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The Cancer of Superstition
Posted by: casofile (IP Logged)
Date: 15 March, 2016 04:19PM
Anyone heard anything about this? Even though it sounds like an article rather than a story,and is possibly incomplete; anything new by Lovecraft seems almost too good to be true!!

Whispered about by hopeful collectors and scholars for decades, the manuscript of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Cancer of Superstition, commissioned and co-written by magician Harry Houdini, has finally come to light. It was rather incredibly “discovered by a private collector among the records of a now-defunct magic shop,” according to Chicago’s Potter & Potter Auctions, which will auction the 31-page typewritten story on April 9.

In the manuscript, the sci-fi master and the magician delve into ancient and modern superstitions, writing about werewolves, cannibals, and black magic, and advancing a “primitivist theory of the development of superstition.” The proposed book-length project came to a halt when Houdini unexpectedly died in 1926 at the age of 52. Prior to this discovery, only an outline and part of a first chapter were known to exist.

Potter & Potter will open the bidding at $13,000, although it is estimated to make $25,000-40,000.


Re: The Cancer of Superstition
Posted by: wilum pugmire (IP Logged)
Date: 15 March, 2016 05:33PM
It's not even a Lovecraft manuscript, being the work of Eddy. Here's some of whut S. T. has written concerning it on his blog to-day:

"There has been much talk lately about the 'discovery' of a Lovecraft manuscript called The Cancer of Superstition, which he was ghostwriting for Harry Houdini in the month's before Houdini's sudden death on October 31, 1926, derailed the plans and caused the project to be dropped. . . . But what has been overlooked by most commentators is the fact that this manuscript is not 'unpublished'; at least some of it appeared in The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces (Arkham House, 1966), where one chapter along with a synopsis were printed. What is more, although the synopsis was apparently written by Lovecraft, August Derleth--who assembled The Dark Brotherhood[i] and was in touch with C. M. Eddy, Jr., who was collaborating with Lovecraft on the [i]Cancer of Superstition project--says that the actual chapters were written by Eddy! So I am not at all sure that we should be all agog about the discovery of a 'new' Lovecraft text when in fact it may be by someone else."

"I'm a little girl."
--H. P. Lovecraft, Esq.

Re: The Cancer of Superstition
Posted by: casofile (IP Logged)
Date: 15 March, 2016 08:53PM
Thanks Wilum, guess I was correct in thinking it seemed too good to be true! I'd really like to research this, but unfortunately my copy of THE DARK BROTHERHOOD is in storage right now. Even though the auction house agrees that "an outline and part of a first chapter were known to exist" it does seem that the bulk of the manuscript (whoever wrote it) has never been published. I'd still like to read it, and can only hope that whoever buys it will agree to publication so that we can judge the work on its own merit.

Re: The Cancer of Superstition
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 28 March, 2016 09:26AM
Some further details:

This present season I'm busy as hell with some special revisory work which I've been doing for the well-known conjuror Houdini. I've done stuff for him before; but last week he performed in Providence, and took the opportunity to have me go over a lot of stuff which required constant consultation. It was the raw material for a campaign against astrology; and being somewhat in my line, (I had a campaign of my own on the subject in 1914) I rather enjoyed the digging up of data--though it was beastly laborious, and forced me to work continuously till night before last with very little sleep. If it doesn't knock out all the star-gazing charlatans in the country, I shall feel deeply disappointed! My next job for the sprightly wizard is an article on witchcraft which makes me lament with redoubled intensity the lack of a peek at the Waite book.
•H. P. Lovecraft to Wilfred Blanch Talman, 11 Oct 1926, SL2.76

[...] our slippery friend Houdini, who was here early in the month, and rushed me to hell preparing an anti-astrological article to be finished before his departure--a matter of five days; for which I received the not wholly despicable remuneration of seventy-five actual dollars. He says he has a devilish lot more for me to do, and has been trying to get me to meet him in Detroit at his own expense to talk things over--but I have maintained that I can do business best within sight of my native town's Georgian steeples. Just now I note in the paper that Houdini has had a breakdown--which must have occurred just after the last letter he sent me--so I fancy there will be a lull in the negotiations. I'll send him a line of sympathy to jolly him along. Poor eddy, who with my aid has been doing some revision for the nimble wizard, is quite worried about this unexpected intervention of the gods.
•H. P. Lovecraft to Frank Belknap Long, 26 Oct 1926, SL2.79

[...] in 1926 I read quite a few astrological books (since largely forgotten) in order to ghost-write a thorough and systematic expose of the fake science for no less notable a client than the late Houdini.
•H. P. Lovecraft to E. Hoffmann Price, 15 Feb 1933, SL4.153

I haven't yet attempted the task of convincing the Houdini heirs that the world needs his posthumous collected works in the best Georgian manner, but honest Eddy has gone the length of trying to collect the jack on an article for which the departed did not give his final & conclusive authorization, & which I consequently advised him not to write at the time! Well--I hope he gets it, for otherwise I shan't feel justified in collecting the price--in typing labour--of my aid on the text in question.
•H. P. Lovecraft to James F. Morton, 17 Nov 1926, Letters to James F. Morton 122

I can probably dig out some more material from the letters at some point, but I'll include this snippet from the introduction to "The Cancer of Superstition" chapter in The Dark Brotherhood (246)

Soon after, he also enlisted the talents of C. M. Eddy, Jr. and in the course of their work together Houdini outlined sketchily a book he thought ought to be done on the origins, growth and fallacy of superstition. He suggested that Eddy might prepare the book, and furnished him with voluminous notes and ideas that he wanted incorporated in the book; he suggested also that perhaps H. P. Lovecraft could put the notes into shape so that Eddy could work from the outline Lovecraft prepared. Lovecraft was not averse to the idea and duly prepared the following outline under the title, The Cancer of Superstition.

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