A private book collector sits alone, sifting delicately through the old, frail pages of a dead horror writer’s unpublished work. As he draws down on the mountain of memorabilia in front of him, he begins to see a pattern emerge in the papers. He realizes that there is an unfinished and unpublished manuscript coming together in front of his eyes. A manuscript about “superstitious beliefs” commissioned by one of the most popular and mysterious magicians of all time.
Although it sounds like a setup straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft story, this is actually how a private collector recently uncovered one of the late author’s lost manuscripts. And the manuscript, which is 31 pages long and entitled The Cancer of Superstition, was commissioned by none other than legendary illusionist and stunt performer, Harry Houdini.
The Cancer of Superstition (pictured above), is, as its name implies, a treatise against superstition based on the idea that “all superstitious beliefs are relics of a common ‘prehistoric ignorance’ in humans.” According to a representative of Potter & Potter Auctions of Chicago who spoke with The Guardian on the matter, the manuscript deals with everything from werewolves to cannibalism, and theorizes superstition as an “inborn inclination… [persisting] only through mental indolence of those who reject modern science.”
The work was supposed to be ghostwritten for Houdini by Lovecraft (who’s responsible for horror classics such as “The Call of Cthulhu” and Necronomicon), but Houdini died before the project could come to fruition. Now, it’s up for auction, and is expected to fetch anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000. This price may come down significantly however, as it seems that, according to scholar ST Joshi, much of the manuscript—aside from the synopsis—may have been written by CM Eddy, rather than Lovecraft.
But there may be some bidders who can’t resist the call of the pages that passed through Lovecraft’s hands, and are simply destined to have even a tiny piece of the dead author’s spirit in their possession. Hopefully they’re not too superstitious.
What do you think about this lost manuscript? And what freaks you out more, the thought of cannibalism and werewolves, or that $45,000 price tag? Let us know in the comments section below!
HT: The Guardian
Images: H.P. Lovecraft, David Linsell