Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lovecraftian Mind Tricks

5 Phoebus - 86 p.s.U.

This is a funny thing that happened a couple of weeks ago. I was going to post it at "Blog Is Not A Four-Letter Word", but then I thought it might be more appropos here at "Only Maybe".

I'm reading a collection of H.P. Lovecraft's stories, entitled "Dagon And Other Macabre Tales", at the moment--along with several other books (including Robert Greenfield's Timothy Leary bio, Antero Alli's Angel Tech and other brain-food goodies). I was turned on to ol' H.P. through my younger (and in a lot of ways, hipper) brother and of course, Robert Anton Wilson. Though my bro sang Lovecraft's praises for quite some time--I never got the urge to actually read anything by the man until I spotted "The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward" in R.A.W.'s on-line library a couple of years ago. The page is here (but the links at the page seem to be broken now..D'oh). I read through it and was enthralled and terrified...siriusly, I was looking over my shoulder and more than a bit creeped out in the dark for a couple of days afterward. I went out and bought the Lovecraft "Ominbus 1" and tore through it. I meant to buy the other two books in the series--but then I was side-tracked by other books for awhile.

I recently bought "Omnibus 2" (along with Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, Terry Pratchett's The Colour Of Magic and Yukio Mishama's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea) and have been rocketing through it. There's a story in "Omnibus 2" called The Hound, which concerns the un-named narrator and his companion, intriguingly called St. John (you're never told if it's a nick-name, surname or anything). They seem to be a pair of fin-de-siecle doom-mongers--proto-goths, if you will--but, since they've got no Cure records or hair-spray, they take to grave-robbing and other nefarious deeds. They mostly just lounge around in their self-fashioned 'museum of demise debauchery' in the basement of their ancient house in Merrie Englande. It's got drab paintings, niches in the walls with skulls and even heads (in "various states of dissolution"--if you can grok that to it's fullest), statues of "winged daemons carven of basalt and oynx" and pipes that put forth various necrotic scents--it's the ultimate bad-trip crash pad. They've even got some "nauseous" musical instruments, on which they play "dissonaces of exquisite morbidity" and "cacodaemonical ghastliness"--and dig, this was waaaay before Electric Funeral by Black Sabbath or Bela Lugosi's Dead by Bauhaus.

All play and no work make our boys dull, however, so soon they're off to Holland for their greatest grave-robbing yet...the tomb of some geezer who lived 500 years before. They succeed in digging up the coffin, open it and find a "surprisingly firm" skeleton and a jade amulet that resembles a winged dog/sphinx/demon. They're intrepid and recognise some of the lettering on the amulet and realise that it has something to do with the Necromicon. Of course, they steal it, though our narrator thinks he hears some awful baying, like from a gigantic hound. Heading back to England, they're whooping it up at the Casbah Of Corpses--but then, the really weird stuff starts...

They start hearing fumblings at the upper and lower windows as well as shadows that obscure the windows, whirring and flapping noises and that far-off baying. The narrator gets a knock at his bedroom door, bids the person to enter and receives shrill laughter as a reply. The two are in their museum and they hear a scratching sound, as if someone is trying to enter--they throw open the door, get a blast of icy air and hear dismbodied chatter in Dutch--but no-one at the door. Creeeeeeepy. Finally, St. John is killed by some thing--and the narrator flees to London, after destroying the 'museum'--of course, he still has the amulet. He soon finds that whatever was stalking them at the manor house has followed him to London. He resolves to return the amulet to that grave in Holland and does so, only to find the "skeleton" in a state of reverse decomposition. He throws the amulet in the coffin and high-tails it out of there--only to find that the baying hasn't stopped, nor the flapping or whirring. The last few sentences find the narrator, revolver in hand, ready to free himself from "the hound".

Now, I had read that short story and enjoyed it--but I will admit to being creeped out by it, in the way I imagine a really well-written horror story will do. I don't read a lot of the genre--but Lovecraft's stuff seems to be a cut above a lot of it, the way Raymond Chandler's detective stories raised the bar for the murder mystery. A few days later, we had a power cut about nine o'clock in the evening. Even the streetlights had gone out. I fumbled around for a candle and we sat in the near pitch-darkness, looking out of the windows at the benighted neighborhood. All of a sudden, there's a knock at the door--which seems really strange, 'cos nobody comes around at that time of night. We both look at each other and then slowly make our way downstairs to answer the door. My wife opens the door and there's nobody there! I swear I almost expected to hear Dutch whispering...Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Turns out it was our neighbour, checking to see if we knew anything about the power cut--she confessed to the "haunting" the next day. Ya had me for a second there, Lovecraft!

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