Friday, September 09, 2011

Rhode Island: the Cthulhu State.

When I moved last year, I expected the usual questions about Rhode Island.

Me: I'm from Rhode Island.
Listener: Oh! New York?
Me: No, that's Long Island. I'm from Rhode Island. It's the smallest state.
Listener: Is it an island?
Me: No.
Listener: Because my family went there once, in Suffolk county.
Me: That's still Long Island.
Listener: Are you sure? It was an island. And it was pretty small.
Me: Rhode Island is smaller than Long Island. And it's not an island.

I did not expect what the first three people I met in Washington said in reply.

Me: I'm from Rhode Island.
Listener: Oh. Where H.P. Lovecraft was from.
Listener: many times have you had to fight Cthulhu?
2nd Listener: Does your state have a special budget for all the damage Cthulhu causes when he emerges?

Weeks later a gentleman at a gas station saw my license over my shoulder and said, "Rhode Island! Lovecraft, right?"

Always one to strike up a conversation with the kind of man who reads a girl's addresses on her license and loves violent horror, he, the clerk, and I discussed the Necronomicon. It was surreal to this Rhode Islander, were we really known solely as the setting for horror stories? As I met more folks who had read Lovecraft and played Arkham horror, the answer was in part yes. Horror buffs knew Rhode Island was not Long Island, and when it came to Lovecraft's life there they knew more than we did. Ryan and I were even asked to describe the typical feel of the state's atmosphere. Was the architecture gothic? Were the woods misty? Was it typical for tentacles from another world to spring up from the shower drain?

In time Ryan and I began to take terrible advantage of this. We may have told people there is a giant statue of Cthulhu in Providence (on the state house). And we may have claimed the URI basketball team is called the Fighting Cthulhus.

...And that Providence has church devoted
to the worship of well, you know who.

I was reminded of this strange perspective again this evening. Tonight we went to the new Guillermo del Toro movie "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark". The film starts with the characters meeting up at T.F Green airport, and sure enough it takes place in Rhode Island. After a few familiar screen shots, it was actually shot mostly in Australia. And thus Rhode Island itself is a character, a spooky enough location to inspire horror lovers that anything is lurking around the corner. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, and can even forgive del Toro for giving us Maine accents (at least they weren't Long Island accents).

To be fair, I spent more than one day of my RI childhood
wandering around creepy old banisters with a camera too.


  1. "Listener: Oh! New York?"

    I get that a LOT. It's amazing how many people don't know the geography of their own country. It makes me wonder about the school systems everywhere outside of our little corner of the USA.

  2. Ha! Another geography failing: People constantly misspell my name, often trying to begin it with a 'J' or leaving out the 'E'. How hard is it to spell Georgia? If I was named one of the toughies, like Massachusetts or Connecticut, I could understand--but even then, didn't we all cover spelling the 50 states by 4th grade?


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