H. P. Lovecraft
Orson Welles was not the only associate of Houdini to observe faint ruffles in reality’s veil. Unlike the mighty director, however, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was not an aspiring magician nor did he seek out the paranormal. Rather, Lovecraft shared Houdini’s scorn for the unscrupulous spiritual mediums that were fashionable at the time, and sought to eradicate their predatory deceptions. Indeed, he went as far as coauthoring – with Houdini & another man (Eddy) – a book with which the trio intended to “slay the dragon of occult” once and for all. Houdini died on Halloween, 1926, taking with him any hope of publication for The Cancer of Superstition, but that noble manuscript was not the only portion of the Lovecraft cannon denied to contemporary readership. In fact, there were three other substantial works from the horror-master known to be missing. One, a 15,000 word treatment on Roman architecture was misplaced by a would-be collaborator; another, fictional manuscript was lost en route back to Lovecraft after a rejection by the Weird Tales pulp. These works, while interesting, have analogues in the extent body of Lovecraftian literature. The final work in question does not. It was a non-fiction account of a true haunting, and its absence is exceedingly conspicuous.
The incident described by the lost manuscript involved a humble maid at a Benefit Street hotel in Lovecraft’s beloved Providence. Apparently the young women married a wealthy man; leaving her life of toil behind. Unfortunately, by spite or accident, the once-lowly maid was slighted upon returning to her place of prior employment as a guest. The nature of the long-forgotten snubbing was undoubtedly profound because the former maid cursed the hotel along with its inhabitants; inhabitants who went on to suffer unbearable nightmares which were reportedly accompanied by a stench of sulfur so overpowering it that could be perceived by loved ones who happened to be sharing the dreamers bedchambers. Coincidently (?), the building itself burned down shortly thereafter, and the vacant lot upon which it once sat was observed often by Lovecraft during his trademark nocturnal ambulations. It seems that after a series of failures it was deemed impossible for anyone to rebuild upon the site.
Benefit Street, Providence RI
Despite his inspiring knack for conjuring hauntingly vast, cyclopean cityscapes and fantastically twisted creatures from unseen dimensions, Lovecraft was skeptical of unexplained phenomena. Yet something about this particular story was enticing enough so as to warrant temporary suspension of disbelief. Lovecraft ultimately composed a draft of the incident as it was related to him. That sole description of the events surrounding the accursed Rhode Island hotel then vanished on its way to the publisher – ostensibly lost in the mail. It seems Lovecraft had neglected to create his usual carbon copy. I recommend looking for it on the shelf marked “sleepers”, between Spaulding’s Manuscript Found and the Meyer diary.