When I began reading A Haunted Mind, I was looking forward to learning a little more about the history of the mysterious Howard Phillips Lovecraft. I certainly did learn a great deal more about Mr. Lovecraft, from his birth on August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island to his death from cancer at the age of 46. But, I also learned a great deal more than that in this informative and interesting book.
According to Dr. Curran, Lovecraft had taught himself to read Grimm’s Fairy Tales by the age of three. As he grew older, he enjoyed the work of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathanial Hawthorne. Other literary influences on Lovecraft include Horace Walpole, Matthew Lewis, and Ann Radcliffe.
Lovecraft’s interest in the occult and his creation of the Cthulhu Mythos have kept Lovecraft scholars in a debate since his works were first published. Some scholars believe that his books are based on true works that are denied to most academics.
In the first section of A Haunted Mind, Curran covers a great deal of information about “forbidden books,” not only books considered to be part of the Cthulhu Mythos such as The Necronomicon; but, he also delves into the secret books of magic brought into the Mediterranean and Western worlds from the Far and Middle East many years ago such as The Treatise of Shem, The Book of Sothis, and the Testament of Solomon, a book of magic attributed to King Solomon.
The second section of the book deals with the monsters and creatures of the Cthulhu Mythos including the alien race of beings called The Great Old Ones and The Great Race of Yith. Mythos entities such as Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth, Father Yig, and even Hastur the Unspeakable One are explored and explained in great detail.
In the third section of the book, Dr. Curran takes us to the places and locations of the Cthulhu Mythos. He compares many places in New England to settings in Lovecraft’s books. He speculates on the origins of Lovecraft’s Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth, and other fictional towns.
Curran concludes that Lovecraft used his Mythos to escape “the harshness of the life around him.” He drew from the “darker history of Colonial America…a shadowed history that contained both dubious and sinister overtones…from a time when the Founding Fathers believed in witchcraft and in ancient things still lurking in the dark forests of a new country.”