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It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that the three greatest American horror writers are all New Englanders: Nathaniel Hawthorne, H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. Having not examined the matter too closely though, it is likely, at least in part, a function of the Puritan understanding of sin/evil, of the fact that it is one of the few places here where homes have been around long enough to decline into decrepitude and of the way nature was allowed to return to something like a primeval looking status around old homes and settlements.

I'm not a particular fan of Lovecraft but do recognize the odd influence his fever-dream stories have had on popular culture. This one even introduces the town of Arkham, later the home of the asylum in The Batman comics. But John Hagedorn recently read "Picture" on his 1001 Classic Short Stories & Tales and I really enjoyed--if didn't agree with--the way Lovecraft used the New England setting to fuel his tale:
[T]he true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England; for there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness, and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous.

Most horrible of all sights are the little unpainted wooden houses remote from travelled ways, usually squatted upon some damp, grassy slope or leaning against some gigantic outcropping of rock. Two hundred years and more they have leaned or squatted there, while the vines have crawled and the trees have swelled and spread. They are almost hidden now in lawless luxuriances of green and guardian shrouds of shadow; but the small-paned windows still stare shockingly, as if blinking through a lethal stupor which wards off madness by dulling the memory of unutterable things.

In such houses have dwelt generations of strange people, whose like the world has never seen. Seized with a gloomy and fanatical belief which exiled them from their kind, their ancestors sought the wilderness for freedom. There the scions of a conquering race indeed flourished free from the restrictions of their fellows, but cowered in an appalling slavery to the dismal phantasms of their own minds. Divorced from the enlightenment of civilisation, the strength of these Puritans turned into singular channels; and in their isolation, morbid self-repression, and struggle for life with relentless Nature, there came to them dark furtive traits from the prehistoric depths of their cold Northern heritage. By necessity practical and by philosophy stern, these folk were not beautiful in their sins. Erring as all mortals must, they were forced by their rigid code to seek concealment above all else; so that they came to use less and less taste in what they concealed. Only the silent, sleepy, staring houses in the backwoods can tell all that has lain hidden since the early days; and they are not communicative, being loath to shake off the drowsiness which helps them forget. Sometimes one feels that it would be merciful to tear down these houses, for they must often dream.
I was reminded of an adventure the Grandmother Judd took us on when we were little kids to find a reclusive relative--a cousin maybe? We were in Southern New Hampshire, in the vicinity of her Grandmother's old farm--a farm that a rejected suitor burned when the widow rejected him. She pulled up to a ramshackle house and started banging on the porch shouting, "Dustin, yoo-hoo, Dustin!" We cowered in the car, half expecting this hermit to come raging out with a scythe. Of course, contra the horror masters, he turned out to just be a harmless lonely old man.

Suffice it to say, in Lovecraft's hands, not even the house itself is harmless.


Grade: (B)


See also:

Howard Lovecraft (3 books reviewed)
Howard Lovecraft Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: H. P. Lovecraft
    -The H. P. Lovecraft Archive
    -BLOG: Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein
    -ESSAY: Bridges Across the Void in H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythos (Nathaniel Birzer, November 17, 2023, Online Library of Liberty)
-ESSAY: “A dismal throng of vague spectres”: Reading Knowledge and Identity in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” Through Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” (Janice Lynne Deitner Articles, Issue 13 2024, Irish Journal of American Studies)
    -ESSAY: Terrifying vistas of reality: H P Lovecraft, the master of cosmic horror stories, was a philosopher who believed in the total insignificance of humanity (Sam Howard, 3/28/24, Aeon)
    -ESSAY: H. P. Lovecraft, Prophet Of AGI: We've entered the age of the three-letter agency -- AGI, ASI, NHI -- and Lovecraft saw it coming. (JON STOKES, APR 12, 2023, Return)
    -ESSAY: The Tricky Terrors of H.P. Lovecraft: A little racist, sometimes a bit dull, but undeniably influential and wholly original. (BILL RYAN, OCTOBER 13, 2022, The Bulwark)
    -ESSAY: H.P. Lovecraft's Afterlife: He was an atheist and a nihilist, and he's more influential than ever. (JOHN J. MILLER, March 15, 2005, National Review)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ETEXT: The Picture in the House (H. P. Lovecraft)
    -AUDIO BOOK: The Picture in the House (John Hagedorn, 1001 Classic Short Stories & Tales)
    -AUDIO BOOK: "The Picture in the House" by H. P. Lovecraft (A HorrorBabble Production)
    -AUDIO BOOK: The Picture in the House (HPPodcraft Reading)
    -VIDEO: The Picture in the House [H.P. LOVECRAFT ANIMATED FILM] (Dogman Narratives)
    -VIDEO: The Picture in the House: (Official Selection of the 2009 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival) (Day 304 Productions)
    -VIDEO GAME: The Picture in The House - Full Game Walkthrough (Horror H.P Lovecraft) (Ultimate Gamerz)
    -THE LOVECRAFT REREAD: Horror in Your Own Back Yard: “The Picture in the House” (Ruthanna Emrys and Anne M. Pillsworth, May 12, 2015, Tor)
    -ESSAY: Relatione del Reame di Congo (1591) by Filippo Pigafetta (greyirish, November 18, 2020, Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein)
    VIDEO ARCHIVES: lovecraft+picture+in+the+house (You Tube)