Call of Chicago: Who Lives at 66 College Street?

The scene: your Trail of Cthulhu game.

The speaker: A player.

“All right, I’m sick of being fed bafflegab by these mystic jerks, and I don’t want to read any more books that will keep me up for a calendar month with waking nightmares. We take the train to Providence, Rhode Island, go to” [quick Google on cell phone] “66 College Street, ring the door, and ask H.P. Lovecraft his own bad self what’s going on.”

[into the stunned silence that follows]

“Bing-bong.”

Why, it’s haunted by yoooooou!

Who answers the door?

H.P. Lovecraft

An author of weird fiction. Unless approached with faultless gentility (Credit Rating 5+), or perhaps with an introduction from one of his friends, he claims to be too busy writing to talk. It will take plenty of roleplaying and Reassurance spends to convince him that any of his “creations” have parallels in the real world: he is a staunch materialist. He might disappear mysteriously after speaking to them, or become a nervous, impossibly leak-prone ally, or even (in a very meta sort of game) act as the Investigators’ “M,” handing out missions based on his dreams and vast correspondence. This, by the way, is the Derlethian interpretation: the Lovecraft story collection The Outsider and Others appears in many Derleth and Lumley stories (and in Bloch’s wonderful Strange Eons, to be fair) as one more Mythos tome! (HPL’s collected fiction in game values is like the Pnakotic Manuscripts at best or a corrupted edition of Nameless Cults at worst.)

H.P. Lovecraft

A paranoid racist propagandist. He claims to be too busy writing to talk, but as long as the Investigators are white (or can “pass” with a 1-point Disguise spend) he talks their ears off anyway about the white race and the need to ally with Hitler and the Jewish threat and the Chinese swarming polyglot pullulating &c. &c. Gossip with journalists and local politicians (Oral History) is probably the best way to find out that Lovecraft is funded by the German-American Bund, and has been since 1923, when he gave up weird fiction for politics. It takes more digging (Scuffling with Bundists, perhaps) to uncover Lovecraft’s handler: fascist, occultist, poet, and horror maven George Sylvester Viereck. Meanwhile, HPL has decided the Investigators are race-mongrels spying on him, and alerts his allies. Whether Lovecraft’s racist manifestos and rants contain usable Mythos truths (sifted out with an Occult spend by an Investigator with Cthulhu Mythos, perhaps) is up to the Keeper. If they try to flip or fight Lovecraft, the local Bund and maybe a Lemurian go after them.

Annie Phillips Gamwell

A gentle, confused, elderly woman.  She insists nobody by that name lives there, and shuts the door abruptly. Assess Honesty tells you she’s truthful but recognized the name, and painfully. Library Use at the Providence Journal (or perhaps Cop Talk at the local precinct) reveals that her nephew Howard drowned himself after his mother’s death in May of 1921, leaving behind a peculiar suicide note headed “Ex Oblivione.” Mrs. Gamwell threw out her nephew’s papers, although with a month and a 2-point Library Use spend, or an even more intensive Interpersonal correspondence, the Investigators might find a few of his tales in amateur press publications. (Aside from “Dagon” and “Nyarlathotep,” they have little Mythos significance.) Strange visions begin to haunt them, whether they read those tales or not: of a titanic arm reaching through a window, the word DOOM on a wall covered by lizards, a white ape. They attend a magic-lantern show and behold apocalyptic visions, hear cats yowling in anger, see a woodcut of a cannibal feast in books they leaf through. They have tapped into some kind of psychic whirlpool, and their only clues are fragmentary remnants of a stunted literary dream.

Robert Harrison Blake

An artist and horror writer. Lovecraft gave his own address to Blake in “The Haunter From the Dark,” in which Blake moves to Providence in October 1934 and dies in the lightning storm on August 9, 1935. The Keeper can move those dates around to ensure that the Investigators wind up right spang in the middle of the Shining Trapezohedron’s campaign to unleash the Haunter on Providence — perhaps they catch a glimpse of one of Blake’s canvases, so his visions follow them even if they leave town.

Lewis Theobald, Jr.

A mystic dreamer and occult scholar. Robert Bloch (on whom Lovecraft based Blake) wrote a clear Lovecraft manqué into “The Shambler From the Stars,” in which the narrator accidentally burns down the mystic dreamer’s house during a summoning of a star vampire. (The name is HPL’s most common pseudonym; Bloch’s dreamer is nameless in the story.) Again, the Investigators can arrive in the middle of the story — Theobald is an obsessive, and promises to answer all their questions once they find him a copy of De Vermis Mysteriis. Cue summoning …

The Reverend Ward Phillips

A minister at the First Baptist Church in Providence, and the author of a number of well-received ghost stories. He doesn’t recognize the names the Investigators fling at him, but he does let them dig around in his family papers — his ancestor, who lived in Arkham, wrote Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New-English Canaan (1st ed. 1788, 2nd ed. 1794, 3rd ed. 1801). People say he still visits the St. John’s Burying Ground! Ha-ha, of course whenever anyone looks into the sighting, there’s nothing but large doglike footprints there. Phillips also possesses an antique Moorish lamp he uses at night: Chemistry cleans the copper well enough to read the Arabic inscription: al-Azrad (“the devourer”). Lots of opportunities to wind up dead — and still baffled — in other words.

 

Note the First: Lovecraft only moved to 66 College Street (for extra confusion, now located at 65 Prospect Street) in 1933. Before then, your horked-off player must go to 10 Barnes Street, where instead of Robert Blake, he might meet Dr. Marius Bicknell Willett, who lived there in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Note the Second: I’m in Providence right now, at NecronomiCon, which is why this posted a little bit late for Lovecraft’s 125th birthday. It’s okay, he didn’t mind stale cake.

3 Responses to “Call of Chicago: Who Lives at 66 College Street?”

  1. Dan Pratt says:

    Brilliant.

  2. Andy Miller says:

    You forgot Howard Phillips, who lived there in November, 1927, but was a victim of The Thing in the Moonlight when he became trapped in his dreams (I’m prepping a scenario about this for my own group).

  3. SunlessNick says:

    The nephew of Elihu Whipple (aka the narrator of The Shunned House) is another possibility. The events of the story will have taken place before any 30’s Trail scenario – so maybe the narrator would have gone on to collect similar accounts and scraps of evidence – the in-universe versions what would have been Lovecraft’s stories.

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