A Walk on the Weird Side: Lovecraft is long gone, but echoes of his footsteps remain

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A few years back I saw an advertisement on Craigslist that offered up an apartment in PVD that claimed to be where H.P. Lovecraft lived and worked. Fascinated, but too poor to move, I did the next best thing and became addicted to finding out where PVD’s own master of horror spent his time, and what inspired his tales of terror. With NecronomiCon fast approaching, let’s take a stroll through what would have been Lovecraft’s PVD. 

The Shunned House, 135 Benefit Street 

Taken from the Lovecraft story of the same name, The Shunned House sits on a little hill, bright yellow and full of tragedy. The lot was rumored to have a family cemetery plot in the backyard that was supposedly moved, but a few of the bodies were, well, forgotten about. Oops. Then Stephen Harris built the house and bad luck seemed to plague his family. His merchant’s vessels were lost at sea and several of their children died, including multiple stillborn births. It’s rumored that Mrs. Harris went mad and was confined to a room in the top of the house — all of which makes the perfect setting for a horror story.

One of Lovecraft’s letters (he wrote upward of 80,000 in his lifetime) says that he was in New Jersey when he saw a house that reminded him of the one on Benefit Street. Missing Providence, he decided to write The Shunned House based on the yellow house that belonged to the Harris family. (It should be noted that there is evidence to suggest that Lovecraft’s aunt lived there as a companion to another resident, Mrs. Babbit, from 1919-20.) 

The Ladd Observatory 

When he was younger, Lovecraft became obsessed with astronomy. He was a regular at Brown University’s Ladd Observatory, which was built in 1891 (and it still open). He wrote in a letter dated 1934 that he found himself lucky because a friend of the family was the director of the observatory, meaning he got to visit it for free. He also claimed in the letter that from 1906 to 1918 he wrote monthly articles on “astrological phenomena” to a Providence daily newspaper. 

The Fleur-de-Lys Studio

You’ve likely seen, if not been to, the Fleur-de-Lys Studio. It’s the building with, you guessed, it the fleur-de-lys on the outside, as well as multiple images painted onto its facade. Lovecraft hated it. He hated it so much that he made it the setting for his story “The Call of Cthulhu.” 

The Providence Athenaeum 

At the Providence Athenaeum, Lovecraft spent hours skulking between the shelves hoping one of his greatest inspirations, Edgar Allan Poe, would visit and write. In a letter to James F. Morton, Lovecraft mentioned: “…our old Athenaeum, where Poe spent many an hour, and wrote his name at the bottom of one of his unsigned poems in a magazine.” The letter was dated May 1923. The museum received a bronze bust of Lovecraft in August 2013. 

10 Barnes Street

This is where Lovecraft was most prolific and wrote most of his stories. He lived there from 1926 until 1933, and gave birth to “The Call of Cthulhu.” It is also the house that he returned to after a brief time away from Providence when he lived in New York after he married Sonia Greene in 1924. 

65 Prospect Street

This property was Lovecraft’s last home, where he wrote his final  story, “The Haunter of the Dark.” The house is no longer where it originally sat when Lovecraft lived in it, having been moved a few blocks away from its original location on College Street. Lovecraft lived on the upper floor of the house. 

John Hay Library 

Even though Lovecraft is gone, his manuscripts are not. The John Hay Library features the largest collection of Lovecraft materials in the world. These include original manuscripts, books, letters and items from his personal collection. Many of the items were given to the library a few months after Lovecraft’s death in 1937.

Swan Point Cemetary 

Lovecraft was buried in Swan Point Cemetary under a family plot, completely unmarked. His grave remained unmarked until admirers of his work paid for a stone to mark where he was laid to rest. His epitaph, which was stolen from one of his letters, reads, “I am Providence.” And honestly, you’ve got to believe him about that.

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