I read Lovecraft at an impressionably young age, so when I first began working in Salem at the former Essex Institute, now the Peabody Essex Museum, where Charles Dexter Ward was, “very kindly received,” I recognized not just names and places from the fictional towns of Arkham, Innsmouth, and Kingsport (loosely based, in a mix and match fashion, on Salem, Newburyport, and Marblehead) but the entire crumbling coastal world he sought to evoke. The North Shore has seen significant revitalization since Lovecraft’s day, but here and there you can still spot a sagging gambrel roof that evokes The Color out of Space or a boarded up Federal mansion straight out of Shadow over Innsmouth. When I first started house hunting in Salem several years ago I saw more than a few homes that could easily have belonged to the Marsh family, but one house in particular was so utterly and perfectly Lovecraftian, so impossibly detailed in its devolution, that I asked if I could take pictures. The house has since been gentrified, but here’s the interior as it was, in all its eldritch glory.
The ground floor is classic New England genteel decay. Nothing too worrying here.
There’s a cast iron bake oven to the left of the hearth. These date from the late 18th century. The door beside the fireplace goes to the basement. I wasn’t brave enough to go down there. Let your imagination fill in the details…
The stairs are where things start to go wrong…
The bedroom at the end of that hallway. This was the only one with actual beds in it…
This is probably what passes for cottage chic among the Deep Ones.
When you hit the third floor the ceilings get lower.
And lower. Not a problem if you’re sprouting gils and preparing to return to the sea.
This third floor bedroom was described as a Deep-One-In-Law Kitchen.
Perfect for hiding those Marsh ancestors when they’re not shambling back and forth to Devil’s Reef.
How did my house hunting end, you may ask? I found a charming gambrel roofed Georgian a few blocks away in which there was the most curious painting of a woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to me. I’ll let you know how that turns out.