The Clam tries to stay neutral about some things. For instance, should the current Fuller School structure be destroyed from space-borne antimatter weaponry or would it better be sealed off and turned into ‘grey goo’ by self-replicating nanobots? There are good arguments for both, and we’re going to stay out of it.
But there is one thing we know with a steadfast certainty and we will shatter the nearest 2/3 bottle of absinthe and use its jagged edge to defend:
Gloucester, NOT Ipswich was the site of Innsmouth in the classic Lovecraftian horror tale Celephias. Please consider the following description:
It was a town of wide extent and dense construction, yet one with a portentous dearth of visible life. From the tangle of chimney-pots scarcely a wisp of smoke came, and the three tall steeples loomed stark and unpainted against the seaward horizon. One of them was crumbling down at the top, and in that and another there were only black gaping holes where clock-dials should have been. The vast huddle of sagging gambrel roofs and peaked gables conveyed with offensive clearness the idea of wormy decay, and as we approached along the now descending road I could see that many roofs had wholly caved in. There were some large square Georgian houses, too, with hipped roofs, cupolas, and railed “widow’s walks”. These were mostly well back from the water, and one or two seemed to be in moderately sound condition….
The decay was worst close to the waterfront, though in its very midst I could spy the white belfry of a fairly well-preserved brick structure which looked like a small factory. The harbour, long clogged with sand, was enclosed by an ancient stone breakwater….
Right? Stone breakwater? White belfry of fairly well preserved brick structure of a small factory? There are other reasons as well, but trust us, Innsmouth is Gloucester, make no mistake.
- The Clam will never deter from this steadfast belief. And rabid Clamista Len Pal furthermore proves through our ‘Ask a Gloucester Historical Figure’ feature that Lovecraft’s connection to Gloucester goes deeper than maybe even we first imagined.
- by Len Pal, quotes from Lovecraft’s works
- Dear HP Lovecraft, I’m a 4th generation fisherman. What was once a lucrative trade has become filled with uncertainty and heartache, but I’m too old to change professions. Is there any hope?
- It was called “The Esoteric Order of Dagon”, and was undoubtedly a debased, quasi-pagan thing imported from the East a century before, at a time when the fisheries seemed to be going barren. Its persistence among a simple people was quite natural in view of the sudden and permanent return of abundantly fine fishing, and it soon came to be the greatest influence in the town.
- Dear HP: My husband has piles upon piles of old books in our attic. He doesn’t read them or loan them out, but neither will he donate them or let me sell them in a yard sale. How can I get him to part with these books?
- He must sign the book of Azathoth in his own blood and take a new secret name now that his independent delvings had gone so far. He had seen the name “Azathoth” in the Necronomicon, and knew it stood for a primal evil too horrible for description.
- Dear HP: I’ve been spending a lot of time with a girl I like for about a year now, but I think I’m stuck in the “friend zone”. How can I get her to see me as boyfriend-material without being creepy about it?
- Yield up enough sacrafices an’ savage knick-knacks and hourbourage in the taown… All in the band of the faithful — Order o’ Dagon — Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn!
All sorts of wicked goodness here. The Old Ones command you… to make this into a short film.
Regardless of modern Gloucester’s (negligible) similarity to Innsmouth, it did not serve as Lovecraft’s model. He makes this clear in many letters—here are just a few of the short and direct examples:
The plot I am now experimenting on concerns another fictitious Mass. Town—“Innsmouth”—which is vaguely suggested by the ancient & almost dead city of Newburyport. (H.P. Lovecraft to August W. Derleth, 14 November 1931)
”Innsmouth” reflects a sort of exaggeration of ancient Newburyport, Mass., whose increasing quiescence & depopulation are getting to be almost spectral. (H.P. Lovecraft to Robert Bloch, 9 May 1933)
“Innsmouth”, as I possibly mentioned last time, is an exaggeration of Newburyport, Mass. (H.P. Lovecraft to Robert Bloch, late May 1933)
After that comes “The Shadow over Innsmouth”—written in November 1931 as a sort of echo to a Newburyport trip which I took with W. Paul Cook in the preceding month. (H.P. Lovecraft to F. Lee Baldwin, 29 April 1934)
The “Innsmouth” story was suggested by the ancient & decaying town of Newburyport, Mass. (H.P. Lovecraft to F. Lee Baldwin, 27 July 1934)
“Innsmouth” is a considerably twisted version of Newburyport, Mass. (H.P. Lovecraft to Emil Petaja, 29 December 1934)
Roughly speaking, “Innsmouth” (an exaggeration of quaint decaying Newburyport) is supposed to be on the marshy coast a bit south of the real Newburyport. (H.P. Lovecraft to Fritz Leiber, Jr., 9 November 1936)
That said, Lovecraft did visit Gloucester on a couple of occasions and enjoyed touring the Sargent-Murray-Gilman-Hough House.
Donovan K. Loucks
The H.P. Lovecraft Archive
Way to go, Debbie Downer.
I’m picky about this because this has become a widespread misconception about Innsmouth. Think of me as the Snopes.com for Lovecraft. 🙂