The cosmic worms go in, the cosmic worms go out.

Lot 5, Group 281, Swan Point Cemetery, 585 Blackstone Boulevard, Providence
(401) 272-1314

Noted horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born in Providence on August 20, 1890. A precocious child, he was reciting poetry at age two, reading at age three, and writing at age six or seven. He became a published author at sixteen, by penning a monthly newspaper column on astronomy. His interest in the weird was fostered by his grandfather, who entertained young Lovecraft with imaginative tales of the macabre. In 1923, the publication of Lovecraft's short story, "Dagon," marked the beginning of his career as a regular contributor to such popular pulp magazines as Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Astounding Stories, and Tales of Magic & Mystery.

Many of Lovecraft's tales take place in and around Providence and incorporate real locations that you can still visit today. In particular, the short story "The Shunned House" and the novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward rely on Providence history and scenery to propel their action.

On March 3, 1924, Lovecraft married Sonia Haft Greene, another writer, and lived with her briefly in Brooklyn, New York. It seemed a good match, but the marriage ultimately succumbed to financial troubles, Sonia's poor health, and the disapproval of Lovecraft's surviving relatives. In 1926, Lovecraft returned alone to Providence, where he lived and wrote until his death from cancer of the intestine and kidney failure on March 15, 1937.

Lovecraft published only one book during his lifetime, a badly bound edition of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. His work might well have faded into oblivion had not two of his friends and protégés, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, founded Arkham House to collect and publish Lovecraft's work. In 1939 they issued The Outsider and Others, and many more titles followed over the ensuing years. Today, due in large part to the efforts of Derleth and Wandrei, Lovecraft is known around the world as one of the greats of early horror and science fiction.

Laid to rest in Swan Point Cemetery, Lovecraft was listed, along with his parents, on the Phillips family monument, but that wasn't enough for his fans. So, in 1977 a group of interested individuals pitched in to buy him a headstone of his own. They chose an unassuming block of granite, on which they had inscribed Lovecraft's name, the dates of his birth and death, and the weighty phrase, "I AM PROVIDENCE," a line from one of his personal letters.

A Sixty-Year Rest Disturbed

Although it is nearby, Lovecraft's body does not actually lie beneath his donated headstone, a fact that was evidently unknown to the person or persons who, on the night of October 13, 1997, apparently tried to dig him up.

The hole was discovered on the morning of the 14th by a Swan Point security guard. It was about three feet deep and the dirt at the bottom appeared to be undisturbed. Did the diggers merely give up, or were they spooked? Other than the hole itself, the only evidence they left behind was a single footprint.

Once it was determined that no coffin or vault had been breached, police allowed cemetery workers to refill the hole. Lovecraft was probably never in any real danger of being taken for a ride. Even if the nocturnal excavators had been more resolute, and even if they had been in the right spot, they very likely would have been thwarted by the heavy lid of a concrete coffin liner. Such lids weigh a couple of tons and require heavy machinery to lower them into place.

Getting Closer to the Master

The H.P. Lovecraft Commemorative Service
Some measure of Lovecraft's continuing popularity may be gauged by the fact that enthusiasts of his work gather each year around the anniversary of his death. See the sidebar below for a detailed look at this event by one of its organizers, Carl Johnson of the H.P. Lovecraft Commemorative Activities Committee.

Providence Preservation Society Walking Tours
The Society occasionally conducts walking tours of Lovecraftian Providence, generally around Lovecraft's birthday (August 20) and Halloween (October 31). Contact Theresa Woodmansee at 401-831-8586 for more information.

Grave Inscriptions

Lovecraft's stone
HOWARD PHILLIPS
LOVECRAFT
AUGUST 20, 1890,
MARCH 15, 1937.

'I AM PROVIDENCE'
Phillips family stone, east side
WINFIELD S. LOVECRAFT
1853 - 1898

HIS WIFE
SARAH S. PHILLIPS
1857 - 1921

THEIR SON
HOWARD P. LOVECRAFT
1890 - 1937

Related Links

The H.P. Lovecraft Commemorative Service

by Carl Johnson

Mock not the crows of Swan Point, for they are the guardians of those souls which here linger…
— Excerpted from the "eulogy" of the H.P. Lovecraft Commemorative Service.

As a tribute to the unique talent and literary contributions of H.P. Lovecraft, a commemorative service open to free public attendance is conducted annually at a location significant to H.P. Lovecraft's life. This service, since the first one held in 1987 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of H.P. Lovecraft's passing, has become something of a Providence tradition.

For years the service was held at H.P.L.'s grave in Swan Point Cemetery, but the cemetery's owners have recently become less open to such gatherings. Since 2006 the service has instead taken place at the Ladd Observatory, 210 Doyle Avenue (off Hope Street) in Providence.

As part of the standard procedure at this affair, a eulogy encapsulating the author's life is read, as well as a recitation of a poem by Providence resident Brett Rutherford, entitled, "At Lovecraft's Grave." Attendees are also invited to participate by contributing their own readings of Mr. Lovecraft's prose or poetry, as well as their personal reflections on the man himself. Some come attired in vintage or Gothic style clothing. Another common feature is a dramatic reading by an actor in character as "the Old Gent of Providence," an appellation that Lovecraft sometimes used when signing his letters.

It has been noted that something out of the ordinary—even for this eldritch affair—always seems to occur at these tribute services, often involving a dramatic and unanticipated change in weather conditions. To cite an example from the March 16, 1998, service, a burst of snow flurries fell while a dirge was sung by a pretty young lady clad in a black velvet cloak. The sunshine then just as suddenly reappeared! At the following year's service, crows that had ominously gathered in the surrounding trees, seemingly to observe the assemblage, began loudly cawing as the lady's singing commenced. Also, inexplicable, vaporous distortions appear on some of the photographs taken during that service. At the service conducted on April 2, 2000, surprisingly forceful wind gusts seemed cued to the readings of Lovecraft's horror! If this wasn't sufficient, a seemingly disembodied "voice" once was detected in the playback of an audio recording made at Lovecraft's final resting (or, perhaps in his case, "resisting") place.

Although he prided himself on his implacable sense of the rational, relying on scientific observation to interpret the world around him and disavowing any belief in things supernatural, maybe Mr. Lovecraft was in his own way letting us know of his bemusement at all the commotion concerning him, by augmenting the proceedings. But that is mere speculation, and of a decidedly "unscientific" nature.

Check Quahog.org's events calendar for the next H.P. Lovecraft Commemorative Service. It usually takes place at 3pm on a Sunday in March at the Ladd Observatory (1891), 210 Doyle Avenue, Providence.

For further information concerning this event, as well as future projects such as lectures, walking tours, and dramatic performances organized by the H.P. Lovecraft Commemorative Activities Committee, please call (401) 732-4870, or email ConstableCJ@Hotmail.com.


Carl Johnson is a part-time actor and native of Rhode Island with blood ties (through his mother) to both Roger Williams and H.P. Lovecraft. In 1988 and 1991 he had the privilege of portraying the Old Gent of Providence in Night Gaunts, a play by poet Brett Rutherford.

Information

Cost: free

Time required: allow 15 minutes

Hours: daily 8am-7pm during Daylight Savings Time (summer); 8am-5pm during Standard Time (winter)

Remember, this is a cemetery. Please be respectful.

Finding it: from the north: take exit 27 off Route 95; turn east onto East Street and go two blocks to a fork; bear left at the fork; go 0.8 miles and turn left onto Blackstone Boulevard; Swan Point is the second left across the Boulevard. From the south: Take exit 3 off Route 195; turn right onto Gano Street; go north on Gano to Waterman Street; turn right on Waterman; at the second light, turn left onto Butler Avenue; Butler turns into Blackstone Boulevard; Swan Point is 1.7 miles on the right.

Enter through the front gates of the cemetery and drive straight ahead; at the Barnaby monument, turn left onto Junction Avenue and then bear right at the Daniels grave marker onto Pond Avenue; go as straight as you can until you reach a "T" intersection with Avenue B; the Phillips family plot is directly in front of you and Lovecraft's stone is behind the family monument.

What’s nearby

Distances between points are actual distances, without regard to swamps or flag-burning monsters. Your travel distance will be longer.

This article last edited September 10, 2011

© 1999–2014 Quahog.org (with the exception of elements provided by contributors, as noted).