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THE SHUNNED HOUSE

Updated: Apr 16

The Shunned House was written on October 16–19, 1924 and it was first published in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales.


The title is based on an actual house in Providence, Rhode Island, built around 1763 and still standing at 135 Benefit Street. Lovecraft was familiar with the house because his aunt Lillian Clark lived there in 1919/20 as a companion to Mrs. H. C. Babbit. However, it was another house in Elizabeth, New Jersey that actually compelled Lovecraft to write the story. As he wrote in a letter:


On the northeast corner of Bridge Street and Elizabeth Avenue is a terrible old house—a hellish place where night-black deeds must have been done in the early seventeen-hundreds—with a blackish unpainted surface, unnaturally steep roof, and an outside flight of stairs leading to the second story, suffocatingly embowered in a tangle of ivy so dense that one cannot but imagine it accursed or corpse-fed. It reminded me of the Babbit House in Benefit Street…. Later its image came up again with renewed vividness, finally causing me to write a new horror story with its scene in Providence and with the Babbit House as its basis.

 

THE SHUNNED HOUSE

DATE(S) VISITED: JUN 5, 2021/NOV 3, 2016/OCT 29, 2016
MAP

Now the irony is this. In this walk, so many times repeated, the world's greatest master of the terrible and the bizarre was obliged to pass a particular house on the eastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side hill, with a great unkempt yard dating from a time when the region was partly open country. - HPL ~ The Shunned House


In my childhood the shunned house was vacant, with barren, gnarled and terrible old trees, long; queerly pale grass and nightmarishly misshapen weeds in the high terraced yard where birds never lingered. - HPL ~ The Shunned House



His fancy had not gone so far as mine, but he felt that the place was rare in its imaginative potentialities, and worthy of note as an inspiration in the field of the grotesque and macabre. - HPL ~ The Shunned House



The general fact is, that the house was never regarded by the solid part of the community as in any real sense "haunted." There were no widespread tales of rattling chains, cold currents of air, extinguished lights, or faces at the window. - HPL ~ The Shunned House



We never - even in our wildest Hallowe'en moods - visited this cellar by night, but in some of our daytime visits could detect the phosphorescence, especially when the day was dark and wet. - HPL ~ The Shunned House

 

ST. JOHN'S CHURCHYARD

DATE(S) VISITED: JUN 5, 2021/OCT 29, 2016
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I am lonely without that gentle soul whose long years were filled only with honour, virtue, good taste, benevolence, and learning. I have reared a marble urn to his memory in St. John's churchyard - the place that Poe loved - the hidden grove of giant willows on the hill, where tombs and head stones huddle quietly between the hoary bulk of the church and the houses and bank walls of Benefit Street. - HPL ~ The Shunned House


 

BUSINESS SECTION/FINANCIAL DISTRICT

DATE(S) VISITED: JUN 5, 2021/ 10 NOV, 2016
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I walked aimlessly south past College Hill and the Athenaeum, down Hopkins Street, and over the bridge to the business section where tall buildings seemed to guard me as modern material things guard the world from ancient and unwholesome wonder. - HPL ~ The Shunned House


 

THE WHITMAN HOUSE

DATE(S) VISITED: OCT 29, 2016
MAP

Sarah Helen Power Whitman (January 19, 1803 – June 27, 1878) was a poet, essayist, transcendentalist, Spiritualist and a romantic interest of Edgar Allan Poe.


Poe generally stopped at the Mansion House in Benefit Street - the renamed Golden Ball Inn whose roof has sheltered Washington, Jefferson, and Lafayette - and his favorite walk led northward along the same street to Mrs. Whitman's home and the neighboring hillside churchyard of St. John's whose hidden expanse of eighteenth-century gravestones had for him a peculiar fascination. – HPL ~ The Shunned House



From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent. Sometimes it enters directly into the composition of the events, while sometimes it relates only to their fortuitous position among persons and places. The latter sort is splendidly exemplified by a case in the ancient city of Providence, where in the late forties Edgar Allan Poe used to sojourn often during his unsuccessful wooing of the gifted poetess, Mrs. Whitman. – HPL ~ The Shunned House

 

THE GREAT STORM

DATE(S) VISITED: OCT 29, 2016
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Dutee himself thought little of the house, for he grew up to be a privateersman, and served with distinction on the Vigilant under Capt. Cahoone in the War of 1812. He returned unharmed, married in 1814, and became a father on that memorable night of September 23, 1815, when a great gale drove the waters of the bay over half the town, and floated a tall sloop well up Westminster Street so that its masts almost tapped the Harris windows in symbolic affirmation that the new boy, Welcome, was a seaman’s son. - HPL ~ The Shunned House


 

COURT AND COLONY HOUSE

DATE(S) VISITED: OCT 29, 2016
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Around him in the damp, low-ceiled library with the musty white panelling, heavy carved over mantel and small-paned, vine- shaded windows were the relics and records of his ancient family, among which were many dubious allusions to the shunned house in Benefit Street. That pest spot lies not far. distant - for Benefit runs ledge wise just above the court house along the precipitous hill up which the first settlement climbed. - HPL ~ The Shunned House


 

PROVIDENCE ATHENAEUM

DATE(S) VISITED: OCT 28, 2016
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I walked aimlessly south past College Hill and the Athenaeum, down Hopkins Street, and over the bridge to the business section where tall buildings seemed to guard me as modern material things guard the world from ancient and unwholesome wonder. - HPL ~ The Shunned House


 

CRANSTON STREET ARMOURY

DATE(S) VISITED: OCT 28, 2016
MAP

The natural leadership with which my uncle procured the instruments from the laboratories of Brown University and the Cranston Street Armory, and instinctively assumed direction of our venture, was a marvellous commentary on the potential vitality and resilience of a man of eighty-one. - HPL ~ The Shunned House



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