uncomfortable finale of our three-part letter to J. Vernon Shea, HPL opines on weightier topics including the looming forces of war and peace, and issues of justice (social and otherwise) surrounding the famed Scottsboro Boys trial. CONTENT WARNING: This episode includes numerous bleeps, racist language, and painfully awkward discussion thereof. Listener discretion advised.

Our thanks again to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to J. Vernon Shea, Carl F. Strauch and Lee McBride White, and its helpful footnotes.

stained glass

HPL mentions Lincoln Steffens in this letter, a famous liberal muckraking journalist who wrote about the corruption of politics in Rhode Island, St. Louis, and other places. If you want to hear more about corrupt Providence politics, we recommend the podcast Crimetown.

Another left-wing radical HPL cites is V.F. Calverton (born George Goetz), who founded Modern Quarterly magazine, published from 1923 to 1940.

The "Coates book" that HPL refers to is The Eater of Darkness by Robert Myron Coates, published in America in 1929 and described as "the first surrealistic novel in English". Coates went on to be a prominent art critic for The New Yorker.

In the section about art, HPL mentions having seen stained glass by noted designer Joseph G. Reynolds. That stained glass was installed at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. You can see more photos at their website.

Lovecraft does mention George Bernard Shaw in a number of other letters, but usually in a list with other prominent writers with liberal leanings.

The "nice little Jew" HPL mentions at the very end of the letter was Julius Schwartz, who would go on to become a prominent editor of famous titles at DC comics, including both Superman and Batman. He also helped organize the first World Science Fiction Convention. Schwartz commissioned the collaborative story "The Challenge from Beyond", jointly written by Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Abraham Merritt and C.L. Moore in 1935.

You can get a copy of The Lady Who Came to Stay from our friends at Hippocampus Press. We did!


  • Episode 30
  • Posted May 17, 2020

Shea Part 2 — Bedelia and Friends

In part two of this three episode letter from February 4 1934, HPL gets into pop culture, describing to J. Vernon Shea his favorite songs, magazine stories, plays, and motion pictures. Even in 1934 movies about time travel had plot holes.... BLEEP WARNING: Although the vast majority of this episode is light and whimsical, there are a couple of passing mentions of racist language.

Our thanks again to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to J. Vernon Shea, Carl F. Strauch and Lee McBride White.

Leslie Howard

There was a version of Lovecraft's favorite film, 1933's Berkeley Square, on YouTube, but it seems to have vanished. We have been informed by listener Charles Power that the film has been screened on the Turner Classic Movie channel. The version above seems to be the best we can do at the moment, but sadly it has no sound. Here is a still from the movie, in which we think Leslie Howard gives off a very Lovecraft vibe. Below is one of the few short clips from the movie that at least you can hear.

Our thanks to listener David Kellogg, who writes to solve the mysterious reference to the "Ah Wilderness year" that left us stumped by saying "...while Ah, Wilderness was produced in 1933, it is *set* on July 4, 1906."

Jules Romains was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature 16 times!


  • Episode 29
  • Posted May 10, 2020

Shea Part 1 — Let Suicide Wait

In part one of this lengthy (three episode!) letter from February 4 1934, HPL writes to his friend J. Vernon Shea. Among the many topics he delves into are Lovecraft's youthful contemplations of suicide and what kept him from going through with it.

Our thanks to our friends at Hippocampus Press for their book Letters to J. Vernon Shea, Carl F. Strauch and Lee McBride White.

Little Blue BooksRover BoysAt left is a small sample of the hundreds of titles in the "Little Blue Book" series published by E. Haldeman-Julius. Lovecraft read many of the Little Blue Books and bought spare copies to send to friends and clients.

HPL uses the term "scientifiction" in this letter. That word was coined by Hugo Gernsback in 1916 and was used in the early years of the genre, but ultimately failed to catch on.

Many of the works of juvenile fiction that HPL enjoyed as a boy (and lamented as an adult) were written and/or published by Edward Stratemeyer, including the Rover Boys and Tom Swift series.


  • Episode 28
  • Posted May 3, 2020

Defending Sonny

In a letter to his revision client Zealia Brown Reed Bishop dated August 25, 1929, HPL emphatically defends the editorial work of his young protege, Frank Belknap Long. He gives lots of writing advice before moving on to vivid description of some of his recent local travels.

You'll find this letter in The Spirit of Revision published by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society! Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Christian Matzke, Sean and Jackie McCall, Mary Sullivan, S.T. Joshi, and the John Hay Library.

Our book The Spirit of Revision is lavishly illustrated, but mostly in black and white. If you'd like to see some scans of the original letters (and some of the extra things HPL included) in color, along with portraits of Zealia, please check out the Spirit of Revision page on this very website!

Fairbanks HouseThe Fairbanks House in Dedham, about which Lovecraft waxes rhapsodic in this letter, is still open as a museum run by the Fairbanks Family organization. Normally they give tours from May to October, but this year their opening day is a little uncertain. But you can make a virtual visit! And maybe even donate to help them through these hard times.

Buzzard's BayHere's the 1909 map of Buzzards Bay that Sean found online. Onset Beach, where HPL vacationed with Frank Belknap Long's family, is at the northmost end of the bay. The aeroplane that Lovecraft rode in probably didn't get high enough to get this kind of vista, but it's fun to think of him getting a similar bird's-eye view.


  • Episode 27
  • Posted April 26, 2020

Cats, Cheese and Hawaiians

In which Lovecraft speaks to Duane W. Rimel of many things, but most extensively on his fondness for cats. That leads to a discussion of local colloquialisms which then leads to an interesting discourse on local cheese nomenclature and the Owyhee Idaho Spud, among other things. It's a fun ride!

This letter was written November 19, 1934. Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome.

Rimel's portraitHere is the portrait of Lovecraft that Rimel made using the linoleum carving technique. Although apparently originally intended for an earlier issue of Fantasy Fan, it was eventually published as an illustration of a short bio of HPL written by F. Lee Baldwin in Fantasy magazine in April of 1935. CLICK HERE to download a PDF of a typographical replica of the entire article, in which HPL describes his close encounter with a certain circus freak-show performer!

Idaho SpudLovecraft refers to the Idaho Candy Company and its signature product, the Owyhee Idaho Spud bar. It is not made with potato, but has a light cocoa flavored, soft marshmallow center drenched with a dark chocolate coating and then sprinkled with coconut. We're happy to report they're still in business and you can get your own Idaho Spud and other delicacies from their website. Although we haven't personally sampled all of it, we can attest that the butter toffee they make is quite wonderful.

Here's a look at the some of the ads for WLW that Sean found while researching this episode. WLW was one the country's most powerful radio stations in Lovecraft's day. You can learn more about them, and see bigger versions of these ads, here. WLW

Wind Shake textsWe checked in with our old friend Nick Offerman to see if in fact "wind shake" is prized by woodworkers. Apparently it is not, although other kinds of wood deformities, such as burl, do make for some very lovely furniture.

Rex Weldon coversIn later life Duane Rimel went on to write, among many other things, pulp erotica under the pen name "Rex Weldon". Here are some covers of just a few of his many books. Still haven't found that one about the tobacconists....

HPL used his own very personal spellings for dialects and the nicknames of his various correspondents, which makes this letter a different experience visually than it is aurally. Here are some of his idiosyncratic presentations:
Rimel = Rhi´-Mhel
F. Lee = Eph-Li
R.H.B. = Ar-E'ch-Bei

This is how Lovecraft renders the regional pronunciations of the word "half":
Cleveland = haff • Providence = häf [hahf] • Boston = hääf

The International Phonetic Alphabet had been conceived in the 1880s, but it was still under active development in Lovecraft's day, so it's not surprising if he never heard of it or thought to use it himself.


  • Episode 26
  • Posted April 19, 2020

Letters Phantastique

PhantastiqueIn which HPL writes about space travel, alien life, and the shortcomings of fictional science in a suite of letters to one of the first fans of science fiction: Nils Helmer Frome. PLEASE NOTE: During the recording of this episode, Andrew could not recall the name of the man with whom J.B.S. Haldane corresponded, and referred to him repeatedly — and inaccurately — as a "preacher". The man in question was, in fact, Arnold Lunn, who deserved to be better remembered. Andrew regrets his failure in this matter.

These letters were written between December 1936 and February 1937. Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to F. Lee Baldwin, Duane W. Rimel, and Nils Frome.

If you want to get into a complicated discussion between two actually smart people, check out the correspondence between Arnold Lunn and J.B.S. Haldane.

Bragdon ArchThe blueprint on the right was the design for the gate to the headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America designed by Claude Fayette Bragdon, the architect who reminded Andrew of Ivo Shandor. Click the blueprint for more info!

Rachel Watches Star TrekLovecraft didn't care for anthropomorphic aliens like the ones on Star Trek, but our brother podcaster and dear friend Chris Lackey, co-host of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast, pointed out an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that explains why so many alien races in that universe look basically human. It's called "The Chase". Chris and his wonderful wife Rachel Lackey have their own Star Trek podcast that you can check out here!


  • Episode 25
  • Posted April 12, 2020

Things That Go Bump in the Night

In one of the last letters he would ever write, HPL tells young correspondent Harry Otto Fischer about things he's afraid of. He also provides his etymological interpretation of the meaning of the title Necronomicon.

This letter was written in February of 1937. Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to C.L. Moore and Others.

Necronomicon ArticleClick on the image at left to read Andrew's contribution to the Greek etymology question from Strange Eons.


  • Episode 24
  • Posted April 5, 2020

Dunsany and Childhood: My Favorite Things

In which HPL writes to the Gallomo (Alfred Galpin and Maurice Moe) of his potent dreams, his personal encounter with Lord Dunsany, and his idyllic youth at 454 Angel Street in Providence.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

If you want to see HPL's reference to his Eben Spencer dream, check out page 16 of The Commonplace Book. It's full of fascinating stuff!

If you want to read the book that inspired HPL's childhood village of "New Anvik", check out Snow-Shoes and Sledges by Kirk Munroe!

DunsanysReviewBryn Mawr IncidentHere is some of the newspaper coverage HPL and his friends must have seen of Lord Dunsany's American lecture tour, including an ad for the Boston appearance that HPL himself attended.

Ad


  • Episode 23
  • Posted March 29, 2020

Pornography!

In which Lovecraft opines to his young friend Frank Belknap Long about the perils of pornography and includes a ribald cautionary poem in an 18th century style to drive the point home. Yes, this episode is safe for work.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

Our thanks to John Locke, author of The Thing's Incredible! for his history of the early years of Weird Tales.

HPL may not have cared for pornography, but Anthony Comstock really hated it....


  • Episode 22
  • Posted March 22, 2020

Anything But The White Ape

In which HPL writes to Edwin Baird, the founding editor at Weird Tales. Lovecraft talks a bit of business before launching into his autobiography. Yes, we have no bananas!

Lovecraft mentions the name of his childhood cat in this letter, and after wrestling with very mixed feelings Andrew chose to bleep it.

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Arkham House for their Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

The White Ape

Baird was not persuaded by HPL's arguments, and his story "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family" did indeed get published in Weird Tales as "The White Ape" in April of 1924, with an illustration by William Heitman.

Make It Sammy

Lovecraft cites a book that changed his life when he was a little boy: "The Story of the Odyssey in the Harper's Half-Hour Series." We've been looking for a copy of this very rare book (HPL may be misremembering the title), published some time in the 1870s, but in the meantime Andrew was reminded of a book that changed his life in a similar way: McCall's Giant Golden Make-It Book. We spent a couple of minutes talking about it and Lovecraft's childhood books, but decided to cut this audio out of the episode. But you can listen to it above!


  • Episode 21
  • Posted March 15, 2020

Melmoth the Wandrei

In which Lovecraft writes to Donald Wandrei, a young correspondent who will go on to be one of the founders of Arkham House, and play a key role in preserving Lovecraft's legacy.

This episode is coming out on the Ides of March, the 83rd anniversary of Lovecraft's death. We want to take a moment to humbly recognize HPL's vast contributions to popular culture and to our lives. Ave et Vale!

Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Our thanks to Hippocampus Press for their Letters to Donald Wandrei and Others.

Learn more about the historical figure HPL hated more than any other: Elagabalus!

There are several versions of Fritz Lang's 1927 classic film Metropolis, but this seems to be the most complete one and features the original score.

Here is a very nice restoration of a film that HPL really enjoyed, The Thief of Bagdad (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks.