The Horror in the Museum and other tales
by H.P. Lovecraft and others
Panther Books, 1975
While sifting through the yellowed and musty trade paperbacks of my local used bookstore my eye caught the name H.P. Lovecraft in bold large yellow lettering. I quickly snatched it up for its price was one dollar. Though its cover was heavily creased and pages aged, I was sure they were filled with mythos goodness or so I thought. I brought it home and as I turned to the table of contents I found only one story was credited to Lovecraft and co-written at that. Needless to say, I was a bit confused. I started reading the first entry, Lovecraft’s Revisions by August Derleth and it quickly became apparent to what I had picked up.
Throughout Lovecraft’s career, he eked out a living not through the stories which we know him for but by revising and correcting other hopeful writers manuscripts. The bulk that work was corrections of grammar, punctuation, syntax and the like. A very few stories that fit his narrow macabre interest he would rework, assist the author or completely rewriting it for the author. The majority of these stories never saw print but some did get published and credited to other authors. The stories within this book are some of those stories in which Lovecraft reworked to be his own but received no authors credit for.
Below I’ve done my best from spoiling any of the juiciest of surprises. If you want to experience them for yourself in their purest form, please skip the following light summaries. Each of these stories can be found in full at the hplovecraft.com.
The Horror in the Museum by Hazel Heald
George Roger owner of Roger’s Museum, a wax museum, displays in a private area separated by a curtain with a sign that reads “Adult only” monstrosities unseen, unthought of, by any sane human. These grotesque works resemble nothing known to man but with Roger’s skill, a former artisan of Madame Tussaud, these alien creatures come to life. Stephen Jones our narrator for this tale, visits the museum and becomes obsessed with George’s creations. Stephen, a nonbeliever to Roger’s claims that these creatures are real, seeks a dialogue with their creator. He is lead to a small office where George tries to convince Stephen of their origin with his tales of the south pacific and presents photographs backing up his claims. Despite the evidence presented Stephen remains skeptical. Stephen continues to frequent the museum to further debate Roger’s claims. Many heated debates take place between the skeptic and showman. In one debate Stephen claims that he is unafraid of Roger’s wax creations. George tests Stephen’s bravery and challenges him to be locked up in the museum overnight, which he accepts. That night Stephen’s bravery and skepticism are put to the test.
The Crawling Chaos by H.P. Lovecraft and Elizabeth Berkeley
The narrator of the story, De Quincey is administered opium by a physician but is given too much of the drug. De Quincey slips into a surreal world which he travels throughout
in this tale. His tale is filled with dreamy imagery and a dark vision for the future.
Four O’Clock by Sonia H. Greene
In the early hours of the morning, our narrator waits for a horror that is set to arrive at four o’clock. As the hands of a clock move closer to its destination our narrator reflects on her fears. She speaks of revenge and a buried body not far away. As four arrives so does the fears she regales.
Winged Death by Hazel Heald
In a hotel room the body of Thomas Slauenwite, M.D. is found dead along with an ink scrawled a message on the ceiling, an unusual dead fly floating in a bottle of ammonia, and the doctor’s journal. The on-scene coroner, Johannes Bogaert, reads the dead man’s journal and discovers that Thomas Slauenwite, M.D. has committed the murder of his colleague Henry Moore, a fellow researcher in Africa. The doctor wrote in his journal of his ingenious and elaborate murder scheme which comes to explain the scene found in the hotel room.
The Loved Dead by C. M. Eddy, Jr.
The story begins with the narrator reflecting on his past transgressions as he hides from the police. Our narrator’s crime is loving those who no longer live, the dead, and in the most intimate way, necrophilia. He recalls how he would find work with morticians and undertakers to be close to the dead until he was found out and forced to go into hiding.
The Ghost-Eater by C. M. Eddy, Jr.
Pressed with a deadline, not of his making, our narrator must travel to a neighboring town most urgently. Unfortunate the next town is through a span of woods that no local will go through at night for fear of a creature that lurks in the woods. It’s too late in the day to make it to the other town without stopping. Waiting until morning would make him late, so our narrator leaves immediately and takes his chances with the woods. As night falls our traveler feeling that he was being stalked by a creature but luckily finds an occupied cabin with a gracious host who feeds him dinner and grants him shelter. The next day when our narrator emerges through the wood a local man is surprised to see him so early in the morning. No one can travel that fast and/or dare stop in the woods at night. In turn, the local surprises our narrator with his tale.
The Diary of Alonzo Typer by William Lumley
Near Attic, NY there once stood a long-abandoned house, now collapsed from neglect. It was once owned by a strange and secretive family who’s rumored to have practiced witchcraft. Alonzo Typer, an adventurer and our narrator of the story, makes a visit to this mansion before it’s collapse and is never heard of again. Almost two decades have passed since Alonzo’s disappearance and his diary is discovered in the possession of a local who claims to have retrieved it from the mansion before the collapse. The rest of the story is told through the Alonzo diary entries as he discovers the past history of the home and its occupants.
The Electric Executioner by Adolphe de Castro
A clerk at a mining company in Mexico abruptly vacates his position forcing our narrator to make haste in replacing them. Our narrator travels by train to get there. At first, the compartment he is riding in is empty as is most of the train. Unseen by our narrator a very large man takes up occupancy in his compartment. The man carries a large valise case with him that holds his untested invention, an electrocution device to supersede the electric chair. Unfortunately for our narrator, he has been chosen by the inventor to be its first test subject. The train ride to Mexico becomes a life and death struggle where the narrator’s wits are the only thing that can save him.
The Mound by Zealia Bishop
On a large mound in the plains near the remote town of Binger, Oklahoma tales of a ghostly apparition attract peoples’ interest. Our narrator of the story, an American-Indian ethnologist, learns of these tales and visits the mound to learn more about the lore behind it. He starts by interviewing the closest local tribe to the mound who is within viewing distance of it by telescope. He learns about the ghostly apparition and of others who have dared go into the forbidden land where the mound lay to dig up its secrets. He is warned not to go for those who did have disappeared within the mound, some never to return or die shortly after reemerging, their minds shatter and speaking in nonsensical fragments. Unperturbed by these stories our narrator ventures to have a look for himself. As he investigates the mound he finds an odd metal cylinder covered with figures and hieroglyphics. Upon opening of the cylinder, he pulls forth a yellowed scroll with green ink written upon it. The writing on the scroll is of a Spanish dialect used at the time of the conquistadors. He returns to the tribe’s village to translates it. When deciphered the scroll contains the written account of a young Spaniard’s travels beneath the mound and the origin of the ghostly apparition.
After reading the stories above I can see Lovecraft’s handwork in them. Though he didn’t get author recognition when they were published, except the one, they are no loss to his legacy. They are not very good and they can be easily skipped. If one really wanted to read any of them I’d recommend, The Horror in the Museum, The Mound, and maybe Winged Death (I liked the elaborate plot for murder). The others I wouldn’t waste my time reading. Even with Lovecraft lending his writing skills these stories, they consistently fall short of being good. So next time you’re out hunting at your local bookstore be careful of what you pick up unless it’s a really good deal like my one dollar find.
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