Trapped in a Dream of the Necronomicon

dead names necronomicon simon
Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon – Simon

Avon – 2006

Before reading the Simon Necronomicon, I had never entertained the idea that it might be an authentic text, and I was quite surprised when I discovered that many individuals believe that it is truly an ancient spellbook. I gave the matter some consideration, and the only real evidence that I could see for the book’s authenticity was “how much it sucks”. Despite the title and the framing story, there’s very little Lovecraftian material in here. Sure, it’s really only a few oul’ sigils and a muddle of Babylonian mythology. If somebody was going to hoax out a Necronomicon, literature’s most infamous book of twisted black magic, you’d think that they’d make it a bit nastier. As it turns out, Simon, the chap who edited the Necronomicon feels the same way.

Dead Names begins with the expanded story of how the Necronomicon was discovered and published. This tale involves the Kennedy assassinations, the Son of Sam murders, warring covens of witches, mysterious suicides and a bizarre gang of questionably consecrated priests. We’re lashing conspiracies onto conspiracies here, but A) Simon provides evidence for some of his claims, and B) I love conspiracies. This part was pretty good; it felt like reading a more sinister version of the Da Vinci Code. Really, the most disappointing part of the story was getting to the end and realizing that I was only halfway through the book.

You see, unfortunately for everyone, Simon is not just expanding the mythos of the Necronomicon in Dead Names, he is also trying to prove its authenticity. Approximately half of this book is taken up with Simon’s arguing that the Necronomicon is a legitimate ancient text. I could go into explaining his reasoning, but ughh, who fucking cares? (If you do care and you want to witness Simon getting pwned, I strongly suggest checking out the blog of Simon’s arch-nemesis.)

The story of an ancient Babylonian manuscript showing up in New York is unlikely, but it’s totally possible. The story of an ancient manuscript with the same name as a fictional book invented by a horror writer, a text that has clearly been written by a “Mad Arab” who perfectly fits the description of the author in the horror writer’s stories, is far less likely, especially when said writer repeatedly claimed that the manuscript was entirely fictional. Simon says that Lovecraft had read the Necronomicon; Lovecraft said the Necronomicon was “fakery”, “fictitious”, “100% fiction” and “merely a figment of my own imagination”.

Simon has tried to keep his identity secret for the past 40 years because he supposedly came by the book illegally and doesn’t want to deal with the consequences. Why would Lovecraft have repeatedly denied the existence of the same book? Had he come across it illegally too? Why did he write so much about it if he didn’t want people to associate it with him?

Unfortunately, there are no good reasons to believe that the Necronomicon is real. Simon’s arguments are lame, selective and unconvincing, and reading the latter half of this book felt like Chariots of the Gods or some other wishy-washy work of pseudo-academia. I mean, to prove his points, Simon repeatedly references a book by one of the author’s of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, perhaps the most infamously debunked book of conspiracies ever written. Come on Simon, you’re fooling no-one.

Much like the book that its about, Dead Names would have been far better if the author had gone all out horror show. The origin story of the Necronomicon given here features all the shady ingredients necessary to make a truly entertaining weird tale, but Simon constrains himself with a set of unconvincing arguments that do nothing but make him look like a fool. By the end of the book, you start to feel embarrassed for the lad. I mean, nobody over the age of 15 believes the book is real, and Simon himself knows better than anyone that it’s not real, yet he gets into petty squabbles with people over its authenticity. At a certain point it seems to become more important for him to appear smarter than his critics than it does for him to provide evidence that the Necronomicon is real. It’s like watching an internet troll forget that they’re trolling.

Necronomicon – Abdul Alhazred/Simon

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Avon – 1980

Well, I finally got around to reading it; the purported Necronomicon of the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred.  If you haven’t heard of the Necronomicon, that means that you haven’t seen Evil Dead or read Lovecraft. It makes me sick to think of the uninitiated reading my blog, but luckily enough, this book contains a Most Excellent Charm against Hordes of N00bz:

Turn around, go, arise and go far away!
Your wickedness may rise like heaven unto smoke!
Arise and leave my blog!
Be commanded by Shammash the Mighty!
Be commanded by Marduk, the Great Magician of the Gods!
Be commanded by the God of Fire, your Destroyer!
From my blog depart in shame!

Now that only the adepts remain, let’s have a look at this ancient text of necromancy and forbidden ritual!

Well, it’s not really ancient, and the rituals aren’t as much forbidden as they are silly. There’s a million accounts of the story of this book online, but I’ll summarize for my readers. In the mid 70s, a lad calling himself Simon claimed that he had come across a copy of the Necronomicon, a fictional book that had appeared several times in the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Simon managed to get the book published, but he refused to ever go public, and nobody has ever seen the actual manuscript. Despite this, lots of people did and do think that this is the real deal. (There are some really embarrassing youtube videos of people defending the book’s authenticity.) I think the strongest evidence for the book’s legitimacy is actually how much it sucks; if I was going to write a fake Necronomicon, I would make it far, far nastier. This is basically a version of the Babylonian creation myth with a few Kutulus and ridiculous sigils thrown in to make it a bit spookier. One part of the book lists the 50 names and Seals of Marduk, and some of them are fucking ridiculous looking.

Asaru looks like a little nerd.
baalprik
And Shazu both looks and sounds like a magician’s pet gorilla.
shaavu
“Tutu” is another one of Marduk’s aliases. Yeah. Tutu.

The thing that really gives it away for me is the fact that the book reads like a Lovecraft story. It begins with a lad talking about how afraid he is of the horrors that he has awoken and proceeds to give a detailed account of how he awoke those horrors. He speaks passionately about how dangerous it would be for anyone else to read the information that he has been writing down. The manuscript is compiled of several different texts, all of which relate to each other and further the narrative, and the book ends with the narrator describing the evil things that he can see approaching him as he finishes writing the manuscript… Come on lads, that formula seems a little familiar doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong; I liked the fact that it was Lovecrafty, and I think that this is a quaint little addition to my weird fiction collection, but I’m definitely glad that I didn’t pay very much for my copy. The book is more than 200 pages, but about half of it is taken up with silly squiggly pictures. The testimonies of the Mad Arab were definitely the funnest parts. Were I out to cast some spells and summon some demons, I would probably be fairly disappointed with this. Then again, there is the very valid argument that this text is as “authentic” as most other grimoires. You’d have to be a bit of a wanker to take it seriously either way.

I’ve been watching that new Ash Vs Evil Dead series, and I have to say that it’s awesome. Opening the series with a Deep Purple song was utter genius! I’m going to go and watch the latest episode now. I’ll probably end up annoying my wife with some of my recently acquired Necronomicon trivia.

 

I found this post-it note tucked between pages when I opened it. Kutulu, enlightenment and Diana Ross; I’ll bet there was a story behind this one!!!

Obligatory Lovecraft Post

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Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – Penguin – 2002
The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories – Penguin – 2001
Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories – Penguin – 2005
These are the only Lovecraft books that I own. I’m interested in buying more, but I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a book if it only contains one story that isn’t included in these. I would love to hear from anyone who could recommend other collections that are worth buying for somebody who already has the penguin editions.

I’m not going to waste much time talking about how great the stories are. There’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said a million times before. These collections are nice though. I liked Joshi’s introductions and notes. Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories is definitely the weakest of the three, but I still really enjoyed it. That one contains more fantasy stories than the other two, and while the fantasy stories were pretty great, I definitely prefer the darker stuff.

Lovecraft is one of my favourite writers. I remember going to a LAN party when I was 16 years old, and one of the guys there shared a folder of .txt files that were stories by ‘a cool horror writer who influenced Metallica and Quake’. No further persuasion was necessary.

Apart from his wordiness (which I completely adore), the main complaint that people seem to have about Lovecraft is that he was a nasty racist. Well, I don’t want to to defend him; the fact that he lived in a different time and place doesn’t justify his shitty opinions. However, I don’t feel the need to disregard his entire body of work because it contains a few parts that I don’t agree with. In honesty, I thought some of the racist parts were pretty funny. To clarify: I don’t think racism is funny; I think Howard’s delusions of grandeur are funny. (He wasn’t exactly a fine specimen of humanity himself.) Anyways, I don’t really care if an author of fiction is an asshole in real life; I read lots of books by people who I would absolutely hate if I were to meet them. Lewis Carroll was a paedo, Dennis Wheatley was a loyalist, Montague Summers was a boy-toucher, and I certainly don’t read the Marquis De Sade because he was a nice bloke. It helps that these lads are all dead though. I wouldn’t buy something if I knew that my money would go to a shitty racist.

It’s a shame that I spent so much time discussing what it is only a minor point in Lovecraft’s writing. The positive aspects of his work more than make up for some of his unpleasant ideas. The atmospheres that he creates within these tales are unique and genuinely exhilarating. If you haven’t read Lovecraft before, I would recommend any of these three collections as an introduction. The worst of these stories are pretty good, and the best of them are the best stories that I have read. 9.5/10