It was the fabled text featured in the mysterious works of H.P. Lovecraft, as well as the inanimate nemesis behind the unholy armies in the Evil Dead film series.
Rumored to be a hoax, some still attribute the clandestine book of the dead, often referred to as "The Necronomicon," to the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, who allegedly penned the manuscript centuries ago... but did such a book truly ever exist?
Speculation regarding the existence of a "Necronomicon" dates back to at least the 1920's, when Lovecraft first wrote a brief history of the book, later published in 1938 under the title A History of the Necronomicon. Although best known for his weird fiction stories, Lovecraft also occasionally did write histories and even travel companions for various locations including Charleston, South Carolina (which he cited among his favorite American cities). Having published such authentic works, in addition to the horror stories for which he was best known, may have helped spur in the minds of his readership whether there was indeed any truth to the matter surrounding an ancient book of incantations that could bring the dead back from their eternal slumber.
Further lending to the confusion over its existence (and perhaps under the watch of Lovecraft devotees), listings for the book have even been cleverly added to the card catalogs of the Widener Library at Harvard and the university library of Tromsø, Norway, among other places, though typically with the notation to "inquire at the front desk" as to its whereabouts. Additionally, the publication of popular paperback varieties over the years--namely the famous black edition penned by the enigmatic author known only as "Simon"--have further led to questions involving the authenticity of an actual document.
So did it exist, or not? Furthermore, if it did, are there still copies of the original manuscript that are known to exist? What would Lovecraft have to say about all this, and if it did exist, had the author had access to an original copy?
Looking back at Lovecraft's own notes and correspondences we finally learn that, according to Lovecraft himself, the book was indeed created by he alone, as detailed in this letter to a friend discussing the matter:
About the “terrible and forbidden books” — I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary. There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself. Robert Bloch devised the idea of Ludvig Prinn and his De Vermis Mysteriis, while the Book of Eibon is an invention of Clark Ashton Smith's. Robert E. Howard is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten.... As for seriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes — in all truth they don’t amount to much. That is why it’s more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon.
Even if only a matter of fiction, questions remain, and speculation as to whether an evil book "bound in flesh and inked in blood" might indeed ever have been penned by ancients proficient in the devilish arts. Probably not... but it's fun (and sometimes frightening) to imagine the alternatives!