For a group of people obsessed with dark, creepy, and downright weird tales of human anxiety writ large, the HP Lovecraft Historical Society has a great sense of humor. I say that because I’ve been privy to the HP Lovecraft Historical Society Solstice Carol Songbook and CD, a collection of songs about the mythological universe of Lovecraft’s stories and creatures.
Here’s a perfect example of the tongue-in-cheek paeans to Cthulhu and other Lovecraft creations you’ll find on this funny little CD: “It’s beginning to look a lot like Fish-men / Everywhere I go / They can dynamite Devil Reef, / but that’ll bring no relief / Y’ha N’thlei is deeper than they know.” Maybe you can tell that this particular song is set to the tune of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Funny to people familiar with Lovecraft’s work and a little strange compared to the dark tone of most of Lovecraft’s work.
That story perfectly illustrates the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. These people are very serious about the life and work of HP Lovecraft, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. From their official websites comes a great description of their Christmas festivities: “A Very Scary Solstice is a delightful yet hideous combining of over-commercialized holiday tunes and the unspeakable horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos.” If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will. By the way, the society’s motto? Ludo Fore Putavimus, which in Latin means “We thought it would be fun.”
Formed in 1984, the society is a fun-loving group of fans of all things Lovecraft and Cthulhu. Their website hosts all sorts of goodies for Lovecraft fans, from props like a fan-designed library card for the Arkham Public Library to CDs and DVDs of Lovecraft writings, fan material, and hard-to-find HP Lovecraft movies and fan art.
The site and society also caters to the needs of the large Lovecraft Live Action Role Play community, designing and selling game props and other materials designed to support the Lovecraft gaming lifestyle. Cthulhu Lives, the name of the LARP game based on the Cthulhu mythos, is the focus of the society and the site, and even if you aren’t a LARPer, the stories of past players of the game and the games themselves is fascinating read, provided you’re a Lovecraft reader.
The game Cthulhu Lives started in 1983, and has since been played by hundreds of Lovecraft and roleplaying fans, and the historical society site is mostly dedicated to stories of past games, arrangements of future events, and all things HP Lovecraft, especially related to Arkham and the world of Cthulhu.
The HP Lovecraft Historical Society has many arms. Besides the live action Cthulhu game and the weird Lovecraftian music recordings, the society has also dabbled in radio theatre (the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre shows recorded between 2006 and 2008) and participated in three faithful film versions of Lovecraft’s work: The Testimony of Randolph Carter, a silent version of The Call of Cthulhu, and a student film made at Mount Holyoke college called The Whisperer in Darkness.
HP Lovecraft Historical Society Events
In the next year, the HP Lovecraft Historical Society plans some big events. A recent announcement at their official site hints at a brand new website (the current incarnation looks like a bad Geocities page from the late 90s), a brand new Arkham Sanitarium Sanity Assessment Kit for role-playing Lovecraft games, brand-new episodes of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, dark since 2008, and “other things we cannot and must not describe,” a cheeky little aside to the dark horror of Lovecraft’s stories and poems.
Another big event for the HP Lovecraft Historical Society in the past year was the release of a vinyl recording, “The Soothing Sound of Innsmouth.” This is the latest HPLHS audio recording, a jazz record purportedly put together by Ogham Waite and the Amphibian Jazz Band. When the HP Lovecraft Historical Society is at its best, it produces genuinely funny and interesting new material based on the old works of Lovecraft himself, and this recording is no different. HPLHS takes eight jazz standards and presents them in a Lovecraftian format, with tiles like My Slimy Cephalopod, We’ll Be Stalking You, The Very Scent of You, and You Notice My Head.
The HP Lovecraft Film Festival
A major event put together by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society is their HP Lovecraft Film Festival. The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival was invented to promote the works of H.P. Lovecraft through showing the various movie adaptations of his work, by both professional and amateur filmmakers. The first HP Lovecraft Film Festival took place in 1995. A major goal of this festival and of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society in general is to make sure that Lovecraft maintains his place in the pantheon of gothic horror writers and to encourage more filmmakers to adapt his work to film and television, in versions faithful to the original writings.
The festival takes place in Portland, Oregon. The festival itself takes up a couple of nights, and consists of viewings of new and classic Lovecraft films, judging (2011’s guest judge was none other than Benicio del Toro himself), and several dinners and other informal meetings. Q & A’s with directors and performers are becoming more common, as the film festival grows in popularity and stature among the horror film world.
2012’s HP Lovecraft Film Festival will take place in May at the Hollywood Theatre. Recently, other film festivals featuring Lovecraft’s work, some sanctioned by the original HP Lovecraft Film Festival, are gaining in popularity as well. As of this writing, only LA has a festival active enough to merit mentioning, but we can only hope that Lovecraft film fever will spread from the West Coast to the rest of the nation.
The HP Lovecraft Historical Society is part goofy gathering of Lovecraft fans and part serious homage to one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. Their website is a grab-bag of missing pages and hilarious Lovecraft-inspired miscellany, but their purpose appears to be serious. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society wants to make sure that Lovecraft’s life and work are not forgotten.