“The open book lay flat between us, with the picture staring repulsively upward. As the old man whispered the words, “more of the same” a tiny spattering impact was heard, and something shewed on the yellowed paper of the upturned volume. I thought of the rain and of a leaky roof, but rain is not red.”
This passage is from “The Picture in the House” by HP Lovecraft. Two things occurred to me after I recovered from the story: how brilliantly drawn this moment in the narrative was, and also whether this is the first known instance of this now cliched horror image. The drop of blood spattering on a held object—often an open book—from the ceiling above where unspeakable horrors await. According to my edition, Lovecraft wrote the story in 1920. I am wracking my brains trying to figure out if I’ve come across the image in anything written earlier—Poe for instance, or Hawthorne. Anyone know?