Harold Hadley Copeland

Harold Hadley Copeland (c. 1860-May 15, 1926)

by Raymond H Rich

After attending Cambridge, Harold Hadley Copeland graduated from Miskatonic University in 1881. He traveled throughout Asia during the 1890s, earning a following with his descriptive travelogues.

In 1902, Copeland published his first scholarly work, Prehistory in the Pacific: A Preliminary Investigation with References to the Myth-Patterns of Southeast Asia. A second volume was completed in 1906, Polynesian Mythology, with a Note on the Cthulhu Legend-Cycle, but already, signs of his obsession with lost civilizations had begun to appear.

In 1907, Miskatonic University Press published his translation of the Ponape Scripture, a work discovered by Captain Abner Exekiel Hoag in 1734 on the Caroline isle of Ponape. In 1910, the Professor wrote The Ponape Figurine, dealing with the religious significance of a nineteen inch jade statuette of Zoth-Ommog. Found by a diver in 1909 off the coast of Ponape, it came into the possession of the Professor shortly thereafter. Although its jade composition suggested Chinese origin, the figurine’s style was completely alien to that culture, causing Copeland to question its meaning.

In 1911, he wrote The Prehistoric Pacific in Light of the Ponape Scripture, arguing the existence of the sunken continent of Mu, citing the colossal stone ruins found on many Pacific islands, similarities between myth-patterns of many widely scattered people of the region, and the Ponape Scripture as supporting evidence. The Prehistoric Pacific was so poorly received by his peers, that Copeland was forced from his presidency of the Pacific Area Archaeological Association.

In May, 1913, Professor Harold Hadley Copeland led the Copeland-Ellington expedition into Indo-China, following instructions given in the Ponape Scripture to find the Plateau of Tsang and the tomb of Zanthu. Ellington died in the first few days and most of the bearers followed suit or deserted. Three months later, Copeland wandered into a Mongolian outpost, raving of the things he had seen and bearing the dozen stone tablets.

After his recovery, Copeland worked on his translation of the tablets, publishing his findings at the Sanbourne Institute for Pacific Studies in Santiago, California in 1916. Four hundred copies of the 32 page pamphlet The Zanthu Tablets: A Conjectural Translation were printed. After suffering more ridicule, Copeland was committed to a San Francisco asylum after suffering an emotional breakdown in 1925. On May 15, 1926, he burst his restraints while being shaved, overpowered an orderly, and slit his own throat with a straight razor. Copeland bequeathed his Pacific artifacts collection to the Sanbourne Institute, consisting of twelve steamer trunks full of notes and artifacts, as well as both the original Zanthu Tablets and the infamous Ponape figurine.


based upon material given in “The Dweller in the Tomb”, “Out of the Ages”, and “Zoth-Ommog” by Lin Carter; The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana by Daniel Harms; A Resection of Time by Sam Johnson; and Ex Libris Miskatonici by Joan Stanley.

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Harold Copeland

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