Archive for H.P. Lovecraft

The Whisperer in Darkness: An Interview with the author of H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition

Posted in Horror, Magick, Writing with tags , , , on September 25, 2015 by Occult Detective


Today I have a special treat for you, an interview with John L. Steadman, author of H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror’s Influence of Modern Occultism.

This is a book I cannot recommend highly enough, whether you’re a Lovecraft fan, an occult practitioner or enthusiast, or all of the above.

Steadman approaches the subject with aplomb, interweaving Lovecraft’s life story, literary works, and influences, and creating an intimate tapestry that is then dissected and filtered through the eyes of a man that understands the esoteric societies that have sprung from and been shaped by the author’s weird fiction.

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First, let me commend you on the terrific blurbs you garnered for H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magick Tradition. Praise from such Lovecraftian luminaries such as S.T. Joshi, Nick Mamatas, and W.H. Pugmire, to name but a few, has to be not only flattering but rewarding. Tell me, when you began this project did you have any idea that it would be so well received?

I was (and still am) immensely flattered by the wonderful endorsements; this part of the whole book-making business has been very positive and rewarding, and I have made a vow to myself that if I ever achieve such a level of eminence that a young, unknown writer seeks an endorsement from me, then I will give him or her the most positive, inspired and useful endorsement that I can.

HPLBMTH. P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition is the first book in a projected trilogy; currently, I am working on the second book and have finished, to date, just over 86,000 words, so it is nearing completion. Just as with the writing of the first book, when I undertake a project, I honestly don’t think too much about how it will be received; I simply do the best that I can with my thesis and my subject matter. If I do entertain stray thoughts about the possible reception from time to time, such thoughts never linger long and they never have any impact on my ability to complete the project or on my romantic inclination to admire intensely each and every one of my ideas and images.

I must admit, while reading your work I felt an immediate connection. We have similar interests, to be sure, and it appears we cut our teeth in the same manner. Tell me about your earliest influences and what led to your interest in the occult and magical traditions?

I can’t remember a time in my early life and childhood when I wasn’t fascinated by ghosts, vampires, witches, werewolves and occult subjects. When I was a student in elementary school, there were two books that I constantly checked out at the school library: The Thing at the Foot of the Bed (a collection of ghost stories compiled by folklorist Maria Leach) and the wonderful anthology, The Fireside Book of Ghost Stories. I also collected Famous Monsters of Filmland .

In Middle School, in the mid 60’s, I first read the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was around this time that I first discovered Lovecraft as well. I was shopping at a bookstore and was drawn to a paperback book with a particularly lurid cover. The book was The Colour Out of Space & Other Stories, by H. P. Lovecraft. The cover displayed a burning, orange-red skull against a black background and it was this lurid cover that compelled me to purchase the book. I took the book outside on a beautiful, cool autumn day and I read the title story. Quite literally, this story terrified me; I actually found myself shivering, even though the day was rather warm.

No other story that I had ever read before had such an immediate, disturbing effect on me. And from that point on, I was hooked on Lovecraft.

Unlike most Lovecraft admirers, I’ve always had a fondness for “The Horror at Red Hook,” it being the closest he ever came to writing an actual ‘occult detective’ story, though my favorite has always been “The Dunwich Horror”. It was the first Lovecraft story I read as a twelve year old boy and it has been with me ever since and I readily admit to an admiration for the Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee film as well. What is your favorite Lovecraft tale and do you have a favorite film adaptation of one of his works?

I like all of Lovecraft’s stories, particularly those written after 1926, and I find that most of them are extremely well-written, even “The Horror at Red Hook”, which was written just prior to the advent of Lovecraft’s mature writing phase. My absolute favorite stories are: “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, “The Dunwich Horror”; and “The Dreams in the Witch House.”


As a young boy, I was a big fan of the Arkoff and Nicholson film that you mention, The Dunwich Horror (1970). At that age, I was very impressed with Dean Stockwell’s portrayal of Wilbur Whateley; I thought that he was the ultimate ladies man; handsome, urbane and cool. Now when I watch the film, I find myself laughing; his performance is so campy and silly, but still very entertaining. At around the same time, I was likewise impressed by The Haunted Palace (1963), a film based on Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward; Vincent Price always struck me as the perfect actor to portray Joseph Curwen.

In the early 70’s, I also enjoyed the Rod Serling Night Gallery segments based on Lovecraft’s work, these included “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture (1971); “Pickman’s Model” (1971) and “Return of the Sorcerer” (1972); this latter was based on the Clark Ashton Smith story, of course, but the story and the segment were heavily permeated with Lovecraftian elements and themes.

Nowadays, I am invariably disappointed by Lovecraftian films; they are always a little too over-the-top. Stuart Gordon did an adequate adaption of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” in his film Dagon (2001), but the film is spoiled by all the relentless violence and gore, and as usual, the unnecessary presence of a sexy girlfriend for the protagonist. The main character Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) should have been content with his dream-fueled relationship with Uxia (Macarena Gomez), the high priestess of Dagon; tentacles are, after all, much more of an aphrodisiac than arms or legs.

Lovecraft is obviously a huge influence for us both. What other authors have you been inspired by?

My favorite authors, and those authors who inspire me the most, are (arranged in the order of most inspiring to least inspiring): Ray Bradbury, M. R. James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Aickman and J. K Rowling.

The so-called Simon Necronomicon has always been a fascination of mine. What are your thoughts on it as a pop-cultural gateway drug into the occult?

simons-necronomiconI don’t much like statements such as the one you have quoted above; these are negative statements and negativity has no place in genuine magickal practice. The desire to perform magick derives from an earnest wish on the part of the magickal practitioner for establishing an original relationship with the universe; this is, in fact, the goal of magickal practice and in pursuit of that goal, the practitioner expects to find meaning and purpose in his or hers life. But the goal itself is entirely positive, not negative. Indeed, I would argue that there really isn’t such a thing as negativity at all; negativity, like evil, is simply an instance of mistaken perception.

Certainly, the Necronomicon is not any kind of pop-cultural drug, any more than the OTO USA is merely a McDonalized illumination, with Aleister Crowley as the Ronald McDonald of occultism, which P. R. Koenig argues in his very negative article “Halo of Flies”.

The Simon/Schlangekraft Necronomicon, though more efficacious in terms of its rites, is essentially as authentic (or inauthentic) as the other Necronomicons, the “spurious” texts that I examine in Chapter 3 of my book, provided, of course, that it is used for the positive purpose of helping magickal practitioners accomplish the goal referred to above.

As a member of the O.T.O, I wonder if you’d care to weigh in on the debate around Bill Breeze’s fill/kill Liber AL edit?

I should clarify that I was a member of the Thelema Lodge for many years in my youth; I took the following degrees: II° in New York on 3/79; I° on 11/20/77 and the 0° in California on 5/70; subsequently, I allowed my membership in the order to lapse as of 11/27/84. Therefore, technically, I am not an active member of the OTO and consequently, the reader should view my comments and opinions on issues such as the fill/kill debate as the comments and opinions of an educated, reasonable person who is not necessarily a Thelemite.

aleister.crowleyMy favorite book by Crowley is The Book of Lies, and in Chapter 16, “The Stag-Beetle”, Crowley has these remarks about death: “Death implies change and individuality; if thou be THAT which hath no person, which is beyond the changing…what hast thou to do with death?……The birth of individuality is ecstasy; so also is its death…Love death therefore, and long eagerly for it. Die daily.” The implications of these important words are evident when one considers Part III, Verse 37 of Liber Al vel Legis.

Now, I don’t see any need to involve myself in any discussion of how or when Crowley made final corrections to the manuscript of The Book of the Law, and I’m certainly not going to bother about whether he wrote in pencil or pen, or whether the changes were written by him personally or in Rose’s hand, or with any of the other issues raised by those involved in this rather silly controversy. But when Crowley/Aiwaz states: “The ways of the Khabs run through/ To stir me or still me!/Aum! Let it fill me!”, he is clearly referring to death in the same way that Death is referred to in the above citation from The Book of Lies, i.e. as a change and as the birth of a genuine individual. Thus, whether the word “fill” or “kill” is used, the sense of the line remains exactly the same. In fact, death is implied in the previous line- “to still me!”, and so, perhaps, “kill” might be a more accurate transcription.

Any final words you’d like to share regarding Lovecraft’s influence on modern occultism?

I think that as the new millennium progresses, magickal practitioners, whatever their denominations, will likely make even more extensive use of Lovecraft’s pantheon of extra-terrestrial entities and Lovecraftian elements and themes in their own ritual workings. This is already happening today, in fact.

The artist and writer Scott R. Jones, in his book When the Stars are Right (2014), suggests a rather benign apocalypse, i.e. the widespread adoption of a R’lyehian spirituality on the part of earnest seekers after truth and knowledge.

Donald Tyson, in The Grimoire of the Necronomicon, has established a white magickal organization that allows initiates to pair up astrally with Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, choosing one or another of these beings as mentors to assist them in their spiritual growth. Again, this is a relatively benign occupation.

But there are, of course, more aggressive approaches.

For example, Gavin Callaghan, in an article written for Fate Magazine, refers to an organization named the Cult of Cthulhu in Wisconsin, led by Venger Satanis, whose members are actively working to evoke the Great Old Ones and literally bring about a fully-realized, Biblical apocalypse, an entirely negative goal. So there are good Lovecraftian practitioners, distilling positive energy and productivity, and there are, unfortunately, evil practitioners who are fostering negativity and distilling hate.

steadmanFrom my own personal standpoint, I tend to embrace the good. And I can’t help but be convinced that Lovecraft’s influence on occultism and on western culture will end up being largely positive. In fact, I believe that Lovecraft’s work will ultimately have much broader of an influence on science in the future than on western occultism. To date, contemporary physicists posit the existence of a universe which is very much in alignment with the views of the universe articulated by magickal practitioners. What scientists lack, however, are the methods necessary to quantify their speculations. And thus, in their search for methodology, scientists will ultimately be forced to undertake the study of magickal texts and this will, in turn, bring them back to the roots of culture and civilization itself.

H.P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition by John L. Steadman is published by Weiser Books and available wherever books are sold, so please, whenever possible, support your local bookstore or, better still, order directly from Red Wheel/Weiser. Of course you can always confirm your allegiance to the Dark One and drop your money here :)

Dark Providence (#HPLovecraft)

Posted in Horror, Writing with tags on August 20, 2015 by Occult Detective

It is the 20th of August, 2015, marking the 125th anniversary of the nativity of Providence’s Mad Master of the Macabre. H.P. Lovecraft had ascended to an almost godlike station overlooking the horror field, though his pedestal has been chipped at of late by the hands of the simpleton sheep of nouveau liberalism. I am not here to defend Lovecraft the Man, for instead I choose to celebrate Lovecraft the Author.


‘Author’ is such an inadequate word for defining Lovecraft’s vocation. He was an architect, a world builder, an originator. He was a master of the form. He painted with words dark, muddy, surreal images of the profane and cosmic. Purposefully laborious and antiquated, even for his time, Lovecraft’s pose invokes and evokes an oppressive, malignant atmosphere that strips away the world outside the stories he writes, leaving only the wreckage of the desolate and fragile worlds within the pages of his nightmarish fictions.

It may be in fashion to dismiss this artisan of the abhorrent, to classify him has a racist, misogynist, homophobic, and more, but as S.T. Joshi so eloquently put it, “Lovecraft’s status in weird fiction, in American literature, and in world literature is now so assured that attempts to deny or denigrate it are restricted to cranks and ignoramuses.”


Lovecraft is our tenebrous god, lurking in the murky shadows, corrupting our dreams and turning them into nightmarish landscapes of afflicted madness. We worship at the altar of his dark providence, sacrifice the light that we might bask in the infinite black of the corruptible oblivion his cthonic visions made manifest.

125 years ago today, a fiend slithered from out his mother’s womb to leave a trail of despair forty-six years long, but so invasive was it that its malignant chronicles continue long after, because a thing cannot be killed that was never truly born.

93 Skidoo

Posted in Magick with tags , on June 25, 2015 by Occult Detective


I devoured all the Lovecraft I could get my hands on before I reached junior high. I was one of those odd kids that always had a book on hand. To be honest, it was usually Robert E. Howard that had my attention, but Lovecraft certainly was a close second. I generally kept a paperback book shoved into my back pocket, just in case. Don’t believe me? I could show you my ragged and tattered copies of Conan the Freebooter and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath as proof.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The real subject of today’s blog entry has to do with an odd sort of synchronicity.

I had, for some peculiar reason, Lovecraft on my mind this morning. Not his fiction, mind you, but the man himself, and so was perusing a collection of photographs when one in particular caught my eye.


Taken on the shore in Magnolia, Massachusetts, on June 25th, 1922, a few stray thoughts crossed my mind and these in turn led me to one of those surrealistic synchronicities that makes one wonder about the underlying connections between the world we see, openly, and the one hidden from us, that greases the wheels of madness.

Seeing Lovecraft strike this pose on the Magnolia cliff led me, first, to think on Aleister Crowley, who was something of a mountaineer and climber. Then I noticed the date — June 25th. Funny, that, being today’s date as well. But that year, 1922, was scratching at my brain. Something about the year was striking my as strange. June 25th, 1922. June 25th, 2015. Then it dawned on me… 93 years.

So, my lizard brain, seeing this picture of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, led me to associate it with one Aleister Crowley, a picture separated to the day, from then to now, by 93 years.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law? Weird coincidence or someone trying to tell me something? You decide.


Posted in Archive with tags , on August 29, 2013 by Occult Detective


Mountains of Madness

Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the John Hay Library at Brown University, is a tattered envelope, deconstructed and repurposed, upon which “At the Mountains of Madness” was born.


Posted in Archive with tags on August 20, 2013 by Occult Detective


Today, The Occult Detective would like to
wish a very Happy 123rd Birthday to
Howard Phillips Lovecraft

“Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”


Lovecraft’s Notes on Writing Weird Fiction

Posted in Archive with tags , on May 3, 2013 by Occult Detective



My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature. I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best—one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve, momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis. These stories frequently emphasise the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion, and the one which best lends itself to the creation of nature-defying illusions. Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear. The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.

While my chosen form of story-writing is obviously a special and perhaps a narrow one, it is none the less a persistent and permanent type of expression, as old as literature itself. There will always be a small percentage of persons who feel a burning curiosity about unknown outer space, and a burning desire to escape from the prison-house of the known and the real into those enchanted lands of incredible adventure and infinite possibilities which dreams open up to us, and which things like deep woods, fantastic urban towers, and flaming sunsets momentarily suggest. These persons include great authors as well as insignificant amateurs like myself—Dunsany, Poe, Arthur Machen, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and Walter de la Mare being typical masters in this field.

As to how I write a story—there is no one way. Each one of my tales has a different history. Once or twice I have literally written out a dream; but usually I start with a mood or idea or image which I wish to express, and revolve it in my mind until I can think of a good way of embodying it in some chain of dramatic occurrences capable of being recorded in concrete terms. I tend to run through a mental list of the basic conditions or situations best adapted to such a mood or idea or image, and then begin to speculate on logical and naturally motivated explanations of the given mood or idea or image in terms of the basic condition or situation chosen.

The actual process of writing is of course as varied as the choice of theme and initial conception; but if the history of all my tales were analysed, it is just possible that the following set of rules might be deduced from the average procedure:

(1) Prepare a synopsis or scenario of events in the order of their absolute occurrence —not the order of their narration. Describe with enough fulness to cover all vital points and motivate all incidents planned. Details, comments, and estimates of consequences are sometimes desirable in this temporary framework.

(2) Prepare a second synopsis or scenario of events—this one in order of narration (not actual occurrence), with ample fulness and detail, and with notes as to changing perspective, stresses, and climax. Change the original synopsis to fit if such a change will increase the dramatic force or general effectiveness of the story. Interpolate or delete incidents at will—never being bound by the original conception even if the ultimate result be a tale wholly different from that first planned. Let additions and alterations be made whenever suggested by anything in the formulating process.

(3) Write out the story—rapidly, fluently, and not too critically—following the second or narrative-order synopsis. Change incidents and plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change, never being bound by any previous design. If the development suddenly reveals new opportunities for dramatic effect or vivid storytelling, add whatever is thought advantageous—going back and reconciling the early parts to the new plan. Insert and delete whole sections if necessary or desirable, trying different beginnings and endings until the best arrangement is found. But be sure that all references throughout the story are thoroughly reconciled with the final design. Remove all possible superfluities—words, sentences, paragraphs, or whole episodes or elements—observing the usual precautions about the reconciling of all references.

(4) Revise the entire text, paying attention to vocabulary, syntax, rhythm of prose, proportioning of parts, niceties of tone, grace and convincingness or transitions (scene to scene, slow and detailed action to rapid and sketchy time-covering action and vice versa. . . . etc., etc., etc.), effectiveness of beginning, ending, climaxes, etc., dramatic suspense and interest, plausibility and atmosphere, and various other elements.

(5) Prepare a neatly typed copy—not hesitating to add final revisory touches where they seem in order.

The first of these stages is often purely a mental one—a set of conditions and happenings being worked out in my head, and never set down until I am ready to prepare a detailed synopsis of events in order of narration. Then, too, I sometimes begin even the actual writing before I know how I shall develop the idea—this beginning forming a problem to be motivated and exploited.

There are, I think, four distinct types of weird story; one expressing a mood or feeling, another expressing a pictorial conception, a third expressing a general situation, condition, legend, or intellectual conception, and a fourth explaining a definite tableau or specific dramatic situation or climax. In another way, weird tales may be grouped into two rough categories—those in which the marvel or horror concerns some condition or phenomenon, and those in which it concerns some action of persons in connexion with a bizarre condition or phenomenon.

Each weird story—to speak more particularly of the horror type—seems to involve five definite elements: (a) some basic, underlying horror or abnormality—condition, entity, etc.—, (b) the general effects or bearings of the horror, (c) the mode of manifestation—object embodying the horror and phenomena observed—, (d) the types of fear-reaction pertaining to the horror, and (e) the specific effects of the horror in relation to the given set of conditions.

In writing a weird story I always try very carefully to achieve the right mood and atmosphere, and place the emphasis where it belongs. One cannot, except in immature pulp charlatan–fiction, present an account of impossible, improbable, or inconceivable phenomena as a commonplace narrative of objective acts and conventional emotions. Inconceivable events and conditions have a special handicap to overcome, and this can be accomplished only through the maintenance of a careful realism in every phase of the story except that touching on the one given marvel. This marvel must be treated very impressively and deliberately—with a careful emotional “build-up”—else it will seem flat and unconvincing. Being the principal thing in the story, its mere existence should overshadow the characters and events. But the characters and events must be consistent and natural except where they touch the single marvel. In relation to the central wonder, the characters should shew the same overwhelming emotion which similar characters would shew toward such a wonder in real life. Never have a wonder taken for granted. Even when the characters are supposed to be accustomed to the wonder I try to weave an air of awe and impressiveness corresponding to what the reader should feel. A casual style ruins any serious fantasy.

Atmosphere, not action, is the great desideratum of weird fiction. Indeed, all that a wonder story can ever be is a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood. The moment it tries to be anything else it becomes cheap, puerile, and unconvincing. Prime emphasis should be given to subtle suggestion—imperceptible hints and touches of selective associative detail which express shadings of moods and build up a vague illusion of the strange reality of the unreal. Avoid bald catalogues of incredible happenings which can have no substance or meaning apart from a sustaining cloud of colour and symbolism.

These are the rules or standards which I have followed—consciously or unconsciously—ever since I first attempted the serious writing of fantasy. That my results are successful may well be disputed—but I feel at least sure that, had I ignored the considerations mentioned in the last few paragraphs, they would have been much worse than they are.

La herencia Valdemar

Posted in Archive with tags , , on July 7, 2010 by Occult Detective

Yet another instance where my utter lack of command of tongues foreign to that of my birthright finds me wanting. A Lovecraft-inspired ghost story with none other than the Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley, as one of the principle characters? I can only hope that a subtitled version of La herencia Valdemar will find its way to our shores sooner rather than later.

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