Horror is a genre of speculative fiction, intended to frighten, disgust, or startle its readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks, or frightens the reader, or induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". It creates an frightening atmosphere. Horror is supernatural, though it can be non-supernatural; the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for the larger fears of a society. The horror genre has ancient origins with roots in folklore and religious traditions, focusing on death, the afterlife, the demonic and the principle of the thing embodied in the person; these were manifested in stories of beings such as witches, vampires and ghosts. European horror fiction became established through works by Ancient Romans; the well-known 19th century novel about Frankenstein was influenced by the story of Hippolytus, where Asclepius revives him from death.
Euripides wrote plays based on Hippolytos Kalyptomenos and Hippolytus. Plutarch's "The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Cimon describes the spirit of a murderer, who himself was murdered in a bathhouse in Chaeronea. Pliny the Younger tells the tale of Athenodorus Cananites. Athenodorus was cautious. While writing a book on philosophy, he was visited by a spectre bound in chains; the figure disappeared in the courtyard. The earliest recording of an official accusation of Satanism by the Church took place in Toulouse in AD 1022 against a couple of clerics. Werewolf stories were popular in medieval French literature. One of Marie de France's twelve lais is a werewolf story titled "Bisclavret"; the Countess Yolande commissioned a werewolf story titled "Guillaume de Palerme". Anonymous writers penned two werewolf stories, "Biclarel" and "Melion". Much horror fiction derives from the cruellest personages of the 15th century. Dracula can be traced to the Prince of Wallachia Vlad III whose alleged war crimes were published in German pamphlets.
A 1499 pamphlet published by Markus Ayrer is most notable for its woodcut imagery. The alleged serial killer spree of Giles de Rais have been seen as the inspiration for "Bluebeard"; the motif of the vampiress is most notably derived from the real life noblewoman and murderess, Elizabeth Bathory, helped usher in the emergence of horror fiction in the 18th century, such as through László Turóczi's 1729 book Tragica Historia. The 18th century saw the gradual development of the Gothic horror genre, it drew on the written and material heritage of the Late Middle Ages, finding its form with Horace Walpole's seminal and controversial 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. In fact, the first edition was published disguised as an actual medieval romance from Italy and republished by a fictitious translator. Once revealed as modern, many found it anachronistic, reactionary, or in poor taste — but it proved popular. Otranto inspired Vathek by William Beckford, A Sicilian Romance, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian by Ann Radcliffe and The Monk by Matthew Lewis.
A significant amount of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed towards a female audience, a typical scenario being a resourceful female menaced in a gloomy castle. The Gothic tradition blossomed into the genre modern readers call horror literature in the 19th century. Influential works and characters that continue resonating in fiction and film today saw their genesis in the Brothers Grimm's "Hänsel und Gretel", Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Jane C. Loudon's "The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century", Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Thomas Peckett Prest's Varney the Vampire, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Bram Stoker's Dracula; each of these works created an enduring icon of horror seen in re-imaginings on the page and screen.
A proliferation of cheap periodicals around turn of the century led to a boom in horror writing. For example, Gaston Leroux serialized his Le Fantôme de l'Opéra before it was a novel in 1910. One writer who specialized in horror fiction for mainstream pulps such as All-Story Magazine was Tod Robbins, whose fiction deals with themes of madness and cruelty. Specialist publications emerged to give horror writers an outlet, prominent among them Weird Tales and Unknown Worlds. Influential horror writers of the early 20th century made inroads in these mediums; the venerated horror author H. P. Lovecraft, his enduring Cthulhu Mythos pioneered the genre of cosmic horror, M. R. James is credited with redefining the ghost story in that era; the serial murderer became a recurring theme. Yellow journalism and sensationalism of various murderers, such as Jack the Ripper, lesser so, Carl Panzram, Fritz Haarman, Albert Fish, all perpetuated this phenomenon; the trend continued in the postwar era renewed after the murders committed by Ed Gein.
In 1959, Robert Bloch, inspired by the murders, wrote Psycho. The crimes committed in 1969 by the Manson family influenced the slasher theme in horror fiction of the 1970s. In 1981, Thomas Harris wrote Red Dragon. In 1988, the sequel to tha
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person; when confronted with facts that contradict beliefs and values, people will try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort. In A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency to function mentally in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable and is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance, by making changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance or by avoiding circumstances and contradictory information to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance. To function in the reality of a modern society, human beings continually adjust the correspondence of their mental attitudes and personal actions.
Two factors determine the degree of psychological dissonance caused by two conflicting cognitions or by two conflicting actions: The importance of cognitions: the greater the personal value of the elements, the greater the magnitude of the dissonance in the relation. Ratio of cognitions: the proportion of dissonant-to-consonant elements. Cognitive dissonance theory proposes that people seek psychological consistency between their expectations of life and the existential reality of the world. To function by that expectation of existential consistency, people continually reduce their cognitive dissonance in order to align their cognitions with their actions; the creation and establishment of psychological consistency allows the person afflicted with cognitive dissonance to lessen mental stress by actions that reduce the magnitude of the dissonance, realised either by changing with or by justifying against or by being indifferent to the existential contradiction, inducing the mental stress. In practice, people reduce the magnitude of their cognitive dissonance in four ways: Change the behavior or the cognition Justify the behavior or the cognition, by changing the conflicting cognition Justify the behavior or the cognition by adding new cognitions Ignore or deny information that conflicts with existing beliefs Three cognitive biases are components of dissonance theory.
The bias that one does not have any biases, the bias that one is "better, smarter, more moral and nicer than average" and confirmation bias. That a consistent psychology is required for functioning in the real world was indicated in the results of The Psychology of Prejudice, wherein people facilitate their functioning in the real world by employing human categories with which they manage their social interactions with other people; the study Patterns of Cognitive Dissonance-reducing Beliefs Among Smokers: A Longitudinal Analysis from the International Tobacco Control Four Country Survey indicated that smokers use justification beliefs to reduce their cognitive dissonance about smoking tobacco and the negative consequences of smoking it. Continuing smokers Successful quitters Failed quitters To reduce cognitive dissonance, the participant smokers adjusted their beliefs to correspond with their actions: Functional beliefs Risk-minimizing beliefs There are four theoretic paradigms of cognitive dissonance, the mental stress people suffer when exposed to information, inconsistent with their beliefs, ideals or values, Belief Disconfirmation, Induced Compliance, Free Choice and Effort Justification, which explain what happens after a person acts inconsistently, relative to his or her intellectual perspectives.
Common to each paradigm of cognitive-dissonance theory is the tenet: People invested in a given perspective shall—when confronted wi
Dirk W. Mosig
Yōzan Dirk W. Mosig is a psychologist, literary critic and ordained Zen monk noted for his critical work on H. P. Lovecraft, he was born in Germany and lived for several years in Argentina before emigrating to the United States. He received his Ph. D at the University of Florida in 1974. Between 1973 and 1978, Mosig published numerous important essays assessing Lovecraft's work. To cite but three, Mosig's 1973 essay "Toward a Greater Appreciation of H. P. Lovecraft: The Analytical Approach" is a psychological interpretation of many Lovecraft stories; the pioneering and oft-reprinted "H. P. Lovecraft: Myth Maker" explores Lovecraft's philosophy of horror, takes issue with August Derleth's distorted interpretation of Lovecraft's myth-cycle and emphasises the latter's vision of an amoral cosmos in which humanity has little significance. In "Lovecraft: The Dissonance Factor in Imaginative Literature", insanity is the result of a fatal cognitive dissonance in the protagonist caused by encounters with cosmic horrors that contradict the protagonist's worldview of the universe and its laws.
Several of Mosig's essays assessed individual works by Lovecraft such as "The Outsider" and "The White Ship" according to a psychoanalytical perspective. One essays analysed Lovecraft's poem "The City.". S. T. Joshi has stated; the volume Mosig at Last: A Psychologist Looks at Lovecraft collects Mosig's published Lovecraft papers and adds some unpublished, such as "Life After Lovecraft: Reminiscences of a Non-Entity". Included is "Growing Up Lovecraftian" by Mosig's daughter, Laila Briquet-Mosig. Peter Cannon "The Man Who Was Mosig." Crypt of Cthulhu 33:36. Brief essay on Mosig's importance in Lovecraft studies. Donald R. Burleson. "Fra Mosigus." Crypt of Cthulhu 33: 37-38. A memoir of Mosig and a discussion of his importance in Lovecraft studies. Joshi, S. T. "Concluding Address". in Joshi, ed. The H. P. Lovecraft Centennial Conference: Proceedings. Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, March 1991, pp. 78–90. Reprint in Books at Brown 28/29: 149-56. Summarises the Lovecraft Centennial Conference and memorialises the prior figures who made Lovecraft's recognition possible.
Joshi, S. T. "Mosig at Last: My Years with the Greatest of Lovecraft Scholars."Crypt of Cthulhu 33:29-35, 23. Discusses Joshi's relations with Mosig and touches upon Mosig's significance in fostering understanding of Lovecraft. Mosig Page
August William Derleth was an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first book publisher of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, for his own contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos and the Cosmic Horror genre, as well as his founding of the publisher Arkham House, Derleth was a leading American regional writer of his day, as well as prolific in several other genres, including historical fiction, detective fiction, science fiction, biography. A 1938 Guggenheim Fellow, Derleth considered his most serious work to be the ambitious Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew. Derleth can be considered a pioneering naturalist and conservationist in his writing; the son of William Julius Derleth and Rose Louise Volk, Derleth grew up in Wisconsin. He was educated in local parochial and public high school. Derleth wrote his first fiction at age 13, he was interested most in reading, he made three trips to the library a week.
He would save his money to buy books. Some of his biggest influences were Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, Walt Whitman, H. L. Mencken's The American Mercury, Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, Alexandre Dumas, Edgar Allan Poe, Walter Scott, Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Forty rejected stories and three years according to anthologist Jim Stephens, he sold his first story, "Bat's Belfry", to Weird Tales magazine. Derleth wrote throughout his four years at the University of Wisconsin, where he received a B. A. in 1930. During this time he served as associate editor of Minneapolis-based Fawcett Publications Mystic Magazine. Returning to Sauk City in the summer of 1931, Derleth worked in a local canning factory and collaborated with childhood friend Mark Schorer, they rented a cabin, writing Gothic and other horror stories and selling them to Weird Tales magazine. Derleth won a place on the O'Brien Roll of Honor for Five Alone, published in Place of Hawks, but was first found in Pagany magazine.
As a result of his early work on the Sac Prairie Saga, Derleth was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. White, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis and poet Edgar Lee Masters of Spoon River Anthology fame. In the mid-1930s, Derleth organized a Ranger's Club for young people, served as clerk and president of the local school board, served as a parole officer, organized a local men's club and a parent-teacher association, he lectured in American regional literature at the University of Wisconsin and was a contributing editor of Outdoors Magazine. With longtime friend Donald Wandrei, Derleth in 1939 founded Arkham House, its initial objective was to publish the works of H. P. Lovecraft, with whom Derleth had corresponded since his teenage years. At the same time, he began teaching a course in American Regional Literature at the University of Wisconsin. In 1941, he became literary editor of The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, a post he held until his resignation in 1960, his hobbies included fencing, chess and comic-strips.
Derleth's true avocation, was hiking the terrain of his native Wisconsin lands, observing and recording nature with an expert eye. Derleth once wrote of his writing methods, "I write swiftly, from 750,000 to a million words yearly little of it pulp material." In 1948, he was elected president of the Associated Fantasy Publishers at the 6th World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto. He was married April 1953, to Sandra Evelyn Winters, they divorced six years later. Derleth retained April Rose and Walden William. April earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977, she became majority stockholder, CEO of Arkham House in 1994. She remained in that capacity until her death, she was known in the community as humanitarian. April died on March 21, 2011. In 1960, Derleth began editing and publishing a magazine called Hawk and Whippoorwill, dedicated to poems of man and nature. Derleth died of a heart attack on July 4, 1971, is buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sauk City.
The U. S. 12 bridge over the Wisconsin River is named in his honor. Derleth was Roman Catholic. Derleth wrote more than 100 books during his lifetime. Derleth wrote an expansive series of novels, short stories, journals and other works about Sac Prairie. Derleth intended this series to comprise up to 50 novels telling the projected life-story of the region from the 19th century onwards, with analogies to Balzac's Human Comedy and Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. This, other early work by Derleth, made him a well-known figure among the regional literary figures of his time: early Pulitzer Prize winners Hamlin Garland and Zona Gale, as well as Sinclair Lewis, the last both an admirer and critic of Derleth; as Edward Wagenknecht wrote in Cavalcade of the American Novel, "What Mr. Derleth has, lacking...in modern novelists is a country. He belongs, he writes of a people that are bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. In his fictional world, there is a unity much deeper and more fundam
Nyarlathotep is a character in the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other writers; the character is known in association with its role as a malign deity in the Lovecraft Mythos fictional universe, where it is known as the Crawling Chaos. First appearing in Lovecraft's 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers and in the tabletop role-playing games making use of the Cthulhu Mythos. Writers describe him as one of the Outer Gods. In his first appearance in "Nyarlathotep", he is described as a "tall, swarthy man" who resembles an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. In this story he wanders the Earth gathering legions of followers, the narrator of the story among them, through his demonstrations of strange and magical instruments; these followers lose awareness of the world around them, through the narrator's unreliable accounts the reader gets an impression of the world's collapse. Nyarlathotep subsequently appears as a major character in The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, in which he again manifests in the form of an Egyptian pharaoh when he confronts protagonist Randolph Carter.
The twenty-first sonnet of Lovecraft's poem-cycle Fungi from Yuggoth is a retelling of the original prose poem. In "The Dreams in the Witch House", Nyarlathotep appears to Walter Gilman and witch Keziah Mason in the form of "the'Black Man' of the witch-cult", a black-skinned avatar of the Devil described by witch hunters. In "The Haunter of the Dark", the nocturnal, bat-winged monster dwelling in the steeple of the Starry Wisdom sect's church is identified as another manifestation of Nyarlathotep; this avatar can not tolerate the slightest light. There is some speculation as to whether the fake Henry Akeley that appears at the end of The Whisperer in Darkness is Nyarlathotep. In the story, the Mi-Go chant his name in reverential tones, stating "To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told, and he shall put on the semblance of man, the waxen mask and the robes that hides, come down from the world of Seven Suns to mock". At the end of The Whisperer in Darkness, the main character to his horror discovers a loose dressing gown and the dismembered head and arms of Akeley lying on the couch, presumed in the story to have been a Mi-Go in disuse.
But due to the mention in the chant to Nyarlathotep wearing the "waxen mask and the robes that hides", S. T. Joshi writes that "this seems a clear allusion to Nyarlathotep disguised with Akeley's face and hands. Joshi notes this is problematic, because "if Nyarlathotep a'shapeshifter', why would he have to don the face and hands of Akeley instead of reshaping himself as Akeley?"Though Nyarlathotep appears as a character in only four stories and two sonnets, his name is mentioned in other works. In "The Rats in the Walls", Nyarlathotep is mentioned as a faceless god in the caverns of Earth's center.. In "The Shadow Out of Time", the "hideous secret of Nyarlathotep" is revealed to the protagonist by Khephnes during their imprisonment by the Great Race of Yith. Nyarlathotep does not appear in Lovecraft's story "The Crawling Chaos", despite the similarity of the title to the character's epithet. In a 1921 letter to Reinhardt Kleiner, Lovecraft related the dream he had had—described as "the most realistic and horrible I have experienced since the age of ten"—that served as the basis for his prose poem "Nyarlathotep".
In the dream, he received a letter from his friend Samuel Loveman that read: Don't fail to see Nyarlathotep if he comes to Providence. He is horrible—horrible beyond anything you can imagine—but wonderful, he haunts one for hours afterwards. I am still shuddering at. Lovecraft commented: I had never heard the name NYARLATHOTEP before, but seemed to understand the allusion. Nyarlathotep was a kind of itinerant showman or lecturer who held forth in public halls and aroused widespread fear and discussion with his exhibitions; these exhibitions consisted of two parts—first, a horrible—possibly prophetic—cinema reel. As I received the letter, I seemed to recall that Nyarlathotep was in Providence.... I seemed to remember that persons had whispered to me in awe of his horrors, warned me not to go near him, but Loveman's dream letter decided me.... As I left the house I saw throngs of men plodding through the night, all whispering affrightedly and bound in one direction. I fell in with them, afraid yet eager to see and hear the great, the obscure, the unutterable Nyarlathotep.
Will Murray has speculated that this dream image of Nyarlathotep may have been inspired by the inventor Nikola Tesla, whose well-attended lectures did involve extraordinary experiments with electrical apparatus and whom some saw as a sinister figure. Robert M. Price proposes that the name Nyarlathotep may have been subconsciously suggested to Lovecraft by two names from Lord Dunsany, an author he much admired. Alhireth-Hotep, a false prophet, appears in Dunsany's The Gods of Pegana, Mynarthitep, a god described as "angry", appears in Dunsany's "The Sorrow of Search". Nyarlathotep differs from the other beings in a number of ways. Most of them are exiled to stars, like Yog-Sothoth and Hastur, or sleeping and dreaming like Cthulhu, he has "a thousand" othe
The Necronomicon is a fictional grimoire appearing in stories by the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft and his followers, it was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924 short story "The Hound", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's "The Nameless City". Among other things, the work contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, the means for summoning them. Other authors such as August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith cited it in their works. Many readers have believed it to be a real work, with booksellers and librarians receiving many requests for it. Capitalizing on the notoriety of the fictional volume, real-life publishers have printed many books entitled Necronomicon since Lovecraft's death. How Lovecraft conceived the name Necronomicon is not clear—Lovecraft said that the title came to him in a dream. Although some have suggested that Lovecraft was influenced by Robert W. Chambers' collection of short stories The King in Yellow, which centers on a mysterious and disturbing play in book form, Lovecraft is not believed to have read that work until 1927.
Donald R. Burleson has argued that the idea for the book was derived from Nathaniel Hawthorne, though Lovecraft himself noted that "mouldy hidden manuscripts" were one of the stock features of Gothic literature. Lovecraft wrote that the title, as translated from the Greek language, meant "an image of the law of the dead", compounded from νεκρός nekros "dead", νόμος nomos "law", εἰκών eikon "image". Robert M. Price notes that the title has been variously translated by others as "Book of the names of the dead", "Book of the laws of the dead", "Book of dead names" and "Knower of the laws of the dead". S. T. Joshi states that Lovecraft's own etymology is "almost unsound; the last portion of it is erroneous, since -ikon is nothing more than a neuter adjectival suffix and has nothing to do with eikõn." Joshi translates the title as "Book considering the dead."Lovecraft was asked about the veracity of the Necronomicon, always answered that it was his invention. In a letter to Willis Conover, Lovecraft elaborated upon his typical answer: Now about the "terrible and forbidden books”—I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary.
There never was Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself. Robert Bloch devised the idea of Ludvig Prinn and his De Vermis Mysteriis, while the Book of Eibon is an invention of Clark Ashton Smith's. Robert E. Howard is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten.... As for seriously-written books on dark and supernatural themes—in all truth they don’t amount to much; that is why it's more fun to invent mythical works like the Book of Eibon. Reinforcing the book's fictionalization, the name of the book's supposed author, Abdul Alhazred, is not a grammatically correct Arabic name. "Abdul" means "the worshiper/slave of the", standing alone it would make no sense, as Alhazred is not a surname in the Western sense, but a reference to a person's place of birth, its English translation starts with another "the". In 1927, Lovecraft wrote a brief pseudo-history of the Necronomicon, published in 1938, after his death, as "History of the Necronomicon". According to this account, the book was called Al Azif, an Arabic word that Lovecraft defined as "that nocturnal sound supposed to be the howling of demons", drawing on a footnote by Samuel Henley in Henley's translation of "Vathek".
Henley, commenting upon a passage which he translated as "those nocturnal insects which presage evil", alluded to the diabolic legend of Beelzebub, "Lord of the Flies" and to Psalm 91:5, which in some 16th Century English Bibles describes "bugges by night" where translations render "terror by night". One Arabic/English dictionary translates `Azīf as "whistling. Gabriel Oussani defined it as "the eerie sound of the jinn in the wilderness"; the tradition of `azif al jinn is linked to the phenomenon of "singing sand". In the "History", Alhazred is said to have been a "half-crazed Arab" who worshipped the Lovecraftian entities Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu, he is described as being from Sanaa in Yemen, as visiting the ruins of Babylon, the "subterranean secrets" of Memphis and the Empty Quarter of Arabia. In his last years, he lived in Damascus, where he wrote Al Azif before his sudden and mysterious death in 738. In subsequent years, Lovecraft wrote, the Azif "gained considerable, though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age."
In 950, it was translated into Greek and given the title Necronomicon by Theodorus Philetas, a fictional scholar from Constantinople. This version "impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts" before being "suppressed and burnt" in 1050 by Patriarch Michael. After this attempted suppression, the work was "only heard of furtively" until it was translated from Greek into Latin by Olaus Wormius. Both the Latin and Greek text, the "History" relates, were banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232, though Latin editions were published in 15th century Germany and 17th century Spain. A Greek edition was printed in It
Robert E. Howard
Robert Ervin Howard was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. He is well known for his character Conan the Barbarian and is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. Howard was raised in Texas, he spent most of his life with some time spent in nearby Brownwood. A bookish and intellectual child, he was a fan of boxing and spent some time in his late teens bodybuilding taking up amateur boxing. From the age of nine he dreamed of becoming a writer of adventure fiction but did not have real success until he was 23. Thereafter, until his death by suicide at age 30, Howard's writings were published in a wide selection of magazines and newspapers, he became proficient in several subgenres, his greatest success occurred after his death. Although a Conan novel was nearly published in 1934, Howard's stories were never collected during his lifetime; the main outlet for his stories was Weird Tales. With Conan and his other heroes, Howard helped fashion the genre now known as sword and sorcery, spawning many imitators and giving him a large influence in the fantasy field.
Howard remains a read author, with his best works still reprinted. Howard's suicide and the circumstances surrounding it have led to speculation about his mental health, his mother had been ill with tuberculosis his entire life, upon learning she had entered a coma from which she was not expected to wake, he walked out to his car and shot himself in the head. Howard was born January 22, 1906 in Peaster, the only son of a traveling country physician, Dr. Isaac Mordecai Howard, his wife, Hester Jane Ervin Howard, his early life was spent wandering through a variety of Texas cowtowns and boomtowns: Dark Valley, Bronte, Oran, Wichita Falls, Cross Cut, Burkett. During Howard's youth his parents' relationship began to break down; the Howard family had problems with money which may have been exacerbated by Isaac Howard investing in get-rich-quick schemes. Hester Howard, came to believe that she had married below herself. Soon the pair were fighting. Hester did not want Isaac to have anything to do with their son.
She had a strong influence on her son's intellectual growth. She had spent her early years helping a variety of sick relatives, contracting tuberculosis in the process, she instilled in her son a deep love of poetry and literature, recited verse daily and supported him unceasingly in his efforts to write. Other experiences would seep into his prose. Although he loved reading and learning, he found school to be confining and began to hate having anyone in authority over him. Experiences watching and confronting bullies revealed the omnipresence of evil and enemies in the world, taught him the value of physical strength and violence; as the son of the local doctor, Howard had frequent exposure to the effects of injury and violence, due to accidents on farms and oil fields combined with the massive increase in crime that came with the oil boom. Firsthand tales of gunfights, lynchings and Indian raids developed his distinctly Texan, hardboiled outlook on the world. Sports boxing, became a passionate preoccupation.
At the time, boxing was the most popular sport in the country, with a cultural influence far in excess of what it is today. James J. Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jack Dempsey were the names that inspired during those years, he grew up a lover of all contests of violent, masculine struggle. Voracious reading, along with a natural talent for prose writing and the encouragement of teachers, created in Howard an interest in becoming a professional writer. From the age of nine he began writing stories tales of historical fiction centering on Vikings, Arabs and bloodshed. One by one he discovered the authors who would influence his work: Jack London and his stories of reincarnation and past lives, most notably The Star Rover. Howard was considered by friends to be eidetic, astounded them with his ability to memorize lengthy reams of poetry with ease after one or two readings. In 1919, when Howard was thirteen, Dr. Howard moved his family to the Central Texas hamlet of Cross Plains, there the family would stay for the rest of Howard's life.
Howard's father made extensive renovations. That same year, sitting in a library in New Orleans while his father took medical courses at a nearby college, Howard discovered a book concerned with the scant fact and abundant legends surrounding an indigenous culture in ancient Scotland called the Picts. In 1920, on February 17, the Vestal Well within the limits of Cross Plains struck oil and Cross Plains became an oil boomtown. Thousands of people arrived in the town looking for oil wealth. New businesses sprang up from scratch and the crime rate increased to match. Cross Plains' population grew from 1,500 to 10,000, it suffered overcrowding, the traffic ruined its unpaved roads and vice crime exploded but it used its new wealth on civic improvements, including a new school, an ice manufacturing plant, new hotels. Howard despised the people who came with it, he was poorly disposed towards oil booms as they were the cause of the constant traveling in his early years but this was aggravated by what he perceived to be the effect oil booms had on towns.
At fifteen Howard first sampled pulp magazines Adventure and its star authors Talbot Mund