A Lost H.P. Lovecraft Manuscript Was Recently Rediscovered


H.P. Lovecraft is known for fiction that depicts twisted, supernatural realities. However, a recently rediscovered manuscript co-written by the author expresses skepticism toward the paranormal. According to The Guardian, a forgotten Lovecraft story called The Cancer of Superstition was recently found amid a collection of items from an old magic shop. Commissioned by escape artist Harry Houdini, the 31-page work investigates—and condemns—superstition through the ages. 


Potter & Potter Auctions

The work was found among the papers of Beatrice Houdini and her manager, Edward Saint. After Beatrice’s death, the documents passed from owner to owner until a private buyer recently purchased them, came across the story, and realized its importance.

Now, Potter & Potter Auctions of Chicago will sell the story in an auction of Harry Houdini memorabilia on April 9. Bids start at $13,000, although experts think it might fetch anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000. 

Houdini hired Lovecraft to write The Cancer of Superstition in 1926. When the stuntman died later that year, the project was put on hold. A synopsis of the story and one of its chapters, The Genesis of Superstition, was published in the 1966 book The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces. However, scholars didn’t know whether any more of the work—which was intended to be book-length—existed until now, Fine Books & Collections writes.

According to The National, Houdini wasn’t a fan of magic or spiritualism, and regularly used his stunts to unmask charlatans and frauds. However, Houdini was a fan of Lovecraft—a surprising fact, considering that the latter never achieved fame during his lifetime and died a pauper. Houdini’s admiration was triggered by a story Lovecraft had written called Imprisoned with the Pharaohs. The tale was based off one of Houdini’s “experiences” in Egypt, and told of the time the famed illusionist supposedly met the god who inspired the ancient Sphinx statue. Lovecraft began ghostwriting works for Houdini, including a lost essay criticizing astrology, before starting on The Cancer of Superstition.

Lovecraft teamed up with the writer CM Eddy, who reportedly wrote the chapters of The Cancer of Superstition. Lovecraft made additions and revisions and wrote its synopsis. After touching on topics like werewolves and black magic, Lovecraft and Eddy concluded that superstition is an “inborn inclination” that “persists only through mental indolence of those who reject modern science.”

Since Houdini died so soon after The Cancer of Superstition’s start, scholars thought that Lovecraft and Eddy had only completed a small portion of the project. Now that it’s been rediscovered, it adds a new historical understanding of the two famous figures’ fight against scientific ignorance. 

“While Lovecraft entertained readers with weird and horrific science fiction and Houdini amazed audiences with displays of superhuman escapes, both are to be found here in what they call a ‘campaign’ against superstition,” Potter & Potter president Gabe Fajuri told The Guardian. “They argue that all superstitious beliefs are relics of a common ‘prehistoric ignorance’ in humans.” 

[h/t The Guardian]

Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]


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