- Episode 68
- Posted January 2, 2022
Witch-Haunted Salem and Other Ghastliness
In this letter from April 29, 1923, HPL tells his friend Samuel Loveman about his crush of work as President of the National Amateur Press Association and describes an exhausting trip to Danvers and Newburyport, Massachusetts. Wishing you and yours a very happy new year!
Music by Troy Sterling Nies. Thanks to S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz for their Letters to Maurice W. Moe and Others, published by Hippocampus Press.
In Danvers, HPL jumped off the streetcar in order to explore the mansion of Samuel Fowler, built in 1809. Although he loved the house, he lamented the "hideous" descendants of Captain Fowler who were the caretakers of the site. Later he visited the house of Col. Jeremiah Page and his family, which was at the time of HPL's visit the headquarters of the Danvers Historical Society. It features one of HPL's beloved gambrel roofs.
Then he went to visit the old homestead of Rebecca Nurse, hanged for witchcraft in 1692. Of course there's no telling what it looked like back then, but in Lovecraft's imagination it certainly seemed far more sinister than these pictures suggest. In 1706, just 14 years after Nurse's execution, the girl who accused her of witchcraft completely recanted, and Nurse was exonerated in 1712. 2021 was the 400th anniversary of her birth.
In Newburyport, HPL visited the home of noted eccentric Timothy Dexter. Lovecraft was also dazzled with Newburyport's plethora of chimney pots. It all reminded Andrew of Youngwood Court, an eccentric house that used to be in Los Angeles with a driveway full of copies of Michelangelo's David.
This photo of Samuel Loveman was taken in 1922, not long before this letter was written. It's amazing how much he looks like Lovecraft himself in this picture. His bitter essay about HPL, "Of Gold and Sawdust", is available in the Brown Digital Repository. Fair warning: if you are a Lovecraft fan you might find it upsetting.
HPL makes a mention that Clark Ashton Smith's illustrations in "H.B." did not follow the text. That's a reference to his illustrations for "The Lurking Fear" in George Julian Houtain's magazine Home Brew, which we talked about in Episode 52.