Horrror fans to mark ‘Lovecraft Rising’

Literary life
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  March 26, 2008
H.P. Lovecraft
The man famously wrote, “I am Providence,” so it just wouldn’t be right for folks in this town to say, “H.P. who?”
To work toward that rarely happening, the annual H. P. Lovecraft Tribute Service is being held for the 10th consecutive year, on Sunday, March 30 at 3 pm, on the front grounds of the Ladd Observatory, 210 Doyle Avenue, Providence Afterward, the group will reconvene to pay respects at the author’s Swan Point Cemetery grave. As a boy, Lovecraft enjoyed gazing up at the stars through the Ladd telescope, and his ghost has reportedly been sighted there.
Born in 1890 in the house now at 454 Angell Street, Lovecraft died in Providence 46 years later, eventually admired as the pioneering writer of the fantasy-horror genre.
If some of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, who died four decades before Lovecraft’s birth, were dark and macabre, most of Lovecraft’s were pitch-black and filled with what he called “cosmic horror.” His characters typically ended up facing not only unearthly frights, from such things as evil, ancient creatures among us, but they also feared a nihilistic universe of ultimate despair.
Like a couple clinging to each other during a slasher film, shrieking in guilty relief because their troubles are nothing compared to those depicted on-screen, modern-day escapist readers of Lovecraft can smile as their ordinary travails are put in perspective.
The tribute will include dramatic readings from the writer’s prose and poetry. The master of ceremonies will be Christian Henry Tobler, author of books on medieval swordsmanship and the German longsword.
Organizing the tribute is Carl L. Johnson, a regular on the Sci-Fi Channel series Ghost Hunters. (His identical twin, Keith E. Johnson, and Keith’s wife, Sandra, have made appearances on A&E’s Paranormal State. Like Carl, they are paranormal investigators and lecturers.)
Having developed a fascination with Lovecraft’s work and life, Johnson held the first tribute service at Swan Point Cemetery on March 15, 1987, the 50th anniversary of the writer’s death. The tribute became annual for a while; then, after Johnson took a few years off, it resumed in 1998.
“I assumed that maybe a dozen horror fiction fans would be there — it was supposed to be just a humble little tribute,” Johnson says of the first ceremony. “To my surprise, about 100 people showed up.”
“He did really come into his own, a very popular writer compared to Edgar Allan Poe,” the organizer says. (Poe also had a Providence connection, having unsuccessfully courted Sarah Helen Whitman in the stacks of the Providence Athenaeum.) Poe, however, has gotten into the junior high school English literary canon, because while “The Tell-Tale Heart” might be scary, Lovecraft’s stories are positively horrifying, with themes such as otherworldly influences on human existence and civilization threatened with extermination.
Sound familiar, filmgoers?
“I’m noticing younger people are reading H.P. Lovecraft stories,” Johnson says. “He seems to be re-emerging 71 years after his death, more popular than ever because more movies are being made with his themes.”
With that in mind, the title of this year’s celebration is “Lovecraft Rising.”
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