“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 Electric Executioner”

The Lovecraft series continues with another primary revision.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Electric Executioner”, Adolphe de Castro [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1929.hm

Like Castro’s “The Last Test”, this story was based on a story published earlier and entirely by Castro.

To Castro’s plot, Lovecraft added some more mentions of Cthulhu deities, Mexican mythology a la his early “The Transition of Juan Romero” and a maniacal scientist rather like Herbert West.

This story is mostly an example of humoring the mad man. It does have a curious continuity error in that the mad scientist takes the narrator’s gun, but, later, the narrator mentions he is in possession of his revolver.

 

 

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“The Last Test”

The Lovecraft series with another one of his heavy, i.e. “primary” revisions.

This one has a tie to another frequent subject of this blog: Ambrose Bierce.  De Castro and Bierce collaborated on one work (which I have not read): “The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter”.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Last Test”, Adolphe de Castro [and H. P. Lovecraft], 1928.hm

This story has a curious pedigree.

It originally showed up in an 1893 collection of Castro, and then, says S. T. Joshi, Lovecraft rewrote it completely.

The original plot skeleton explains the presence of a woman character and a frustrated romance between the Governor of California and the sister of a mad scientist — both elements very untypical of Lovecraft.

But some of the Cthulhu gods are mentioned, and I suspect the presence of Surama and the Thibetans is a Lovecraft addition.

I liked the idea that the black fever may have extraterresterial orgins.  The vernacular and language of the tale is more mainstream than a lot of Lovecraft.

I’m curious if Lovecraft did his revisions quicker and with less care than stuff appearing under his own name or if he tried to match the style of his client.

 

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The Man Who Called Himself Poe

Another Poe related retro review, this time from April 13, 2009.

Review: The Man Who Called Himself Poe, ed. Sam Moskowitz, 1969.Man Who Called Himself Poe

This is a theme anthology that doesn’t even stick to its stated theme: stories and poems that feature Edgar Poe.

Moskowitz’s introduction contrasts Poe with Sherlock Holmes. The latter, as a fictional character, has an immense accretion of fictional biography about him. His fans want to bring him into the real world and settings never imagined by Arthur Conan Doyle. Poe, a real man with a real, fairly well-documented past, has a legion of fans who want to make him a character, introduce him to realms never seen in his life.

A reprinted 1962 from Poe scholar Thomas Ollive Mabbott concisely sums up Poe’s life, his influence, and scholarly work on him.

The book then starts into presenting various fictional Poes, each usefully introduced by Moskowitz. Continue reading