Lovecraft, Shatner, & America’s Stonehenge
“Friday morning Armitage, Rice, and Morgan set out by motor for Dunwich, arriving at the village about one in the afternoon. The day was pleasant, but even in the brightest sunlight a kind of quiet dread and portent seemed to hover about the strangely domed hills and the deep, shadowy ravines of the stricken region. Now and then on some mountain top a gaunt circle of stones could be glimpsed against the sky.” – H.P. Lovecraft, The Dunwich Horror.
H.P. Lovecraft, an American author, has heavily influenced modern horror fiction. He was inspired by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe who died roughly fifty years before Lovecraft was born. He has even included Poe into some of his stories.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft drew from the mysteries of New England, basing many of his short stories in fictional and real places of the area. It is believed that the gaunt circle of stones in “The Dunwich Horror” is America’s Stonehenge.
“The trail up and down Sentinel Hill seemed to Armitage of almost cataclysmic significance, and he looked long at the sinister altar-like stone on the summit.” (The Dunwich Horror)
Central to America’s Stonehenge is an altar stone as referenced in a previous blog. Lovecraft's story continues regarding this great horror, but it doesn’t elaborate much on the actual appearance of the circle of stones and its central altar stone beyond “gaunt” and ”sinister.” He paints a very dark picture nonetheless.
Sadly for Lovecraft, he likely never saw America’s Stonehenge—or Mystery Hill as it was still known in his day. The site didn’t open to the public until 1937. By then he was sick with cancer.
Some Lovecraft experts have dismissed America’s Stonehenge as a hoax. This premise dates to when one of the property owners attempted to understand the site. He executed a haphazard archaeological study, damaging the site by getting rid of anything that didn’t fit his personal theory. As a result it sadly became an example of a fascinating place capable of revealing critical facts but damaged before all concrete evidence could be gathered. If it's true the site was built by unknown people 4000 years ago it has yet to be wholly proven as a consequence.
Lovecraft experts are not alone in regarding America’s Stonehenge with a skeptical eye. They propose it is simply a colonial-era cider press. The altar stone with its trough etched around its border is nothing more than where the juice drained off. They say it is not meant for collecting the blood of some sacrifice. An episode of “Weird of What” hosted by William Shatner titled “Human Popsicle” presents this argument as well as other theories on the origins of America’s Stonehenge.
Lovecraft embraced the science of his day, alluding to Druids and dark magic in "The Dunwich Horror" and other stories. It’s not really known what his belief was on America’s Stonehenge. Was it weird or what? He certainly implied it was as he wove it into stories.
It may never be proven whether America’s Stonehenge is a harmless cider press or a circle of stones with a sacrificial altar created by an ancient and unknown people. The evidence for both sides is compelling but incomplete. If it is real, it’s unfortunate that it has been tampered with. Science isn't magic. Once something has been tampered with too much, the critical evidence can get lost. Once it’s lost, it cannot be recovered. Personally, I'd like to believe it's real.