Forbidden Knowledge: The Necronomicon at Harvard

Harvard Yard

They’ve got some real sloppy security at Harvard University. I tried to visit the Widener Library this evening, and they wouldn’t let me in. Yet they had no problem admitting Wilbur Whateley.

Dean Stockwell, The Dunwich Horror

In fairness, he does look a lot more trustworthy than I do.

For years I’ve dreamed of visiting Harvard–not for its rarefied Ivy League atmosphere or its storied history, but for its card catalog. Harvard’s Widener Library, according to H.P. Lovecraft, is one of only five institutions possessing a copy of Abdul Alhazared’s The Necronomicon. Of the remaining four, three of them are in other countries and one of them is at Miskatonic University, which doesn’t exist. So Widener is really the only option for most enterprising students of forbidden lore.

Widener Library, Harvard

This is the Widener Library. Founded in 1915, it just celebrated its 100th birthday and would have been a mere thirteen years old when ol’ Wilbur visited in 1928. Outside the building stand swarms of camera-wielding sightseers, including Chinese tourists who venture abroad to visit what they hope will be the future alma mater of their children.

Chinese tour group, Harvard

A Chinese tour group.

Widener sits in Harvard Yard, a location suspiciously lacking in ivy. I really expected an Ivy League university to have more of the stuff. Yet the only building I managed to find with any ivy on it was the Appleton Chapel.

Appleton Chapel, Harvard

Oh, mama–that’s the stuff.

The rest of the buildings were bare. Even the university’s oldest extant structure, Massachusetts Hall, is devoid of greenery. Standing since 1720, and it hasn’t managed to grow any ivy! In 300 years! It’s nothing short of outrageous.

Massachusetts Hall, Harvard

Yeah, yeah, you keep strutting your stuff, Massachusetts Hall. You’re not so great.

What the yard did have a lot of, curiously enough, were chairs. Heaps and heaps of chairs.

Harvard Yard, chairs

Just an unreasonable number of chairs, you guys.

There’s that myth shattered. But I could have pushed through the disappointment if only I hadn’t been met with this at the library doors:

Widener Library, Harvard

I almost titled this post “Necronomicock-blocked.”

You know something, Harvard? I wish Yog-Sothoth had been summoned, if only so he could track otherworldly footprints all over your exclusionary, schicki-micki campus. Ta-ta, and good riddance!

All right, I understand–there are a lot of tourists around. You never know who might try to sneak off with bits of the library’s valued collection, or smuggle out pieces of masonry as souvenirs of their trip to America’s most famous academic institution. My dad once ripped the armrest off a seat at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium and made me hide it in my purse. People do these things.

Fortunately, Widener’s online catalog is accessible to anyone. And is the Necronomicon listed therein?

You bet it is!

The Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft

And also in German!

The Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft

And also in Italian!

The Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft

And also in…wait. What the hell is this?

The Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft

No, seriously. What the actual hell is this? This is at least the third-weirdest title for a clarinet-piano duet book I’ve ever seen. Is the author trying to bill his work as suitable for summoning Elder Gods? Am I going to drag Ithaqua from the Outer Realms by dashing off a ditty on my sister’s high school band instrument?

Maybe some knowledge is forbidden for a reason.


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