Tag Archives: Clark Ashton Smith

Let’s Not Read It Out Loud

The Houghton Library is Harvard’s repository for rare books, and they have an important announcement to make.

“Good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs and cannibals alike: tests have revealed that Houghton Library’s copy of Arsène Houssaye’s Des destinées de l’ame (FC8.H8177.879dc) is without a doubt bound in human skin.”

-Houghton Library Blog, June 4th 2014


Wait, are we sure this isn’t the Miskatonic University blog?

Also, I challenge anyone to read that quote and not hear Professor Farnsworth’s voice.

The high-weirdness of this story is only beginning. Published in the 1880’s, the skin used for the book was taken from a woman who died of apoplexy in a French mental hospital. The book’s title, Des Destinees de L’ame, translates to, The Destiny of the Soul, and contains meditations on the soul and life after death. It was given as a gift by the author to a friend.

“No, really, you shouldn’t have.”

-Imagined Response of Friend

The author was quite the connoisseur of books, particularly of the fleshy kind, as he had at least one other in his collection to compare it with.

“This book is bound in human skin parchment on which no ornament has been stamped to preserve its elegance. By looking carefully you easily distinguish the pores of the skin. A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman. It is interesting to see the different aspects that change this skin according to the method of preparation to which it is subjected. Compare for example with the small volume I have in my library, Sever. Pinaeus de Virginitatis notis which is also bound in human skin but tanned with sumac.”

-Houghton Library Blog, May 24th 2013

Tanned with sumac, that is so 1870’s.

Let’s recap, shall we? A prominent New England university has a book in their special collections library that is bound in the flesh of an asylum patient and contains writings about souls and the other world.

And some people think Library Science is boring.

Unfortunately the text of the book is not available for online reading. Actually, that’s probably for the best, all things considered. However you can view a high resolution image of the cover. You can even zoom in! Nice and close. You can scroll across the surface of the book’s smooth, elegant flesh. Looking at every pore…

All you have to do is Click Here.

Don’t forget your SAN check.

Image from



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Worm Sentinel

“For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; til out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it.  Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.”

H. P. Lovecraft, The Festival

Worm Sentinels

AC:          By armor type

Hit Dice:   3

Attacks    1

Damage    1d4 or By Weapon Type

# Appear:  1d10

Special     See Below

Worm Sentinels are colonies of fat, putrid worms fed on the corpses of the recently slain.  In the presence of such a victim the worms will consume the corpse’s flesh and reproduce rapidly, filling the victim’s clothing and wrapping around its bones until it becomes a vile parody of who the person was in life.

The Worm Sentinel is dimly aware of its host’s memories.  It will be able to cast any spells the victim had memorized at the time of his or her death, but once cast the spell will be lost and cannot be regained.  It will be able to use the weapons and armor of the corpse.

The Sentinel will stay within the area of the corpse’s death, only moving away in pursuit of prey.  It will seek to slay any creature that comes into its area, detaching a mass of worms from itself to infest new corpses.  The transformation process takes 3-9 hours (1d6 +3) to complete.

Worm Sentinels will recognize people from their victims’ memories and may seem to communicate with them, their speech coming from dozens of tiny maws, but they are not truly capable of communication and understanding.  They will repeat names and common phrases but nothing more.

Worm Sentinels take half damage from weapons but double damage from fire and acid.  After the Sentinel has taken half its hit points in damage a cluster of 3d4 worms will drop off and try to slither to safety.  These worms will seek out new corpses to start a colony with.  Individual worms have 1 HP and an AC equal to leather armor.

Thy mouth, whereof the worm was amorous,
They brows, whereon some waning moon had power,
Thy breasts, corruptible as any flower,
And all thy troubled beausty tremulous-
From Memorial
By Clark Ashton Smith



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Lich Convention!

Holy chrome!

It’s a lich convention!

I knew of this book from a posting earlier this year, but some of these photos are new to me.  These warm my Clark Ashton Smith-loving heart.

“Are you interested in seeing a dilapidated old church in the forest with a skeleton standing there covered in jewels and holding a cup of blood in his left hand like he’s offering you a toast?”

None for me thanks, I’m driving.

Against all reason and common sense, I would definitely go see a church filled with these amazing relics.  I guess I am an adventurer at heart.  Hope I have enough hit points.

“In other cases, leads—which he gathered through traveler’s accounts, parish archives and even Protestant writings about the Catholic “necromancers”—did pan out. He found one skeleton in the back of a parking-garage storage unit in Switzerland. Another had been wrapped in cloth and stuck in a box in a German church, likely untouched for 200 years.”

I am definitely in the wrong line of work.

“Accomplishing that was no small task. Nearly all the skeletons he visited and uncovered were still in their original 400-year-old glass tombs.”

Which explains why all Europe isn’t a necropolis.

“When he returned to that original German village several years later, for example, he found that a salvage company had torn down the forest church. Beyond that, none of the villagers could tell him what had happened to its contents, or to the body.”

The hand of the Bavarian Illuminati is clearly seen here.

There are so many ways to use this for role playing games.

1) Several of the most powerful liches in the world gathered together for a great ritual.  Unbeknownst to them it was a trap set by the unlikely alliance of Loki and Balder.  They were all imprisoned in crystal coffins and hidden away, but now shadowy forces are trying to release them.

2) The Thule Society backed by the SS are collecting these relics from forgotten corners of Germany.  The OSS isn’t sure what their plan is, but three psychics have gone mad since the first reports came in.  The allies are sending in a commando squad to find out what is going on and stop it.

3) To celebrate 50 years of peace the royalty of the 12 Kingdoms came together for a great banquet.  An evil witch cast a terrible spell, trapping their souls and corrupting their lands.  The kingdoms will remain haunted lands until the Divine Right of Rulership is released from the corpses imprisoned in their glass chambers.

4) The first expedition to Regulus VI has found something unusual, a crypt filled with jeweled skeletons.  The ruins above bear no resemblance to Earth architecture, but these venerated relics are disturbingly human in form.

5) The year is 1968.  In an attempt to improve relations with the west, the East German government has allowed a fantastic exhibition of these Catholic relics to visit Paris, London, and Washington DC.  Western agents uncover a plot to sabotage the exhibit, but are surprised to find KGB agents behind the plot.

6) The end times are drawing near and demons are slipping into our world, sowing chaos and pain in their wake.  After rescuing the skeleton of an ancient martyr an archeologist finds herself granted with divine grace, power enough to fight back.  Now she is in a race to rescue more of the martyr’s skeletons as well as others worthy to bear their holy gifts.

How would you use these macabre marvels?


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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction


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More eBook Sources

In my previous post I talked about the glorious resource that is Project Gutenberg (projects Gutenberg?).

If that’s not enough to satiate your thirst for eBooks here are a few more resources.

The Eldritch Dark:  Are you a fan of Clark Ashton Smith?  If not, it’s probably because you haven’t read his work yet.  Smith was a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard, writing weird tales of horror and science fiction.  These day’s he’s not as well known as Lovecraft which is what the people at Eldritch Dark are trying to help correct.  Smith’s stories of the dying Earth setting of Zothique are some of his best tales and his necromancers stand up against any others found in pulp fiction.  I highly recommend getting familiar with Smith’s work.

For the most part these stories are formatted to be read on-line, but if you want to read them in another format a quick Copy/Paste into a file and saving them in your preferred format will do the trick.

The Cthulhu Chick:  Speaking of H.P. Lovecraft, the wonderful host of the Cthulhu Chick site has compiled his stories into an omnibus eBook edition which you can download from her site.  Lovecraft’s work is in the public domain so this is a great way to fill your library in one easy-to-use file.  The collection does not include the works he co-authored or ghost wrote for other people.  The Cthulhu Chick is also one of the hosts of The Double Shadow, a Clark Ashton Smith podcast.

The Baen Free Library:  Baen Books has an extensive store where you can purchase their books in eBook format.  They also have a sizable collection of eBooks they offer for free.  Often these are the first books in a series.  Not sure if you want to dive into David Weber’s Honor Harrington series?  Download the first book and give it a read.

Black Mask:  Looking for noir and pulp adventure that has fallen into the public domain?  Check out Black Mask Online.  Because it’s a blog it’s a little harder to navigate when looking for books.  Conversely the site offers more than just eBooks, regularly updating with news and discussion about pulps and writing.  Definitely a good site to add to your RSS feed.

One more often overlooked resource for electronic books is your local library.  Many public libraries now have systems to allow you to check out eBooks with the same ease that you check out hard copies.  Best of all your library’s eBook program won’t be limited by Public Domain laws.  Check your library’s web site and you’ll probably be happy with what you find

This is just a taste of what’s out there in the dark corners of the Internet.  It’s a great time to be a reader.  Got any more good resources?  Feel free to add them in the comments.


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