“Winged Death“

“Winged Death“
   Novelette (10,070 words); ghostwritten for Hazel Heald, probably in the summer of 1932. First published in WT(March 1934); first collected in Marginalia;corrected text in HM.
   A scientist, Thomas Slauenwite, discovers a rare insect in South Africa whose bite is fatal unless treated with a certain drug; the natives call the insect the “devil-fly” because after killing its victim it purportedly takes over the deceased’s soul or personality. Slauenwite kills a rival scientist, Henry Moore, with this insect, but is later haunted by an insect that seems uncannily to bear tokens of Moore’s personality. Slauenwite is killed (by heart failure induced by fright, not by the bite of an insect), his soul enters the body of the insect, and he writes a message on the ceiling of his room by dipping his insect body in ink and walking across the ceiling. His diary is found in his hotel room by puzzled policemen and medical examiners.
   HPL discusses the story in a letter that probably dates to summer 1932: “Something odd befell a client of mine the other day—involving a story-element which Ihad intended & introduced under the impression that it was strictly original with me. The tale was sent to Handsome Harry [Bates], & he rejected it on the ground that the element in question (the act of an insect dipping itself in ink & writing on a white surface with its own body) formed the crux of another tale which he had accepted. Hell’s bells!—& I thought I’d hit on an idea of absolute novelty & uniqueness!” (HPL to August Derleth, [August 1932]; ms., SHSW). The interesting thing about this is that the tale had thus been submitted to Strange Tales,edited by Harry Bates. It is plausible that the earlier Heald tales were written with this better-paying market in view (the magazine folded after the January 1933 issue). After its appearance in WT,HPL wrote: “‘Winged Death’ is nothing to run a temperature over…. My share in it is something like 90 to 95%” ( SL4.403).

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