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Guide to Lovecraftian Sites in Massachusetts
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Boston and Cambridge

Boston is the capital of Massachusetts and a city with many historical points of interest. Cambridge is its neighbor across the Charles River.
 
[Photo]     The Tomb of the Mathers, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, Boston
     Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, which could not be many blocks away from this very house, was a favourite scene. (“Pickman’s Model”)
     This cemetery, the second-oldest in the city, and one of the oldest burial grounds in New England, has the distinction of containing the tomb of the Mather family. Increase Mather (1639–1723), Cotton Mather (1663–1728), and Samuel Mather (1706–1785) are all buried here.
 
[Photo]     The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, Harvard University, Cambridge
     The Dunwich Horror itself came between Lammas and the equinox in 1928, and Dr. Armitage was among those who witnessed its monstrous prologue. He had heard, meanwhile, of Whateley’s grotesque trip to Cambridge, and of his frantic efforts to borrow or copy from the Necronomicon at the Widener Library. Those efforts had been in vain, since Armitage had issued warnings of the keenest intensity to all librarians having charge of the dreaded volume. (“The Dunwich Horror”)
     This library was named after a Harvard alumnus who perished aboard the Titanic. The Widener is the largest university library in the world. Although the reference room and other areas of the library are accessible to the public, the stacks themselves are not, the Widener being a private library. You can at least look up the Necronomicon in the HOLLIS Catalog.
 

Gloucester

Gloucester is located on Cape Ann, “a rocky headland which juts out of the Massachusetts coastline into the North Atlantic ocean.”
 
[Photo]     The Legion Memorial Building, Lester S. Wass Post No. 3, American Legion Square
     The bus had come to a sort of open concourse or radial point with churches on two sides and the bedraggled remains of a circular green in the centre, and I was looking at a large pillared hall on the right-hand junction ahead. The structure’s once white paint was now grey and peeling, and the black and gold sign on the pediment was so faded that I could only with difficulty make out the words ‘Esoteric Order of Dagon’. This, then, was the former Masonic Hall now given over to a degraded cult....One must not, for example, linger much around the Marsh refinery, or around any of the still used churches, or around the pillared Order of Dagon Hall at New Church Green. (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
     This building was built in 1844–45, and was the original Gloucester Town Hall until 1867. After this, it was the Forbes School until 1919, when the American Legion took over it. Although the building had fallen into a sad state of disrepair on my first trip, it has since been beautifully restored.
 
[Photo]     Sargent-Murray-Gilman-Hough House
     Yes, there’s a hotel in Innsmouth – called the Gilman House – but I don’t believe it can amount to much. I wouldn’t advise you to try it. (“The Shadow over Innsmouth,” 1931)
     The Sargent &c. house must have given you an excellent idea of a typical middle-period colonial interior... (Letter to Miss Helen V. Sully, 26 July 1933)
     In his article, “I Found Innsmouth!” (Crypt of Cthulhu No. 57), Will Murray postulates that this historic home, built around 1760, was Lovecraft’s inspiration for the Gilman House hotel in “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” However, the Gilman House is at least 5 stories tall and has at least 28 rooms per floor. A simpler explanation is that Gilman is a common name in Essex County, particularly on Cape Ann.
 
[Photo]     “Mother Ann”
     As for that rocky promontory – the coast north of Boston is composed of high rocky cliffs, which in several places rise to considerable altitudes as bold headlands. Of course, though, there is nothing as dizzy as the fabled seat of the Strange High House. If I had any promontory specifically in mind when writing that tale, it was the headland near Gloucester called ‘Mother Ann’ – though that has no such relation to the city as my mysterious cliff has to ‘Kingsport’. (Letter to August Derleth, 6 November 1931)
     The location of Mother Ann has been under debate for some time, and it has even been suggested by Peter Cannon that Lovecraft was referring to Mount Ann, a large hill on Cape Ann. However, Mother Ann can be found by taking Eastern Point Boulevard all the way to its conclusion at the Eastern Point Light. Mother Ann is a rocky outcropping that looks like the outline of a buxom woman.
 

Hadley

Hadley is a small town in western Massachusetts on the Connecticut River.
 
[Photo]     Hadley Farm Museum, Cider Press
     Oldest of all are the great rings of rough-hewn stone columns on the hill-tops, but these are more generally attributed to the Indians than to the settlers. Deposits of skulls and bones, found within these circles and around the sizeable table-like rock on Sentinel Hill, sustain the popular belief that such spots were once the burial-places of the Pocumtucks; even though many ethnologists, disregarding the absurd improbability of such a theory, persist in believing the remains Caucasian. (“The Dunwich Horror”)
     Ostensibly, this rock is a cider press that. Some surmise that it is actually a sacrificial altar, although the need for a ‘blood-draining groove’ is unclear. Photograph by Peter Vorobieff.
 

Haverhill

Haverhill is a city on the Merrimack River near the New Hampshire border.
 
[Photo]     Pentucket Burial Ground
     Here lies interd ye precious dust of Mr Nathanael Peaslee Junr ye only & desirable son of Mr Nathl Peaslee who with comfort took his youthful flight from ye promising joys of earthly possessions in hope of a far more exceeding & eternal weight of glory on Sept ye 9 1730 aged 27 years
     On a number of occasions Lovecraft visited Haverhill, generally to visit with his acquaintance, C.W. Tryout Smith. Peaslee is a well-known name in Haverhill, and it is possible that Lovecraft, on one of his rambles through the town, spied this stone.
 

Ipswich

Ipswich is a small town on the banks of the Ipswich River. The Ipswich Historical Society has a page with information on the John Whipple House, a 17th-century home which Lovecraft mentions in his letters.
 

Marblehead

Marblehead is situated on a peninsula of land just south of Salem that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Lovecraft commented often in his letters that Marblehead was one of his favorite towns, saying that he’d live there if he didn’t already live in Providence. For a thorough examination of Lovecraftian Marblehead, see Donovan K. Loucks’ article, “Antique Dreams: Marblehead and Lovecraft’s Kingsport”.
 
[Photo]     Old Burial Hill
     Over all the rest of the scene tower’d a hill on which the rude forefathers of the hamlet were laid to rest; and which was in consequence nam’d Old Burying Hill....And atop all was the peak; Old Burying Hill, where the dark headstones clawed up thro’ the virgin snow like the decay’d fingernails of some gigantick corpse. (Letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, 11 January 1923)
     Beside the road at its crest a still higher summit rose, bleak and wind-swept, and I saw that it was a burying-ground where black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through the snow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse. (“The Festival”)
     This cemetery was established in 1638, being one of the oldest graveyards in New England. “Six hundred revolutionary heroes and several early pastors were interred at the top of the hill.”
 
[Photo]     Bowen House, 1 Mugford Street
     ...I hastened through Back Street to Circle Court, and across the fresh snow on the one full flagstone pavement in the town, to where Green Lane leads off behind the Market House....the seventh house on the left in Green Lane, with an ancient peaked roof and jutting second story, all built before 1650. There were lights inside the house when I came upon it, and I saw from the diamond window-panes that it must have been kept very close to its antique state. The upper part overhung the narrow grass-grown street and nearly met the over-hanging part of the house opposite so that I was almost in a tunnel, with the low stone doorstep wholly free from snow. There was no sidealk, but many houses had high doors reached by double flights of steps with iron railings. It was an odd scene, and because I was strange to New England I had never known its like before. Though it pleased me, I would have relished it better if there had been footprints in the snow, and people in the streets, and a few windows without drawn curtains. (“The Festival”)
     This particular building was built in 1695 by William Waters.
 
[Photo]     St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
     There was an open space around the church; partly a churchyard with spectral shafts, and partly a half-paved square swept nearly bare of snow by the wind, and lined with unwholesomely archaic houses having peaked roofs and overhanging gables. Death-fires danced over the tombs, revealing gruesome vistas, though queerly failing to cast any shadows. Past the churchyard, where there were no houses, I could see over the hill’s summit and watch the glimmer of stars on the harbour, though the town was invisible in the dark. Only once in a while a lanthorn bobbed horribly through serpentine alleys on its way to overtake the throng that was now slipping speechlessly into the church. (“The Festival”)
     And St. Michael’s churchyard, where at twilight hideous shadows lurk amongst the dense willows of the far corner, and caper a ghoulish danse macabre on the tops of the old slate slabs as soon as the moon goes down! (Letter to Frank Belknap Long, 23 June 1923)
     Beware St. Toad’s cracked chimes! (Fungi from Yuggoth)
     This church was erected in 1714 with materials brought from England. When the news of the Declaration of Independence reached Marblehead, the church’s bell was run until it cracked. It was then recast by Paul Revere himself and is still used. The church still has a tiny cemetery on its east side. On the side of a nearby building is a sign that indicates that Summer Street was “Formerly Frog Lane.”
 

Newburyport

Newburyport is a lovely town near the mouth of the Merrimack River. The Newburyport Public Library, which the narrator of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” visited, has a very attractive web site.
 
[Photo]     Historical Society of Old Newbury and Cushing House Museum, 98 High Street
     Most interesting of all was a glancing reference to the strange jewellery vaguely associated with Innsmouth. It had evidently impressed the whole countryside more than a little, for mention was made of specimens in the museum of Miskatonic University at Arkham, and in the display room of the Newburyport Historical Society....The collection was a notable one indeed, but in my present mood I had eyes for nothing but the bizarre object which glistened in a corner cupboard under the electric lights. It took no excessive sensitiveness to beauty to make me literally gasp at the strange, unearthly splendour of the alien, opulent phantasy that rested there on a purple velvet cushion. Even now I can hardly describe what I saw, though it was clearly enough a sort of tiara, as the description had said. It was tall in front, and with a very large and curiously irregular periphery, as if designed for a head of almost freakishly elliptical outline. The material seemed to be predominantly gold, though a weird light lustrousness hinted at some strange alloy with an equally beautiful and scarcely identifiable metal. Its condition was almost perfect, and one could have spent hours in studying the striking and puzzlingly untraditional designs – some simply geometrical, and some plainly marine – chased or moulded in high relief on its surface with a craftsmanship of incredible skill and grace....There were two armlets, a tiara, and a kind of pectoral, the latter having in high relief certain figures of almost unbearable extravagance. (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
     In the basement of the Cushing House Museum is a wooden statue originally destined for use as the figurehead for a ship. It was carved in the mid 1800s by Thomas Wilson, a wood-carver, and was instead used as an advertisement over his shop at 8 Strong Street. A man named Barron purchased it near the end of the century and moved it to the garden of Ellen Todd. The statue originally had its robes painted purple, and its tiara, armlets, and leaves about the neck painted gold.
 
[Photo]     Masonic Hall, 31 Green Street
     In his The H.P. Lovecraft Companion, Philip A. Shreffler states that this building was the basis for the “Esoteric Order of Dagon” hall in “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” This comparitively new building was erected on Green Street in 1928, just three years before HPL wrote the story. Its newness makes it an unlikely candidate.
 

Salem and Danvers

Salem and Danvers were the center of the witchcraft hysteria of 1692. Salem is blessed with a wealth of 17th and 18th century architecture, examples of which include the Crowninshield-Bentley and Derby houses mentioned below.
 
[Photo]     The Witch House, Salem
     I visited the Old Witch House, said to have been inhabited by Rev. Roger Williams before his coming to Providence-Plantations... (Letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, 11 January 1923)
     ... (“The Dreams in the Witch House”)
     This house, built and lived in by Jonathan Corwin, was the location of many of the inquisitions of the reputed witches in the Salem hysteria.
 
[Photo]     The Crowninshield-Bentley House, Salem
     Asenath had bought the old Crowninshield place in the country at the end of High Street, and they proposed to settle there after a short trip to Innsmouth, whence three servants and some books and household goods were to be brought. (“The Thing on the Doorstep”)
     Built in 1727 by Captain John Crowninshield, this three-story building has been moved to the Peabody-Essex Museum.
 
[Photo]     The Derby House, Salem
     We discussed certain possible arrangements for his moving back into the Derby mansion, and I hoped that he would lose no time in making the change. He did not call the next evening, but I saw him frequently during the ensuing weeks. We talked as little as possible about strange and unpleasant things, but discussed the renovation of the old Derby house, and the travels which Edward promised to take with my son and me the following summer. (“The Thing on the Doorstep”)
     This, the oldest brick house in Salem, was built in 1762 by Richard Derby for his son, Elias Hasket Derby, America’s first millionaire.
 
[Photo]     Charter Street Burial Ground, Salem
     ...you know Pickman comes of old Salem stock, and had a witch ancestor hanged in 1692. (“Pickman’s Model”)
     Poor little Nat [Nathaniel Mather, younger brother of Cotton] died at 19 – I have seen his gravestone in the old Charter St. Burying Ground at Salem. His fortunate escape from life came in 1688, and his epitaph (a tribute to his prodigious learning) reads with unconscious pathos – ‘An Aged Person who had seen but 19 Winters in the World’. (Letter to Robert E. Howard, 4 October 1930)
     One of the stones in the graveyard reads, “HERE LYES INTERRD THE BODY OF MR CALEB PICKMAN WHO DIED JUNE 4th, 1737 (BEING STRUK WITH LIGHTNING) AGED 22 YEARS. My times are in thy hand, O Remember my Life is Wind.”
 
[Photo]     Danvers Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Danvers
     Before long I was pretty nearly a devotee, and would listen for hours like a schoolboy to art theories and philosophic speculations wild enough to qualify him for the Danvers asylum. (“Pickman’s Model”)
     I’ve heard personally of more’n one business or government man that’s disappeared there, and there’s loose talk of one who went crazy and is out at Danvers now. (“The Shadow over Innsmouth”)
     The first two NecronomiCons, a convention devoted to the Cthulhu Mythos and H.P. Lovecraft, took place at the Sheraton Tara Resort, about a mile north of the hospital. The eerie, Gothic towers of the hospital can be seen from the hotel. Michael Ramseur has created an extensive web site,
“The Castle on the Hill”, which explores the history of the hospital.
 
[Photo]     Captain Samuel Fowler House, 166 High Street, Danvers
     Inform’d by the sign that this was the Capt. Samuel Fowler House, built 1809, accessible for eightpence, and the property of the Society for the Preservation of New-England Antiquities, I loudly sounded the knocker and awaited developments....Led by the Sibylline wraiths of decay’d gentry, I explor’d the house from cellar to attick. Its decorations are of unrivall’d beauty, and its furniture, ornaments, china, and silver, are beyond description. Fine ancestral portraits, old garments of great richness, priceless laces and other Colonial remnants of domesticity – all these recall uncannily a bygone prosperity which the present mocks. I was allow’d to don a cap which Captain Fowler wore in the War of 1812, and a civilian swallow-tail coat of the same period – a cream colour’d dress garment which fitted me finely, and shew’d that the good captain was as stout an old gentleman as your grandpa. (Letter to Frank Belknap Long and Alfred Galpin, 1 May 1923)
 
 
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Page Last Revised 5 October 2012
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