Howard Phillips Lovecraft, known as the “father of weird fiction” and the “greatest author of imaginative fiction since Poe”, and most well known for his horror character Cthulhu, lived most of his life in Providence, Rhode Island. He often used recognizable features of Providence in his writings, so you can spend a day in Providence checking out the city that eeked into his stories and poems. Lovecraft’s writings were not well known or appreciated during his lifetime, and still today the city barely shows its appreciation for its most famous author. Perhaps because his writings are considered very racist and xenephobic today… However, whether you’re a Lovecraft fan or have never read any Lovecraft before, spend a day taking this DIY H. P. Lovecraft tour in Providence, RI. You’ll walk in the footsteps of this weird author and perhaps learn something new along the way!
The Lovecraft Arts and Sciences bookstore calls Providence the “birthplace of weird.” They may have to fight it out with Austin, TX whose motto is “keep Austin weird”, nonetheless, the bookstore should be your first stop.
Lovecraft Arts and Sciences Bookstore
Recognizing that Lovecraft’s sentimentalities towards those not of high class, white, European descent were less than desirable, there is still a space for his writings to be celebrated for the place they hold in literary history, and that space is the Lovecraft Arts and Sciences Bookstore. This small shop, located inside The Arcade, sells more than just books by and about H. P. Lovecraft. The shelves contain novels full of the weird and unexplained “sciences”, horrors, and mystery. This includes, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Houdini, and subjects like mysticism and tarot.
The store also hosts “weird” literary and arts events and activities around Providence, including an annual convention, NecronomiCon.
Lovecraft Walking Tour
If you ask for a Lovecraft walking tour map at Lovecraft Arts and Sciences they may be able to produce a Lovecraft College Hill Walking Tour map, however, you can also order a Literary Providence tour map online ahead of your visit. (Although the website says it can be found in several local bookstores, I found this to be untrue.)
Not having planned ahead, I acquired the Lovecraft College Hill Walking Tour map at the bookstore. The tour takes you from the bookstore to the residential streets around Brown University and identifies many buildings that either Lovecraft lived in or wrote about. A surprising number of the local residences make appearances either as themselves or as fictionalized versions of themselves in Lovecraft’s stories and poems. For example, Lovecraft’s final home in Providence appears as the home of a character in his short story The Haunter of the Dark. Another house, the Jenckes-Pratt House, appears as itself, described as a “little white farmhouse” in Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
Interestingly, none of the former houses in which Lovecraft lived have become Lovecraft house museums, and beside that, his former residences have other historical names on them but no mention of him! For example, the Lovecraft’s final home is noted by a plaque on the house to be the Samuel B. Mumford house.
There are only two plaques with Lovecraft’s name on them found throughout the tour, one on a memorial dedicated to H. P. Lovecraft, and the other denoting H. P. Lovecraft Memorial Square, which is just a 4 way street stop.
Whether you take the Lovecraft Walking Tour or the Literary Providence tour, you’ll find that Lovecraft wasn’t the only morbid writer to walk these streets. Edgar Allan Poe spent time in Providence as well, and you’ll pass locations Lovecraft would have loved because of his esteem for Poe. Lovecraft called Poe his “God of Fiction”. One such site is the Providence Athenaeum where Poe spent much of his time, until his fiance at the time broke his heart by ending their relationship there!
I’ve been told Providence is not safe to walk around at night, and that it recently surpassed NYC as the “murder capitol of the world’. But on a nice sunny day, such as I had while walking through the streets that Lovecraft crafted into his horror stories, the place seemed rather harmless. The most I thought I was at risk of was sunburn and/or heatstroke.
Lovecraft Grave Site
The last stop of the day, the grave of H. P. Lovecraft is a bit of a drive from College Hill. Lovecraft, his parents, and his mother’s family, the Phillips’, are buried in Swan Point Cemetery. Look for the grave with the pens and pencils left in front of it.
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Are you a Lovecraft fan? Have you been to Providence, R. I.? Are you a fan of “weird” arts and sciences?
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