It all happened on a cold night in the Arabian desert. After being haunted by the strangest and most monstrous visions and nightmares, Abdul Alhazred woke up in a cold sweat, his face white as a sheet, and let out a scream full of horror and awe. His companions were woken up by his piercing screams. They tried to make him react, but they were afraid it would be useless. He wanted to enter the forbidden city, even though he had been warned that it was a dangerous place, full of forces no human could defy. No one understood why anyone sane would ever want to step into that godforsaken city. What they did not know was that Alhazred was not entirely sane.
He finally stopped screaming, but his gaze was not there, in the ruins of the city where they had camped, but far away, in another universe. A crooked smile broke his fragile countenance, and after laughing, he started chanting, first in a low voice, and later in shouts so distorted and unintelligible they seemed to come more from a beast than a man:
“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.”
Alhazred’s mind was far away from the ruins, from Earth, even our galaxy. He was in a realm beyond sanity. He could hear the whispers of ancient deities, the voice of his master, caught in a millenary slumber, waiting for the moment the stars would align, so his reign of darkness could begin.
After that night, the few men who dared to take him to the abandoned ruins of the nameless city would not hear any more from him, except rumors and whispers. They said he saw the evil spirits that protected the city, and that, through the ominous song of locusts, they revealed to him their secret knowledge. Some said he used his own blood and the flesh of corpses to write it down, because such revelations were not meant to be preserved in paper and ink. He called it al-Azif, but centuries later, the fools who would look for that cursed book would call it by another name: Necronomicon. Of course, there were also rumors surrounding Alhazred’s fate after writing such malevolent revelations. After finishing the book, he crossed the threshold of sanity, and his mind wandered away from this reality. However, the mysterious deities punished him for letting mortal eyes read their knowledge, so they kidnapped him and tortured him with horrible methods not even the sickest mind would imagine, finally killing him.
But not even the ancient gods he served could stop curious minds from searching for the unfathomable words of the kingdom beyond…
Not even the fact that this book is completely fictional.
The story I’ve just told you belongs to the eerie and fantastic universe H.P. Lovecraft created in his “Cthulhu Mythos.” His stories are so detailed and so well connected that, decades after having written them, many people have written their own stories based on them. Moreover, there are those who go even further and actually believe them to be based on true stories, as it is the case of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. According to George Wetzel, Lovecraft’s stories managed to distort reality so well that even the fictional texts that are mentioned in the “Cthulhu Mythos” are seriously studied by scholars.
Moreover, in the 1970s a real Necronomicon was allegedly published by an anonymous author only identified by the pen name “Simon.” The first editions (of which, not kidding, only 666 copies were released) where bound in leather, remitting to the materials with which Alhazred’s infamous book was said to be made, but later on it would be published in paperback, becoming an immediate bestseller. In this version’s prologue, “Simon” claims that this is no fictional book, but a translation of a Greek manuscript containing the Necronomicon. This version mixes pseudo-Sumerian mythology with Lovecraft’s universe, and it includes rituals that supposedly allow the reader to summon the gods and demons of these myths. This Necronomicon has been also linked to the Satanic Church, as it also alludes to Aleister Crowley’s teachings. And after this version of the Necronomicon, other versions also saying that they’re the “one” have been published or sold online.
After taking a look at these events, you can’t help but wonder, how can a fictional book affect reality so much? Most of it has to do with Lovecraft’s sources and the construction of the Cthulhu Mythos universe. In his autobiography, Lovecraft states he was very influenced by the fantasy writings of Anglo-Irish author Lord Dunsany, which where based on Greek mythology. These writings inspired him to create a fictional world of his own that coexisted with this one. For this reason, he included in his stories a series of features that could be expected from any mythology, including plots that take place in the same universe, primal deities, Cthulhu being the main one, a genesis myth, and a sacred book with its own prophet. When we think about it, most ancient –and maybe even modern– cultures in the world possess many of these elements in their own cosmology.
The creation of such an intricate universe, along with the presentation of the stories as historical documents, can easily blend fiction with reality, and so give birth to a world that has even seeped into pop culture. Lovecraft only planted the seed that later on other authors and even his fans would water and see grow to unimaginable extents. His myths were fed by other stories that take place in the same universe and became rooted in our reality thanks to his many followers, including the mysterious “Simon,” who managed to give even more shape to the macabre book that many have wondered about for decades because of its connection to realms beyond the known.
If this story were true, would you dare to summon the Great Cthulhu?
Want to know more about the darkest side of the human mind? Check out these:
Illustrations by Hatter10-7, based on the Evil Dead saga.
“Genesis of the Cthulhu Mythos” by George Wetzel.