Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Analyzing 170 objects left at H.P. Lovecraft's grave (Chart + Photos)

If you make the pilgrimage to H.P. Lovecraft's grave in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, R.I., you're generally going to find a bunch of stuff piled in and around his headstone. When I had a chance to visit there last summer, I came across a handmade brooch, a note thanking Lovecraft for his work (was it creepy that I opened and read it?), a lot of rocks and some keys.

That made me wonder, what else do people leave at his grave? And what's the most common thing they leave?  After analyzing numerous pictures of H.P. Lovecraft's grave on Google and Flickr (many are below), I have an answer. In total I was able to count 170 separate objects that I felt could safely be said to have been "left" at the grave (as opposed to things just visiting or that nature may have deposited in the area).

As you may have noticed from the chart below, there is one object that stands pulpy-tentacled-head and shoulders above the rest: Rocks.  Yes, rocks.

I'm assuming this is no slight to H.P. Lovecraft and his grave but simply his fans being creative with what materials are on hand. That also explains coins being the next most common offering. Other things defy easy explanation, such as the miniature Pittsburgh Steelers football helmet. 

Below is a thorough breakdown of the objects left, as well as 17 separate photos of the headstone with objects on and around it. I've also broken the categories down on a percentage basis because, well, why not at this point, right? 

Notes: Some of these photos were taken relatively closely in time, and one or two seem to have been taken after group pilgrimages to the grave, so bear that in mind as you read. Also, although this is Lovecraft's official headstone (donated by fans in 1977), it's not actually a grave site because his body isn't under it.  Finally, I think the gnomes and tiki are "just visiting" but they were fun so I left them in anyway.

Rocks - 70 - 41% 
Coins - 26 - 15%
Unidentifiable (other) - 12 - 7%
Figures/Skulls - 12 - 7%
Keys - 6 - 4%
Flowers - 6 - 4%
Guitar Picks - 6 - 4%
Pens & Pencils - 5 - 3%
Unidentifiable (paper) - 5 - 3%
Shells - 3 - 2%
Gnomes - 2 - 1%
Book ("The Call of Cthulhu and other Weird Tales") - 1- 0.5%
Mints - 1 - 0.5%
Glasses - 1 - 0.5%
Homemade Sign - 1 - 0.5%
Talisman - 1 - 0.5%
Compass - 1 - 0.5%
Playing Card (Joker) - 1 - 0.5%
Unicorn Rainbow Sticker - 1 - 0.5%
Bottle - 1 - 0.5%
Pumpkin (Carved with "HPL") - 1 - 0.5%
Tiny Football Helmet (Steelers) - 1 - .0.5%
Tiny Plastic Coffin - 1 - 0.5%
Jar with Green Substance - 1 - 0.5%
Dice - 1 - 0.5%
Tiki - 1 - 0.5%
Lighter (possibly litter) - 1 - 0.5%

And here are most of the photos used in the analysis:

Rocks, keys, something unidentified, a lifesaver and a necklace or talisman of some sort (source)

Coins, shells, flowers and a small figure of some kind (source)

Rocks, a pen, a bookmark, a key, a Carnival card, a small plastic dolphin, glasses and misc. paper bits (source)

Rocks, a rose and single pen stuck in the ground (source)

A small homemade sign and leaves (source)

Weird old coins, a shell and...something (source)

A small figure, rocks, coins, flowers, a personal note, a compass and other unidentifiable items (source)

A skull, coins, that weird blue dolphin again and what looks like a poker chip (source)

Plastic flowers, a pen, a joker playing card, a car key, a copy of The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories and a used lighter (seriously people, this is a grave, not a garbage can!) (source)

Rocks, a pencil, guitar picks, possibly a note under some of the rocks and what I hope is orange chalk and not a cigarette butt (source)

A key and a weird, small figure (source)

Rocks, a penny, a seed pod and the what looks like the lower half of a pen body (source)

A unicorn rainbow sticker (source)

Plastic frogs, a pumpkin (carved!), and a lot of things I can't identify (source)

A plastic squid, a hat, a cool looking jar of green powder, rocks and a coin (source)

A crap load of rocks, a pen with a note attached and some bit of paper (source)

Flowers (now fittingly dead) and rocks, as well as a couple of garden gnomes and a tiki that  presume are just visiting (source)

Join the conversation on the H.P. Lovecraft Forum


  1. leaving rocks at a grave is an old tradition (especially among Jews). It's simply to mark that someone was there.

  2. eris beat me to it. There's a little more here:


  3. Oh. :) The green powder represents "Ye Essentialle Saltes," aka the Resurrection spell from The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. <3

  4. What's the difference between "miscellaneous" and "unidentified other"? Couldn't the two be lumped together into a single "Miskallaneous" category? *Wink*

  5. I love the squid..

    When i was in the states i went to Lugosi's grave and someone lefta rubber bat on it..

  6. 'Weird old coins, a shell and...something'
    The something is a castor from a small table or cabinet.

    ...Figure that one out.

  7. Someone needs to leave him a bottle of ancient alien Xanax, not keys and spells...

  8. I just got back - we found a few dice, a Munchkin Cthulhu playing card, picks, flowers, a very heavy bit of bone wrapped in an elastic, a ziplock back filled with something wet, black, and possibly rotting (did not want to investigate too closely), and the s/o left a sanity point for him. :-)

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  11. Let me know the purpose of placing coins on headstones?

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