Starting on Thursday, fans of the writer H.P. Lovecraft will gather in his hometown of Providence, R.I., for the annual NecronomiCon festival, this year marking what would have been Lovecraft's 125th birthday. For an author of rather niche specialty—supernatural horror—his staying power within the culture has been impressive.
In 1973, when new editions of several Lovecraft works were released, TIME's Philip Herrera decided to get to the bottom of that appeal. Lovecraft's talent, he decided, was a combination of "mesmeric" prose and the insight to know that inexplicable evil was scarier than any monster. Rather than rely on vampires or other stock demons, he turned to the "more intimate horror" of ancient and pervasive power that all our modernity could do nothing to stop.
But, in order to reach that conclusion, Herrera really got into the spirit of things. Instead of writing a straightforward review, he summoned the image of three nightmares set at the Providence cemetery, each of which reveals something new about Lovecraft. And, in describing those dreams, he channeled Lovecraft's signature style, to amusing results:
The graveyard bristled with baleful intensity. Strangely colossal bats beat the air around my face, and chittering hordes of toadlike things chortled in infandous rhythms of ululation in dissonances of extreme morbidity and cacodemonial ghastliness. As I somehow anticipated, the cowled figure, his face ever hidden, approached and tugged my pajama sleeve, pulling me toward the open Lovecraft tomb. Forgetting danger, cleanliness and reason, I ventured into the yawning Stygian recesses of the inner earth, down inclined passageways whose walls were coated with the detestable slimy niter of the earth's bowels. My whole being choked on the stinking confluence of incense fumes, and a cancerous terror clutched my chest with strangling tendrils. Penultimately we reached a vast vaulted room lit with a gangrenous green glare from an unknown source, while all around pulsed and crashed a monstrous noise not unlike a machine malevolently crunching great living trees to pulp.
Read the full story here, in the TIME Vault: The Dream Lurker