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Author Topic: COOL AIR  (Read 174 times)
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« on: March 01, 2007, 02:40:52 am »


H.P. Lovecraft

You ask me to explain why I am afraid of a draught of cool air; why I
shiver more than others upon entering a cold room, and seem nauseated
and repelled when the chill of evening creeps through the heat of a
mild autumn day. There are those who say I respond to cold as others
do to a bad odour, and I am the last to deny the impression. What I
will do is to relate the most horrible circumstance I ever
encountered, and leave it to you to judge whether or not this forms a
suitable explanation of my peculiarity.

It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with
darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-
afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst
of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house with a prosaic landlady and
two stalwart men by my side. In the spring of 1923 I had secured some
dreary and unprofitable magazine work in the city of New York; and
being unable to pay any substantial rent, began drifting from one
cheap boarding establishment to another in search of a room which
might combine the qualities of decent cleanliness, endurable
furnishings, and very reasonable price. It soon developed that I had
only a choice between different evils, but after a time I came upon a
house in West Fourteenth Street which disgusted me much less than the
others I had sampled.

The place was a four-story mansion of brownstone, dating apparently
from the late forties, and fitted with woodwork and marble whose
stained and sullied splendour argued a descent from high levels of
tasteful opulence. In the rooms, large and lofty, and decorated with
impossible paper and ridiculously ornate stucco cornices, there
lingered a depressing mustiness and hint of obscure cookery; but the
floors were clean, the linen tolerably regular, and the hot water not
too often cold or turned off, so that I came to regard it as at least
a bearable place to hibernate till one might really live again. The
landlady, a slatternly, almost bearded Spanish woman named Herrero,
did not annoy me with gossip or with criticisms of the late-burning
electric light in my third-floor front hall room; and my fellow-
lodgers were as quiet and uncommunicative as one might desire, being
mostly Spaniards a little above the coarsest and crudest grade. Only
the din of street cars in the thoroughfare below proved a serious

I had been there about three weeks when the first odd incident
occurred. One evening at about eight I heard a spattering on the floor
and became suddenly aware that I had been smelling the pungent odour
of ammonia for some time. Looking about, I saw that the ceiling was
wet and dripping; the soaking apparently proceeding from a corner on
the side toward the street. Anxious to stop the matter at its source,
I hastened to the basement to tell the landlady; and was assured by
her that the trouble would quickly be set right.

"Doctair Muņoz," she cried as she rushed upstairs ahead of me, "he
have speel hees chemicals. He ees too seeck for doctair heemself--
seecker and seecker all the time--but he weel not have no othair for
help. He ees vairy queer in hees seeckness--all day he take funnee-
smelling baths, and he cannot get excite or warm. All hees own
housework he do--hees leetle room are full of bottles and machines,
and he do not work as doctair. But he was great once--my fathair in
Barcelona have hear of heem--and only joost now he feex a arm of the
plumber that get hurt of sudden. He nevair go out, only on roof, and
my boy Esteban he breeng heem hees food and laundry and mediceens and
chemicals. My Gawd, the sal-ammoniac that man use for keep heem cool!"

Mrs. Herrero disappeared up the staircase to the fourth floor, and I
returned to my room. The ammonia ceased to drip, and as I cleaned up
what had spilled and opened the window for air, I heard the landlady's
heavy footsteps above me. Dr. Muņoz I had never heard, save for
certain sounds as of some gasoline-driven mechanism; since his step
was soft and gentle. I wondered for a moment what the strange
affliction of this man might be, and whether his obstinate refusal of
outside aid were not the result of a rather baseless eccentricity.
There is, I reflected tritely, an infinite deal of pathos in the state
of an eminent person who has come down in the world.

I might never have known Dr. Muņoz had it not been for the heart
attack that suddenly seized me one forenoon as I sat writing in my
room. Physicians had told me of the danger of those spells, and I knew
there was no time to be lost; so remembering what the landlady had
said about the invalid's help of the injured workman, I dragged myself
upstairs and knocked feebly at the door above mine. My knock was
answered in good English by a curious voice some distance to the
right, asking my name and business; and these things being stated,
there came an opening of the door next to the one I had sought.

A rush of cool air greeted me; and though the day was one of the
hottest of late June, I shivered as I crossed the threshold into a
large apartment whose rich and tasteful decoration surprised me in
this nest of squalor and seediness. A folding couch now filled its
diurnal role of sofa, and the mahogany furniture, sumptuous hangings,
old paintings, and mellow bookshelves all bespoke a gentleman's study
rather than a boarding-house bedroom. I now saw that the hall room
above mine -the "leetle room" of bottles and machines which Mrs.
Herrero had mentioned -was merely the laboratory of the doctor; and
that his main living quarters lay in the spacious adjoining room whose
convenient alcoves and large contiguous bathroom permitted him to hide
all dressers and obtrusively utilitarian devices. Dr. Muņoz, most
certainly, was a man of birth, cultivation, and discrimination.

The figure before me was short but exquisitely proportioned, and clad
in somewhat formal dress of perfect cut and fit. A high-bred face of
masterful though not arrogant expression was adorned by a short iron-
grey full beard, and an old-fashioned pince-nez shielded the full,
dark eyes and surmounted an aquiline nose which gave a Moorish touch
to a physiognomy otherwise dominantly Celtiberian. Thick, well-trimmed
hair that argued the punctual calls of a barber was parted gracefully
above a high forehead; and the whole picture was one of striking
intelligence and superior blood and breeding.

Nevertheless, as I saw Dr. Muņoz in that blast of cool air, I felt a
repugnance which nothing in his aspect could justify. Only his lividly
inclined complexion and coldness of touch could have afforded a
physical basis for this feeling, and even these things should have
been excusable considering the man's known invalidism. It might, too,
have been the singular cold that alienated me; for such chilliness was
abnormal on so hot a day, and the abnormal always excites aversion,
distrust, and fear.

But repugnance was soon forgotten in admiration, for the strange
physician's extreme skill at once became manifest despite the ice-
coldness and shakiness of his bloodless-looking hands. He clearly
understood my needs at a glance, and ministered to them with a
master's deftness; the while reassuring me in a finely modulated
though oddly hollow and timbreless voice that he was the bitterest of
sworn enemies to death, and had sunk his fortune and lost all his
friends in a lifetime of bizarre experiment devoted to its bafflement
and extirpation. Something of the benevolent fanatic seemed to reside
in him, and he rambled on almost garrulously as he sounded my chest
and mixed a suitable draught of drugs fetched from the smaller
laboratory room. Evidently he found the society of a well-born man a
rare novelty in this dingy environment, and was moved to unaccustomed
speech as memories of better days surged over him.

His voice, if queer, was at least soothing; and I could not even
perceive that he breathed as the fluent sentences rolled urbanely out.
He sought to distract my mind from my own seizure by speaking of his
theories and experiments; and I remember his tactfully consoling me
about my weak heart by insisting that will and consciousness are
stronger than organic life itself, so that if a bodily frame be but
originally healthy and carefully preserved, it may through a
scientific enhancement of these qualities retain a kind of nervous
animation despite the most serious impairments, defects, or even
absences in the battery of specific organs. He might, he half
jestingly said, some day teach me to live--or at least to possess some
kind of conscious existence--without any heart at all! For his part,
he was afflicted with a complication of maladies requiring a very
exact regimen which included constant cold. Any marked rise in
temperature might, if prolonged, affect him fatally; and the frigidity
of his habitation--some 55 or 56 degrees Fahrenheit -was maintained by
an absorption system of ammonia cooling, the gasoline engine of whose
pumps I had often heard in my own room below.

Relieved of my seizure in a marvellously short while, I left the
shivery place a disciple and devotee of the gifted recluse. After that
I paid him frequent overcoated calls; listening while he told of
secret researches and almost ghastly results, and trembling a bit when
I examined the unconventional and astonishingly ancient volumes on his
shelves. I was eventually, I may add, almost cured of my disease for
all time by his skillful ministrations. It seems that he did not scorn
the incantations of the mediaevalists, since he believed these cryptic
formulae to contain rare psychological stimuli which might conceivably
have singular effects on the substance of a nervous system from which
organic pulsations had fled. I was touched by his account of the aged
Dr. Torres of Valencia, who had shared his earlier experiments and
nursed him through the great illness of eighteen years before, whence
his present disorders proceeded. No sooner had the venerable
practitioner saved his colleague than he himself succumbed to the grim
enemy he had fought. Perhaps the strain had been too great; for Dr.
Muņoz made it whisperingly clear -though not in detail -that the
methods of healing had been most extraordinary, involving scenes and
processes not welcomed by elderly and conservative Galens.

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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2007, 02:41:42 am »

As the weeks passed, I observed with regret that my new friend was
indeed slowly but unmistakably losing ground physically, as Mrs.
Herrero had suggested. The livid aspect of his countenance was
intensified, his voice became more hollow and indistinct, his muscular
motions were less perfectly coordinated, and his mind and will
displayed less resilience and initiative. Of this sad change he seemed
by no means unaware, and little by little his expression and
conversation both took on a gruesome irony which restored in me
something of the subtle repulsion I had originally felt.

He developed strange caprices, acquiring a fondness for exotic spices
and Egyptian incense till his room smelled like a vault of a
sepulchred Pharaoh in the Valley of Kings. At the same time his
demands for cold air increased, and with my aid he amplified the
ammonia piping of his room and modified the pumps and feed of his
refrigerating machine till he could keep the temperature as low as 34
degrees or 40 degrees, and finally even 28 degrees; the bathroom and
laboratory, of course, being less chilled, in order that water might
not freeze, and that chemical processes might not be impeded. The
tenant adjoining him complained of the icy air from around the
connecting door, so I helped him fit heavy hangings to obviate the
difficulty. A kind of growing horror, of outre and morbid cast, seemed
to possess him. He talked of death incessantly, but laughed hollowly
when such things as burial or funeral arrangements were gently

All in all, he became a disconcerting and even gruesome companion; yet
in my gratitude for his healing I could not well abandon him to the
strangers around him, and was careful to dust his room and attend to
his needs each day, muffled in a heavy ulster which I bought
especially for the purpose. I likewise did much of his shopping, and
gasped in bafflement at some of the chemicals he ordered from
druggists and laboratory supply houses.

An increasing and unexplained atmosphere of panic seemed to rise
around his apartment. The whole house, as I have said, had a musty
odour; but the smell in his room was worse--and in spite of all the
spices and incense, and the pungent chemicals of the now incessant
baths which he insisted on taking unaided. I perceived that it must be
connected with his ailment, and shuddered when I reflected on what
that ailment might be. Mrs. Herrero crossed herself when she looked at
him, and gave him up unreservedly to me; not even letting her son
Esteban continue to run errands for him. When I suggested other
physicians, the sufferer would fly into as much of a rage as he seemed
to dare to entertain. He evidently feared the physical effect of
violent emotion, yet his will and driving force waxed rather than
waned, and he refused to be confined to his bed. The lassitude of his
earlier ill days gave place to a return of his fiery purpose, so that
he seemed about to hurl defiance at the death-daemon even as that
ancient enemy seized him. The pretence of eating, always curiously
like a formality with him, he virtually abandoned; and mental power
alone appeared to keep him from total collapse.

He acquired a habit of writing long documents of some sort, which he
carefully sealed and filled with injunctions that I transmit them
after his death to certain persons whom he named -for the most part
lettered East Indians, but including a once celebrated French
physician now generally thought dead, and about whom the most
inconceivable things had been whispered. As it happened, I burned all
these papers undelivered and unopened. His aspect and voice became
utterly frightful, and his presence almost unbearable. One September
day an unexpected glimpse of him induced an epileptic fit in a man who
had come to repair his electric desk lamp; a fit for which he
prescribed effectively whilst keeping himself well out of sight. That
man, oddly enough, had been through the terrors of the Great War
without having incurred any fright so thorough.

Then, in the middle of October, the horror of horrors came with
stupefying suddenness. One night about eleven the pump of the
refrigerating machine broke down, so that within three hours the
process of ammonia cooling became impossible. Dr. Muņoz summoned me
by thumping on the floor, and I worked desperately to repair the
injury while my host cursed in a tone whose lifeless, rattling
hollowness surpassed description. My amateur efforts, however, proved
of no use; and when I had brought in a mechanic from a neighbouring
all-night garage, we learned that nothing could be done till morning,
when a new piston would have to be obtained. The moribund hermit's
rage and fear, swelling to grotesque proportions, seemed likely to
shatter what remained of his failing physique, and once a spasm caused
him to clap his hands to his eyes and rush into the bathroom. He
groped his way out with face tightly bandaged, and I never saw his
eyes again.

The frigidity of the apartment was now sensibly diminishing, and at
about 5 a.m. the doctor retired to the bathroom, commanding me to keep
him supplied with all the ice I could obtain at all-night drug stores
and cafeterias. As I would return from my sometimes discouraging trips
and lay my spoils before the closed bathroom door, I could hear a
restless splashing within, and a thick voice croaking out the order
for "More--more!" At length a warm day broke, and the shops opened one
by one. I asked Esteban either to help with the ice-fetching whilst I
obtained the pump piston, or to order the piston while I continued
with the ice; but instructed by his mother, he absolutely refused.

Finally I hired a seedy-looking loafer whom I encountered on the
corner of Eighth Avenue to keep the patient supplied with ice from a
little shop where I introduced him, and applied myself diligently to
the task of finding a pump piston and engaging workmen competent to
install it. The task seemed interminable, and I raged almost as
violently as the hermit when I saw the hours slipping by in a
breathless, foodless round of vain telephoning, and a hectic quest
from place to place, hither and thither by subway and surface car.
About noon I encountered a suitable supply house far downtown, and at
approximately 1:30 p.m. arrived at my boarding-place with the
necessary paraphernalia and two sturdy and intelligent mechanics. I
had done all I could, and hoped I was in time.

Black terror, however, had preceded me. The house was in utter
turmoil, and above the chatter of awed voices I heard a man praying in
a deep basso. Fiendish things were in the air, and lodgers told over
the beads of their rosaries as they caught the odour from beneath the
doctor's closed door. The lounger I had hired, it seems, had fled
screaming and mad-eyed not long after his second delivery of ice;
perhaps as a result of excessive curiosity. He could not, of course,
have locked the door behind him; yet it was now fastened, presumably
from the inside. There was no sound within save a nameless sort of
slow, thick dripping.

Briefly consulting with Mrs. Herrero and the workmen despite a fear
that gnawed my inmost soul, I advised the breaking down of the door;
but the landlady found a way to turn the key from the outside with
some wire device. We had previously opened the doors of all the other
rooms on that hall, and flung all the windows to the very top. Now,
noses protected by handkerchiefs, we tremblingly invaded the accursed
south room which blazed with the warm sun of early afternoon.

A kind of dark, slimy trail led from the open bathroom door to the
hall door, and thence to the desk, where a terrible little pool had
accumulated. Something was scrawled there in pencil in an awful, blind
hand on a piece of paper hideously smeared as though by the very claws
that traced the hurried last words. Then the trail led to the couch
and ended unutterably.

What was, or had been, on the couch I cannot and dare not say here.
But this is what I shiveringly puzzled out on the stickily smeared
paper before I drew a match and burned it to a crisp; what I puzzled
out in terror as the landlady and two mechanics rushed frantically
from that hellish place to babble their incoherent stories at the
nearest police station. The nauseous words seemed well-nigh incredible
in that yellow sunlight, with the clatter of cars and motor trucks
ascending clamorously from crowded Fourteenth Street, yet I confess
that I believed them then. Whether I believe them now I honestly do
not know. There are things about which it is better not to speculate,
and all that I can say is that I hate the smell of ammonia, and grow
faint at a draught of unusually cool air.

"The end," ran that noisome scrawl, "is here. No more ice -the man
looked and ran away. Warmer every minute, and the tissues can't last.
I fancy you know -what I said about the will and the nerves and the
preserved body after the organs ceased to work. It was good theory,
but couldn't keep up indefinitely. There was a gradual deterioration I
had not foreseen. Dr. Torres knew, but the shock killed him. He
couldn't stand what he had to do -he had to get me in a strange, dark
place when he minded my letter and nursed me back. And the organs
never would work again. It had to be done my way -preservation -for
you see I died that time eighteen years ago."
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2007, 04:28:26 am »

Do I feel a draft...
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"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2007, 01:14:12 am »

This was the one that first turned me onto Lovecraft, I found it very inventive.
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2007, 01:31:41 am »

First time I read this one, it reminded me of a Poe story, The strange case of dr. somebody or other can't think of it right now.
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"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2007, 02:28:53 am »

That would be the Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward! 
Another great one!
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2007, 02:36:27 am »

Hi Zodiac

Thats it, somehow when I heard that it reminded me of Vincent price and Peter Lorre, in those Poe Hammer Studio movies.

Hammer did a movie with a bunch of his short stories all in the movie.

The Strange Case of Dexter Ward
The Black Cat
The Cask of Amontillado, with them in it was really cool...

and some others...

Somebody should do an HP movie like that it would be so cool.
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"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2007, 02:48:29 am »

Yeah, that was sort of a compilation!

They actually have made some pretty decent H.P. Lovecraft films.  Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon have made most of them:

Reanimator (just printed tonight)
Bride of Reanimator
From Beyond

All pretty cool! 
See any of them?
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2007, 02:55:37 am »

I think I saw that Dagon one it was a low budget Spanish film, just came out a couple of years ago.

Not sure about the from beyond one, was that about sea captain and his ressurected son?

The reanimator films didn't really seem like HP stuff to me, more of like a cross between HP and hellraiser or something.
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"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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Posts: 4530

« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2007, 03:06:18 am »

Actually From Beyond was this film about these scientists that discovered there were creatures in another dimension, watching them.  Very gory and very cool!

It's hard to really "do" Lovecraft in films these days.  He has some great ideas, but most of his stuff is a narrative which doesn't lend itself well to film.  Other stuff has to be tossed in.  Personally, I liked all the gore, not sure what H.P. would have made of it!
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2007, 03:17:37 am »

I don't mind the gore, but I think what makes HP great is that he builds suspence, it is a slow accumulation of clues and little horrors that builds, until you get to a sudden revelation of a mind blowing ultimate horror.

I think to do an HP film right you would almost have to take an Alfred Hitchcook type approach. I thought the Dagon film was the most HP like of any of the films bearing his name yet.
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"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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Posts: 4530

« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2007, 06:43:27 am »

Yeah, HP left a lot up to the imagination, I am not certain he would be the same author these days.  Personally, I think that HP has been well-served by the Gordan/Yuzna movies.  They have revived interest in him and souped a few things up.  August Derleth was a contemporary of Lovecraft, and you don't see anyone making any movies of his stuff, among many others!
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2007, 07:21:57 am »

Hi Zodiac

Yes they certainly have helped with his name recognition.
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"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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