The Mound. . . . Found!

by Jimmy Akin

in Fiction

During his life, H. P. Lovecraft was an impoverished writer who at times made ends meet by "revising" (*cough*ghostwriting*cough*) stories for more literarily-challenged authors.

One of them was Zealia Bishop (nee Reed).

She hired Lovecraft to do a number of stories for her based on minimal premises or plot synopses that she provided for him. Unfortunately, she didn’t pay Lovecraft in a timely manner, and he foreswore working for her.

One of the stories he wrote for her–The Mound–is regarded as one of Lovecraft’s best. In it, as in only two other stories (At The Mountains Of Madness, The Shadow Out Of Time), he envisions an entire non-human civilization. Most remarkably, in The Mound we actually get the narrative of a human character who lives in the eldritch society for some time–rather than just an after-the-fact summary of what the culture was like.

 Though much of the tale deals with a hidden, underground civilization, The Mound is set in the town of Binger, Oklahoma. Binger ("Bing-er")–unlike Arkham and other Lovecraft locations–is a real town, just over 60 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, and it is located in the Oklahoma mound country.

The title of the story refers to one of the Indian mounds in Caddo County, Oklahoma. Specifically, it refers to a mound that Zealia Bishop mentioned to Lovecraft in her premise for the story:

There is an Indian mound near here, which is haunted by a headless ghost. Sometimes it is a woman (S. T Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, 467).

Pretty thin for a story premise, huh! It’s also one that Lovecraft found really dull–just another ghost story. So he made up a whole non-human civilization and a 25,000-word novella was an explanation for the premise.

In the story, Lovecraft describes the location of "the mound" this way:

[It was] a huge, lone mound or small hill that rose above the plain about a third of a
mile west of the village—a mound which some thought a product of Nature, but
which others believed to be a burial-place or ceremonial dais constructed by
prehistoric tribes. This mound, the villagers said, was constantly haunted by,
two Indian figures which appeared in alternation; an old man who paced back and
forth along the top from dawn till dusk, regardless of the weather and with only
brief intervals of disappearance, and a squaw who took his place at night with a
blue-flamed torch that glimmered quite continuously till morning. When the moon
was bright the squaw’s peculiar figure could be seen fairly plainly, and over
half the villagers agreed that the apparition was headless.

Now, if you look on GPS/topographical maps of the area around Binger, Oklahoma–like the excellent Delorme Oklahoma guide–you’ll see that ther AIN’T NO mound a third of a mile west of Binger. Lovecraft made that detail up.

BUT!

If you call the officials in Binger (as I did) to track down what Bishop may have been talking about, it’s easy enough to figure out the mystery.

Mound1_1It turns out that there is indeed a mound in Caddo County, where Binger is located, that is reputed to be haunted by ghosts. It’s name is . . . (are you ready?) . . . "GHOST MOUND" (Dum! Dum! Dum!).

 Ghost Mound is more than a third of a mile west of Binger (as well as a bit north-see map to the left). It’s also not the only death-related mound in the county. There is also "Dead Woman Mound"–so named because a local found the body of a dead woman there an buried her at the site. Dead Woman Mound, though, is located father north from Binger, and as far as I know does not have ghost legends associated with it. The best evidence I have is that Zealia Bishop was referring to Ghost Mound, with perhaps an admixture of information about Dead Woman Mound.

The thing, though, is that these mounds are real. They really exist. And folks have been visiting them since Lovecraft’s time. In fact, of late they’ve been using GPS devices to go there. Here are the coordinates:

GHOST MOUND: Lat.
35.4025, Long.
-98.61306.
DEAD WOMAN MOUND: Lat.
35.47583, Long. -98.50444.

Mound2_3If I’ve read the sattelite maps correctly, this (left) is a picture of Ghost Mound.

I plan to find out for myself, though.

Y’see, I have friends in Oklahoma City, and the next time I go visit them, I plan to stop off on the way and visit Ghost Mound (and Dead Woman Mound).

Hopefully, I won’t get dragged down to the blue-litten realm of K’n-yan!

If I do, DON’T COME AFTER ME! Spare the world and unguessable horror and LEAVE THE MOUND ALONE!

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{ 13 comments }

Nick October 24, 2005 at 12:56 pm

What collections is that found in? Even better, for someone who has only ever read the, “Call of Cthulu” is there a primer for the order the stories should be read in? I understand that one of Lovecrafts editors actually wrote some of the stories attributed to the “Mythos”.

suzanne October 24, 2005 at 2:39 pm

I used to live 20 miles south of Binger in Anadarko (the Native American capital of the world). My husband’s family still lives pretty close (they live about 50 miles west. We would love to give you a tour. Also, you don’t want to miss Rainy Mountain where M. Scott Momaday’s writings were inspired. They are just a couple of miles from my in-law’s farm.

Neal October 24, 2005 at 5:52 pm

A little trivia: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bench is originally from Binger, Oklahoma.

Tim J. October 25, 2005 at 1:51 pm

My first art job was illustrating an archeological textbook, and I remember drawing diagrams of similar burial mounds in Cahokia, Illinois (I think).
People were usually buried with some artifacts, which I also got to illustrate. I found it fascinating work.

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Colton House October 22, 2006 at 10:05 pm

Hey i have grew up not 2 miles directly south of Ghost Mound i have climbed up it countless times. And the owners of the property are very friendly email me and i could give you the right contacts to go visit there.

Charles March 20, 2007 at 6:40 am

I lived in Binger for several years (Elementary through Junior-High) and read my first HP Lovecraft book there. It’s rather ironic that the only Lovecraft book in the school library that I could find was a compilation that contained this very story. I convinced a friend to go “exploring” with me to look for the mound. We took our motorcycles all over the countryside west and south of town without any success. Back then, GPS and satellite maps were out of the question. After about 3 different all-day expeditions spread across a few weeks, we chalked it up to fiction. Nevertheless, I was hooked. I started hunting down his works, and others inspired by him in every library I could get to. I even learned how the inter-library-loan system worked because of those books. It’s been decades since then, and I’ve recently re-discovered my love of HP (no pun intended) thanks to my stumbling across, and re-reading an anthology of works by August Derleth. After some recreational internet research (ala-google) I found this page. Just thought I’d drop my $0.02, and comment. I no longer live in Oklahoma, but I frequently visit family in the Apache (another town, further south of Binger) area. I think next time I drive up there, I’ll go hunt down “Ghost Mound” and finish an aborted childhood quest. :-)
If you would like to contact me, remove “_spamsux_” from my email address. Sorry to make it difficult, but I don’t prefer subscribing to SPAM email by posting my address on public sites. :-)

A.Williams March 20, 2007 at 7:42 am

“If I do, DON’T COME AFTER ME! Spare the world and unguessable horror and LEAVE THE MOUND ALONE!”
…Yeah, and then he can convert and catecise the K’n-yan’s without any monkey business and in peace!

RL February 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

I grew up in Eakly, we had a farm not a mile from Ghost Mound, my great aunt went to Ghost Mound School… But I digress.
The mound is very real, I’ve climbed it along with many more of my friends. My wife and I climbed it before we got married and I carved our initials in the rock ‘somewhere’ up there along with several others.
It’s beautiful from the top of the mound, and quiet. If you make the trek, please be kind to the land owner and make sure to stop in and ask permission to climb though. I don’t like to think about someone getting arrested for trespassing. He might not do that to us locals, but were it me, I’d have all you ‘fereners’ locked up!

Ghostfacers June 25, 2008 at 9:12 am

A ghost – or spirit or apparition – is the energy, soul or personality of a person who has died and has somehow gotten stuck between this plane of existence and the next. Most researchers believe that these spirits do not know they are dead. Very often they have died under traumatic, unusual or highly emotional circumstances. Ghosts can be perceived by the living in a number of ways: through sight (apparitions), sound (voices), smell (frangrances and odors), touch – and sometimes they can just be sensed.

saxman October 12, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Its quite a bit more than a 1/3 of a mile NW of Binger. Its actually a few miles NE of the town of Colony. You can google Ghost Mound, Oklahoma and go right to it.

saxman October 12, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Ghost Mound
9 mi. S. of Hydro. No one seems to know the origin of the name but all agree it is so named because it stands apart from the others, and its forlorn, destitute figure entitles it to the name of Ghost. Legend attributes much Indian ceremonial significance to the site.

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