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Lovecraftian Horrors 

31 Days of Halloween: On Atlas Obscura this month, every day is Halloween. Stop by the blog every day this month for true tales of the unquiet dead. Come for the severed heads, stay for the book bound in human skin. Every story is true, and each one is a real place you can visit. We dare you. 

Today: We turn to the master of madness, the impresario of eerie, the creator of Cthulhu himself: Howard. Phillips. Lovecraft. Here a five places that display the distinct geometry of evil that occurs when Lovecraft and the Atlas Obscura meet. (Roll for sanity)


1. THE WITCH HOUSE, Salem, Massachusetts

The Witch House is the original home of Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges involved in the Salem Witch Trials. During the trials 19 people were convicted and hanged, and one man was crushed to death while being tortured. It is the only structure left with direct ties to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692 and is referenced in Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House” saying, ”the influence of the old house was unwholesome, he could not deny.” Today the house is museum focusing on 17th-century living, but Lovecraft knew the truth. (Photo Source)

2. DANVER STATE HOSPITAL FOR THE CRIMINALLY INSANE, Danvers, Massachusetts

Opened in 1878 to serve the “criminally insane,” the building, with its dark reputation, gothic style, and series of underground tunnels, inspired H. P. Lovecraft’s Arkham Sanitarium, in turn inspiring Batman’s Arkham Asylum. Sadly the building has since been redone as a condo and lost much of its charm and history. However a the hospitals nearby cemetery, referred to be one visitor as a “cemetery for the dead insane,” went unmolested by the condo developers and is worth a visit. The hospital is referenced in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and “Pickman’s Model.”

3. ATLANTIC AVENUE TUNNEL, Brooklyn, New York

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was built in 1844, and is possibly the worlds oldest subway tunnel. The tunnel lay sealed and hidden under the busy Brooklyn street for almost 140 years until it was rediscovered by a twenty year old in 1980. Long the stuff of poor remembered myth, it was once said to be the home of “Persian Vampires” and was referenced - not by name, but Lovecraft was likely referring to it -  as the location of  devil worshipers in “The Horror at Redhook.”

4. NAN MADOL RUINS, Micronesia

According to local legend, the stones used in the construction of Nan Madol have been flown to the location by means of black magic. In “Call of Cthulhu”, Lovecraft was inspired by these mysterious ruins to write “The nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh … was built in measureless eons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults … until the end.” Enjoy your Micronesian vacation suckers! (Photo Source.)

5. JOHN HAY LIBRARY Providence, Rhode Island

In the Special Collections at the John Hay library you’ll find the largest collection of personal letters and manuscripts of H.P. Lovecraft in the world. Outside you will find a small plaque to Lovecraft that quotes him. “Streets with carved doorways where the sunset beams. Flooded old fanlights and small window-panes. And Georgian steeples topped with gilded vanes - These were the sights that shaped my childhood dreams.” Fittingly the works and letters of Lovecraft are kept in a library with another specialty: books bound in human skin. Lovecraft would have been proud. (Photo Source)