I spent part of last week in New England, with Donovan K. Loucks, keeper of the H. P. Lovecraft Website, and his lovely wife Pam. I arrived on Tuesday, driving up to Providence after work and ending up quite exhausted.
I wasn’t too exhausted, however, to head into Cambridge to visit the Harvard University Archives, trying to obtain some background that might be useful for future projects dealing with the Widener Library. My carefully-copied archive number turned out to be illusory, but the staff were very helpful in figuring out what documents might be most relevant for my search – although they’d have to be called the next day. That was fine with me, and I filled out the rest of the afternoon visiting the Boston Public Library to consult old directories to fill out my knowledge of the place in the Twenties. After that, I returned to Providence to attend Donovan’s birthday party for H. P. Lovecraft, complete with a one-man retelling of “The Call of Cthulhu” by dramatist David Neilsen and Donovan’s own walking-while-sitting tour through Lovecraft’s Providence. Also, there was cake.
The next day, I was back at the Archives, which I finished rather early. Having learned the previous day of the outrageous parking rates in Cambridge, I realized it was in my best interest to hang out some more, visiting various bookstores and the Peabody Museum. On my way out of town, I stopped out of curiosity at the Seven Stars bookstore, only to find perhaps the best store for books on the Western mystery traditions in this country. I walked out with a few items to fill out my collection, including Kenneth Grant’s Outside the Circles of Time, which will give readers some idea of the place’s comprehensiveness. I then returned to Providence, and my memory fails me as to what occurred that night.
Friday, we all headed out for the North Shore, in order to investigate the places that might have inspired Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” We headed north and then worked our way south, beginning with a lengthy stopover in Newburyport, and then heading south through Ipswich, Rowley, Essex, Rockport, and Gloucester, with a lengthy detour at the latter to visit the rock formation, Mother Ann, which served as the inspiration for “The Strange High House in the Mist,” despite the lack of mist and the fact that it was neither high nor house-bearing:
We made our way back, stopping in Manchester for groceries and a bookstore, and in Salem for Italian food and a nighttime ramble through the Charter Street Burial Ground and past the house that inspired “The Unnameable.”
Saturday, we had had enough of jetting about, so we played games for most of the day. We couldn’t sort out A Study in Emerald in time, but we did play Elder Signs and quite a bit of Rock Band. That evening, we headed downtown to visit the Providence Public Library’s Lovecraft Readathon, after which we headed over for Indian food at Waterfire, which was spectacular as always.
After that, we came back to receive a crushing defeat in the game Witch of Salem, in which you must fight back the forces of darkness while assisting Bob, the Witch of Salem. The game is much like Arkham Horror in that you’re trying to close gates, save that you are unable to communicate to the other players whether a gate exists at a location. I speculated that the Witch of Salem was a drama queen who enforced our silence to enhance his own self-importance.
The next day, we played some Rock Band and I drove home. It’s always great to see the Louckses, and this trip raised my number of “stories inspired by sites in Providence” by two, so it was all for the best.