H.P. Lovecraft’s love for astronomy is well known and from 1903 to 1914 he wrote numerous articles on the subject. He did keep an astronomical notebook where he recorded, although somewhat inconsistently, a variety of astronomical phenomenon and occurrences (Joshi, 2013). The notebook is approximately 100 pages long and one of its identified objectives was “To keep track of all celestial phenomena month by month, as positions of planets, phases of moon, Sign of Sun, occultations, Meteor Showers, unusual phenomena (record) also new discoveries.” (Joshi, 2013).
In several of Lovecraft’s astronomical articles he describes meteors as “small particles of matter revolving around the sun, that fall to the earth, attracted to it. Sometimes they move in companies, in which case a shower results upon their descent to the earth. A continuous belt of meteors, meeting the earth the 14th of every November, is thus called the Leonid shower” – from the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, 9 November 1906 (Joshi, 2004). Lovecraft also noted the meteor showers that are frequently observed in August (the Perseid Meteor Showers), which occur when the earth intersects a thick belt of these bodies in space as it orbits the sun (Joshi, 2004). He also noted that some are consumed before they hit the earth (burned up in the atmosphere) while others descend to the surface as aerolites, or meteoric stones. Aerolite is another name for a meteorite but it typically refers to meteorites composed chiefly of silicates. Today we simply call any meteor that hits the earth a meteorite. Another interesting statement Lovecraft makes about meteors and meteorites is that they “are the only celestial bodies which may be actually touched by human hands” (Joshi, 2004). Obviously, this thought had a big impact on Lovecraft as he documented the events at the Gardner farm in “The Colour Out of Space.”
Perseid Meteor Showers (www.spaceref.com)
Lovecraft also reported on the composition of meteorites in his astronomical writings. Specifically, he mentions that based on chemical analysis meteorites are either rocky matter or composed of pure metals such as iron and nickel. Additionally, many have pores that are frequently filled with inert helium, one of the most abundant elements in the universe (Joshi, 2004). Again, the solid, rocky meteorite, with pores that are filled with a gaseous substance is very reminiscent of the meteorite that fell on the Gardner farm in “The Colour Out of Space.”
“The Colour Out of Space” was written in 1927 and was covered in detail in a series of articles on this blog site earlier in the year. Thus, this tale will not be covered in this article. Instead other Lovecraft tales that mention meteors or meteorite will be reviewed. One of the first of his tales that mentions a meteorite is “The Green Meadow” co-written with Winifred V. Jackson, which was written in 1918-19. Thus, “The Green Meadow” precedes “The Colour Out of Space” by 8-9 years.
Winifred V. Jackson (www.miskatonicbooks.wordpress.com)
In “The Green Meadow” a meteorite falls into the sea just off Potowonket Maine in the evening of August 27, 1913 and the next day a fishing party retrieves the meteorite. It was a mass of metallic rock approximately 36 pounds and looked like a piece of slag. What was remarkable about the meteorite is that as samples were chipped off, it broke open and a small book bound in a semi-metallic substance was found. This material was unbreakable and no chemical regent appeared to impact it. The pages were light in color and extremely thin and most remarkable was that the writing in the book was “Greek of the purest classical quality.”
Essentially the book is a description of a person who finds himself or herself on a peninsula, not sure how they got there; the peninsula breaks off and floats down a river. The narrator sees a green meadow in the distance and as they approach the meadow he (or she) hears weird singing. After that, the narrator has some type of apocalyptic revelation – “therein was revealed the hideous solution of all which had puzzled me.” Unfortunately, after that the text is illegible (S.T. Joshi and D.E. Schultz. 2001. An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia).
According to Lovecraft, the narrator is actually an ancient Greek philosopher who escaped the earth and landed on another planet (Joshi and Schultz, 2001). Based on this revealing piece of information, did the unknown Greek philosopher use the book and meteor as a sort of message in a bottle? Was it a way of sending a note into the audient void? If that is the case, what does this message mean?
There are a number of hypotheses that may explain this strange case and most of them are associated with the philosopher not being on earth. The first is maybe this philosopher ended up receiving and using knowledge of inter-dimensional travel, given to him by Nyarlathotep. The Greek may have gone down the same path of knowledge as Keziah Mason and Walter Gilman and is trapped on an alien world.
An alternative hypothesis is that Greek may be in the body of one of the Cone-Shaped Beings of the Great Race. There was no description of what the philosopher’s body looked like so his mind may be in the body of a Cone-Shaped being. Still another hypothesis is maybe this was some type of recording or documentation of a human mind being surgically prepared and placed into a Mi-Go brain container. The apocalyptic revelation may be the realization that the individual’s mind may no longer be in his or her body.
H.P. Lovecraft-ish interdimensional creature eating a rocket (www.onegraydot.com)
Going back to the book itself, the tale may be a representation of someone traveling from the known to the unknown with the journey ending with some type of cosmic revelation. Does the tale record an actual occurrence or is it supposed to represent something in a more symbolic manner? Was the illegible handwriting at the end of the tale an attempt to record something that the human mind cannot comprehend? This story is awash in questions but one thing is for certain; the meteor came from a different time and a different place and was used in an attempt to communicate with human civilization.
Next time we will review other Lovecraftian stories that cite meteors. Thank you – Fred.