LOVECRAFT STUDIES INSTITUTE
xxx WELLESLEY STREET EAST, # xxx (BUZZ xxx)
TORONTO, ON M4Y 1H5
MINUTES OF OCTOBER 23, 2010 MEETING
ATTENDANCE: Patrick, Bloch, King, Joshi, Cannon (Members). Five Guests.
2:15 P.M. Meeting Convened
2:20 P.M. Approval of Minutes for Meeting of April 10, 2010
2:23 P.M. Chair proposes reading of "Harbingers" manuscript Chapter 2 ("Deeper Than a Grave"). UNANIMOUS.
6:30 P.M. Reading Concludes
6:31 P.M. Chair proposes open discussion. UNANIMOUS.
[FULL TRANSCRIPT FROM AUDIO]
PATRICK: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. Chapter Two of the lost Lovecraft manuscript "Harbingers", titled "Deeper Than a Grave" was written in a cypher much more complex than the prologue and first chapter, and thus took several months to decode. However, I think we can all agree it was worth the effort and the result bodes well for the remaining chapters of the manuscript.
BLOCH: To start with, I thought it surprising that Lovecraft brought the characters to the very edge of Dunwich (Gilmore's farm) in Chapter One, and then swept them back to Aylesbury for the beginning of Chapter Two, where we realize the protagonists have been arrested for arson and property damage. This was a twist I hadn't expected, since I assumed his intention was for the characters to get drawn into the strange events of that famous backwater village.
CANNON: Perhaps he wants to build the reader's anticipation? Or perhaps the inclusion of Dunwich is a classic fake-out, and the characters won't visit it at all?
PATRICK: In any event, Aylesbury seems to have some mysteries of its own. A small town that seems to be thriving in the midst of the greatest economic crisis known to mankind? The presence of Aylesbury Days--mere flavor or something significant? And the scene that begins this chapter, with the protagonists locked in a jail cell, includes some clues that other strange events may be happening.
KING: Before we go further, I have to say I quite liked the character of Deputy Bickford "Bickie" Roberts. He's brutish, short-tempered, and violent--a person in a position of authority but one that the protagonists cannot rely on for assistance. A character I could imagine putting in my own works.
JOSHI: We do see some of the familiar tropes of the horror genre: the main characters find themselves trapped far from home, in an isolated place difficult or impossible to escape from, and then frightening things begin to take place.
PATRICK: Quite so. We have a fellow inmate, Kurt Caughey, muttering about how he's "gotta dig, gotta dig it out" and then being brutally beaten by the Deputy for causing a disturbance; the creepy scene of the hapless protagonists forced to listen while another inmate seems to be murdered by something horrific and disturbing; and the appearance of this strange fellow, a lawyer for the "Gilchrist Trust" named Zeituni Wanjiku--described by Lovecraft as "a tall, coloured fellow from blackest Africa, impeccably dressed, uttering an English that is comprehensible but oddly accented."
CANNON: An interesting character for the time period. We know Lovecraft had some rather dicey views of race, so I hope the character doesn't become objectionable in future chapters. Also, I thought Lovecraft's rendering of the character's speech seemed more akin to stereotypical "Chinese English" than that of "Central African English."
KING: He sounded like Charlie Chan!
CANNON: And then we find out Wanjiku has some sort of connection to Aylesbury's sheriff, Tim Glasby, and has read Sheriff Glasby's report of the incident on the train. Wanjiku thinks he can get the protagonists released in his custody if they're willing to assist Sheriff Glasby in an investigation of some sort. In any event the protagonists are more or less stuck in Aylesbury until the circuit judge returns in a few days time for arraignment.
JOSHI: My research into early twentieth-century Massachusetts legal procedure indicates that this may not have been "on the up and up" as it were.
KING: Lovecraft wasn't a lawyer. Who cares?
JOSHI: The reader should care. Does this demonstrate sloppy writing and forced motivation or is it a clue that Wanjiku wields a disturbing influence in Aylesbury?
PATRICK: Gentlemen, I believe we should move along--we have a lot of ground to cover. The protagonists agree to Wanjiku's terms--some more reluctantly than others, but all with the understanding that more will be explained at dinner the following evening. The Catholic priest, Patrick Murphy, is the last to give in. Lovecraft's depiction of Murphy is an interesting one--the character seems heroic and sensible, but also prone to believing quickly and whole-heartedly in the efficacy of occult rituals. We talked about Murphy's reliance on spellcraft in the basement of the Gilmore farm, and then he tries (and fails) to use mysterious magicks to banish that foul and demonic monstrosity that attacked a fellow inmate.
CANNON: Also interesting in that incident is that the only character to actually witness that "houndlike, humanoid perversion" was one of the characters who was not marked as a "Harbinger." And yet, Blackstone distinctly heard it growl "Harbingers lead the way, Harbingers act the play." Strange diction, especially the last part. But of more significance, I believe, is that Lovecraft later slips in the fact that a similar attack occurred while the protagonists were sleeping at the Miskatonic River View Inn the night prior. A pattern may be developing.
PATRICK: When the protagonists are eventually released on what we're told is the morning of Monday, March 23, 1931, they make their way to the location Wanjiku said they could find Sheriff Glanby. Behind the house on Dillard Street, they encounter a strange sight: a young laborer named Richard Doggett is digging out a huge pit which is already several feet deep and ten feet to a side. The bystanders, the young man's parents, and Sheriff Glanby all agree that Doggett has been digging 16 hours a day, more or less nonstop, for days now. Kurt Caughey, the inmate the protagonists overheard being beaten by Bickie, had been digging alongside Doggett until Caughey's father tried to stop them and ended up with a shattered jaw from Kurt for his trouble. No one can figure out why the boys are so hell-bent on digging, and nor will the boys themselves explain.
KING: At this point Lovecraft decides to split the characters up as they pursue clues alone or in pairs. Narratively, this has the advantage of "spotlighting" characters who may tend to fade into the background while in large groups. If I remember correctly, Father Murphy and the butler, Harleigh Matheson, decide to search the Doggett house for clues but turn up little of interest. The book salesman, Hoyt Symmes, visits the local five-and-dime and the Aylesbury County Library, but again his investigation bears little fruit. A potential breakthough comes when Blackstone and Scarlet Warren visit the textile mill where the Doggett and Caughey boys were employed.
JOSHI: Your coarse summary overlooks several interesting details. For example, the frequent whispering between Murphy and Symmes about the occult texts they found in the Gilmore farmhouse--Simia Daemon Futurus (Latin for "The Coming of the Daemon-Kind") and Damanomagie (German, of course, for "Diabological Magicks"). What role will these books, and the increasing obsession of the two characters with them, play in the story?
CANNON: And there's the issue of the dreams--the Harbingers share an evocative vision of a carnival atmosphere gone mad, while Patrick Murphy experiences something very different. And Blackstone, courageous debunker, forces himself to stay awake the night through!
PATRICK: Gentlemen, I again remind you--these asides, interesting though they may be, draw us further from the heart of the story and time grows short. Now, as Mr. King was saying, Scarlett Warren displays a penchant for charming young men when she convinces a mill worker to tell an unflattering tale about the Caughey and Doggett boys. Apparently, the two came across the body of a supposed "hobo" while on a hunting trip near Dunwich a week ago. They joked around and "posed" with the body before informing their parents, who in turn reported the discovery to the authorities. Sheriff Glasby and his brother James Glasby, the county coroner, arrived the next day. Dr. Glasby performed a brief examination and pronounced death by hypothermia. A day after that, the body was interred at the local cemetery.
KING: I quite liked the end of this chapter--a classic twist that drives the reader to turn the pages. Three of the characters end up at Dr. Glasby's clinic to question him about the body of the "hobo." He explains that the body was somewhat malnourished and dehydrated, that the corpse's hands were bruised and callused, and that a large bug-bite was visible on its left forearm. However, just as the investigators think they may be on the right track, Glasby suddenly announces he's remembered something important and dashes out of the room. The investigators wait patiently for several minutes and then decide to look for him. They walk outside and hear strange sounds coming from behind the clinic--and there is Dr. Glasby, on his hands and knees, covered in dirt, digging furiously with his bare hands and muttering "Gotta' dig!"
PATRICK: Agreed, an intriguing ending to the chapter, although one that leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Why the compulsion to dig? What links the victims? Will it continue to spread? Is there a link between the strange events at the Gilmore farm and the events in Aylesbury? And perhaps most importantly, what are the "Harbingers"? Harbingers of what--or whom?
7:45 P.M. Chair proposes adjournment. UNANIMOUS.