Friday the 13th, oh no! What better day to dive down into… the Subways of Madness! Many will recall the passage in Lovecraft’s story “Pickman’s Model” (1926)…
There was a study called ‘Subway Accident,’ in which a flock of the vile things were clambering up from some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Boylston Street subway and attacking a crowd of people on the platform.
In May 1923 he described his own experience of “things dark and subterranean” in the Boston Subway, writing to Galpin in a letter…
[After a Boston Hub Club dinner I] hit the trail south [through the city]. Instead of rattling to the South Station on the elevated, I chose the subway, (I am exceedingly fond of all things dark and subterranean, and miss the rides up to 96th!) taking a train to Washington-Summer and there transferring to a S.S. train. [And thence to Providence].
This shows that his usual Providence-to-Boston run, and back, would have taken him into Boston’s South Station, a main above-ground station for the city. An earlier letter confirms this was also the case in 1920…
“At Boston, I bade farewell to the Hubites, refusing overnight invitations & hastening to the South Station. I trod my native heath at 1:30 a.m. I reached home half an hour later”
South Station, Boston, with Elevated train and Elevated platform
This above-ground station also appears in “Pickman’s Model”…
We changed to the elevated [railway] at the South Station, and at about twelve o’clock had climbed down the steps at Battery Street and struck along the old waterfront past Constitution Wharf.
South Station Elevated platform, 1921.
News-stand window at South Station Elevated platform. Probably carried Weird Tales, in its day.
The “steps at Battery Street” elevated platform, Boston. These feature in “Pickman’s Model”.
“I didn’t keep track of the cross streets, and can’t tell you yet which it was we turned up, but I know it wasn’t Greenough Lane.” [to reach Pickman’s studio].
Greenough Lane, Boston.
So South Station itself, as well as the Elevated and the Boston Subway, is a setting. While the exterior of South Station is nothing spooky, the interior had a definite Lovecrafty flavour.
Later it appears in “At The Mountains of Madness” via the subway station in its lower depths. When the shoggoth-crazed Danforth recites the stations of Boston-Cambridge underground subway line to try to keep some sliver of sanity…
South Station Under–Washington Under–Park Street Under–
The tentacular tracks at ‘Park Street Under’.
The Boston subway (for there was no Providence subway, and HPL did not yet know New York City) also appears in the dreamlike prose-poem “Nyarlathotep” (1920), in which a column of people…
filed down a weed-choked subway entrance, howling with a laughter that was mad.
Entrance to South Street Under subway station, Boston.