In his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” H.P. Lovecraft explains that fear is the oldest and most basic human emotion. Fear of the unknown is the root of all fear, as death and pain are more prominent within the human mind than something like pleasure is. As a result, we tend to put more emphasis on these negative emotions and put more thought into what their outcomes might happen to be. Lovecraft was a master of explaining away the unknown and filling it with a higher degree of fear—his stories revolve around filling the emptiness with something even scarier than the unknown: malevolence. Not only was that gaping blankness something that was impossible to understand, it was something that intended to hurt you.
Many literary experts have attempted to root out Lovecraft’s sources of inspiration. Some are not content with the idea that Lovecraft was just extremely imaginative—these authorities want to look into some sort of supernatural explanation. The fact is that Lovecraft was very well read and well educated about the roots of supernatural literature. This alone could account for his creative license.
Lovecraft’s writing was a huge “what if.” His works used the entire universe as his canvas, not just the Earth and its human occupants. Lovecraft insisted that human traits had no place in cosmological phenomena. Therefore, a new set of traits, a “weird” set, was necessary. So Lovecraft needed to create a new set of standards by which to explain his characters and otherworldly occurrences.
By Lovecraft’s definition, a weird tale is something that cannot possibly happen. Therefore, it can be assumed that Lovecraft simply did not believe that the fantastic, that the supernatural, was possible. The art that Lovecraft cherished so much, then, was to him more a rhetorical question than a statement of what he believed to be true.
Lovecraft’s debunking of the supernatural world is quite well known, but many people simply are not convinced. Just because Lovecraft didn’t believe that this was real does not prove that this was the case. Supernatural forces could very well have been at play within Lovecraft’s dreams—these were a big source of inspiration for him and provided him with countless subjects for future stories. Simply dismissing the supernatural influence from Lovecraft’s writing is shortsighted. If this theory is correct, Lovecraft was an able vessel for supernatural forces. Dreams and ideas may have been broadcast to him and he simply relayed the messages. This could explain stories like “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” where a man is brought to a mental institution that, when asleep, relays strange messages from celestial beings. Lovecraft’s drastic inclusion of dreams within his writing gives this theory a bit more weight than other ideas may have.
It is clear that Lovecraft was influenced by his musings and studies on the supernatural. Whether or not this is an indication that he actually was subject to supernatural forces is a mystery that will never be solved. At best, we can say that Lovecraft was not explicitly aware of any such influence. But the works he produced open many doors to those looking for answers that only supernatural occurrences can answer.