Necro-Nonsense

evildeadii1

Not *that* Necronomicon…

 

I happened to read the other day that author Anthony Horowitz (of ‘Alex Rider’ fame) claims to have read the Necronomicon. Seriously. Yes, the clearly fictional book conceived by H.P. Lovecraft for his horror stories. He’s read it. How, you might ask? Well, it turns out that there are books out there purporting to be the real Necronomicon. Not just one person, but several, have attempted to reconstruct Lovecraft’s imaginary tome. Though these can certainly be seen purely as hoaxes intended to deceive the reader, I’m not actually against the idea of such things. My fondness for the almost-certainly-made-up vampire killing kits is well documented on this blog. I believe that at least some of those were created as ‘honest’ deceptions, like the lies told and the illusions made by a magician or mentalist, and the same is possible here. The use of hoax as a promotional tool is an old trick. As I learned only recently in the British Library’s wonderful ‘Terror and Wonder’ exhibition, Horace Walpole originally claimed that his novel ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (1764) was a translation of an original that he had found, dated 1529. Partly because he had been called on his deception, and partly because once success had been found, he wanted to claim full ownership of the text, his second edition gave him as the true author.

 

There is an added element in this case, which is that the main focus of at least one of these Necronomicon attempts (the ‘Simon’ Necronomicon) is actually attempting to lay down systems of ritual magical practice based upon Lovecraft’s fiction. This required that they be written as though genuine, even if the practitioner does not believe in their objective reality (as Satanists generally don’t) outside of their ‘ritual chamber’. Whatever their intent, people who create hoax literature must be surprised but pleased when others actually fall for them rather than enjoying them as a form of fiction. Regardless of the rights and wrongs, such things do need to be debunked, so that anyone who might encounter them are aware of their true origins.

 

The Church of Satan link above does a good job of summarising and debunking these hoax/invented Necronomicon books. Suffice to say that there is simply no evidence for a grimoire of this nature, and certainly not one that uses obvious variants of Lovecraft’s names and references. Just in case Horowitz was referring to some otherwise unknown tome, I thought I’d try to work out whether he might be referring to one of these well-known hoaxes, or something else (in which case I wouldn’t be able to do any debunking).

 

Horowitz stated in the interview that he’d used a line from the mysterious tome in his own prologue. The line is this;

 

Ia sakkath. Iak sakkakh. Ia sha xul.

 

I had a bit of trouble pinning this down, because the spelling has been changed. But guess where this comes from? That’s right, one of the hoax Necronomicon publications. Specifically, it’s from ‘The Text of Urilia’, which appears on page 127 of the ‘Simon’ Necronomicon referred to in the Church of Satan link (you can find this in pdf form, though I suspect it’s in breach of copyright so won’t link it here);

 

I AM THE ANCIENT OF DAYS.

I AM before ABSU.

I AM before NAR MARRATU.

I AM before ANU.

I AM before KIA.

I AM before all things.

IA! IA! IA! IA SAKKAKTH! IAK SAKKAKH! IA SHA XUL!

IA! IA! IA! UTUKKU XUL!

IA! IA ZIXUL! IA ZIXUL!

IA KINGU! IA AZBUL! IA AZABUA! IA XAZTUR! IA HUBBUR!

IA! IA! IA!

BAXABAXAXAXAXABAXAXAXAXA!

KAKHTAKHTAMON IAS!

 

There you have it.

I’m pretty sure that Horowitz wasn’t telling porkies to sell what was then his latest book (if you happen to read this Mr Horowitz, please do comment or drop me a line). I suspect that he’s read one of them at some point in the past and been taken in by it. Or possibly, he is stretching the truth and using the existence of the ‘Simon’ Necronomicon to link his book back to the Lovecraftian tradition. This would be rather naughty, but again, somewhat akin to Walpole’s marketing approach. Whether conscious or not, tying his book into the Necronomicon would fire the imagination of his young readers just as the marketing for films like ‘Paranormal Activity’ does by implying or claiming a basis in ‘true life’. In case there might be any doubt, I thought I’d track down the version he’s likely to have read.

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5 Responses to “Necro-Nonsense”

  1. Jack Says:

    I recently read the Castle of Otranto. There is no way anything described, even the background environment was from 1529. Not even allowing for later reconstructions.

    So I don’t know how he expected to pull that off. Of course being an antiquarian fan of romantic Gothicism, he really seemed to know little of real history.

    • bshistorian Says:

      Very good point; I ought to know more about it, but I wonder if it wasn’t a last minute gambit to boost sales, not something he planned to do.

  2. Anthony Hogg Says:

    Good to see you back again, BS! Hey, speaking of those kits… http://vamped.org/2014/10/31/6-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-buy-an-antique-vampire-killing-kit/😀

    • bshistorian Says:

      Hi Anthony,

      Sorry, I’m struggling to stay on top with work and various things at present, but thanks for commenting and yes, I read your latest with interest; see my blog post on the British Library website for something of a self-justification of my position! Despite our differing opinions, the display of the kit at the BL has certainly helped to educate people about what the kits really are; the text is very clear that it is most likely 1970s or later. The parallel with early gothic literature (and the ‘Necronimicon’ I blogged about here) is quite striking I think. Rather like Dan Brown and the ‘showmanship’ he uses to sell his books (‘inspired by real events’-style). Though the intent there is far less opaque; they’re trying to sell books; just as, no doubt, some vampire kit makers are doing it solely to make money. But I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that for the kits; some are making art, some whimsy, some ‘invented artefacts’ as I like to call them. Whether they are worth the money that people pay for them is wholly subjective; just like the huge figures people pay for movie props that are often cheaply made and not very old; because of what they represent (and actually a lot of the kits are *beautifully* made); they just aren’t as old as many make out!

      • Anthony Hogg Says:

        I did read it and I also linked to it in something more recent I wrote about the kits. See: http://vamped.org/2014/11/22/another-blomberg-sold/

        Your rationale is certainly compelling but one I can’t fully commit myself to, because it also compels further production of these “invented artefacts” as you eloquently put them. I really enjoyed your explanation for them, too. To me, it would be fine if they stopped there…but my beef is that they’re presented as legit with thousands of dollars passing hands.

        In your case, you’ve used it as an opportunity to debunk myths. But that’s not why they’re being sold, nor does it account for the trade they’re built on. I only hope your work has a ripple effect on the trade itself, and eventually brings it to a screeching halt!

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