A favorite horror story

(mostly posting this so a particular friend will read it. Obviously this is NOT MY STORY, but written by the esteemed Lovecraft.)

by HP. Lovecraft

I know I’m more nervous than I was when you saw me last year, but you
don’t need to hold a clinic over it. There’s plenty of reason, God
knows, and I fancy I’m lucky to be sane at all. Why the third degree?
You didn’t use to be so inquisitive.

Well, if you must hear it, I don’t know why you shouldn’t. Maybe you
ought to, anyhow, for you kept writing me like a grieved parent when
you heard I’d begun to cut the Art Club and keep away from Pickman.
Now that he’s disappeared I go round to the club once in a while, but
my nerves aren’t what they were.

No, I don’t know what’s become of Pickman, and I don’t like to guess.

You might have surmised I had some inside information when I dropped
him–and that’s why I don’t want to think where he’s gone. Let the
police find what they can–it won’t be much, judging from the fact
that they don’t know yet of the old North End place he hired under the
name of Peters.

I’m not sure that I could find it again myself–not that I’d ever try,
even in broad daylight!

Yes, I do know, or am afraid I know, why he maintained it. I’m coming
to that. And I think you’ll understand before I’m through why I don’t
tell the police. They would ask me to guide them, but I couldn’t go
back there even if I knew the way. There was something there–and now
I can’t use the subway or (and you may as well have your laugh at
this, too) go down into cellars any more.

I should think you’d have known I didn’t drop Pickman for the same
silly reasons that fussy old women like Dr. Reid or Joe Minot or
Rosworth did. Morbid art doesn’t shock me, and when a man has the
genius Pickman had I feel it an honour to know him, no matter what
direction his work takes. Boston never had a greater painter than
Richard Upton Pickman. I said it at first and I say it still, and I
never swerved an inch, either, when he showed that ‘Ghoul Feeding’.
That, you remember, was when Minot cut him.

You know, it takes profound art and profound insight into Nature to
turn out stuff like Pickman’s. Any magazine-cover hack can splash
paint around wildly and call it a nightmare or a Witches’ Sabbath or a
portrait of the devil, but only a great painter can make such a thing
really scare or ring true. That’s because only a real artist knows the
actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear–the exact
sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or
hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and
lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness. I don’t
have to tell you why a Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap
ghost-story frontispiece merely makes us laugh. There’s something
those fellows catch–beyond life–that they’re able to make us catch
for a second. Doré had it. Sime has it. Angarola of Chicago has it.
And Pickman had it as no man ever had it before or–I hope to Heaven-
ever will again.

Don’t ask me what it is they see. You know, in ordinary art, there’s
all the difference in the world between the vital, breathing things
drawn from Nature or models and the artificial truck that commercial
small fry reel off in a bare studio by rule. Well, I should say that
the really weird artist has a kind of vision which makes models, or
summons up what amounts to actual scenes from the spectral world he
lives in. Anyhow, he manages to turn out results that differ from the
pretender’s mince-pie dreams in just about the same way that the life
painter’s results differ from the concoctions of a correspondence-
school cartoonist. If I had ever seen what Pickman saw–but no! Here,
let’s have a drink before we get any deeper. God, I wouldn’t be alive
if I’d ever seen what that man–if he was a man–saw !

You recall that Pickman’s forte was faces. I don’t believe anybody
since Goya could put so much of sheer hell into a set of features or a
twist of expression. And before Goya you have to go back to the
mediaeval chaps who did the gargoyles and chimaeras on Notre Dame and
Mont Saint-Michel. They believed all sorts of things–and maybe they
saw all sorts of things, too, for the Middle Ages had some curious
phases I remember your asking Pickman yourself once, the year before
you went away, wherever in thunder he got such ideas and visions.
Wasn’t that a nasty laugh he gave you? It was partly because of that
laugh that Reid dropped him. Reid, you know, had just taken up
comparative pathology, and was full of pompous ‘inside stuff’ about
the biological or evolutionary significance of this or that mental or
physical symptom. He said Pickman repelled him more and more every
day, and almost frightened him towards the last–that the fellow’s
features and expression were slowly developing in a way he didn’t
like; in a way that wasn’t human. He had a lot of talk about diet, and said
Pickman must be abnormal and eccentric to the last degree. I
suppose you told Reid, if you and he had any correspondence over it,
that he’d let Pickman’s paintings get on his nerves or harrow up his
imagination. I know I told him that myself–then.

But keep in mind that I didn’t drop Pickman for anything like this. On
the contrary, my admiration for him kept growing; for that ‘Ghoul
Feeding’ was a tremendous achievement. As you know, the club wouldn’t
exhibit it, and the Museum of Fine Arts wouldn’t accept it as a gift;
and I can add that nobody would buy it, so Pickman had it right in his
house till he went. Now his father has it in Salem–you know Pickman
comes of old Salem stock, and had a witch ancestor hanged in 1692.

I got into the habit of calling on Pickman quite often, especially
after I began making notes for a monograph on weird art. Probably it
was his work which put the idea into my head, and anyhow, I found him
a mine of data and suggestions when I came to develop it. He showed me
all the paintings and drawings he had about; including some pen-and-
ink sketches that would, I verily believe, have got him kicked out of
the club if many of the members had seen them. Before long I was
pretty nearly a devotee, and would listen for hours like a schoolboy
to art theories and philosophic speculations wild enough to qualify
him for the Danvers asylum. My hero-worship, coupled with the fact
that people generally were commencing to have less and less to do with
him, made him get very confidential with me; and one evening he hinted
that if I were fairly close-mouthed and none too squeamish, he might
show me something rather unusual–something a bit stronger than
anything he had in the house.

‘You know,’ he said, ‘there are things that won’t do for Newbury
Street–things that are out of place here, and that can’t be conceived
here, anyhow. It’s my business to catch the overtones of the soul, and
you won’t find those in a parvenu set of artificial streets on made
land. Back Bay isn’t Boston–it isn’t anything yet, because it’s had
no time to pick up memories and attract local spirits. If there are
any ghosts here, they’re the tame ghosts of a salt marsh and a shallow
cove; and I want human ghosts–the ghosts of beings highly organized
enough to have looked on hell and known the meaning of what they saw.

‘The place for an artist to live is the North End. If any aesthete
were sincere, he’d put up with the slums for the sake of the massed
traditions. God, man! Don’t you realize that places like that weren’t
merely made, but actually grew? Generation after generation lived and
felt and died there, and in days when people weren’t afraid to live
and feed and die. Don’t you know there was a mill on Copp’s Hill in
1632, and that half the present streets were laid out by 1650? I can
show you houses that have stood two centuries and a half and more;
houses that have witnessed what would make a modern house crumble into
powder. What do moderns know of life and the forces behind it? You
call the Salem witchcraft a delusion, but I’ll wager my four-times-
great-grandmother could have told you things. They hanged her on
Gallows Hill, with Cotton Mather looking sanctimoniously on. Mather,
damn him, was afraid somebody might succeed in kicking free of this
accursed cage of monotony–I wish someone had laid a spell on him or
sucked his blood in the night!

‘I can show you a house he lived in, and I can show you another one he
was afraid to enter in spite of all his fine bold talk. He knew things
he didn’t dare put into that stupid Magnalia or that puerile Wonders
of the Invisible World. Look here, do you know the whole North End
once had a set of tunnels that kept certain people in touch with each
other’s houses, and the burying ground, and the sea? Let them
prosecute and persecute above ground–things went on every day that
they couldn’t reach, and voices laughed at night that they couldn’t

‘Why, man, out of ten surviving houses built before 1700 and not moved
since I’ll wager that in eight I can show you something queer in the
cellar. There’s hardly a month that you don’t read of workmen finding
bricked-up arches and wells leading nowhere in this or that old place
as it comes down–you could see one near Henchman Street from the
elevated last year. There were witches and what their spells summoned;
pirates and what they brought in from the sea; smugglers; privateers-
and I tell you, people knew how to live, and how to enlarge the bounds
of life, in the old time! This wasn’t the only world a bold and wise
man could know–faugh! And to think of today in contrast, with such
pale-pink brains that even a club of supposed artists gets shudders
and convulsions if a picture goes beyond the feelings of a Beacon
Street tea-table!

‘The only saving grace of the present is that it’s too damned stupid
to question the past very closely. What do maps and records and guide-
books really tell of the North End? Bah! At a guess I’ll guarantee to
lead you to thirty or forty alleys and networks of alleys north of
Prince Street that aren’t suspected by ten living beings outside of
the foreigners that swarm them. And what do those Dagoes know of their
meaning? No, Thurber, these ancient places are dreaming gorgeously and
over-flowing with wonder and terror and escapes from the commonplace,
and yet there’s not a living soul to understand or profit by them. Or
rather, there’s only one living soul–for I haven’t been digging
around in the past for nothing !

‘See here, you’re interested in this sort of thing. What if I told you
that I’ve got another studio up there, where I can catch the night-
spirit of antique horror and paint things that I couldn’t even think
of in Newbury Street? Naturally I don’t tell those cursed old maids at
the club–with Reid, damn him, whispering even as it is that I’m a
sort of monster bound down the toboggan of reverse evolution. Yes,
Thurber, I decided long ago that one must paint terror as well as
beauty from life, so I did some exploring in places where I had reason
to know terror lives.

‘I’ve got a place that I don’t believe three living Nordic men besides
myself have ever seen. It isn’t so very far from the elevated as
distance goes, but it’s centuries away as the soul goes. I took it
because of the queer old brick well in the cellar–one of the sort I
told you about. The shack’s almost tumbling down so that nobody else
would live there, and I’d hate to tell you how little I pay for it.
The windows are boarded up, but I like that all the better, since I
don’t want daylight for what I do. I paint in the cellar, where the
inspiration is thickest, but I’ve other rooms furnished on the ground
floor. A Sicilian owns it, and I’ve hired it under the name of Peters.

‘Now, if you’re game, I’ll take you there tonight. I think you’d enjoy
the pictures, for, as I said, I’ve let myself go a bit there. It’s no
vast tour–I sometimes do it on foot, for I don’t want to attract
attention with a taxi in such a place. We can take the shuttle at the
South Station for Battery Street, and after that the walk isn’t much.’

Well, Eliot, there wasn’t much for me to do after that harangue but to
keep myself from running instead of walking for the first vacant cab
we could sight. We changed to the elevated at the South Station, and
at about twelve o’clock had climbed down the steps at Battery Street
and struck along the old waterfront past Constitution Wharf. I didn’t
keep track of the cross streets, and can’t tell you yet which it was
we turned up, but I know it wasn’t Greenough Lane.

When we did turn, it was to climb through the deserted length of the
oldest and dirtiest alley I ever saw in my life, with crumbling-
looking gables, broken small-paned windows, and archaic chimneys that
stood out half-disintegrated against the moonlit sky. I don’t believe
there were three houses in sight that hadn’t been standing in Cotton
Mather’s time–certainly I glimpsed at least two with an overhang, and
once I thought I saw a peaked roof-line of the almost forgotten pre-
gambrel type, though antiquarians tell us there are none left in

From that alley, which had a dim light, we turned to the left into an
equally silent and still narrower alley with no light at all: and in a
minute made what I think was an obtuse-angled bend towards the right
in the dark. Not long after this Pickman produced a flashlight and
revealed an antediluvian ten-panelled door that looked damnably worm-
eaten. Unlocking it, he ushered me into a barren hallway with what was
once splendid dark-oak panelling–simple, of course, but thrillingly
suggestive of the times of Andros and Phipps and the Witchcraft. Then
he took me through a door on the left, lighted an oil lamp, and told
me to make myself at home.

Now, Eliot, I’m what the man in the street would call fairly ‘hard-
boiled,’ but I’ll confess that what I saw on the walls of that room
gave me a bad turn. They were his pictures, you know–the ones he
couldn’t paint or even show in Newbury Street–and he was right when
he said he had ‘let himself go.’ Here–have another drink–I need one

There’s no use in my trying to tell you what they were like, because
the awful, the blasphemous horror, and the unbelievable loathsomeness
and moral foetor came from simple touches quite beyond the power of
words to classify. There was none of the exotic technique you see in
Sidney Sime, none of the trans-Saturnian landscapes and lunar fungi
that Clark Ashton Smith uses to freeze the blood. The backgrounds were
mostly old churchyards, deep woods, cliffs by the sea, brick tunnels,
ancient panelled rooms, or simple vaults of masonry. Copp’s Hill
Burying Ground, which could not be many blocks away from this very
house, was a favourite scene.

The madness and monstrosity lay in the figures in the foreground–for
Pickman’s morbid art was pre-eminently one of demoniac portraiture.
These figures were seldom completely human, but often approached
humanity in varying degree. Most of the bodies, while roughly bipedal,
had a forward slumping, and a vaguely canine cast. The texture of the
majority was a kind of unpleasant rubberiness. Ugh! I can see them
now! Their occupations–well, don’t ask me to be too precise. They
were usually feeding–I won’t say on what. They were sometimes shown
in groups in cemeteries or underground passages, and often appeared to
be in battle over their prey–or rather, their treasure-trove. And
what damnable expressiveness Pickman sometimes gave the sightless
faces of this charnel booty! Occasionally the things were shown
leaping through open windows at night, or squatting on the chests of
sleepers, worrying at their throats. One canvas showed a ring of them
baying about a hanged witch on Gallows Hill, whose dead face held a
close kinship to theirs.

But don’t get the idea that it was all this hideous business of theme
and setting which struck me faint. I’m not a three-year-old kid, and
I’d seen much like this before. It was the faces, Eliot, those
accursed faces, that leered and slavered out of the canvas with the
very breath of life! By God, man, I verily believe they were alive!
That nauseous wizard had waked the fires of hell in pigment, and his
brush had been a nightmare-spawning wand. Give me that decanter,

There was one thing called ‘The Lesson’–Heaven pity me, that I ever
saw it! Listen–can you fancy a squatting circle of nameless dog-like
things in a churchyard teaching a small child how to feed like
themselves? The price of a changeling, I suppose–you know the old
myth about how the weird people leave their spawn in cradles in
exchange for the human babes they steal. Pickman was showing what
happens to those stolen babes–how they grow up–and then I began to
see a hideous relationship in the faces of the human and non-human
figures. He was, in all his gradations of morbidity between the
frankly non-human and the degradedly human, establishing a sardonic
linkage and evolution. The dog-things were developed from mortals!

And no sooner had I wondered what he made of their own young as left
with mankind in the form of changelings, than my eye caught a picture
embodying that very thought. It was that of an ancient Puritan
interior–a heavily beamed room with lattice windows, a settle, and
clumsy seventeenth-century furniture, with the family sitting about
while the father read from the Scriptures. Every face but one showed
nobility and reverence, but that one reflected the mockery of the pit.
It was that of a young man in years, and no doubt belonged to a
supposed son of that pious father, but in essence it was the kin of
the unclean things. It was their changeling–and in a spirit of
supreme irony Pickman had given the features a very perceptible
resemblance to his own.

By this time Pickman had lighted a lamp in an adjoining room and was
politely holding open the door for me; asking me if I would care to
see his ‘modern studies.’ I hadn’t been able to give him much of my
opinions–I was too speechless with fright and loathing–but I think
he fully understood and felt highly complimented. And now I want to
assure you again, Eliot, that I’m no mollycoddle to scream at anything
which shows a bit of departure from the usual. I’m middle-aged and
decently sophisticated, and I guess you saw enough of me in France to
know I’m not easily knocked out. Remember, too, that I’d just about
recovered my wind and gotten used to those frightful pictures which
turned colonial New England into a kind of annex of hell. Well, in
spite of all this, that next room forced a real scream out of me, and
I had to clutch at the doorway to keep from keeling over. The other
chamber had shown a pack of ghouls and witches over-running the world
of our forefathers, but this one brought the horror right into our own
daily life!

God, how that man could paint! There was a study called ‘Subway
Accident,’ in which a flock of the vile things were clambering up from
some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Boston
Street subway and attacking a crowd of people on the platform. Another
showed a dance on Copp’s Hill among the tombs with the background of
today. Then there were any number of cellar views, with monsters
creeping in through holes and rifts in the masonry and grinning as
they squatted behind barrels or furnaces and waited for their first
victim to descend the stairs.

One disgusting canvas seemed to depict a vast cross-section of Beacon
Hill, with ant-like armies of the mephitic monsters squeezing
themselves through burrows that honeycombed the ground. Dances in the
modern cemeteries were freely pictured, and another conception somehow
shocked me more than all the rest–a scene in an unknown vault, where
scores of the beasts crowded about one who had a well-known Boston
guidebook and was evidently reading aloud. All were pointing to a
certain passage, and every face seemed so distorted with epileptic and
reverberant laughter that I almost thought I heard the fiendish
echoes. The title of the picture was, ‘Holmes, Lowell and Longfellow
Lie Buried in Mount Auburn.’

As I gradually steadied myself and got readjusted to this second room
of deviltry and morbidity, I began to analyse some of the points in my
sickening loathing. In the first place, I said to myself, these things
repelled because of the utter inhumanity and callous crudity they
showed in Pickman. The fellow must be a relentless enemy of all
mankind to take such glee in the torture of brain and flesh and the
degradation of the mortal tenement. In the second place, they
terrified because of their very greatness. Their art was the art that
convinced–when we saw the pictures we saw the demons themselves and
were afraid of them. And the queer part was, that Pickman got none of
his power from the use of selectiveness or bizarrerie. Nothing was
blurred, distorted, or conventionalized; outlines were sharp and
lifelike, and details were almost painfully defined. And the faces!

It was not any mere artist’s interpretation that we saw; it was
pandemonium itself, crystal clear in stark objectivity. That was it,
by Heaven! The man was not a fantaisiste or romanticist at all–he did
not even try to give us the churning, prismatic ephemera of dreams,
but coldly and sardonically reflected some stable, mechanistic, and
well-established horror-world which he saw fully, brilliantly,
squarely, and unfalteringly. God knows what that world can have been,
or where he ever glimpsed the blasphemous shapes that loped and
trotted and crawled through it; but whatever the baffling source of
his images, one thing was plain. Pickman was in every sense–in
conception and in execution–a thorough, painstaking, and almost
scientific realist.

My host was now leading the way down the cellar to his actual studio,
and I braced myself for some hellish efforts among the unfinished
canvases. As we reached the bottom of the damp stairs he turned his
flash-light to a corner of the large open space at hand, revealing the
circular brick curb of what was evidently a great well in the earthen
floor. We walked nearer, and I saw that it must be five feet across,
with walls a good foot thick and some six inches above the ground
level–solid work of the seventeenth century, or I was much mistaken.
That, Pickman said, was the kind of thing he had been talking about-
an aperture of the network of tunnels that used to undermine the hill.
I noticed idly that it did not seem to be bricked up, and that a heavy
disc of wood formed the apparent cover. Thinking of the things this
well must have been connected with if Pickman’s wild hints had not
been mere rhetoric, I shivered slightly; then turned to follow him up
a step and through a narrow door into a room of fair size, provided
with a wooden floor and furnished as a studio. An acetylene gas outfit
gave the light necessary for work.

The unfinished pictures on easels or propped against the walls were as
ghastly as the finished ones upstairs, and showed the painstaking
methods of the artist. Scenes were blocked out with extreme care, and
pencilled guide lines told of the minute exactitude which Pickman used
in getting the right perspective and proportions. The man was great–I
say it even now, knowing as much as I do. A large camera on a table
excited my notice, and Pickman told me that he used it in taking
scenes for backgrounds, so that he might paint them from photographs
in the studio instead of carting his outfit around the town for this or
that view. He thought a photograph quite as good as an actual scene or
model for sustained work, and declared he employed them regularly.

There was something very disturbing about the nauseous sketches and
half-finished monstrosities that leered round from every side of the
room, and when Pickman suddenly unveiled a huge canvas on the side
away from the light I could not for my life keep back a loud
scream–the second I had emitted that night. It echoed and echoed through
the dim vaultings of that ancient and nitrous cellar, and I had to choke
back a flood of reaction that threatened to burst out as hysterical
laughter. Merciful Creator! Eliot, but I don’t know how much was real
and how much was feverish fancy. It doesn’t seem to me that earth can
hold a dream like that!

It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it
held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as
a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of
crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop
its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn’t
even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head
of all panic–not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears,
bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn’t the scaly
claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet–none of
these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man
to madness.

It was the technique, Eliot–the cursed, the impious, the unnatural
technique! As I am a living being, I never elsewhere saw the actual
breath of life so fused into a canvas. The monster was there–it
glared and gnawed and gnawed and glared–and I knew that only a
suspension of Nature’s laws could ever let a man paint a thing like
that without a model–without some glimpse of the nether world which
no mortal unsold to the Fiend has ever had.

Pinned with a thumb-tack to a vacant part of the canvas was a piece of
paper now badly curled up–probably, I thought, a photograph from
which Pickman meant to paint a background as hideous as the nightmare
it was to enhance. I reached out to uncurl and look at it, when
suddenly I saw Pickman start as if shot. He had been listening with
peculiar intensity ever since my shocked scream had waked unaccustomed
echoes in the dark cellar, and now he seemed struck with a fright
which, though not comparable to my own, had in it more of the physical
than of the spiritual. He drew a revolver and motioned me to silence,
then stepped out into the main cellar and closed the door behind him.

I think I was paralysed for an instant. Imitating Pickman’s listening,
I fancied I heard a faint scurrying sound somewhere, and a series of
squeals or beats in a direction I couldn’t determine. I thought of
huge rats and shuddered. Then there came a subdued sort of clatter
which somehow set me all in gooseflesh–a furtive, groping kind of
clatter, though I can’t attempt to convey what I mean in words. It was
like heavy wood falling on stone or brick–wood on brick–what did
that make me think of?

It came again, and louder. There was a vibration as if the wood had
fallen farther than it had fallen before. After that followed a sharp
grating noise, a shouted gibberish from Pickman, and the deafening
discharge of all six chambers of a revolver, fired spectacularly as a
lion tamer might fire in the air for effect. A muffled squeal or
squawk, and a thud. Then more wood and brick grating, a pause, and the
opening of the door–at which I’ll confess I started violently.
Pickman reappeared with his smoking weapon, cursing the bloated rats
that infested the ancient well.

‘The deuce knows what they eat, Thurber,’ he grinned, ‘for those
archaic tunnels touched graveyard and witch-den and sea-coast. But
whatever it is, they must have run short, for they were devilish
anxious to get out. Your yelling stirred them up, I fancy. Better be
cautious in these old places–our rodent friends are the one drawback,
though I sometimes think they’re a positive asset by way of atmosphere
and colour.’

Well, Eliot, that was the end of the night’s adventure. Pickman had
promised to show me the place, and Heaven knows he had done it. He led
me out of that tangle of alleys in another direction, it seems, for
when we sighted a lamp-post we were in a half-familiar street with
monotonous rows of mingled tenement blocks and old houses. Charter
Street, it turned out to be, but I was too flustered to notice just
where we hit it. We were too late for the elevated, and walked back
downtown through Hanover Street. I remember that wall. We switched
from Tremont up Beacon, and Pickman left me at the corner of Joy,
where I turned off. I never spoke to him again.

Why did I drop him? Don’t be impatient. Wait till I ring for coffee.
We’ve had enough of the other stuff, but I for one need something. No
–it wasn’t the paintings I saw in that place; though I’ll swear they
were enough to get him ostracised in nine-tenths of the homes and
clubs of Boston, and I guess you won’t wonder now why I have to steer
clear of subways and cellars. It was–something I found in my coat the
next morning. You know, the curled-up paper tacked to the frightful
canvas in the cellar; the thing I thought was a photograph of some
scene he meant to use as a background for that monster. That last
scare had come while I was reaching to uncurl it, and it seems I had
vacantly crumpled it into my pocket. But here’s the coffee–take it
black, Eliot, if you’re wise.

Yes, that paper was the reason I dropped Pickman; Richard Upton
Pickman, the greatest artist I have ever known–and the foulest being
that ever leaped the bounds of life into the pits of myth and madness.
Eliot–old Reid was right. He wasn’t strictly human. Either he was
born in strange shadow, or he’d found a way to unlock the forbidden
gate. It’s all the same now, for he’s gone–back into the fabulous
darkness he loved to haunt. Here, let’s have the chandelier going.

Don’t ask me to explain or even conjecture about what I burned. Don’t
ask me, either, what lay behind that mole-like scrambling Pickman was
so keen to pass off as rats. There are secrets, you know, which might
have come down from old Salem times, and Cotton Mather tells even
stranger things. You know how damned lifelike Pickman’s paintings
were–how we all wondered where he got those faces.

Well–that paper wasn’t a photograph of any background, after all.
What it showed was simply the monstrous being he was painting on that
awful canvas. It was the model he was using–and its background was
merely the wall of the cellar studio in minute detail. But by God,
Eliot, it was a photograph from life!

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