“In the Gulf of N’Logh” (193?) and “Lair of Fungous Death” (193?) by Hazel Heald

 

Hazel Heald has the distinction of being Lovecraft’s most prolific weird revision client, their works together being “The Man of Stone” (1932)“The Horror in the Museum” (1933)“Winged Death” (1934)“Out of the Æons” (1935), and “The Horror in the Burying-Ground” (1937). While much of their relationship remains obscure, and the accounts of Muriel E. Eddy in The Gentleman from Angell Street (2001) not always entirely reliable, an inquisitive Lovecraft fan might wonder if they had any unpublished revisions which did not see the light of day—and the answer is: maybe.

Sorry I can’t dig up any more material at the moment—am wallowing in a morass of tasks & staggering under what seems like a variant of grippe. Hope you can assemble sufficient copy for #1, & am glad you have an illustration for future issues.[…] Glad you’ve received at least some material from those I recommended. Come to think of it, you might get a short story (fairly long as such things go) from Mrs. Hazel Heald, 15 Carter St. Newtonville, Mass. Ask her for “In the Gulfs of N’Logh” or some other tale which didn’t land professionally.
—H. P. Lovecraft to John Weir, 28 Jan 1937, MSS. John Hay Library

He was dying. A young fan named John Weir was putting together a new fanzine, to be entitled Fantasmagoria. The fanzine lasted five issues, from 1937 to 1940, probably in a very small number of copies. Issues one and two have been scanned and are available to read online; the second issue promising in upcoming numbers:

Fantasmagoria July 1937

Yet “In the Gulfs of N’Logh” never appeared in Fantasmagoria, or anywhere else. Weir obviously followed Lovecraft’s suggestion and wrote to Hazel Heald asking for the story, and she replied:

Please find enclosed my “In the Gulfs of N’logh”. It was rejected by Wright as being unsuitable for his magazine.
—Hazel Heald to John Weir, 10 Feb 1937, MSS. John Hay Library

In a letter to his collaborator John Baltadonis, Weir says of his fanzine:

Those that have contributed are Lovecraft, Rimel, Stickney, Kuttner, Heald, and Lowndes. [….] Lovecraft told me that Mrs. Hazel Heald might send me a story called “In the Gulfs of N’Logh”. Well, she sent me it and I almost fainted. It takes up thirty-three (sides) typewriter pages! You can bet that I’m not putting that in the small issues. I’m going to wait till I increase the pages and then I’ll run it as a serial. Can you imagine, though, Thirty-three pages! Whew!
—John Weir to John Baltadonis, 15 Feb 1937, MSS. John Hay Library

A month later, Weir would write to fellow fan and Lovecraft correspondent Willis Conover, most remembered in weird circles today for Lovecraft at Last (1975), where in discussing their collections Weir says:

I have a manuscript that almost beats yours. This is “In the Gulfs of N’Logh” by Hazel Heald. Besides that I’ve got an old poem of Lovecraft’s and another Hazel Heald story. The first story by Heald is composed of Thirty-two typewritten sheets.
—John Weir to Willis Conover, 16 Mar 1937, MSS. John Hay Library

Unknown to both Conover and Weir, H. P. Lovecraft had died the day before. As soon as he heard, August Derleth immediately set about writing to Lovecraft’s known correspondents, planning a posthumous publication of his work and letters. This included Hazel Heald, who wrote:

I have had several rejected tales I passed on to J. James Weird [sic] who is starting a new fan magazine. HPL advised me to keep myself in the public eye as much as possible. I am typing a tale now which I hope Wright will accept.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 31 Mar 1937

Weir was obviously still in contact with Heald at this point, and must have passed on his assertion that “In the Gulfs of N’Logh” was too long for the fanzine to publish in a single issue, as she wrote in a subsequent letter:

I have a lot of rejected mss. and have given two to a fan magazine that will be printed soon. One of the tales will be used as a serial. John Weir is the editor. HPL recommended him to me.
Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 14 Apr 1937

The other story that Heald refers to was apparently “The Heir of the Mesozoic”, which was published in two parts in Fantasmagoria #4 (1938) and #5 (1939/1940). She was obviously keen to hear about these stories, because she wrote to Weir about them on May 18 1937, and then again later that year:

Will you please tell me if you have published my “An Heir of the Mesozoic” and “In the Gulfs of N’logh”? I haven’t heard from you since last Spring. If you aren’t going to use them please send them back as I have others who want them.
—Hazel Heald to John Weir, 21 Sep 1937, MSS. John Hay Library

The extant correspondence appears to end there. Weir never published “In the Gulfs of N’Logh,” probably due to its length, and appears to have returned the manuscript to Heald at some point. The manuscript itself appears to no longer be extant.

So what are we to make of “In the Gulfs of N’Logh”? Obviously, Lovecraft was aware of it; it was a weird tale, because it was submitted to Weird Tales and rejected by Farnsworth Wright sometime before January 1937, and it was fairly long—33 (or 32) pages is ~16,000 words, a genuine novella. The title “N’Logh” could allude to a location in Africa (like “Winged Death”), or equally a fantastically Lovecraftian location like R’lyeh. Was it an actual unsold Lovecraft revision? Unless the manuscript comes to light, we may never know.

In her letters to August Derleth, Hazel Heald mentions other stories which appear lost to time, though submitted to (and rejected by) Weird Tales and other pulps. The titles are not promising: “The Devil’s Jigsaw” and “Terror by Moonlight” do not seem particularly Lovecraftian. One story which did receive a bit more attention was “Lair of the Fungous Death.”

Do you think that WEIRD TALES would accept my “Lair of the fungous death” now? He rejected it several years ago as he said it was not up to my standard. I never could understand it for Mr. Lovecraft considered it very good. I sent it to you once to read, and your comments were favorable. I hate to have it rejected again, but on account of the war, and perhaps a shortage of writers, I thought it might be more acceptable. He might have forgotten by now that I ever sent it to him.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, n.d. (c. 1944)

Farnsworth Wright had been fired from his position as editor of Weird Tales in early 1940, and died soon after. His position at the helm of “The Unique Magazine” was taken by Dorothy McIlwraith, and Derleth undoubtedly told Heald of that:

Am sending my LAIR OF THE FUNGOUS DEATH to Weird Tales today. Hope she will like it.
Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 19 Sep 1944

I sent my story “The Lair of Fungous Death” to the editor of “Weird Tales” about a week ago, but haven’t heard anything as yet. Is she slower than Farnsworth Wright about her decision? I hope it is accepted, for money is an important factor with me as everyone else.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 30 Sep 1944

At this time, Derleth was getting permission from Heald to include “Winged Death” and “The Man of Stone” in Marginalia (1944) as Lovecraft revisions; like some of the other Lovecraft revision clients, Heald was insistent on her own authorship of the stories, prevailing evidence notwithstanding. Which may be why she wrote to Derleth:

I have not heard from Miss McIlwraith as yet. I hope that my story will meet with her approval. Wright nearly accepted it, but might have been overcrowded with manuscripts at that time. HPL read it but did not revise it, but his comments on it were very favorable. I was discouraged at the rejection and just threw it in a drawer and forgot about it. Some time ago, I found it and sent it to several of the WEIRD TALES authors to read, and they did not recommend any changes.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 6 Oct 1944

We don’t have good data on how long it took McIlwraith to make a decision on such things; but the weeks and months ticked by:

I haven’t had my story rejected as yet, so hope it will please the editor.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 13 Oct 1944

How does a woman happen to take Wright’s place? I suppose on account of the shortage of men. How long does she usually take to make a decision on a story? I hope she will take mine. It is nearly three weeks since I submitted it.

Several years ago a man wrote to me and said he would like some of my unpublished tales for a book he was going to publish, and though he did not pay for them, it would be good advertising. I did not regard them as worth printing, but he insisted. I even forgot his name and thought no more about it until I received a letter saying they would be printed soon. From that day to this I have heard nothing. Do you think he was trying to get plots for stories, and went about it in that way? I did not care anything about the tales as I have carbon copies somewhere, but it seemed like a strange request, didn’t it?
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 14 Oct 1944

The latter comment is, in hindsight, almost certainly a reference to John Weir and Fantasmagoria, which had after a long delay published the shorter of two stories she had sent as “The Heir of the Mesozoic” in two parts.

How long does Miss McIllwraith take to make a decision on a story? If she isn’t considering it at all, do you get it back within a few weeks, or do you have to wait months? I know you said she was slow, but there must be some sort of time limit.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 21 Oct 1944

Whether McIlwraith finally rejected the story or Heald simply gave up on hearing back from her, we hear no more on the matter. Divorced and unable to support herself with her writings, Hazel Heald took whatever work she could find to earn a living—but she never gave up on the dream of writing, and enrolled in a writing course to improve her skills. However, instead of focusing on original composition, she dug out the old typescript:

I went to school Thursday night and liked it very much. He wants us to bring manuscripts next time and he will correct them, so I am taking my “Lair of the Fungous Death.”
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 6 Nov 1944

Thanks very much for suggestions about my story. Would you like to see it first, or had I ought to send it to the magazines you mentioned? I know you are very busy but I dislike rejections perhaps more than an established writer, and get so discouraged I feel like giving up the ghost. If your opinion is that it is not worth sending, I will junk it. HPL read it and thought it OK, and didn’t think it needed revising, but Mr. Chadwick told me it should be cut down, and recommended cutting out some scenes entirely. He said in conclusion I didn’t explain everything. HPL said to keep the reader guessing, and let him use his own imagination. Mr. C. said it stretched the reader’s imagination too much, and also that I talked too much about the horror of the whole thing. HPL said to keep it alive in the reader’s mind. I feel as though I was between the Devil and the dark blue sea! I don’t think that a writer who doesn’t write weird stories themselves can understand another’s style.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 29 Nov 1944

Am sending my story along as you suggested. I can’t see any great mistakes in it as Chadwick did. If HPL liked it, it must be OK. “Weird Tales” rejected it because it was too long. Chadwick said it was too impossible, and said no one liked to read impossible things. I may be a moron belonging to that “certain class” he mentioned, but I certainly like to read tales that stretch the imagination. He said, “You and I certainly wouldn’t read such stuff, would we?” and I told him I most certainly would! I didn’t go last Thursday night. HPL was so kind and understanding, and though he made me write things over and over, he was always ready to praise if I deserved it. Chadwick says that any branch of story would be more liable to sell than weird tales. I couldn’t write a love story to save my life for I am too cynical in that line. A detective or wild west story wouldn’t interest me, so how could I write one? I guess I have a one-track mind. […] I didn’t retype my story, but will if you think I should.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 4 Dec 1944

We can empathize with Heald here, as she is basically defending Lovecraft’s position on weird fiction against what must have been a very condescending attitude toward the weird tale by Chadwick.

Derleth’s assessment of the story doesn’t survive, but we can imagine his hopes might have been moderated: a weird story from Hazel Heald that Lovecraft had at least passed his eye over, even if she insisted he hadn’t revised it, and which had been considered and rejected by Farnsworth Wright for Weird Tales on account of length—probably not unlike “In the Gulfs of N’Logh”—and the word fungous in the title, which recalled Lovecraft’s fungi from Yuggoths and other growths. If there was even a hint of Lovecraft in the story, it could probably have been salable—or at least publishable in an Arkham House book, as he had done with Marginalia. Heald’s last comment on the matter:

I know that I am “NG” now for I am entirely out of practice, for “The Horror in the Burying Ground” was my last real attempt. Guess its no use to try for you thought my tale I sent you a complete flop.
—Hazel Heald to August Derleth, 1 Feb 1945

This is not quite the end of the story. Apparently sometime in the late 1950s, Lovecraft collector Jack Grill managed to contact Hazel Heald and persuaded her to sell him a couple of manuscripts. The account is contained only in George Wetzel’s “A Memoir of Jack Grill”:

Two of the items were to have been unpublished stories by Hazel Heald—The Basement Room and Lair of the Fungus Death, 5 PP and 25 pp respectively, that Jack had purchased from Miss Heald along with a one page criticism of them by Derleth. 

“Re Hazel Heald stories—I gotta hunch that the Eddys, H. Heald & their writer friends follow yr HPL articles. Please don’t write up her stories until the old gal kicks the bucket, unless favorably. Perhaps she don’t give a damn what anybody thinks of her stories…[“]

As Douglas A. Anderson points out in The H. P. Lovecraft Collection of Jack Grill and (later) Irving Binkin” these two manuscripts and Derleth’s criticism are not listed among the other items in Grill’s catalog of Lovecraftiana. “The Lair of the Fungous Death,” like “The Lair of N’Logh,” has disappeared—though if some collector bought it, there remains at least the chance that it will appear again at some point.

The big question for most people is: were either of these actual Lovecraft pieces? Maybe. It is well-known that later in life Lovecraft’s stories were getting longer, which made them more difficult to sell to pulps; it wouldn’t be impossible for Lovecraft to have revised a couple stories for Heald which didn’t place for whatever reason—he spoke relatively little about any of the Heald stories in his letters unless they had sold.

Given her relatively precarious financial condition later in life, it seems unlikely that Hazel Heald might have entertained any thoughts of a collection of stories akin to Zealia Bishop’s The Curse of Yig (1953, Arkham House)—but if some of those rejected manuscripts had actually sold, or if Derleth had seen something in them that warranted preservation, perhaps we might have seen a second woman’s collection of Mythos tales in the 1950s.

It is easy to speculate about undiscovered Mythos tales, but for me the interest in these rejected stories is less “what might have been” and more what it tells us about those involved. Their existence points to a more complicated relationship between Heald and Lovecraft than the five submitted and accepted stories labeled as Lovecraft revisions or ghostwritten tales suggest. It suggests that the commercial aspect of their business would have had its highs and lows, above and beyond whether Heald was able to pay Lovecraft for his revision services, with stories written, revised, rewritten, submitted, and rejected again and again. Likely there is some truth that like Zealia Bishop, Heald saw Lovecraft as more of a teacher than a ghostwriter, and that the image of Lovecraft as the principal author of the revision tales may owe a bit more to August Derleth’s salesmanship in the 1940s and 50s than is commonly credited.


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

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