Sunday, December 18, 2011

Scientific American Piece on The Geology of the Mountains of Madness

We've covered some of this already, especially the Gamburtsevs, but it is worth a look.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

More on Lovecraft's influence on Paranormal, Occult, and Conspiracy Beliefs

On my other blog, Spooky Paradigm, I've written up a bit on a recent development in alternative belief systems that fans of this blog will likely find very familiar. I've previously touched on similar themes here, and over at Ectoplasmosis. But this new one was a bit surprising. To wit, I think extradimensional demology will become the preferred explanation for UFOs, aliens, and some parapsychology and cryptozoology concepts in the 21st century, as well as intermeshing with conspiracy theories. And that this strongly resembles Lovecraft's Cthulhu Cult, and the worship of the Old Ones depicted in "The Dunwich Horror."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yog-Sothoth, Hyperbolic Dimensional Geometry, and how Math (or a lack thereof) created the Cthulhu Mythos

Hypersphere coord

By derivative work: Pbroks13 (talk) Hypersphere_coord.gif: Claudio Rocchini (Hypersphere_coord.gif) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard Elwes, a visiting fellow in mathematics at the University of Leeds, has drawn some interesting parallels between descriptions of Yog-Sothoth, and current ideas of the geometry of higher dimension. Not only would a higher dimensional object look bizarre to us, as per Carl Sagan's famous take in Cosmos on Edwin A. Abbot's Flatland

but it might fold and morph in bizarre ways. One shape, called an exotic sphere, could resemble the "congeries of globes" Lovecraft used to describe the dimensional gate-thing known as Yog-Sothoth.

An even more intriguing parallel, to this curator, derives from Elwes' discussion of topology, and Henri Poincaré's conjecture that all basic shapes are reducible to spheres. This folding and stretching of shapes brings to mind the hyperspace forms of Keziah Mason and other travelers in other dimensions in "The Dreams in the Witch-House," a story completely concerning higher conjectural physics and mathematics:

"Of his own condition he could not well judge, for sight of his arms, legs, and torso seemed always cut off by some odd disarrangement of perspective; but he felt that his physical organization and faculties were somehow marvellously transmuted and obliquely projected—though not without a certain grotesque relationship to his normal proportions and properties."

"Those organic entities whose motions seemed least flagrantly irrelevant and unmotivated were probably projections of life-forms from our own planet, including human beings. What the others were in their own dimensional sphere or spheres he dared not try to think. Two of the less irrelevantly moving things—a rather large congeries of iridescent, prolately spheroidal bubbles and a very much smaller polyhedron of unknown colours and rapidly shifting surface angles"

The transformations of Keziah Mason, Walter Gilman, and others are very reminiscent of the topological twisting and exotic forms of spheres in higher dimensions that Elwes describes, like so


The amazing thing is that Lovecraft hated math. He wasn't bad at geometry, but had to retake algebra to get a mediocre grade. It was the subject that troubled him the most in high school, and there have even been suggestions (by at least S. T. Joshi) that Lovecraft's mysterious "breakdown" in his late teens and early 20s might have been due to the realization that his math scores likely prevented him from pursuing a career in science as he had planned for most of his young life. Lovecraft eventually turned his hand towards writing and fiction (an interest of his before, but largely put aside in his teens for astronomy and chemistry). Given his fixation on the Romans, I'm not sure why HPL didn't decide he could pursue history, Classical scholarship, or even archaeology, but he didn't, though as with the sciences, he kept himself somewhat educated on these topics throughout his life. So, instead of watching the heavens or diagramming the structure of materials, Lovecraft turned his aborted interest in science into his cosmic horrors, infusing a love of the exotic and weird with the jaw-dropping realities of space, time, and the nature of reality.

At Above Top Secret, Frater210 points to Thomas Hull's article "H. P. Lovecraft: A Horror in Higher Dimensions," in the February 2006 issue of Math Horizons. Hull notes that exotic math is an integral part of the Cthulhu Mythos, including staples such as hypergeometry and interdimensional travel masquerading as magic, non-Euclidean geometry, and vastly huge amounts of time measured in vigintillions. As Hull suggests, Lovecraft does seem to have followed relativity and other developments in physics in the early 20th century, at least as an auto-didactic layman. But whether Lovecraft grasped some of the weird ramifications of these new models, or if he simply got lucky in creating his strange entities and realms, he did it without any real formal training in math.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Archaeology of the Hyborian Age

Over at Ectoplasmosis, I wrote a bit on the Archaeology of Robert E. Howard's Hyborian age, as part of a week dedicated to that age's most famous hero, Conan the Cimmerian.

Visitors to the museum should find it very interesting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The True Horror Behind Princess Beatrice's Hat

beatrice silly hat

No, it's not a Cthulhu hat. No matter what the Today show says (do you have any idea how much what I just typed, burns. IT BURNS).

It is obviously a tiara from the Esoteric Order of Dagon, as described and featured in the Olmstead Manuscript, better known as "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." Compare with this example discovered in Peru. Or this one sighted in Spain.

As in soup, precision is everything.

Of course, the ramifications of this discovery are profound. For years David Icke has been railing on about how the royal family are a bunch of shapeshifting lizards joined together in a secret conspiracy. How about slowly transforming ichthyic-batrachian hybrid monstrosities? Hmm?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Heslington Brain - Victim of Ghatanothoa or Mi-Go Experiment?

Brain material shows as dark folded matter at the top of the head in this computer-generated view into the skull. The lighter colours in the skull represent soil. Credit to the York Archaeological Trust (source)

Exhibit MUV001: The Heslington Brain

In 2008 (press release), archaeologists working at Heslington, in Yorkshire, England, discovered something extraordinary: a preserved Iron Age human brain. Dating to the 7th or 6th century B.C.E. (673 and 482 B.C.E.), more or less, the brain was the only soft tissue to survive of the decapitated skull. Yes, the head of this individual, a young to middle-aged man, had been severed after he had been hanged, and then deposited in a pit at a residential and farming settlement.

Now, this case is being published and examined more fully, as described in this press summary. The most likely explanation for the preserved brain, which has shrunk a bit from its original size, is rapid deposition in an anoxic wet environment. This principle is also involved in the preservation of soft tissues in "bog bodies." However, other causes have not been ruled as to why the brain alone would be transformed and preserved.

Less orthodox suggestions come to mind. The Mi-go interest in human brains is obvious. But the Heslington Brain was found inside its skull, leaving this hypothesis problematic. Instead, the case of T'yog is perhaps the key. A priest and scholar of ancient Mu, T'yog's body was recovered from the floor of the South Pacific when a freak seismic event in 1878 caused a temporary geological uplifting. This discovery was correlated by certain mystics, with the story of T'yog in von Juntz's Unausprechenlichen Kulten, suggesting that the recovered artifacts and body were the ancient scholar who had met his grisly fate nearly 180,000 years ago (when mainstream science points to the emergence of modern humans in Africa). Tyog tried to defeat the horrifying entity known as Ghatanothoa, but through trickery was defeated, and his brain preserved (albeit in a better condition than that of the Heslington individual). An account of this discovery can be read as the short story "Out of the Aeons," by H. P. Lovecraft and Hazel Heald.

This of course begs the question: how would Ghatanothoa manage to effect humans in Iron Age England, across the globe from where it is trapped?

And why, as per the article linked above, did it happen again in the medieval era? Is it a cyclical phenomenon?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Houdini, Lovecraft, and Cthulhu

I've written a bit on the Houdini-Lovecraft-Cthulhu connection for this week's Cthulhu Cthursday over at Ectoplasmosis.

Head on over there for thrills, chills, killer robots, monstrous beasts, bizarre prophecies, lovely showgirls, and all the madness you can possibly want.

I will try to update some more *ahem* scholarly exhibits in the Museum. But for now, check out the playbill over at Ectomo.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Antiques Roadshow goes to Arkham

If you're wondering how Miskatonic acquires some of its more unusual pieces, this rare video from the Arkham episode of Antiques Roadshow (made available by member station Forbidden Donut Productions) may provide some answers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beowulf, New Wave Style

Not a Lovecraft post, but probably of interest to some readers, and keeping in the spirit of the Museum. The History Teachers have dozens of pop songs rewritten to teach history. "Revolution in France" (to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance) appears to have become a minor Youtube hit, and it's pretty well done. But the above video pushes all the right buttons for me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lake Vostok Drilling Attempt Stops

If you've been following recent reports, you may know that Russian scientists felt they were in a good position to finally break through into Lake Vostok under the Antarctic ice. Students of history familiar with Miskatonic's Antarctic expedition know full well the dangers of such an attempt.

But now comes word that the project has stalled for at least a year, and an intriguing footnote: they poured kerosene into the borehole to keep it from freezing over. Environmentalists and other observers question the wisdom of dumping a potentially toxic chemical over a pristine uncharted lake.

But if we read between the lines, a more horrible possibility emerges. I estimate that if the borehole was about a foot or so across, they pumped in about 500 liters of kerosene. Not enough to kill any particular eldritch monstrosity, especially spread over that distance.

But enough to free one? Is some monstrous plot afoot? What horrors are about to be unleashed in the name of science, or under the guise of science.

As HPL put it

"I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that I tell my reasons for opposing this contemplated invasion of the antarctic—with its vast fossil hunt and its wholesale boring and melting of the ancient ice caps."

and of course

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Physics from Hell - Gallileo and Dante's Inferno

The mix of science, history, and creepy horrifying literature in this analysis rings true with what we're trying to do here at the Miskatonic Museum with Lovecraft.

More information at the Boston Globe.