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Solar Pons and
the Cthulhu Mythos

by
Drs. Eric von Könnenberg and Pierre de Hammais

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In August Derleth's thumbnail biography of Solar Pons, it was stated that he had written six monographs, two of which concern us, as they deal with the "Cthulhu Mythos." The first monograph, published in 1905, was entitled An Inquiry into the Nan-Matal Ruins of Ponape, and the second, published in 1931, was entitled An Examination of the Cthulhu Cult and Others.

In going through the adventures that were written up by Dr. Lyndon Parker, there is only one adventure which touched upon the "Cthulhu Mythos." This adventure was entitled "The Adventure of the Six Silver Spiders" upon its publication in the public press. In examining a catalogue for the sale of a private collection of twenty volumes, Parker mentioned some of the titles therein: Necronomicon, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Cultes des Goules, De Vermis Mysteriis, and Liber Ivonis. It is obvious to the student of the "Cthulhu Mythos" that these are titles of books which are integral to the understanding of the threat from this mythology, if everything about it can be taken as absolute truth.

Pons told Parker that "All these books have a precarious existence only in the writings of certain minor authors of American origin, all apparently followers, in a remote sense, of the work of Edgar Allan Poe. The catalogue is, in short, a hoax."

There would seem to be a discrepancy here, for if Pons firmly believed that these books were spurious, then what do we make of the two monographs which he published? To rectify this discrepancy, and to give some justification for the rectification, we need to backtrack a little.

Solar Pons was born in 1880 and graduated from Oxford in 1899. His first monograph, An Inquiry into the Nan-Matal Ruins of Ponape, was published in 1905. He established his private inquiry practice in 1907, which was only interrupted by his service with British Intelligence during World War I. Dr. Lyndon Parker moved in with Pons at 7B Praed Street and began writing up the adventures of Solar Pons in January 1928, moving out in January 1933 when he married. "The Adventure of the Six Silver Spiders" occurred in January of 1930. And the second monograph, An Examination of the Cthulhu Cult and Others, was published in 1931.

In this day and age, the 1990's, the two monographs are exceedingly rare, whereas Parker's write-ups of Solar Pons's adventures are kept in print almost continuously. To give some feeling to the conclusions which will follow, we will quote from both monographs.

The following excerpts were deleted from Solar Pons's monograph An Inquiry into the Nan-Matal Ruins of Ponape before its publication in 1905 and were recently discovered among his notes. He is known to have commented to Dr. Lyndon Parker that he had found it necessary to omit several striking incidents because of a request from the Admiralty in one case, an obligation to protect the reputation of a certain noble family in another, and in all a fear that their outre nature would work against acceptance of his conclusions.

Of course hearsay abounds concerning strange happenings in the area, but there is one well-documented incident, the episode of the sloop Naples near Ponape. The account released to the press said only that the crew had been lost in a storm, but certain additional details were made known to me privately. Several shells of molluscs, pierced as though for use in jewelry, were found aboard. They were identified as belonging to a species of clam thought to exist only at great depths. There were peculiar scratches on the decks, arranged in star-shaped groups of five and suggesting nothing so much as the claw marks of some strange beast. But the most bizarre point did not appear until the ship was towed to New Zealand and placed in dry dock. There was found jammed in the rudder hinge the limb of an unknown sea creature, resembling the arm of a frog the size of a man.

I was reminded of those star-shaped scratches during the Adventure of the Abandoned Lighthouse, where a man went mad after following up a hint in a forbidden book. I was unable to shed any light on the young man's death and was obliged to record the case in my files as an inconclusive failure. He had locked himself into the beacon chamber and collapsed into gibbering imbecility, leaving no testimony to his experience. On the stairs leading up to the chamber I found minute traces of scratches arranged like those on the Naples. There were also traces of a slimy substance which was definitely organic, though I could not match it with any known marine or terrestrial organism. Considering our limited knowledge of sea life and the chemistry of living things this is not surprising; but I did succeed in matching it with traces found on the outside surface of the beacon room window, a place so difficult of access that my companion professed fear of heart failure while watching me obtain the samples.

The second excerpt is as follows:

There exists in the files of Scotland Yard another case with a thread leading to Ponape. It is officially labeled "unsolved," as is the humane custom when the murderer is known to be dead. In my own files it is labeled the Adventure of the Eye of Lapis Lazuli. The murderer was the educated and widely travelled son of a highly placed family and showed no outward sign of any morbid, vicious or unbalanced qualities either before or during the period when he committed some of the most atrocious deeds in the history of crime. Indeed so wholesome did he seem that the police, convinced that the murders must be the work of a raving lunatic, never considered him suspect until I entered the case. He ultimately took his own life, leaving a handful of crushed fragments of lapis lazuli and a diary which recounted his acquisition on Ponape of a device in the form of an eye of inlaid gemstone and his gradual enslavement, through the stone, by some malignant intelligence from beyond the visible world.

And the third fragment:

I have had one other case in which a connection with Ponape appeared: the case of the Doom among the Standing Stones. The connection was indeed tenuous; my quarry had spent two years there in his youth and made a cryptic reference to it in a letter, which I contrived to inspect, to a mysterious and untraceable associate on the continent. But the case itself, or rather the end of it, was quite worthy of the reader's attention.

My client had been for some time subject to harassment, at once terrifying and yet so subtle that the police could do nothing with the object of forcing him to hand over certain books and artifacts of great antiquity which had been carefully guarded by his family for generations, even though their significance had been lost and was now unknown to him. The perpetrator was an evil man with a reputation for dabbling in black magic. At my suggestion the client had agreed to his demands in order to trap him with proof of extortion. Possibly suspecting a trap, the villain had dictated a meeting at night in a circle of megalithic tors and arches in the midst of a desolate moor.

Early on the day of the meeting I went there alone to scout out the terrain. I soon observed that the place had been very recently visited, though the indications were inadequate to deduce their purpose. There was a circular smudge from the base of a bull's eye lantern, there were colored wax drippings as from candles, and a foul smelling oil substance had been poured on the ground at four points around the central altar stone. I was able to identify this as a mixture of herbal distillates combined with unidentifiable animal material.

There was an even more peculiar trace just outside the circle. It had been completely surrounded with a series of rough stones in the shape of five-pointed stars, very evenly spaced at intervals of three feet, four inches. Upon picking one up I felt such a strong tingling sensation in my hand that I dropped it, smashing it into four parts. I reassembled the broken star as inconspicuously as possible, picked up another and placed it in my pocket for later examination and made a substitute of pebbles and clay that would keep my man from noticing any change in the arrangement.

I returned that evening, a half hour before sunset and an hour and a half before my client had agreed to meet him, approaching the circle cautiously by a devious route from the village where I was lodging. My intention was to arrive well before either of them and find a hidden vantage point but as I made my wary approach I descried the blackmailer proceeding alone along the main path. This slowed my progress considerably and I was unable to reach the circle before darkness had fallen and a mist was rolling in from the direction of the sea. By then I could see that he was performing some sort of ritual by the light of a number of small candles, declaiming to the empty night in the harsh syllables of some alien tongue.

I have never been able to explain what happened next in terms of our normal concepts of reality, and shall leave it for the reader to form his own speculation, bearing in mind that I am a trained observer of unimaginative temperament.

The mist now formed a solid gray background across the candle-lit circle of great stones, while the circle itself appeared filled with low curls of the drifting vapor. I have had much experience with fogs of all kinds and am quite certain of the preternaturally dense blackness which began to form within the fog outside the circle and move in oily billows as the ritual proceeded. It appeared on the side opposite my position, but gradually drifted around the circle, sometimes seeming more dense and sometimes less. As it neared me I could discern minute pinpoints of light within it, like a swarm of radiant bees.

The blackmailer had completed his ritual and now stood quietly in an attitude of watchfulness, alternately looking toward the black cloud and staring blankly as though listening for some faint sound. I heard the distant crunch of a footstep on the gravelly path from the village and knew that my client was approaching. The blackmailer seemed to hear it too and smiled.

By now the black cloud had reached the point to my right and behind the man where I had smashed one star-stone and removed another, which I carried in an inside pocket of my coat. I could see the cloud bulge inward, as though purposefully probing against some unseen barrier. The man was staring intently in the direction of my client and did not see the great tendril of star-flected blackness move toward him through the gap I had made in his carefully arranged circle of star-stones, and began screaming only when it reached and engulfed him. Before my eyes he disappeared into the thing, though I could still hear his hoarse animal cries. As the blackness withdrew from the circle and disappeared the voice receded and seemed to be coming from above, though whether this was some strange acoustical effect of the fog I cannot say.

Naturally I returned and went over the site meticulously in daylight, but I found no trace, no clue to what had happened. The man never reappeared, alive or dead, and my client and his peculiar heirlooms were never troubled again.

These excerpts were written in, or prior to, 1905. At that time, if Pons was not writing his monograph with tongue firmly lodged in cheek, he believed in what his researches had revealed concerning the "Cthulhu Mythos."

By January of 1930, Pons has seemed to have done a complete reversal concerning his knowledge of the "Cthulhu Mythos." He tells Parker that the catalogue is a hoax, meaning the books themselves are a hoax, and, in effect, that there is no basis in fact to substantiate the "Cthulhu Mythos."

Then, in 1931, Pons's second monograph was published, of which the preface is hereby appended:

In the annals of crime, cases involving magic, witchcraft and traffic with supernatural powers are by no means rare; to the connoisseur of crime one need only mention the schemes of "Count Cagliostro" or the scandalous affairs of Aleister Crowley. The great majority of these are easily explained in terms of ordinary fraud and of the unbalanced mentality naturally attracted to such things. But there remains a residue which teases the intellect and haunts the imagination.

The cases I have encountered in my own career may all be dismissed as the result of mundane human criminality except for a small number. The disturbing feature of these, however, is that they all have a common link in a body of lore known in occult and scholarly circles as the "Cthulhu Mythos."

I first became aware of these apparently outlandish ideas in the wake of the hideous case of Threadgill, the notorious necrophile, whose fiendish activities were conducted with such maniacal cunning as to elude the official police for many years. At his death the case was treated with circumspection by the press, and his crimes described only vaguely as the most repulsive results of mental aberration. But I had learned that the man had combined the sort of insanity documented by Kraft-Ebing with attempts at necromancy, guided by a collection of recherche books. Unfortunately his library was destroyed in the fire in which he perished, save only a handful of notes which I carried out with me. They consisted of copies of lengthy inscriptions in an unknown tongue, labeled "Eltdown Shards," together with a partial translation. They purported to be the records of visitors from beyond this planet who visited the earth long eons ago. The earth had by that time a long history of contact with extraplanetary life, in particular a group of fearsome creatures referred to as the "Old Ones." Naturally I dismissed this at the time as a ludicrous imposture.

My next inkling of the "mythos" came in the affair of the murderous astrologer Hawthorne. His criminal depredations were all too real and all too human, but like many of his kind he combined blatant chicanery with a genuine belief in the supernatural. Three days before his execution he wrote a will leaving me his library. It consisted for the most part of preposterous quackery, but there were two books which did not share the hysterical gullibility of the others. They were Cultes des Goules by the Comte d'Erlette and Unaussprechlichen Kulten by the Baron von Junzt. They were obscurely written and difficult to interpret but undoubtedly shared many concepts with the "Eltdown Shards."

My next and most important exposure to the "Cthulhu Mythos" again proved nothing; but this time the documentary evidence was more impressive. I encountered it while pursuing a criminal genius whose exploits have been substantially recorded by my loyal biographer, but about whom a great deal more may be told someday, and about whom a very great deal may never be known. In the course of an unauthorized visit to his quarters during the small hours of the morning I discovered an ancient manuscript written in Arabic. I have made a special study of documents of all ages with regard to identification and authenticity, and can vouch for the age and Arabian peninsular origin of the book. This genius among criminals had translated the bulk of it into English. I was deeply impressed by this, for aside from his strange compulsive inclination toward criminality the man was a logician and scholar of the first water. From the time and effort he had expended one could safely deduce that he knew of additional facts which made the book of more importance than legend or fraud. In the brief moments at my disposal, I read of the Great Old Ones, including great Cthulhu of the ocean deeps, Hastur of the starry void and the formidable Yog-Sothoth among others, who once ruled the earth and waited with malign patience to rule again. The treatise included rituals of magic for contacting these creatures and creating the necessary conditions for their return. Sandwiched in among the pages of translation was an apparently unrelated item, several pages of mathematical calculations, in the man's own hand, based on the existence of more than three spatial dimensions.

The translations were labelled "Necronomicon," which intrigued me because I had heard of this rare book before and believed, on seemingly good evidence, that it was a fictional invention. But this formidably ancient book was quite real, and its translator was no gull or fantasist.

It was many years before I found the leisure to follow out these threads and track down the obscure sources which detail the Cthulhu Mythos. I found with monotonous regularity that books had been stolen or destroyed, and often had to exercise the greatest ingenuity in gaining access to carefully guarded copies. This monograph is the result of that investigation, and I trust that it will stimulate interest, if not acceptance, and point the way to further research. I believe that I have demonstrated, at the very least, that subterranean groups of dangerously fanatic cultists do exist, and that enough hints exist to warrant reexamining our limited concept of the earth's vast and awesome history.

And a short quotation from the body of the monograph:

It is said that the middle American town of Harkness is populated by the spawn of Othuyeg, the doom-walker who was imprisoned by the Elder Ones. It is also said that J'Cak Iggarthan, author of the Black Book of the Skull lives here, and has done so ever since Quy vanished except when he must take off for some esoteric journey.

It is obvious from the preface to his second monograph, that Pons did, indeed, believe the truth of his researches into the "Cthulhu Mythos." It is believed that the two monographs were intended for students of the "Cthulhu Mythos," whereas "The Adventure of the Six Silver Spiders" was intended for a wider audience, it was best to put forth the "truth" that the "Cthulhu Mythos" was a complete hoax, in order to protect mankind from the horrors masked by that terminology. In effect, there is no discrepancy between the monographs and the written-up adventure. Parker had been living with Pons for at least a year when this adventure occurred. There is no doubt that Parker went along with the facade in order to protect humanity from his own bumbling naivete.

As an afterthought, it should be noted that the quotations from both monographs point out adventures that Dr. Lyndon Parker never got around to writing up. A pity that these adventures will never be seen in the public press!


EDITORIAL NOTE: When it was pointed out to the good doctors that the first and second excerpts from Pons's first monograph mention adventures that occurred after he started his private inquiry practice, they stated that they had erred in thinking the three extracts had been deleted from the monograph and now assume that Pons had been proposing a revised monograph for subsequent publication, which never came about. Or, if it did, no copies are known to exist.

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Edward P. Berglund created and maintains a comprehensive site on the Cthulhu Mythos. You can email Edward P. Berglund @ berglund@toddalan.com with your comments or questions. This work is copyrighted © 1997-2003 by Edward P. Berglund. My deep thanks to Edward for allowing me to post this work on Yoxley Old Place.

"Solar Pons and the Cthulhu Mythos": © 1990 Crispin Burnham; reprinted from Eldritch Tales, Winter 1990 (7/3, # 24)

Note: This work first appeared on the web on Reader's Guide To The Cthulhu Mythos

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