People who have watched the horror/comedy/action movies of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” franchise are familiar with the “Necronomicon Ex Mortis”, or “The Book of the Dead.” In these movies if someone reads from the supernatural “Necronomicon” or even plays an audio version of the book’s contents, demons can be released causing chaos, murder, gore, mayhem, and as you see in “Evil Dead II” slapstick comedy. The “Necronomicon” wasn’t new to the “Evil Dead” movies, as any die-hard horror fan knows; the “Necronomicon Ex Mortis” was based on a book referenced numerous times in the work of pulp horror writer H.P. Lovecraft (Lovecraft never used the term “Necronomicon Ex Mortis”). But what is the “Necronomicon” and does it truly exist?
The “Necronomicon” was first referenced in Lovecraft’s story “The Hound” which was written in 1922 and printed in 1924. The Necronomicon was said to have been written by a mad Arabian poet named Abdul Alhazred. Abdul traveled to various places and had the ability to interpret dreams. Abdul went into a trance-like state which lasted for eight years. Using strange drugs and magical powers he was able to communicate with demons in different dimensions, learning the secrets of “The Old Ones” and “Those Who Wait Beyond.” The result of this knowledge was the writing of the “Necronomicon.” The idea of the book was believable to many readers because of its realism when compared to Cthulhu mythos and because Lovecraft as well as other writers and artists such as H.R. Giger, referenced it in many other works. Lovecraft mentions or references the contents of the “Necronomicon” in “The Descendant,” “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Last Test,” “The Dunwich Horror,” and seven other stories. His “History of the Necronomicon” was printed after his death and is the most detailed of his works concerning the Necronomicon, even though Lovecraft wanted to keep an air of mystique surrounding the book’s appearance. It is most frequently thought to be bound in leather and having simple metal clasps. This differs from the “Necronomicon Ex Mortis” of the “Evil Dead” movies. In the “Evil Dead” films, the book is said to be bound of human flesh and the words written in human blood, a fitting appearance for a book’s depiction in a horror movie.
While many of Lovecraft’s readers believed that the book was real, he was very honest when asked if the “Necronomicon” was based on an actual book or if it was purely a product of his weird imagination. In 1933 he wrote to Robert Bloch, “By the way-there is no “Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred.” That hellish & forbidden volume is an imaginative conception of mine, which others of the W.T. group have also used as a background of allusion.” There are a number of other letters written by H.P. Lovecraft expressing a similar sentiment that can be viewed here on the H.P. Lovecraft Archive site.
So, while the Necronomicon provides people with the hope that communication with the dead is possible, even though summoning the demons with its contents will lead to sheer terror, it appears that it was just the product of a very talented writer with a vivid imagination.
The H.P. Lovecraft Archive Site