Who We Are and How We Got Here

HPLHS in a Nutshell

CartoucheThe H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS/The Society) is an organization founded in 1986 for the purpose of having fun within the worlds envisioned by beloved 1920s gothic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Now a for-profit business located near Los Angeles, we are the world’s premiere producer of Lovecraftian entertainment, creating motion picture, audio drama, book, game, spoken word and musical projects with a unique blend of respect for the source material, authentic period details, production value and a sense of humor. In addition to our entertainments, we create and sell a wide variety of other products for Lovecraft fans (e.g. shirts, mugs, props, and much more). And we are indeed also a society with active members all over the globe.

HPLHS History

The HPLHS officially came into being around 1986 in Boulder, Colorado. Prior to that, we were a bunch of friends who met doing high school theatre in the early '80s. Sean Branney had the classic Chaosium role playing game The Call of Cthulhu, and invited Andrew Leman, Darrell Tutchton and some other friends over to play it. Those frightening and thrilling nights when we gathered around a kitchen table in Englewood, Colorado paved the way for many strange and improbable events that followed.

While we all enjoyed playing an RPG game around the table, as theatre folks we were driven to, well, act. We thought the game would be even more fun if we put on some costumes, hid some clues around town and played the game in character out in the real world. At this point, we’d never heard of the idea of Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games, so we invented a system of rules that served our purposes called Cthulhu Lives!™ Soon we were staging games in creepy basements, vintage mansions and deserted mountainsides in Colorado. Many friends played in these games with us, and for most of them, once they tried it they were hooked. In one notable gaming incident, Sean ran an adventure on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder in which black-clad ninjas attacked some of the investigators on the college campus. Passers-by who did not understand what was going on alerted campus police, and when they demanded an explanation from a quick-thinking Sean, he told them the group was the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. The police were mollified, and the name stuck.

In a Boulder pizzeria in 1986, Sean Branney, Phil Bell and Andrew Leman decided to make the group a real official thing, and The HPLHS was born. People in other parts of the world heard about what we were doing and were interested. We published a small monthly fanzine called Strange Eons which documented the group’s activities and published articles on Lovecraft, history, and other items of interest. Even in the pre-internet age, we soon racked up nearly 200 members across the English-speaking world. As a college project in 1988, the HPLHS produced its first motion picture, an adaptation of "The Statement of Randolph Carter" that was shot and edited on VHS videotape.

College years came to an end, and by 1988 Branney went off to graduate school in California and Leman went off to graduate school in Illinois. Both of them quickly recruited new groups of players, including Jamie Anderson in Illinois, and started staging more elaborate Cthulhu Lives!™ games. Ever ambitious, by this time the Keepers were designing games that lasted for weeks and might involve a tribe of Indians, a herd of horses, or use locations like Death Valley National Park or the British Museum. Games became big undertakings: rather like making a movie, but without a camera. You can read in much more detail about Cthulhu Lives!™ in our Games section.

In the 1990s, the Internet came to be and that worked wonders for connecting folks who were interested in the HPLHS with one another. The HPLHS had a digital archive of the more than 60 Cthulhu Lives!™ games produced over the years and that archive (a HyperCard stack, for those who remember such things) became the basis of the HPLHS’s first website.

By the end of the '90s, Leman left Chicago to move out to Los Angeles, and shortly thereafter the HPLHS decided to produce a new film, a mockumentary entitled A Shoggoth on the Roof. The 20-minute short investigated a supposed 1970s stage production which melded the works of Lovecraft with the Broadway musical A Fiddler on the Roof. The completed film went on the HPLHS site and was submitted to the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. The mockumentary was well received among a crowd of likeminded folks and the HPLHS decided it would be worth pursuing other film projects.

The making of the A Shoggoth on the Roof documentary led to the production of a cast album for the fabled show. Its popularity led to a CD and songbook for A Very Scary Solstice, a collection of Lovecraftian Christmas carols. There were fans out there who enjoyed the kind of weird stuff the HPLHS was producing and the Internet made it possible to find them and for them to find the Society. And after a couple of projects in a humorous vein, we felt the time had come to do something serious: to make a feature film of a Lovecraft story.

Branney and Leman decided to adapt Lovecraft’s iconic tale “The Call of Cthulhu” and to shoot it the way it might have been shot during Lovecraft’s lifetime – as a silent film. After eighteen months of production, with indispensible help from cinematographer/editor David Robertson, the film was released in 2005 and is often heralded as the most faithful adaptation of Lovecraft’s work ever filmed. The Call of Cthulhu played at film festivals and other events worldwide.

Following on the success of The Call of Cthulhu, the HPLHS embarked on another motion picture: Lovecraft’s "The Whisperer in Darkness", shot as a feature length talkie. The post-production process proved arduous and during some of the downtime, we undertook another experiment in retro-storytelling. We adapted Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness as a 1930s-style radio play, with an original score, sound effects and a large cast of actors. The endeavor proved successful and paved the way for many subsequent episodes of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre.

The Whisperer in Darkness was released in the spring of 2011 and quickly became another fan favorite for its commitment to the source material and the spirit of Lovecraft. Like The Call of Cthulhu, Whisperer won a number of awards and played at major film festivals worldwide.

In the ensuing years, the HPLHS has firmly established itself as the world’s premiere producer of Lovecraftian entertainments. Our large online store offers our films and audio CDs, books, clothing, mugs, props and much much more to the ever-growing Lovecraftian fan base. We continue to grow popular series like Dark Adventure Radio Theatre and have a number of varied and exciting new projects in the works.

The HPLHS, though global and even transdimensional in scope and aspiration, is for practical purposes a small organization operating at capacity in a small, cold, dark cell. We do our best to get things right but sometimes we make mistakes. We're happy to try to fix them when they are politely pointed out. We also try to fix them when they are impolitely pointed out. Also we are not lawyers.

The Society will continue to strive to produce the best in Lovecraftian games, movies, music, audio dramas, books, props and novelty items for the enjoyment of fans throughout the world, to collaborate with talented scholars, artists, writers and composers, and to spread and support fandom for H. P. Lovecraft and appreciation of his works and worlds, his life and times.

The Society depends on the support of its growing worldwide membership, and hopes that members will share their enthusiasms with friends and families while still preserving the solemn mysteries of Society membership. In other words, tell your friends to buy their own copies of The Whisperer in Darkness and/or Dark Adventure Radio Theatre!

The Society can accept no responsibility for any loss of sanity resulting from the use of its website or other products. We have none ourselves.

Renewal Stamp

Membership

The HPLHS has hundreds of members in dozens of countries around the world. In addition to elaborate membership cards and certificates, those who officially join the HPLHS receive exclusive website and email content, a private facebook group, discounts on merchandise, access to society resources, and opportunites for direct interaction with staff and fellow members. The HPLHS greatly values its members and promotes their efforts whenever it can. One card-carrying member is chosen at random every month to be profiled on the website and to receive a free gift. Members are encouraged to participate actively in society endeavors by means of a fun bonus stamp collecting program. Membership is available on an annual or lifetime* basis.

* that's the society's lifetime, not necessarily yours....

HPLHS Bios

Sean BranneySean was born in Englewood, Colorado. He received a BFA degree in Theatre from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He then moved to Southern California to attend the California Institute of the Arts where he earned his MFA in Acting. He founded Theatre Banshee in Burbank, California with his wife, Leslie Baldwin, and produced and directed many theatrical productions, winning awards for Acting, Directing and Producing from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

With his colleague, Andrew Leman, he founded and continues to run the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society in Glendale, California. With the HPLHS, Sean has co-produced the films The Call of Cthulhu and The Whisperer in Darkness. Sean adapted The Call of Cthulhu for the screen and directed The Whisperer in Darkness. He’s been a writer, performer and producer of sixteen feature-length 1930s-style radio dramas for the acclaimed series Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. He’s also co-written and co-produced a variety of Lovecraftian musical projects, including A Shoggoth on the Roof, A Very Scary Solstice, An Even Scarier Solstice and The Curious Sea Shanties of Innsmouth, Mass. He continues to explore new ways to share Lovecraft’s cosmic horror with new audiences.

In addition to his Lovecraftian pursuits, Sean regularly plays ice hockey and plays with his four chinchillas. He’s delighted to be Leslie’s husband and Aidan’s dad.

Andrew LemanAndrew Leman grew up in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, in a large family that owned a publishing company. He was surrounded by books, graphic design, and handcrafting from an early age. Fascinated by the 1920s/'30s, he is one of the founding members of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, and has produced a number of literary, film, theatrical, music, prop and gaming projects there with his longtime friend and collaborator Sean Branney. He wrote and directed the first HPLHS student film, The Testimony of Randolph Carter, directed The Call of Cthulhu, and co-wrote and co-produced The Whisperer in Darkness. He co-writes, produces, and performs in the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series. He co-created the HPLHS musical sensations A Shoggoth on the Roof, two albums of Lovecraftian holiday music, the jazz vocal album Ogham Waite: Live at the Gilman House, and The Curious Sea Shanties of Innsmouth, Mass.

Leman earned his MFA in acting from the University of Illinois, and has been seen on professional stages in Chicago and Los Angeles. He greatly enjoys reading for The H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast and being an occasional guest host. When not pursuing any of these many other occupations, Leman is a graphic and type designer, and his typographical work has been seen in books and on movie screens, Trader Joe’s products, and billboards nationwide.

Andrew is devoted to his husband Glenn Alfonso and their rescue dogs. He rides his bike as often as he can, which is never often enough.

Kevin StidhamKevin Stidham is the current HPLHS Shipping Shoggoth. He hails from Bolton, England. He originally moved to the U.S. to pursue professional baseball after many years on the Great Britain national team, but found his true passion in the craft of acting. While here in the United States, Kevin has earned a B.S. Ed. in Theatre/Speech and an MFA. He has worked professionally as an actor on stage and screen across the country. He presently resides in Los Angeles where he continues to act in film and television. Some recent works include, The Binding (feature film ), Shine (feature film), Loosely Exactly Nicole (MTV sitcom) and Lines (Award-winning Short).

His talents can be found littered throughout many Dark Adventure Radio Theatre productions, notably as Charles Dexter Ward in "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", Richard Upton Pickman in "A Solstice Carol", Edward Derby in "The Thing on the Doorstep" and Baron Hauptman in "The Brotherhood of the Beast".

Jamie AndersonJamie began his Cthulhu Lives career in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where he met Andrew Leman attending the University of Illinois. Jamie’s first experience was as Investigator Jackson Basil Carleton in The Ninth Talisman. Jamie was immediately hooked on Cthulhu Lives and began to co-produce elaborate games with Andrew, creating epic adventures such as The Mistress of Nyarlahotep and The Sentence.

Jamie and Andrew also began using many of the present Cthulhu Lives standards, such as kokens for safety and special effects, consumer grade fireworks as simple pyrotechnics, and a firm belief that the “luck of the keepers” will prevail.

Jamie continued to produce Cthulhu Lives after leaving Champaign-Urbana, such as Dirt with Andrew Leman, and with other collaborators, such as We Thought It Would Be Fungi with his wife, Katia, and their friends, Rob Cimmerusti and Sue Marker.

Phil BellPhilip Bell is one of the co-founders of the HPLHS, and wrote and ran many games of Cthulhu Lives!™ in the society's early Colorado years. He has since moved on to more respectable pursuits, earning his Ph.D. in education, and is now a professor of the Learning Sciences & Human Development and holds the Shauna C. Larson Chair in Learning Sciences at the University of Washington.

Kacey CampKacey met Sean and Andrew through their work together at Theatre Banshee and Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. One innocent foray into silk screening near the Solstice rush began her shoggoth slide into madness. She can be found in the darkest corner of the HPLHS warehouse gibbering softly to herself.

Mike DalagerMike Dalager first encountered the HPLHS when he was cast as Guerrera, the doomed sailor who releases Cthulhu from his lair in 2005's The Call of Cthulhu. Numerous Society castings followed, with vocals on An Even Scarier Solstice and an infamous nipple-gilded Easter Egg appearance in The Whisperer in Darkness to name a couple. In 2010 Mike was hired full time as the Society's Shipping Shoggoth. For nearly four years he served the HPLHS mission with gusto, shipping and receiving with shoggothy fervor, providing talent when called upon, representing the Society at annual worldwide conventions and festivals, and even co-producing some fabulous audio products, most notably Live at the Gilman House (voice of Ogham Waite) and Dreams in the Witch House: A Lovecraftian Rock Opera. In 2014, Mike took on more demanding maritime obligations as a Coast Guard Reservist, ending his full time shoggoth reign. He now continues to carry the HPLHS torch as a trusty Lovecraftian ally and foot soldier, his Lovecraftian arsenal at the ready for the next HPLHS evolution.

David RobertsonDavid first joined the HPLHS as the cinematographer and editor of the motion picture The Call of Cthulhu, helping to create Mythoscope™. His sanity irretrievably damaged by the process, David returned to apply his talents again as the Director of Photography and editor of the HPLHS’ The Whisperer in Darkness. David directs and is cinematographer for a variety of television projects in Los Angeles.

Dave SnyderA professional make-up artist by trade, Dave offered his services to the HPLHS to make the face and hands of Henry Akeley for the HPLHS’ The Whisperer in Darkness. He’s stayed on as part of the team, lending his makeup and sculpting skills to Lovecraftian projects as needed. Dave lives in Los Angeles but is often out of town working on television and film productions.

Darrell TutchtonDarrell has been a part of the HPLHS since before its inception in the early 1980s. With Sean Branney, he staged the first Cthulhu Lives!™ game in Englewood, Colorado in 1983. He went on to study illustration at the Kansas City Art Institute and earned an MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Darrell has been the cover artist for all of the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre episodes and has contributed illustrations to numerous HPLHS projects. He lives in Savannah, Georgia where he draws creepy pictures.

Shop Tour

HPLHS global headquarters in Glendale, Cal. are housed in a former rivet factory dating from WWII. Our very simple building has no heating or cooling system, and works like a weather amplifier: when it's hot outside, it's an oven inside; when it's cold out, our shop is like a freezer. But it's a fascinating place full of inspiring books, works of art, and the tools of creativity. And our neighbors are fascinating as well. On the other side of one of our walls is RBFX, a special effects/monster shop run by Roland Blancaflor. And sharing our parking lot just a few doors away is Spectral Motion, the special effects company that has worked on most of Guillermo del Toro's films. We occasionally get to see them taking some huge robot or hideous creature for a test drive just outside our doors, and Guillermo is one of many amazing visitors who have paid us a visit. We've also been happy to have a few artists in residence here at HPLHS, including Bryan Moore, Dave Snyder, Kevin McTurk, and most recently Fred Manchento.

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    The Society depends on new-fangled electronic methods of communication in conducting most day-to-day business, but also likes to use good old-fashioned paper and ink the way Lovecraft did when possible. We can only hope the U.S. Post Office stays in business. We'll do our part to keep it afloat and hope that you will too. Meanwhile, please feel free to sign up for our occasional electronic-mails and/or send us a message through the aether using this form!


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