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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Houdini, Lovecraft, and The Cancer of Superstition


Houdini collector extraordinaire, Arthur Moses, alerts us to a proposed collaboration between Houdini and horror master H.P. Lovecraft that has only recently come to light. In the book The 13 Gates of the Necronomican: A Workbook of Magic author Donald Tyson revealed the existence and curious fate this Houdini-Lovecraft project:

At the time of his death, Houdini had been corresponding with Lovecraft regarding a book on which they intended to collaborate, along with writer C.M. Eddy Jr., which was to be entitled 'The Cancer of Superstition.' Lovecraft prepared a detailed outline of the work, which is extant, and Barlow actually began the writing and completed three chapters, but Houdini's widow cancelled the project - perhaps because she was herself more inclined to believe in the reality of spiritualists phenomena than her skeptical late husband.

It's odd why Bess would cancel this project, especially as it would have presumably brought her money at a time when she most needed it. I don't buy Tyson's explanation that she was "more inclined to believe in the reality" of spiritualism. We know that isn't true. But is it possible she did this while under the spell of Arthur Ford?

Houdini and Lovecraft collaborated on several projects during his lifetime, including the well regarded short story, Imprisoned With The Pharaohs. Lovecraft has also starred alongside Houdini in several fictional adventures, including Necronauts and the recent Edge of the Unknown.

By the way, Arthur has also sent over some amazing unpublished images from his formidable collection that I will share this week.

7 comments:

  1. I'd agree with you - or maybe she just cancelled it because it was one more thing to deal with and she really had too much to think about at that time.

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  2. Perhaps she just didn't know what to make of Lovecraft, with all his Cthulhu's and Shub-Niggurath's and whatnot.

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  3. I'm getting a rush of traffic on this story today. Can anyone tell me what's up? Is there a featured link somewhere?

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  4. You're on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1myh5x/til_harry_houdini_commissioned_several_books/

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    1. Ah ha! That explains it. Thank you, Christopher.

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    2. C. M. Eddy, Jr. wrote the beginnings and more of 'The Cancer of Superstition' which Eddy's grandson has rediscovered in papers of his grandfather along with the outline and a note from Bess regarding the completion of the work. Eddy's grandson has lectured on the subject. Some of Eddy's works can be found here:
      http://www.fenhampublishing.com

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  5. I found it whilst researching a stage magician character for call of Chthulhu game tonight.

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