Writer who photographed HP Lovecraft's headstone ordered to delete her photo, heaped with abuse

Matt sez, "One of my favorite writers, Caitlin R. Kiernan, was the subject of verbal abuse, profanity and homophobic remarks from some sort of security guard when she and her companion went to visit H.P. Lovecraft's grave. The guard attempted to make them delete all of the photographs they had taken, despite the absence of any policy forbidding it. Are cameras like catnip for abusive, power-mad rent-a-cops now?"

Basic story: Caitlin and her friend have been visiting the grave for a decade or so, paying respects quietly, as do many people. It's one of the most photographed stones in the world. The graveyard's policies, listed on its website, do not prohibit photos. The security was incredibly abusive and jerky. Just another skirmish in the war against photography, as the brave security guards of the world prevent the theft of photons from our poor, helpless inanimate objects.

As Spooky was getting into the car, I finally looked him in the eye and said the only thing I said during the entire encounter (which elapsed over the space of maybe three or four minutes, start to finish, at the most). I pointed a finger at the man and, very quietly, I said, "You will be reported." He screamed, "You do that, you piece of shit!." This is the only time I got a clear look at the man. He was white, late middle-aged, seemed to have about three-days worth of beard (salt and pepper), and spoke with a heavy regional accent (don't ask which one). I am fairly certain that he had been drinking, and he may have been intoxicated. He certainly acted like a belligerent drunkard.
"...stains on the carpet and stains on the scenery..." (Thanks, Matt!)

(Image: H.P. Lovecraft's grave a Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike photo from StrangeInterlude's Flickr stream)


  1. Actually, there is a very clear policy prohibiting photography at the Swan Point Cemetery where Lovecraft is buried. Signs clearly announce the policy at the entrance, stating no photography is permitted without a permit. So while the guard’s behavior was inexcusable, it’s simply not true to say that there isn’t a policy prohibiting photos. (Which is a shame, since I’ve wanted to take pictures there myself.)

  2. Just to be picky, in the Boingboing post, it’s not stated that there is no no-photos policy. The blogger said that the cemetery’s website didn’t state the policy.

    And, as per the blog, the posted sign at the cemetery was hard to spot/read and had 1,000 words or so – which she thought was some sort of historical blurb. The policy about no-plastic-flowers, however, is clearly stated on their website.

  3. It seems like a silly rule, which I don’t see posted on their website.

    Interestingly, Swan Point Cemetery has a 17-ft. high megalith, a la Stonehenge or Avebury, which they believe is “the largest single stone ever to have been set in an American cemetery.”

  4. Perhaps unshaven, belligerent, and (possibly) intoxicated is the best one can hope for in a cemetery security guard. As the unemployed look for work, I’m fairly certain that sort of position sits at the bottom of the list until there’s no choice but to call for an interview.

  5. A drunken security guard at Lovecraft’s graveyard. He was seemingly possessed by madness. He was unshaven…was he hollow eyed? Please say he was hollow eyed…

  6. Even if they have a “no photographs” policy, it doesn’t really matter. They can’t make you delete your photos. They can’t even stop you from taking them. The only thing they can do is ask you to leave.

    Don’t take any nonsense from these fools.

  7. Speaking of drunks in cemeteries, here’s the hilarious MSTSK commentary on the gravedigger scene from Hamlet:

  8. Moving past the practicality of any photo ban, we go to the question of WHY creepy weirdos with WAY too much time on their hands prowl graveyards in the first place. To pay their respects? To who- some famous person they have no relation to, and who died before they even born?

    Hey, I’ve read every Lovecraft book I could lay my hands on, and I still don’t get people like this. Way too strange and obsessive.

  9. That’s strange. I’ve gone there with a camcorder, camera, even charcoal etching and never got hassled . Sounds like this guy was just on a power trip.

  10. Im sure everyone would have taken a photo of the ‘guardian of the graves’…even one from the safety of the car.
    Photo of the drunk or i can not (no matter how weak) believe this lovecraftian tale.

  11. Because many people have cell phones which can take pictures, soon anyone holding a phone in front of them — even if it’s just to dial — will be subject to harassment.

    As cameras get ever smaller, we’ll start seeing them in sunglasses, baseball caps, etc., and the fun will only increase. “Sir, you’ll have to leave: we have a no-eyeglasses policy in this park… ”

    And BTW: a “no-pictures” policy in a cemetery? Sorry, but that’s just dumb. Cemeteries have two kinds of people that visit:

    1. Those with a loved one there, who might want the picture for sentimental reasons, and:

    2. Tourists, who want the picture as a souvenir, because the fact that there are interesting headstones is the whole reason they’re there in the first place.

    I mean, come on. Know your audience. It’s not like the *residents* are going to complain ….

  12. What makes me think that Swan Point has a giftshop where you can BUY photos of their famous grave markers?

    Of all the reasons why you would forbid photographs in a cemetery that’s the only reason to do so. It’s not like it’s for the safety of the inhabitants.

    Makes me wonder, assuming that grave markers are art, who actually would own the copyright on them. I wouldn’t think it would be the owners of the land.

  13. If he gets fired for his actions he can head over to TSA; they will put him right to work.

  14. I’m a local too, and while I am not making excuses for their policies or asshats, the reason for the no photography of headstones at Swan Point is twofold:
    (I asked; there are some BEAUTIFUL old headstones and angels there)

    1. It’s still a functioning cemetary and they want to make sure that photography from tourists does not interfere with the actual funerals that go on there.

    2. Apparently, there have been some attempts to dig up Lovecraft. From the tone of theguy I talked to (several years ago,) Cemetary folks take this Very.Seriously. There are guards posted at his grave on “key” nights (his birthday, death day, Halloween) and supposedly CCTV as well.

    Oh, and just to throw another fact about the Swan cemetary into the mix– it’s right next to Butler Hospital, which is the largest psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island, has a gorgeous Gothic campus as well. It actually is a quite surreal area.

  15. Well… I think it’s eminently possible that:

    1. The cemetery doesn’t like tourists or gawkers because of extra maintenance costs, so implements policies that discourage them.

    2. The tourist and gawker antagonistic policies of the cemetery may be exactly what the actual customers (those who bought the plots) wanted.

    On the other hand, cemeteries are often beautiful semi-park, quasi-public spaces, and have historically been used recreationally.

    I think it’s not unreasonable for some cemeteries to want to limit access / usage. If an important historical public-good usage right is being trampled on, I guess the best solution is specific regulation enshrining usage and public access rights. Obviously the guard’s a tool, but I don’t feel like this is the same thing as barring photographs of a building from the street…

  16. Linkitty link for anyone who didn’t get the “stains on the carpet, stains on the scenery” reference in the story link… no, I’m /not/ proud that I knew it on sight, and I’m not a goth, I just like er a few Cure records er er mumble…

  17. @#14. Certainly, they should discourage any actual interference with funerals in progress. If there’s a funeral going on and I photograph it, or run naked through it, or in any other way interfere with it, I would fully expect to be harassed by a security guard. But if there’s no funeral in progress, where’s the harm?

    And photographing a grave != digging up the person in it.

  18. I was there just a few weeks ago and was accosted by a security guard and told that no gravestone rubbings were permitted (I was making one from Lovecraft’s family monument). I’m not sure what the policy is concrning this but seveal people in Providence said that art students were allowed to make such things in the cemetary for their classes all the time. I was forced to roll up my paper and leave (but not without the rubbings I did before the guard imposed herself) :)

  19. Okay, my anecdote has nothing to do with this story, but seeing all these tales of harassment for photography just made me think of it and I’d like to share:

    A few years ago I visited Westminster Abbey in London, though I had shown up too late in the day to be part of a guided tour. That would have been nice, and I would have gladly paid for it but no biggie. One of the wings has an amazing geometric ceiling, and being the nerd that I am, I spent of great deal of time with my eyes pointed straight up absorbing the awe and studying its intricacies.

    While I’m doing this, the tour group I couldn’t join comes along, and the guide (a “holy” person of sorts, I don’t know exactly what) proceeds to speak to his group about whatever. I’m still looking up, and he stops talking to announce rather loudly something to the effect of “people nearby who have not paid for the tour should be considerate to those who have, and not take a free listen”, which seemed to be directed at me.

    I just ignored him and continued admiring the ceiling. They also had a non-photo policy, but I snapped a few shots of Sir Newton’s tomb anyway.

  20. What I think gets into the ire of most people is that while there might be a policy against photograph taking, its the intense rather abusive attitude most security guards seem apply it. Now I am sure in part we hear about the nasty situations because the nice stories are kind of boring and don’t get commented upon, and so its not actually how most security guards/police apply this ‘rule’/’law’. We live in an image conscious world and anyone acting in an inappropriate manner with a member of the public is a PR disaster waiting to happen. There are times screaming and yelling probably are appropriate “UP AGAINST THE WALL M-FER!” when taking an armed suspect into custody I can understand. Intimidation to gain control of a dangerous situation, textbook case where its appropriate. Some person taking a photograph where its not allowed, not exactly appropriate.

    Now rules against photography itself, well… someone HAS to determine what is and what isn’t acceptable it seems. Because we are getting more and more technology that will break this rule inadvertently. To the point where even the act of LOOKING at something could potentially be against the rules, when we get the ability to download our memories.

  21. It would be wrong to be a tourist at a funeral – if someone else was being interred at the same time, I’d not want to be gawking at H.P. Lovecraft’s headstone in the background.

    … but I’m equally sure you could photograph a gravestone without disrespecting other people, if it was done quietly.

  22. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe:

    Guard: Oh, um, Miss, Hi. I’m sorry we don’t allow photography in the cemetary.

    Caitlin R. Kiernan: Really? That seems silly

    Guard: Ugh, I know. It’s this stupid policy. My boss gave us this lecture about intellectual property rights and told me and Charlie, the weekend guy, to tell everyone we saw with a camera to stop.

    Caitlin R. Kiernan: But it’s a bunch of stones!

    Guard: Exactly! Charlie, well he drinks and he gets all over anyone with so much as a cellphone that’s just nonsense. Anyway, did you already get the shots you needed?

    Caitlin R. Kiernan: Well, we did want to get the Megalith.

    Guard: Ok, just to let you know, I’m going to be having my lunch starting (looks at watch) oh, right about now. So if someone were to take pictures of anything they like, why, I’d be powerless to stop them.

    Caitlin R. Kiernan: Thanks, but it’s still a ridiculous policy.

    Guard: I completely agree.

    (Caitlin R. Kiernan impersonated, no Caitlin R. Kiernan’s were harmed in this posting. By the way, she’s an amazing writer and everyone should own “Threshold” and “Silk”)

  23. #19: Grave rubbings have gone, within my lifetime, from common (we did them in history camp) to frowned-upon. They really do damage the stone after a while, even if done carefully, so I’m not surprised that they’re verboten in the cemetery you went to. In any case, they’re much more abrasive than photos.

  24. …You know, what someone needs to do is to set up a website where those who are harassed like this can post pictures of the hire-a-nazis who pull these stunts. They’re abusing our rights, so shouldn’t they be exposed and ridiculed?

    And no, I’m only talking about the hired thugs, not the *real* cops. At least they’ve got a shred of integrity at least…

  25. I would love to see a follow up. Was the guard reported? What was the official response? I agree with the comment about these kind of incidents smacking of “TSA” Why do those that have been given limited “authority” decide to become bullies with it–TSA, Drivers Licenses Bureaus, security guards in buildings? Sure people can be jerks but the great majority can be moved along with politeness and even a bit of humor first and firmness second.

  26. @18
    I wasn’t suggesting that they were the same thing, I was just telling you what I was told ages ago. This isn’t some new policy in the “post 9/11” not being allowed to photograph our world, this is how things have always been there.

    After commenting, however, I went and read the LJ post. She also suggests that the security guard is getting all up in her face because she is there with her girlfriend, which is a fact that shouldn’t be ignored.

    Would I have been treated differently if I was there taking pictures with my husband and our small son? From the sounds of it, perhaps.

  27. ASUFFIELD #6:

    Even if they have a “no photographs” policy, it doesn’t really matter. They can’t make you delete your photos. They can’t even stop you from taking them. The only thing they can do is ask you to leave.

    Mod up.

  28. It seems to be several sets of conflicts. We hold that pictures are acceptable to take. Absent simple logical exceptions to that rule few would say otherwise. The cases where authority is saying pictures are not allowed?
    OR where we allow idiots to pluck such anti-photo rules from wherever?

    Ah- THAT’S an area to reason out motives most cautiously. It could -and does come from monetary considerations. It could- and also does come from Religion and/or superstitions. Thence we move into allegations of security. Yes, one might hold pictures of “X” as being some dubious to even “real” risk. Of bad things being avoided if photos were forbidden. I see 2 immediate results from thug enforced photo hassling.

    1: Shows how plainly STUPID most such actions are.

    2: Flags a TARGET for real bad folks.

    Hmn? They don’t want pictures? Must be uh?

    Or it just could be from some horrid wretch who is spending their life overcompensating for not being a hall monitor/crossing patrol in school/
    Yep- that may cover the OP’s specimen neatly.

  29. “got a clear look at the man. He was white, late middle-aged, seemed to have about three-days worth of beard (salt and pepper), and spoke with a heavy regional accent (don’t ask which one).”

    My god! That’s old Rob “John” Bobson…..he’s been dead for twenty years now….

  30. “he’s been dead for twenty years now….”

    It’s just latex and make-up! If I peel it off you’ll see it’s really… the cemetary tourist shop owner! Yes, his plan was to corner the market on images of celebrity gravestones and fake North American monoliths. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for the boing-boing crew and their cephalopod!

  31. And the reason for the photo ban would be sickos like these:


    “A Sixty-Year Rest Disturbed
    Although it is nearby, Lovecraft’s body does not actually lie beneath his donated headstone, a fact that was evidently unknown to the person or persons who, on the night of October 13, 1997, apparently tried to dig him up.

    The hole was discovered on the morning of the 14th by a Swan Point security guard. It was about three feet deep and the dirt at the bottom appeared to be undisturbed. Did the diggers merely give up, or were they spooked? Other than the hole itself, the only evidence they left behind was a single footprint.

    Once it was determined that no coffin or vault had been breached, police allowed cemetery workers to refill the hole. Lovecraft was probably never in any real danger of being taken for a ride. Even if the nocturnal excavators had been more resolute, and even if they had been in the right spot, they very likely would have been thwarted by the heavy lid of a concrete coffin liner. Such lids weigh a couple of tons and require heavy machinery to lower them into place.”

    After nonsense like this going on, the people running the cemetery obviously want to stop anyone from taking photos or doing anything else to try and figure out where you would have to dig to find the body.

    Creeps are everyplace. Just sayin’.

  32. Oh Please.

    “the people running the cemetery obviously want to stop anyone from taking photos or doing anything else to try and figure out where you would have to dig to find the body.”

    smoking pot —–> harder drugs

    photography —–> terrorism and grave robbery

  33. And, I guess a photography ban would prevent these grave-robbing sickos from, I dunno… like, walking up to the grave and maybe… LOOKING AT IT.

  34. Crimeshark @33: What are the putative grave-robbers going to discover from a photograph — even if they have the equivalent of a Hollywood crime lab at their disposal — that they aren’t going to see from actually being there to take the picture?

  35. I guess I’m unclear why the cemetery would impose a “no photography” rule in an effort to prevent grave robbing. Two commenters (#14 and #33) both mention this as a reason… I don’t see the slightest connection.

    Also, how would the guard know they were partners? Were the making out in the cemetery or something??

  36. I guess I’m unclear why the cemetery would impose a “no photography” rule in an effort to prevent grave robbing.

    Just in case they’re casing the joint.

  37. Several years ago I did a piece on Lovecraft for my crappy cable access show. The title of the episode was “H.P.LOVECRAFT…RACIST!” I shot a scene kneeling at his headstone. We waited till there were no guards about and just went for it. The episode can be scene here… http://mythographical.com/AMI/AMIMain.html
    Oh, and if you are wondering about the episode title…Lovecraft had a cat named “Niggerman”. Nuff said.

  38. The guard is obviously in the wrong, but strangers showing up and leaning on things, leaving plastic frogs, etc is not respectful treatment of a cemetery.
    I could care less, myself; I’ll be cremated.
    But people get freaky about those things.
    You know – “take only pictures, leave only footprints”

  39. Why must alcohol be the reason that a person is an asshole… When some one is a dick then thats because there drunk? I beg to differ, some one is an asshole because they are an asshole. If they drink then they are a drunk asshole. I think drinking enhances your attitude for the good and the bad.

  40. With all due respect, you folks don’t think like criminals. I make my living prosecuting them, dudes. If they spent half as much time and energy working as they did planning how to break the law, the world would be a way better place. For example, there was a recent case in Wisconsin where 3 wackos tried to dig up a girl’s corpse to have sex with it. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25609866/

    In my city, we have had a problem with animal sacrifice on Halloween and the occasional fruitcake with a torch wandering about in the woods during some sort of ceremony. Such conduct is more common than you might think. But I digress. Since you want a more detailed explanation, digital cameras, plus GPS, plus a commonly available device I will not name here will permit one person to map out precisely where a person is interred. Even if the body is not directly under the marker. If they are serious about this, and I really hope not, there isn’t much you can do except put the location under 24 hour surveillance. And they probably have. I was not suggesting the photo ban was effective- I was commenting that the cemetery people were trying to do something that they thought might help.

  41. I guess we all need to realize that “1984” has been here for a long time. Government big and small spying on us making rules that make no sense. Making things TOP SECRET so we can’t find out what is really happening .GOD help us.

    ps I have tried to make an account 4 times you system sucks..i guess you really don’t want to hear from out here in the hinter land.
    D. Reeder……….from Pa.

    1. I have tried to make an account 4 times you system sucks

      Yeah, we’ve figured that out. There are some very regular commenters who have never been able to sign up. What exactly happens when you try to sign up? We’d love to figure out what the glitch is.

  42. Thanks for clarifying, Crimeshark. I’m glad to hear someone who is a prosecutor say, “I was not suggesting the photo ban was effective…”.

    If you’ve been reading here very long you will understand how sick most of BB’s readers are of this war on photography.

  43. This is lengthy, but worth reading:

    I am not a lawyer, however I am an adoring fan of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    You have legal rights in situations such as these.

    1. In general, persons in positions of authority have no expectation of privacy in the practice of their job. Actually, with increased authority comes increased responsibility and thereby a need for increased accountability.

    Next time, request the employee’s name and position. Photograph him and the car. A private citizen cannot legally detain you, cannot make you believe that you are being detained, and cannot touch or search you or your belongings. They also cannot enforce any tickets against you unless you allow them to (say getting a ticket from a private police force at a University, then choosing to park their again – you’ll be legally towed).

    In all cases, ask if the individual is a police officer and if you are being arrested. Unless the answer to these questions is yes, you can feel free to ignore them and continue what you are doing. Be aware they may call the actual police, which is sometimes actually good for you, and if they ask you to leave, you may be guilty of trespassing if you do not.

    You are secure in your person and your possessions. You may not obstruct a police officer in their duties, however no one has a right to order you to delete your photos unless you have been found guilty of infringement by a court of law are so ordered by a judge. A police officer has a right to detain you and remove you to a secure location pending charges levied by their jurisidictional government for only 48 hours. In doing this, to ensure their own safety and prevent the destruction of evidence by guilty parties, they may remove your personal effects from you, handcuff you, etc. Bottom line before I go too far into this, not even a police officer can MAKE you delete your photos, they simply do not have the right.

    To sum this all up, go back to the cemetery, do what you choose in the full knowledge that if you are asked to leave or banned, entering the cemetery will cause you to be guilty of tresspassing and ignore those rent-a-cops. I mean literally, all they can do is call the real police.

    This has been a crash course in the constitution, for more information, read the original: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.overview.html

    Educate yourself, spread the word.

  44. #38
    I am telling you that, as someone who INQUIRED with the Swan Point Cemetary, (more than 7 years ago at this point, so I can’t remember to tell you who I spoke to, sorry,) that THE CEMETARY gives that incident in 1997 (thanks for the link to the article @34) as one of the reasons for the “No Photography rule”

    I’m not defending the asshat. I’m just pointing it out.

  45. The piles of boulders at the front gates are packed loosely and young kids (like me at one time) could slip into secret fort-like cavities. We even had ropes in the branches from which we could swing like Tarzan from one rock to another. We used to bike all over the place, too. For my friends and I our Swan Point heyday was around 1972. We didn’t know anything about HP Lovecraft at the time, though.

  46. My son learned how to ride a bike at this cemetery. Swan Point is a gorgeous (drop-dead?) botanical garden and plenty of photos are taken of the wildlife and flowers, etc., hassle free. Enjoying the grounds by foot or riding slowly is allowed, so the no-photo rule has nothing to do with respect for the dead. Too bad they hired a complete idiot who is overzealous in his desire to protect HP’s grave.

  47. #40, wrong. “Nuff said” is insufficient. Just because someone from the early 1900’s has a cat named Niggerman doesn’t make him a racist. Give me a break.

  48. #40, I should also say that HPL WAS a Aryanist, but my primary point is that cat-naming isn’t sufficient evidence. You have better proof to offer.

  49. #53 Do a little reading on Lovecraft and his views of Asians, Blacks, and Jews. You will quickly discover that he was a rampant racist…even for his time. Watch my crappy show, episode 1, and if you can stand to get through it, you will get a good picture of his true self.

  50. I mean, plenty of writers, artists and philosophers had reprehensible, racist ideas that contrast with how we’d like to imagine them. I’m thinking of Heidegger in particular but I believe Roald Dahl had some nasty anti-semitic reflexes.
    It sets up a dilemma, to be sure, but the solution isn’t to pretend like the prejudice was never there.

  51. #57 The term was as offensive then as it is now. Lovecraft’s cat was black, and the man used one of his favorite slurs for its name.

  52. Jake0748 @ 35, you forgot the intermediate step, in which grave robbery leads to smoking pot. Clearly, a photo ban is the only way to prevent this monstrous syllogism from destroying all that we hold dear!

  53. Squank, what I’ve heard is that Lovecraft is that he recanted of those views later in his life, and those views weren’t uncommon at the time. And Lovecraft was known to be a pretty nice guy in many respects, carrying on voluminous postal correspondence with many people and treating a 13-year-old boy who wrote to him basically as an equal.

    He was a complicated man. He may have had his faults, but there is no evidence that I’m aware of to suggest he acted on any bad racial attitudes. We are not exactly talking about Hitler here.

  54. John, it sounds as though Lovecraft was prejudiced against African-Americans. There are plenty of people who don’t take their bigotry to extremes; instead they quietly discriminate by spreading hurtful attitudes in the form of jokes or name calling from within the safety of their own social circles.
    Don’t excuse this kind of thinking because it was of the times-it’s still wrong.
    Of course, that doesn’t mean one can’t enjoy the legacy of his writing, or that of the other writers I mentioned earlier. It makes for a complicated ‘read’ of the author.

  55. Just to note – Caitlin R. Kiernan’s writing is awesome. She’s one of dark fantasy’s major stars. I recommend starting with “Alabaster”, or her work on Gaiman’s “The Dreaming” comics.

  56. #62 Sorry John, but the evidence that Lovecraft recanted his racist views is specious at best. His defenders also like to point out that his support of FDR’s New Deal was a sign he had changed for the better. In truth he only liked FDR because he saw him as representing the American Anglo-Saxon aristocracy.
    I agree he didn’t seem to act on his racist views, but he cetainly had them.
    As for Hitler…Lovecraft openly praised him.

  57. I’m sure the word was as offensive to black people then as it is today, but many white people who were not racist in their attitudes or actions were simply clueless. My Tennessee great-grandmother thought it vulgar and wouldn’t allow it spoken in her house. She used ”Colored,” which was universally accepted as non-offensive, or ”Negro,” which was formal. In contrast, my mother-in law’s mother, a very sweet old Kentuckian in her dotage, asked one of her nurses what part of ”Niggertown” she lived in.

    My own history with acceptability and preference runs over 60 years from the day of my g-g’s admonition. I was harangued in 1948 by a drunk or crazy black woman that she was, by god, a decent ”colored woman” and ”don’t you forget it.” Ten years later, ”colored” was considered euphemistic and ”Negro” with a capital ”N” was preferred by my fellow NAACP members. By 1968 my black ”brothers and sisters” in C.O.R.E. abandoned it (along with their white brothers and sisters) for ”Black is Beautiful.” And ”Black” it sort of, kind of, pretty much, remains, although ”African-American” seems preferable, whenever possible.

    Marginalized people searching for identity often have a hard time identifying themselves. It was a long trip from n***** to African-American, and neither it nor the language, I suspect, is over yet.

  58. I’m sorry for chiming in on this, pretty off-topic, discussion. I consider myself to be a non-racist and I find myself annoyed, angered, upset and mortified when I am confronted by racism. We are all just people as far as I’m concerned.

    That being said, I find that whenever I’ve discovered an author (or any type of artist) who’s work I enjoy, it doesn’t even occur to me to consider what their political or social views might be. Especially if they are long dead. I’m always hearing/reading stories that go like: “oh, he was a racist (misogynist, drunkard, liar, poor credit risk, or, (god forbid), homosexual)”, about some artist I like.

    For example, I read through the body of HP Lovecraft’s work several years ago, and it was a total creepy pleasure. So now I’m hearing that he may have been a racist. If its true, then that’s unfortunate. But I don’t see that it has anything to do with the quality of the works he left behind. IMHO, one of the many reasons people create things is that there is some separation between the creator and that which is created. A piece of art can and should be able to stand on it’s own, without regard to what kind of person created it.

    OK, back on topic… rent-a-cops and any kind of cops who threaten and abuse people for taking pictures should be strung up by their naughty bits.

  59. Jake, you’ve restated part of what I was intending to get across: that the author’s works can stand in spite of unsavory or even completely wrong-headed views he or she held. I don’t mean to burst any bubbles (Sog pun intended) but it sticks in my craw when people try to excuse said attitudes out of admiration.
    Sometimes I don’t like it when my idols get knocked down (see the recent Kafka thread), but sometimes it’s necessary to face the facts.

  60. …And I promise I won’t get started on works of art and the importance of political/social context in this thread…

  61. I don’t see how Lovecraft’s views about people have anything to do with photographing his tombstone.

  62. Anthony, my man, what facts do we necessarily have to face? Whether Lovecraft, or any other artist for that matter, had something unsavory in their lives is irrelevant to the art they created. When I’m reading a book, watching a movie, looking at a painting, etc., in that moment, I’m NOT EVEN THINKING about the artist. I’m just in the moment.

    The foibles of the artist is for historians, not for the person who, at present, is appreciating the art.

  63. Ho hum. So Squank, what are you saying that hasn’t already been discussed at length in L Sprague de Camp’s 1975 Lovecraft: A Biography, the first major biography of HPL?

    Every substantial biographical essay of Lovecraft discusses his xenophobia, it’s unavoidable since it’s in much of the way he describes other races in his fiction. It’s discussed at some length by Neil Gaiman, ST Joshi, Caitlin Kiernan and others in Frank H. Woodward’s recent documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown. It’s not news, just as TS Eliot’s anti-semitism isn’t news and hasn’t been for years. Furthermore, Lovecraft’s own youthful anti-semitism didn’t prevent him from marrying a Jewish woman. This also isn’t news.

    To return to the topic at hand… I’m surprised that a cemetery such as this can’t cope with visits from those who wish to see the resting place of a famous occupant. Pere Lachaise in Paris is a major tourist attraction on account of the quantity of notables interred there.

  64. Seems like an awfully cheerful place for Lovecraft to be buried. I want to see barren tors and mournful tarns, not plum blossoms. My mother is buried in a Revolutionary/Civil War cemetery with crooked and twisted tombstones crusted with lichens. Surely Lovecraft could have chosen something a bit more atmospheric.

  65. Jake,
    I see your point about the inherent qualities of a given work, but I disagree with some of that thinking. However, I just promised not to continue on about the importance of context when considering works of art, so I’m stuck.
    But I can answer your question about which facts to face: I’m talking about accepting the faults of the author despite one’s love for his work. I feel one should not turn away from information like that. It’s complicated. I’m sure such issues never surface in the fiction, other than very vaguely by omission of characters who are not white, just as I never found any anti-Jewish stuff in Roal Dahl’s books. This all raises some good questions, like how deeply should we suspend our disbelief?
    Do the stories remain what they are after the author’s dirty laundry is aired? What if he were alive today?

  66. Jake0748 @67: So now I’m hearing that he may have been a racist. […] But I don’t see that it has anything to do with the quality of the works he left behind.

    I just read a whole bunch of Lovecraft for the first time a few weeks ago, and his racist and anti-modernist beliefs not only saturate all of his stories, they’re actually one of the best reasons to read them.

    Y’know those Star Trek episodes that would take a current social issue and translate it into a fantasy context to get around your knee-jerk reflexes? Lovecraft did something very similar for conservative fear of the modern. He boiled down all their fear and turned it into bizarre, inventive horror, and presented it to us so we can get some insight into what people very different from us think and feel about our world.

  67. Antinous,
    Even though you are from the States I’m going to continue to read your comments in an English accent.

  68. An insane security guard in New England cemetery? That sounds like something Lovecraft would write.

  69. “Why must alcohol be the reason that a person is an asshole…”

    …Kids, let’s not forget that an asshole is defined as a jerk with class. This hire-a-nazi didn’t have any class about them, so they were just a jerk. Please don’t insult the assholes out there by referring to this jerk as an asshole.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled Boing Boing flame fest, already in a state of total disarray…

  70. Awesome! I took the photo you posted! Oddly enough, I didn’t have any trouble capturing the shot — we even had enough time to pose a plush Chibi-Thulu on top of the marker and take a couple of snaps before walking back to the car.


  71. I think I’ll go to that graveyard and snap 10 gigs worth of pictures. I’ll take ‘Guido’ with me for protection. (laughs)

  72. @ crimeshark:

    Tens of thousands of people have photographed Lovecraft’s grave. Is every one of them a “creepy weirdo”? Entirely possible, but I doubt it’s your call.

    I’ve never taken a photo of anyone’s grave, but you know what kind of creepy weirdo I really can’t stand? The kind that whines online about how creepy all the weirdos are who take pictures of other people’s graves.

    Seriously, your highly personalized indignation with respect to these weirdos is pretty damned creepy. Probably oughta get a Flickr pool going or something. “Weirdo #5,837,462. In this photo, we see yet another weirdo taking pictures of a dead weirdo’s grave. Just creepy, I tells ya.”

  73. #21 Re: the asshat at Westminster Abbey.

    Yes, I recognize that. That same walking/talking pile of used food (or his brother) got on my case while I was there a few years ago. Mr. Fruity-voice leads his tour group over to where I’m already sitting, continuing his precious little memorized lecture about which king once sent a shirty note to which duke about whatever, and he proceeds to suggest that I not unfairly take advantage of his vast wisdom, which the other poor suckers have paid him for.

    I wonder if there’s a whole tribe of these?

  74. I, for one, am thankful that our diligent private security forces are protecting us from these Godless headstone-photographing terrorists.

  75. #43 crimeshark:

    Since you want a more detailed explanation, digital cameras, plus GPS, plus a commonly available device I will not name here will permit one person to map out precisely where a person is interred.

    Could it be… a metal detector? ZOMG, I’m a criminal genius!

    Look, dude. I’m sure that you’re good at what you do, but… 99% of the time, the crook is not going to be nearly smart enough to go to that much trouble. The would-be necrophiliacs in Wisconsin were stymied by the grave vault. Whomever tried to dig up Lovecraft could have taken a fraction of the time and effort that they spent digging in doing a bit of research to find out exactly where he was buried, with no gadgets involved. I know that people like you, and most cops, like to go on about The Diabolical Criminal Masterminds that you face, but reading the likes of The Smoking Gun tends to paint a very different picture, and anyway, hard cases make bad law. If you think that someone doing a little unauthorized excavation is bad, you should check out Jim Morrison’s grave sometime.

  76. Back in 2003 I ventured to Providence, RI to visit the final resting place of my favorite writer, HP Lovecraft, and I too faced a similar result. I used a disposable camera to snap a few quick shots for friends who couldn’t make the trip, and quickly met with the grounds keeper. He walked over and started yelling immediately, telling me I couldn’t take photographs (I never saw signs and would have respected them if I did). I explained to him I meant no harm and was only paying my respects, and he explained numerous people deface the site every year. I went to leave but walked to him with a map seeking directions–which was when he told me I couldn’t do “that” either (apparently he believed I would take a rubbing). Eventually the man’s wife(!) showed up, followed by a security guard he’d called. There I am, explaining I meant no harm and telling these three individuals about the greatness of Lovecraft. In the end it was a friendly atmosphere and they saw what a great inspiration Lovecraft was to me, so no harm no foul. I left with my camera, apologized again, and the grounds keeper assured me it was all right because I didn’t know the rules.

    I respect these people for protecting the site, but think the idea of no photography is ridiculous. The hot sun, wind, rain, and sleet are all sure to do far more damage than my little camera (at least I’m assuming, I’m no expert).

  77. As a native Rhode Islander sorry to Caitlin and her friend from the sane citizens of Little Rhody. Of additional interest, when I was in high school I spent many hours in Swan Point Cemetery taking photos for a Latin project on Roman and Greek architectural influences. I was never asked to stop or leave and also never noticed the apparently small posted sign saying no photography. Here’s a link to the website if anyone is interested in an extremely sophomoric photography project:

  78. Interesting to see how things have changed. Back when I visited Swan Point in 1994, the cemetery handed out maps pointing you to where the HPL grave is. There were no rules on photography other than to be respectful.

    On the other hand, Philip K. Dick’s grave is wide open with no prohibitions on photography or tombstone rubbings.

  79. Photography captures the soul and imprisons it in the photo. The dead is especially vulnerable because they no longer have a body to protect them. Deleting the photo releases the soul. The guard was only protecting the cemetery’s residents.

    Even the living is not completely protected. Every time you are photographed, you lose a little bit of your soul. This is why celebrities like movie stars and politicians have no soul.

    But the real scandal here is that photographers knows this for a fact. There is hardly any photography book that does not urge the photographer to capture the soul of their subjects in their photographs.

    I call for a ban on all photography worldwide. For all existing photographs to be destroyed, to free the already captured souls. For all cameras to be destroyed, to remove the danger that they may be used again.

    Disclosure: I work at a place that sells cameras, film*, and make prints.

    *film (yes, sales are way down, but there are still people buying them).

  80. If I manage to dig up Lovecraft’s body without using a camera, can we consider the matter settled?

  81. I think it’s Much Ado ’bout nothing. But I really get a kick out of the sheer amount of people who oppose photography bans on this site but rails against publicly placed cctv’s. Double standard? I think so.
    BTW: I am now planning on a NE trip and will purposefully visit HPL’s gravestone and take pictures. I will be armed with The Photographer’s Rights pamphlet provided by a link from Ms. Keirnan.

    To the idiots discussing racism…everyone is a racist to some degree. Holding people from the 1800’s to 21 century standards is like trying to seismically retrofit the Colliseum in Rome.

    Just one’s Mick’s opinion.

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