Horror writer, horror disease?

I once suggested that the horror writer HP Lovecraft may have suffered from acromegaly, a disease which can cause excessive skull growth.

Now, I notice someone else has suggested the same thing, in this interesting discussion.

On the other hand, he was not very tall, being about 5 foot 10 inches. However, according to the Wikipedia article, “If acromegaly is developed in teenage years, it’s called gigantism and results in excess height. However, when acromegaly commences in adulthood, the bones have already set and the body doesn’t usually grow taller.”

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by slumlord on August 13, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve diagnosed two cases in the past. It does look suspicious.

    Reply

    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on August 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      I am surprised that nobody spotted it during his lifetime. Maybe he never saw a doctor or he suppressed the information. As far as I can tell, his biographers have not suggested it, but I am not sure because copies of their books are hard to obtain.

      He looked more normal as a boy. It is hard not to suspect that his peculiar physical transformation explains some of his obsession with odd physiognomy in his weird tales.

      Reply

      • Posted by slumlord on August 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm

        If he kept going to the same doctor (the doctor) may not have noticed due to the gradual changes in his physiognomy.

        In both cases that I diagnosed, the patients were new and I met them for the first time.

      • Posted by Julian O'Dea on August 15, 2014 at 2:32 am

        Thanks for the expert opinion, slumlord. I am glad my suggestion is at least plausible.

        Lovecraft enthusiasts and scholars might be interested in the suggestion for the light it might throw on his mental state. Change in personality seems to be a feature of the disease:

        http://www.gjpsy.uni-goettingen.de/gjp-article-kannabiran.pdf

        Lovecraft’s personality was certainly morbid, and perhaps got worse as he aged. If he did have acromegaly, that might have contributed.

        On the other hand, acromegaly is apparently a rare condition.

  2. May I offer a counter diagnosis?

    What about Paget’s disease (of the bone)? It begins later in life, mostly effects men, and can cause facial deformities similar to Acromegaly.

    Gosh, I feel like we’re participating in an episode of House!

    Reply

    • Posted by Julian O'Dea on August 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks, BF. I will look it up. Acromegaly is rare and other more common diseases should be considered. I may write this up one day and I need to be careful.

      Reply

      • On a somewhat similar note: allegedly the Romantic-era artist Henry Fuseli (his paintings are known for being full of Lovecraft-esque monstrosities), would consume raw pork because he found it triggered “inspirational nightmares”.

        So, I guess we can add tapeworms to the list of conditions that could have influenced Lovecraft.

      • I now have the two volume biography of Lovecraft by ST Joshi. I can’t see any references to his facial appearance so far, and nothing about acromegaly.

        However I doubt I will write this up, because posthumous diagnosis is a risky business.

      • Well, I think it would be difficult to diagnose Lovecraft due to all the bizarre antiquated medical treatments he may have been exposed to, not to mention the laundry list of eradicated childhood diseases that effect growth.

        Although I did read somewhere that Lovecraft’s father died from syphilis-induced insanity (uh, watching a parent succumb to that, sounds like it would cause enough emotional trauma to explain Lovecraft’s writing subjects) If his father infected his mother, Lovecraft could’ve suffered from the long-term effects of syphilis.

      • Yes to the syphilis. I have a copy of “Fantasy Commentator” (terrible title but a good magazine) which has a detailed article on his father’s syphilis and its possible effect on the younger Lovecraft’s imagination and fiction.

  3. […] obsessive, ST Joshi, wrote a two-volume biography of HP Lovecraft, the noted horror writer. I recently discussed the possibility that Lovecraft’s odd appearance may have been due to acromegaly, producing […]

    Reply

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