Bound in flesh, inked in blood and replete with dark imagery, burial rites and demonic incantations. No, its not an emo’s diary it is none other than the mythic grimoire; The Necronomicon. HP Lovecraft wrote extensively of the contents and power of this tome. Many of his stories are centred around the misuse of it and the bottomless wrath of its contained Gods. But are they just stories designed to tingle the spine and titillate the mind or something far more sinister?
HP Lovecraft – The Early Years
It can be a little hard to tell fact from fiction as HP Lovecraft’s works are so rich in imagery and its own self-referential history. So lets start at the beginning … Howard Philips Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island on August 20th 1890. He was the only child of Sarah Susan Philips Lovecraft and Winfield Scott Lovecraft, two fairly well-to-do New England types. He had a regular enough childhood until the age of three when his father suffered a psychotic break. He was confined to the psychiatric institution of Butler Hospital where he died a scant five years later. Rumour has it that Winfield had syphilis but neither his wife nor HP had symptoms. However it is important to note that Winfield was a travelling jewellery salesman and may have provided many a lonely housewife with a pearl necklace or two. So, there may be some truth to it.
His father’s mental break would definitely have had a drastic impact on the young HP especially if he was subjected to his father’s mad ramblings both in and out of the institution. Following his father’s committal, HP and his mother moved in with his two aunts and grandfather who was called Whipple. Fuckin’ Whipple. A grown man. Anyway, HP was somewhat of a child prodigy and had the ability to recite poetry at three and write poems at six … and be in bed by eight. Naw, you know what I mean.
His Grandfather, Whipple (Christ!) also recanted original tales of terror to the impressionable lad. All the pieces are coming together nicely for a horror writer. All that was needed now was some alone time to hone his skills. Luckily HP suffered with numerous illnesses as a child, including sleep paralysis and parasomnia; he believed he was assaulted by “night gaunts”; a race of creatures he wrote about in several stories. (Probably just Whipple after a tipple on top of the cripple … licking a nipple.)
Lovecraft’s First Love
Whipple’s death in 1904 threw the family’s finances into disarray and they found themselves out on their ear. HP suffered a nervous breakdown four years later. All this time he had been reading and writing and in 1916 his first story was published, the Alchemist. Three years later his mother was committed to the same hospital as his father and died after two years from complications during surgery. Just a few days after her death HP met and fell for ageing spinster Sonia Greene. They were married three years later. The relationship wasn’t great but he was getting three squares a day and getting his rocks off at night so whatta ya gonna do?
What has all this got to do with the veracity of The Necronomicon you are probably wondering? I’m getting there. A picture has been painted of a sickly person plagued by night terrors, surrounded by madness and death; a voracious reader of all things macabre from Poe to Dunsany; an intelligent and creative soul who chose the written word as his tool to carve fantasy from reality.
The First Mention
The first mention of the Necronomicon is in the 1924 story, The Hound. Purportedly written by the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, the Necronomicon, or Al Azif as it is also known is a guidebook of the nether realms; different dark dimensions where dwell the unimaginable creatures and monster gods, “The Old Ones”. These demonic lords are hell bent on mankind’s subjugation. Gods such as Cthulu, Yogsothoth and Shub Niggurath are all biding their time in the city of R’Lyeh.
It’s lore and canon have been added to over the years by various writers. It’s characters have been borrowed for novels, TV and movies which lends the Necronomicon a legitimacy through it’s ubiquity. Lovecraft’s contemporaries such as August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith carried the torch for HP after his death in 1937 and cited him and his characters as inspiration.
Despite Lovecraft himself readily admitting that he made it all up people still believe it all to be true. Whether they are delusional or serious fans is up for debate. But Lovecraft’s admission of pure fiction seemed to have been forgotten over time and in the sixties and seventies the Necronomicon was ripe for a revival.
Mysticism was the order of the day in the sixties and seventies. LSD, marijuana, prog rock and the accompanying awakening of consciousness had hippies and squares alike staring into the void of self. Some played with Ouija boards, others flirted with Satanism but almost all had some knowledge of the Necronomicon; which by now was an ancient tome, being some forty years old. Its true origins lost to time made the Necronomicon seem real and only those with a library card could dispel the myth but they were never invited to parties. With no Google around, rumour and hearsay held sway. The people wanted to believe and the myth of ‘the Book Of The Dead’ was only too happy to oblige. Several pranksters drew up fake library catalogue entries for it. Even the Vatican was rumoured to have a copy.
The Simon Necronomicon
This all lent credence to the myth and in 1973 an actual edition of the Necronomicon was cobbled together and published by Owlsick press. This was followed by the supposed ‘real’ Necronomicon known popularly as The Simon Necronomicon; so-called as it was written under the pseudonym ‘Simon’. Simon is allededly Peter Levenda but you didn’t hear that here.
So a book which started out as a fictional plot device is now an actual book which is used by Goths and devil worshippers alike for whatever ends they need of a Friday night. Fiction has become fact. The Simon Necronomicon has been found in the possession of murderers such as Glenn Mason and Rod Ferrell. The Necronomicon is now associated with Satanism and not with HP Lovecraft. It has become its own entity. It is a Tulpa-Tome. It has been lifted from the page and made real by the actions of misguided hippies looking to impress young co-eds in the seventies. It’s tangible form has been imbued with power by the people who commit murders ostensibly in its service. Whether fact or fiction; one thing is certain, The Necronomicon has been gifted power through its use and misuse.
Is this just happenstance or was it all part of HP Lovecraft’s grand plan to share his demons with the world and in so doing expunge them from his own soul so that he may rest easy? Did he in fact pull these stories from the air or were Whipple’s bed time stories true tales of a forgotten time? Is the Necronomicon an Akashic text; a history stored on the ethereal plane and accessible by those in the know? The rational mind says no … the Necronomicon is pure fiction … but so is the bible and people kill for that book too.