Today marks H.P. (Howard Phillips) Lovecraft’s 122nd birthday. In honor of the author’s amazing impact on modern pop culture, lets take a little look at the life that led to some of the most famous horror icons of the last century.
Creating A Mind For Madness
Given how dark many of Lovecraft’s stories are, it shouldn’t be all too surprising that his childhood was fairly dark as well. It wasn’t that the young boy was abused or anything, it’s just that his father was institutionalized when he was only three and died when he was eight. While Lovecraft maintained throughout his life that his father suffered from a nervous breakdown caused by working too hard, many researchers believe he actually suffered from syphilis.
Even without his father around, young Howard had a lot of family support, as he lived with his mother, his two aunts and his grandfather in a charming home in Providence, Rhode Island. The boy was pretty much a genius and was able to recite poems at only three and write his own poetry at six.
His grandfather encouraged him by reading him classic stories, but he also stirred up the boy’s imagination with Gothic horror stories. While that’s normally not such a bad thing, and little Howard loved the stories, it’s not generally a good idea to keep telling scary stories to children who suffer from night terrors –like Lovecraft did from a very young age. He had one recurring nightmare featuring faceless demons that he called “night gaunts.” Later on these creatures would become the subject of one of his poems and many believe his childhood nightmares provided inspiration for his later tales of terror.
As if his nightmares weren’t bad enough, the boy was also frequently ill. In fact, he was so sickly that he couldn’t enter school until he was eight and even then, he was withdrawn again only a year later. Fortunately, Howard was highly interested in academia and spent his time out of school reading text books, particularly those focused on chemistry and astronomy –his two favorite subjects.
While he finally was well enough to attend high school, his grandfather’s death paired with difficulty in mathematics (which he needed to master to become an astronomer or chemist) caused him to suffer from a nervous breakdown shortly before graduation. As a result, Lovecraft dropped out and never actually received his diploma.