Long-lost Lovecraft manuscript penned for Houdini found

The man who brought us Cthulhu wrote a book for the man known to escape everything. But if you want to read the unfinished work, it's going to cost you.


H.P. Lovecraft's official 1915 press photograph.

United Amateur Press Association

Nothing could be more exciting to fans of legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft than the discovery of a rare manuscript in a defunct magic shop's collection.

But it gets better. "The Cancer of Superstition," written by Lovecraft in 1926, was commissioned by magician Harry Houdini. A Houdini memorabilia collector found the book and is selling it to the public.

Anyone who wants to read the 31 typewritten pages for themselves can buy the work as part of a Houdini lot from Potter & Potter Auctions in Chicago on April 9.

Previously, most Lovecraft and Houdini scholars believed the book might exist only in outline form since the work was suspended soon after Houdini's death in October of 1926.

The famous magician's widow, Beatrice, did not want to pursue the completion of the work after his death.

As an unpublished manuscript and a work in progress, "The Cancer of Superstition" is divided into the three sections: "The Genesis of Superstition," "The Expansion of Superstition" and "The Fallacy of Superstition."

Houdini shows how to slip out of handcuffs in 1918.


"In his investigative account of superstition in ancient and modern culture, Lovecraft explores werewolves and other monsters, worship of the dead, cannibalism, and other 'barbarian' practices," according to Potter & Potter Auctions site. "He concludes, frighteningly, 'most of us are heathens in the innermost recesses of our hearts.'"

The lot of magic memorabilia -- which also includes Houdini's personal letters, scrapbooks, rare photos, posters, film footage, autographs, handcuffs, keys and lock picks -- is set to open at $13,000, with a pre-auction estimate between $25,000 and $40,000.

Download the Houdiniana Catalog to see the items, including the Lovecraft manuscript on page 24, for sale. If you're in Chicago, you can see the collection April 6-8 at a public exhibit at the auction house's gallery. Collectors will be able to bid live online April 9 through Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com.

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