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H.P. Lovecraft, (1890-1937), American writer, circa 1934.
Everett Collection

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:

Read the full story here, in the TIME Vault: The Dream Lurker

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