Read before Providence #5: Arkham and Miskatonic University

Providence 5 cover - art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #5 regular cover – art by Jacen Burrows

This is another post in our recurring series of “what to read before the next issue of Providence comes out.” Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there are a lot of directions in which Providence #5, due out in October September 30, might head.

From the end of Robert Black’s Commonplace Book in issue #4, it is clear that Providence is heading for Manchester, New Hampshire. Black is tracking down a copy of the Kitab (Providence’s analogue to the Necronomicon) at St. Anselm College (Providence‘s Miskatonic University) in Manchester (Providence‘s Arkham.) The trick is that Arkham and Miskatonic University feature prominently in many of H.P. Lovecraft stories.

Based on advance covers and other hints, Providence #5 seems likely to touch on any or all of the following three Lovecraft stories: “The Picture in the House,” “The Dreams in the Witch House,” and “Herbert WestReanimator.” But really, this could be Moore and Burrows’ chance to load in all kinds of references; we would not be surprised to see references to “The Colour Out of Space,” At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Out of Time, more from “The Dunwich Horror” and basically any other reference to Miskatonic University, if only in passing.

Luckily, based on St. Anselm, Dr. North (Herbert West), and what appears to be Asenath Waite (“The Thing on the Doorstep“) showing on covers for Providence #6, it looks like Black will hang around Miskatonic for at least two issues.

No guarantees, but here are our top three suggestions for what to read to prepare yourself for Providence #5: 

Shadrach Annesley - detail from from Providence #3 - art by Jacen Burrows
Shadrach Annesley – detail from from Providence #3 P9,p1 – art by Jacen Burrows

The Picture in the House

Readers have already been introduced to Shadrach Annesley (Providence #3, P7,p4) who is Providence‘s analog for the cannibal farmer villain in this 1920 story. The titular house is located on the outskirts of Arkham; this story is the first that mentions Arkham. It’s just a hunch, but the house on the regular cover looks like it is outside of the town proper, so it could be Annesley’s.

“Distant though it was from the remnant of a road, the house none the less impressed me unfavourably the very moment I espied it. Honest, wholesome structures do not stare at travellers so slyly and hauntingly, and in my genealogical researches I had encountered legends of a century before which biassed me against places of this kind. Yet the force of the elements was such as to overcome my scruples, and I did not hesitate to wheel my machine up the weedy rise to the closed door which seemed at once so suggestive and secretive.”

Providence #4, Women of HPL cover, art by Jacen Burrows
Providence #5 Women of HPL cover, art by Jacen Burrows

The Dreams in the Witch House

The Women of HPL variant cover shows a woman standing on a flight of stairs. We’re guessing that she’s Keziah Mason from Lovecraft’s 1932 “Witch House” short story. Mason practices a multi-dimensional travel magic that is alluded to by Willard Wheatley’s building a tesseract (Providence #4 P19.) Additionally, Suydam’s pamphlet (Providence #2, P34-40) introduces “Hekeziah Massey” who is clearly Providence‘s analogue for Keziah Mason. Massey is one of the founders of Providence‘s American coven, called the Worshipful Order of the Stella Sapiente.

Mason’s life dates to the Salem Witch Trials, so, depending on how unnaturally prolonged her life is, she may or may not be around in 1919. Black is more likely to meet up with the then-contemporary Miskatonic University student and Witch House protagonist Walter Gilman. It will be interesting, given Moore’s efforts to tie together the disparate threads of Lovecraft’s mythology, if he makes any connection between the founding of St. Anselm and the Stella Sapiente, having already hinted of connections between the university and the group in Providence #4.

Providence #6 Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows
Providence #6 Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows

Herbert West—Reanimator.”

Based on the Portrait variant cover for #6, we may have to wait another issue for Moore and Burrows’ take on Herbert West. In the closing lines of Providence #4, though, Black mentions staying in the rooms of a Dr. North who is apparently Providence’s analog for Herbert West from Lovecraft’s 1921-22 short story.

Based on the shuttered windows, the house on the regular cover (top) could be Herbert West’s laboratory described as a “deserted Chapman farmhouse beyond Meadow Hill, where we fitted up on the ground floor an operating room and a laboratory, each with dark curtains to conceal our midnight doings. The place was far from any road, and in sight of no other house.”

Moore and Burrows may need to take some artistic license with West’s trajectory from Lovecraft’s story. Herbert West was a pre-World War I medical student at Miskatonic University in Arkham. Currently St. Anselm College lacks a medical school, but it’s possible that North did his pre-med at the college, or his residency at or near the college. In Lovecraft’s story, Herbert West enlisted in the Canadian Army, preceding the United States’ involvement in World War I, and after the war relocated to Boston.

While Manchester may be substituting for Arkham, and St. Anselm College for Miskatonic University, it remains to be seen how some of the other landmarks from Lovecraft’s fiction will be translated.

These include:

What do you think readers? What is that house on the cover of Providence #5? Where do you think that Moore and Burrows are taking us?

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4 thoughts on “Read before Providence #5: Arkham and Miskatonic University

  1. The house on the cover looks more like the cottage used by H. West and the narator of the story to practice as regular doctors. The light in front of the house is a clue. The cottage is also said to be close to dark woods and this part of the story takes place during winter .

    Liked by 1 person

    • That could be it… here’s the relevant description from “Herbert West“: “…a practice in Bolton—a factory town near Arkham, the seat of the college. The Bolton Worsted Mills are the largest in the Miskatonic Valley, and their polyglot employees are never popular as patients with the local physicians. We chose our house with the greatest care, seizing at last on a rather run-down cottage near the end of Pond Street; five numbers from the closest neighbour, and separated from the local potter’s field by only a stretch of meadow land, bisected by a narrow neck of the rather dense forest which lies to the north. The distance was greater than we wished, but we could get no nearer house without going on the other side of the field, wholly out of the factory district. “

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