Auctioning Off a Collaborative Work by Houdini and Lovecraft

On April 9, there’ll be a live auction of an unpublished manuscript of a collaborative work between… (wait for it!) Harry Houdini and… H.P. Lovecraft! The auction house’s description:

“Lot 84: Houdini, Harry and H.P. Lovecraft (ghostwriter). The Cancer of Superstition. Circa 1926. Collection of 31 leaves, paginated 1 – 10 [11 – 13 lacking] 14 – 34, being an unpublished manuscript of a work in progress on superstition, divided into the three sections, “The Genesis of Superstition,” “The Expansion of Superstition,” and “The Fallacy of Superstition.” Scattering of typed corrections over misspellings or word changes. Differing inks observed between first ten leaves and remainder of file. Pagination inclusive of bibliography (two leaves). Minor foxing, a few short tears and nicked edges, fine overall. Previously known only in outline and through part of a first chapter, the work was suspended soon after Houdini’s death as the magician’s widow Beatrice did not wish to pursue it further (Joshi and Schultz, An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia (2004) [116 – 17]). The material here shows the project further along than other surviving sources have indicated it had reached, Lovecraft and Houdini putting forth a general theory of the history of superstition as an “inborn inclination” traceable to “primitive races” “utterly ignorant of the laws of Nature” that now “persists only through mental indolence of those who reject modern science.” Situating superstition at great length among an array of pre-modern belief systems including animism, fetishism, witchcraft, and black magic, the fascinating document shows the authors struggling to balance this primitivist theory of the development of superstition against evidence of what was really a cross-cultural “scourge” surviving among their contemporaries, even the well educated, introducing citations of early twentieth century studies on superstitious beliefs among students and faculty at prestigious American universities. The few missing pages from the first section distract but a little from the overall strain of thinking revealed in the second and third parts, and a bibliography at the rear provides the full spectrum of ideas Lovecraft and Houdini were negotiating before the project was unexpectedly cut short.”


Frater Lux Ad Mundi


  1. HPL’s actual collaborator on this was C. M. Eddy, Jr. — they were merely ghostwriting for Houdini.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *