Howard Phillips "H.P." Lovecraft is known as the father of cosmic horror, yet it wasn't until years after he perished in 1937 at the age of 46 in Providence, Rhode Island, that his work gained critical acclaim. A man of prejudicial convictions and the subject of many rumors, Lovecraft's work holds up in part for how shockingly horrifying it was to early 20th-century readers.
Lovecraft's work continues to influence the philosophical and psychological tones of celebrated projects like the Duffer Brother's Stranger Things, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, and the 1960s rock band H.P. Lovecraft.
Many of Lovecraft's stories are daringly vague, allowing room for artists to interpret his work in increasingly unique adaptations to this day. Lovecraft's genuine distaste for mankind and problematic beliefs, however, left him with a fractured legacy.
From an early age, Lovecraft was terrorized by what he called "night-gaunts," which caused him anxiety and restless sleep. Later in life, Lovecraft fictionalized these night-gaunts as long, dark, and faceless monsters who would tickle their prey into capitulation.
In 1918, Lovecraft wrote a letter regarding his response to the terrible apparitions:
Do you realize that to many men it makes a vast and profound difference whether or not the things about them are as they appear?
...If TRUTH amounts to nothing, then we must regard the phantasma of our slumbers just as seriously as the events of our daily lives.
After his father perished from syphilis when Lovecraft was only 8 years old and quite sickly, his mother pulled him from formal education. The boy was a voracious reader, especially when it came to astronomy and chemistry. By 9 years old, he was writing his own commentary on scientific topics.
Lovecraft is largely credited with being one of the first writers to combine gothic horror with supernatural elements and monsters who would often defeat traditional human protagonists.
Lovecraft was asked by the editor of Weird Tales to ghostwrite a column for famous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini in 1924. "Under the Pyramids" told the allegedly true tale of Houdini being taken by an Egyptian tour guide who resembled an ancient pharaoh, only to meet the deity that inspired the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Although Lovecraft reportedly had his suspicions that the story was fabricated, he happily took a large advance of $100 to pen it. An elated Houdini continued to commission Lovecraft for several other projects.
Despite his early demise at the age of 46 as a result of intestinal cancer, Lovecraft managed to write 100,000 letters, according to L. Sprague de Camp's H.P. Lovecraft: A Biography. While S.T. Joshi calculated that only 20,000 of those letters actually survived, less than 1,000 were printed from 1911-1937.
In many of his letters, written to such contemporaries as fellow writers Robert Bloch (Psycho), Henry Kuttner (The Dark World), and poet Samuel Loveman, Lovecraft talks candidly about his philosophy, interests, and dreams, and why they were sometimes more poignant than his fiction.