In the latest episode of their relic-festooned podcast, Ken and Robin talk gaming Annihilation, spy fiction inspirations for Fall of DELTA GREEN, subtle horror moments and a pope-grifting cleric.

I’ll wager we have some readers who can (unlike your humble correspondent) answer the question “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” But can your Fall of DELTA GREEN Agents answer that question? How about when the other Kennedy was shot? When Dr. King was shot? Malcolm X? Ngo Dinh Diem? Medgar Evers? George Lincoln Rockwell? Rafael Trujillo? Patrice Lumumba?

                         A view to a kill?

Let’s spend some Interrogation and find out where indeed your Agents might have been when the shots rang out, some time in the 1960s.

You Heard It On the Radio

While you’re not likely to catch players unaware of November 22, 1963, and U2 lyrics make it possible that April 4, 1968 won’t come as an in-game shock, without Googling it tell me when Robert F. Kennedy was shot. (June 6, 1968.) If your campaign keeps a calendar, and you’ve tied it to historical events, it can be a real moment (just as in real life) when the Agents hear the news that “Senator Kennedy has been shot and killed in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California.”

Some assassinations just become news-crawl — unless your team is in the Dominican Republic when it happens, the assassination of President Trujillo isn’t likely to make too many waves. But you never know where waves might wash up, in the world of Delta Green.

You Worked It

Something like either Kennedy assassination draws in every Federal agent remotely connected to the area, if only to ask a lot of repetitive, police-work style questions at the airport or wherever. The manhunt for James Earl Ray, the killer of Martin Luther King, lasted two months, involved thousands of Federal agents, and covered five countries before he was finally arrested in London. (See Hampton Sides’ fascinating book Hellhound on His Trail for many many game-worthy details.) If your Agents are assigned to the South, to the civil rights watch (in any sense, from COINTELPRO to CHAOS to the Marshals Service), to any major port of exit, or to Canada, Britain, or Portugal (!) they get pulled off their DELTA GREEN case and put onto this one. Stealing time from some boring embezzlement case is one thing — but everybody’s boss is watching this one, because the whole world is watching this one.

On the other hand, your Agents might be able to falsify a connection between their DELTA GREEN case and the Ray manhunt — as long as they cover their ass in the cover memo, they can go beat up all the inbred Alabama cultists they want for two months. Alternately, your Agents weren’t supposed to work this case at all. They were in no uncertain terms ordered to stay off it, by their day-job supervisors or worse by DELTA GREEN. But something about it looks, pardon the word, fishy … Charles McCarry’s novel Tears of Autumn follows a CIA agent convinced the JFK assassination isn’t all the Warren Commission cracked it up to be, and it’s a great template for Handlers who want to dangle the possibilities of Hastur-cultism (say) around Sirhan Sirhan’s bizarre ramblings.

You Were There

Maybe it’s just coincidence. Your Agents were in Saigon looking for the Kuen-Yuin in October 1963, and followed some leads to some murky South Vietnamese generals, or got some unofficial help from a CIA friendly here “on another job,” or just stumbled into the anti-Diem coup because they heard shooting and like idiots or player characters everywhere ran toward it. Maybe some book-hound in Harlem was trying to peddle a copy of al-Azif to the Nation of Islam in February 1965. Your Agents work the case, you shock them with the Malcolm X killing — and now one of their crucial Network contacts is stuck in the middle of an expanding NYPD presence, which also makes it even harder for four White Feds trying to covertly knock over a Harlem bookstore.

Or maybe it’s something else, that you were following Georg the Karotechia hit man through northern Virginia when you heard the head of the American Nazi Party got shot two miles away — right when Georg slipped your tail. Do you try to re-acquire Georg, do you try to worm your way into the Arlington Police investigation (and risk blowing your cover), do you try to find out why the Karotechia wanted George Lincoln Rockwell dead and why they made this “John Patler” guy their patsy? Or is Georg up to something else entirely, and every minute you spend on a dead American Nazi endangers millions of live American non-Nazis?

You’re the Patsy

It’s too much to ask that one of your players decides to have his Agent be a former Marine radar technician and attempted defector now involved in fringe politics in New Orleans and Dallas — but you can still frame the Agents if you’re willing to do a little work. MAJESTIC certainly is. Maybe you have to invent an assassination of a U.S. Senator (besides Bobby Kennedy) or go overseas. The fatal plane crash of Enrico Mattei, the creator of Italy’s public-private oil combine ENI, in 1962 is generally ascribed to a bomb on his plane, itself variously ascribed to the CIA, the Mafia, the French SDECE, the Italian SIFAR, and OAS terrorists. MAJESTIC might have killed him as a payoff to U.S. oil companies, or to get access to ENI records on deep drilling or a newly discovered cavern in Arabia, or as collateral damage because their real target was the U.S. reporter William McHale who was also on Mattei’s plane.

MAJESTIC knew they needed a patsy so they laid a false trail to ENI and to Mattei’s plane, dropping chicken feed to DELTA GREEN analysts until a team of Agents — your team — gets dispatched to Catania, Sicily on a phony anti-Mafia case. Or perhaps your team was in Italy already and MAJESTIC fakes the documents and footage and suborns testimony to put them on the scene at the airport or underneath the flight path with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. (Really, how hard is it to get an average group of player characters to head into the Lombard hills with a grenade launcher on no provocation whatsoever?) Even if the case remains officially unsolved (as the Mattei murder does) MAJESTIC can still offload any sub rosa backblast from its killing onto those poor neanderthal saps in DELTA GREEN.

You Did It

We can always go back to our fictitious Senator for this one. Senator Theodore Warrick (R-CT) is a Sentinel of the Exalted Circle Cthulhu cult, and is also being tipped as a possible Vice-Presidential candidate for the GOP in 1968. Your Agents have hard proof that Senator Warrick literally sleeps with the fishes, and a ticking clock before Secret Service protection makes killing him a suicide mission. This deserves to be a major set piece operation, with huge ramifications throughout the campaign. You could even move it to 1964 or 1960 and have it be the inciting event for your Agent team. DELTA GREEN can’t keep them even on its covert books, so it burns them Night’s Black Agents style, and sends them out to work under completely deniable cover, occasionally dead-dropping briefing files to them, as the FBI stays one step away from linking them to the Warrick assassination.

Or why fictionalize our senators? Really? Now, I’m not saying you should go full Ellroy and have your Agents on the grassy knoll with rifles. (I’m not saying not to do that, mind.) But let’s say that a DELTA GREEN hit team was on the grassy knoll with rifles, because a Massachusetts sailor President with strange physical debilities who sleeps with literally everything that moves is a bigger security risk than they want to take. And let’s say his Senator brother is running for President, and will definitely reopen the case if he wins. And let’s say that DELTA GREEN doesn’t want any file like that reopened. What do you do, hot shot? (Besides watch the magnificently surreal assassination film Winter Kills, of course.) What do you do?

 

29 May: [Royal Nepalese Army] gives three objects to [REDACTED] and tells [REDACTED] that a complete nose cone (fourth object) exists but cannot be seen

— US Embassy Nepal, Defense Attache Office report, 23 July 1968

On the night of 25 March 1968, something unknown crashed into Nepal from outer space. Project MOON DUST was notified, and removed three of the four pieces of wreckage. The final piece, a cone- or saucer-shaped object, was not recovered. This is the absolute truth.

Pokhara, Nepal (UFO crash site probably behind the hill center-right)

And if the US government simply had the common courtesy to keep things classified instead of dumping out its documents to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a Freedom of Information Act request, we could have all kinds of fun with that recovered fragment of UFO lore. In fairness, you still can. Most people — even most UFO fans — don’t know a lot more than this, and its details are at least buried in long tiresome badly-Xeroxed PDFs, not colorfully explained in a loopy eliptony column (until now). If you have the kind of player who has already assembled the dozen or so declassified pages on the “Kathmandu UFO Crash” as it is occasionally known, they will almost certainly not be the one to call shenanigans when you go ahead and make up wonderful things about it.

Even the CIA “Information Report” on the incident, marked Confidential on 11 April 1968 and declassified probably in 2009, still holds that wonder in potential. Its context is suspected Chinese activity along the Himalayan border between Tibet and Nepal, and it includes not just a lovely picture of UFOlogist Donald Keyhoe but also details of three other UFO sightings in the area: a long thin very bright UFO over northeastern Nepal and Sikkim on 19 February; a blue light over Bhutan on 21 February; and a white light and a red light over the Kashmir border region of Ladakh on 4 March. (The blue light also returned on 25 March, the night of the crash, and buzzed Ladakh.) All these UFOs flew from the northeast (Tibet) to the southwest until the crash.

Ah yes, the crash. Let’s go to the CIA report verbatim now: “A blazing object, flashing intermittently accompanied by big thunder sound disintegrated over Kaski region. A huge metallic disc-shaped object with a six-foot base and four feet in height was found in a crater at Baltichaur, five miles NE of Pokhara. Portions of a similar object were found at Talakot and Turepasal.” Pretty great, eh? CIA reports a UFO crash in the Himalayas, Men in Black spring into action and recover the wreckage, smash cut to Area 51 or Hangar 18.

Sadly, also-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency reports on the same incident (on 23 and 30 July 1968) go into bruising bureaucratic detail. And since quotidian realism is the key to proper Lovecraftian horror, so too shall I. According to the Defense Attache (DATT) in the US Embassy in Kathmandu, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) sat on the incident for a month, only showing “two objects” to the DATT on 23 April, and providing the DIA with photos of the wreckage and the site on 20 May.

On 29 May Project MOON DUST enters the picture (the DIA report is helpfully tabbed with the MOON DUST clearance, and the 30 July report even mentions briefing the Ambassador “on MOON DUST situation”) and the RNA gives “three objects” to some party redacted in the declassified report. Two weeks after that, [REDACTED] gets off its butt and visits the crash site, five miles northeast of the city of Pokhara, and spends ten days there (15-25 June). The final report describes the objects in some detail and even includes (badly reproduced) sketches: the “disc shape” is 15 inches across, not six feet. The “nose cone” is probably a motor nozzle; the report recommends that a technical team “not repeat not” be sent “unless visual examination of fourth object is felt essential.” To tie things off with a bow, the British Ministry of Defence (whose military attache horned in, and who may have gotten their own wreckage to examine) decreed the wreck to be the failed Cosmos 208 spy satellite that the Soviets launched on 21 March.

I am, of course, one of the men who have become allied with the outside beings visiting our planet. I met them first in the Himalayas, and have helped them in various ways. In return they have given me experiences such as few men have ever had.

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness”

So what can we, ourselves, recover from the wreckage of our beautiful story? How can we salvage it for a Moon Dust Men or Fall of DELTA GREEN operation? First of all, there is plenty of space for that operation in the official record: note that the DIA doesn’t even get a whiff of the crash (officially) for a month and the CIA (assuming those are the [REDACTED] boys) doesn’t show up for almost three months! That’s forever in RPG time.

Second of all, here’s something I’ve noticed. The more information you have on a topic, the more weird inconsistencies you can find in that information. There may be no historical moment better documented or more scrutinized than Dealey Plaza between 12:15 and 12:35 on 22 November 1963 and there are literal libraries of books based on the inconsistencies in those documents and that scrutiny. Fifteen or so measly pages shouldn’t veil us out so easy. So note the weird anomalies: are there three pieces of wreckage or four? Why does the CIA list two places that don’t exist (“Baltichaur” and “Turepasal”) in its list of crash sites like some Space Age Mandeville? Where did the British come from? Did somebody slip the Nepalese a ringer when we returned the pieces? How did that disc shrink from six feet to 15 inches? (Insert your own ‘it was cold’ joke here.) What about all those other UFOs? Why did the Nepalese insist the “nose cone” could not be seen and then let the CIA (or whoever) go look at it? Or did they mean it was invisible? Cloaked? Infradimensional?

Third, of course, we can look into Pokhara itself. In 1968 it didn’t even have a paved road leading to it from outside, although it did have a lot of Tibetan refugees from Mao. It’s a pilgrimage site (and before Mao a caravan site from Tibet), full of Hindu and Buddhist and mixed temples going back to medieval times. It’s less than 30 miles from the Annapurna mountain range — and from the CIA base for Tibetan rebels on just the other side of the ridge in Mustang. It’s also full of caves, sitting on porous rock near a big shiny lake, with the Patale Chango (Hell’s Falls) just to the south. In other words, it’s born to hold secrets from Yuggoth or Agharti or both.

Finally, there’s the DIA’s mushmouth bureaucratese, reeking of cover-up. The weird insistence to “not repeat not” send technical experts. The eagerness to wish away the wreckage as insignificant. And the lovely final words of the 30 July DIA memo, explaining that the Ambassador expressed his “desire we give the Government of Nepal positive info if at all possible.” Well that’s our mission here: to give positive info about UFO crashes, and Mi-Go macrodimensional metal, and [REDACTED].

“Crack the Sky, Shake the Earth”

— North Vietnamese coded message launching the Tet Offensive

Fifty years ago today, the Viet Cong broke its own back by launching the “Tet Offensive” against Saigon, Hué, Da Nang, Nha Trang, Pleiku, every provincial capital (36 cities), and all major US bases in South Vietnam. Between 30 January 1968 and 10 February 1968, when one straggling group of VC attacked Bac Lieu in the Mekong Delta, some 50,000 Viet Cong backed by about 35,000 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars launched waves of attacks ranging in scope from simple rocket and mortar attacks on 64 district capitals and their airfields to suicide assaults on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon to full-fledged urban warfare in an attempt to seize and revolutionize the former imperial capital of Hué.

ARVN in Saigon, Tet 1968

South Vietnamese Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) forces, in most places and most cases, eventually drove the Communist attackers away or killed them, aided by the VC lack of coordination, which spread their attacks out so that mobile reserves could defeat the assaults in detail. The dithering reluctance of U.S. General Westmoreland (who somehow talked himself into believing that the whole nationwide offensive was a feint intended to divert American forces from the ongoing siege of Khe Sanh) nearly handed the Communists the tactical advantage anyway, even as the complete failure of U.S. and South Vietnamese intelligence to predict the attacks handed the Communist forces strategic surprise.

However, even General Westmoreland couldn’t change the objective correlation of forces. American reinforcements took the cities back, clearing the VC out of Saigon city center by dawn on 1 February. Fighting continued in a few other locations: in Dalat until 15 February, in Kon Tum, Buôn Ma Thuột, Phan Thiết, Cần Thơ, and Bến Tre until the end of the month, in Cholon, the Chinese neighborhood of Saigon, until 7 March, and of course in Hué itself where the Communist cadres had formed a revolutionary committee and begun executing class enemies (2,800 to 5,000 of them) as the American artillery and bombs slowly reduced the “Fragrant City” to corpse-smeared rubble. (65% of the city was destroyed in the fighting.) The ARVN and USMC finally cleared the last Communist forces out of Hué on 2 March 1968.

At the end of the Offensive, the Viet Cong had lost as much as a third of its fighting strength, allowing Hanoi to fill the gap with NVA forces and take control of the insurgency from the locals. The Tet Offensive gut-punched the American effort in Vietnam almost as badly: the Washington establishment began looking for the exits in earnest, and nobody wanted to give Westmoreland the troop numbers he was now screeching for. The American media in the person of Walter Cronkite declared that Tet revealed the war to be stalemated and unwinnable, President Johnson refused to seek re-election rather than wage the war he had blundered into, and the American public eventually saw no reason to disagree with either of them.

Operation ODDBALL

The Tet Offensive takes DELTA GREEN by surprise just like it does the rest of the American national security establishment. DELTA GREEN Agents and teams in country respond to the attacks on 30 or 31 January, drive them off, and then return to barracks where they find a message: “In honor of the New Year, join us in a day at the races.” DELTA GREEN decides to use Tet to launch as many operations as they can in the first week of February while the country is in chaos: any needed damage, looting, arson, and so on can be concealed in the VC onslaught. Every program op on the planning boards in South Vietnam gets a “free fire” approval to welcome in the Year of the Monkey, all rolled up in one.

During this country-wide Operation ODDBALL, individual DELTA GREEN teams of Agents might launch their own harebrained, half-planned op or move on any of these leads:

  • South Vietnamese and American military police stationed in the resort town of Da Lat in the Central Highlands report that the VC seem fanatically insistent on capturing the Pasteur Institute there, founded by the bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin in 1936. DELTA GREEN has determined that Yersin uncovered the extraterrestrial and unnatural Black Fever from research in French Algeria and possibly even cultured it during his work on the plague in the 1890s, the same time as a Black Fever outbreak in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the same CDC asset that provided this intel also provided it to MJ-8. A MAJESTIC operator (from MJ-10) is also on the case, because Black Fever probably sickens and infects the Greys; the Agents’ mission is to find that one vial among the millions stored in the Institute, and destroy it by fire.
  • The Kuen-Yuin cult smuggles weapons, medicine of extremely dubious nature, and propaganda for both Mao and Tsan-Chan in and out of Cholon as part of a Maoist cadre in the city, and devotes the rest of its activities to mapping Saigon’s geomantic nexi using the local xin stone as a focus and lens. The xin stone is actually the foundation stone of a wharf, and its xin field rapidly energizes during the cruelty, barbarism, and suffering of the campaign.
  • The USMC retakes the Khai Dinh Museum in Hué on 5 Feb. Shortly before that date, DELTA GREEN inserts a team into Hué with the mission of clearing out the entire museum’s supply of Cham artifacts, art, and archaeological records for ARCHINT analysis by the program. While they’re there, they should look out for anything else implying Cthulhu cultism or other unnatural activity in the past. Of course, they will have to drive off the Viet Cong cadre currently occupying the museum. The program mounts similar actions at the Museum Henri Parmentier in Da Nang and the Blanchard de Brosse Museum in Saigon, as well as the Saigon offices of the École Francaise d’Extréme Orient on Hai Ba Trung Street … next door to the French Embassy.
  • Taking advantage of the ARVN garrison’s redeployment into Saigon, a Dao Sâm cadre (reinforced by VC fighters) has taken over the archaeological site at Óc Eo in the Mekong Delta. Óc Eo was a major port for the empire of Funan in the 6th century A.D., an empire centered on the Cambodian jungles. The Dao Sâm seeks to awaken whatever loathsome swimmer their lord Angka, the Black Buddha, sent to guard his empire’s gateway to the outside world. The program seeks information on Dao Sâm practices, and operational intel on their connections deeper inside Cambodia.

No need to build a stage, it was all around us. Props would be simple and obvious. We would hurl ourselves across the canvas of society like streaks of splattered paint. Highly visual images would become news, and rumor-mongers would rush to spread the excited word. … Once we acknowledged the universe as theater and accepted the war of symbols, the rest was easy.

— Abbie Hoffman, “Museum of the Streets”

In the most American way possible, the biggest magical ritual ever performed in the United States (and possibly in the world) was essentially a marketing campaign. The activist (and former student of psychologist Abraham Maslow) Abbie Hoffman believed in the power of vaporware politics: create an image of the product you want and people will believe it already exists and buy into it. (The French syndicalist philosopher Georges Sorel had much the same realization in 1908.) In other words, Esoterror, although it may seem a trifle charged to use such a term for an action intended to convince the youth of America that the youth of America already opposed the Vietnam War, which in 1967 was by no means a sure bet. Hoffman would surely have preferred Esorgasm, or perhaps Esotrickery.

And what, specifically, was that action to be? Nothing less than the levitation and exorcism (or “exorgasm”) of the Pentagon during the March on Washington of October 21, 1967, planned and carried out by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. While folksingers bleated and lefties old and new orated, Abbie Hoffman orchestrated a Working, complete with a Hittite chant discovered or invented by the poet (and member of the counterculture house band The Fugs) Ed Sanders, in consultation with the occultist and musicologist Harry Smith.

The full ritual, as planned, involved sprinkling cornmeal in a circle around the Pentagon as 25,000 hippies held hands, the Powers were invoked from the four cardinal directions, and “a cow painted with occult symbols” looked on. After consulting with Mexican shamans, the painter and theosophist Michael Bowen added a further air element: 200 pounds of daisies to be dropped onto the roof of the Pentagon from a small plane. Hoffman somehow put the whammy on the Pentagon’s negotiators, who talked him down from levitating the Pentagon 22 feet in the air (other sources claim Hoffman opened at 300 feet) to three feet, and in what I can only consider a classic (but ultimately failed) troll attempt, issued the Marchers a permit to levitate the world’s largest office building three feet off the ground.

I remember after we’d done “Out, Demons, Out,” I went down under the truck and there was this guy from Newsweek trying to hold a microphone close to [Kenneth] Anger. It looked like he was burning a pentagon with a Tarot card or a picture of the devil or something in the middle of it. In other words the thing we were doing above him, he viewed that as the exoteric thing and he was doing the esoteric, serious, zero-bullshit exorcism.

— Ed Sanders, in “Out, Demons, Out! An Oral History

Ordo Veritatis, or DELTA GREEN, or whoever else was keeping an eye on things magical for the military-industrial complex, was on the ball that day. The Pentagon permit explicitly forbade a human chain surrounding the Pentagon; as Norman Mailer put it later, “exorcism without encirclement was like culinary art without a fire—no one could properly expect a meal.” Furthermore, the Park Police confiscated the cornmeal when Paul Krassner and some other hippies tried a “practice exorcism” earlier that day on the Washington Monument, a different police force stopped the cow, and the FBI grounded the daisy plane.

So at the moment of truth, 25,000 stoned hippies and other curious types read an abridged visualization ritual while regaled with the music of the Fugs on Indian triangle, cymbals, drums, trumpets, and finger bells. Standing in a truck flatbed, Ed Sanders did his best to invoke Zeus, Anubis, Aphrodite, Magna Mater, Dionysus, Zagreus, Jesus, Yahweh, the Unnamable, the Zoroastrian fire, Hermes, the “beak of Sok,” Ra, Osiris, Horus, Nepta, Isis, “the flowing living universe,” and the Tyrone Power Pound Cake Society in the Sky, apparently an early avatar of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Underneath the truck, Crowleian film maker Kenneth Anger crouched, burning sigils and “making snake noises at whomever should try to come near.” He had previously scattered 93 parchment-and-India-ink sigils in the men’s restrooms of the Pentagon, part of a personal campaign to tame and banish the god Mars, one more freelance ritual to snarl whatever ectoplasm or Od was left from the abortive Working. (One assumes DELTA GREEN rounded up most of those sigils. Most of them.) Finally, the Fugs announced the “Grope-In,” meant to put the “orgasm” in “exorgasm” and replace the hate-energy of the Pentagon with the love-energy of hippies having sex in the Pentagon parking lot. But by now the 82nd Airborne had deployed around the building, and enthusiastic marshals began hitting hippies with clubs, and the old left ran away and the new left got arrested.

The Pentagon, as far as anyone can tell, remained at its original altitude, and retained its original, or at least its full, demonic complement.

So, an exercise in the ridiculous, right? Well, maybe.

The Levitation and Exorcism made the evening news, and Newsweek, and more places than Abbie Hoffman could have dreamed of. Norman Mailer made much of his own tangential role in the affair in Harper’s, and then in the very very best-selling The Armies of the Night. (Its subtitle was the esoterribly clever “History as a Novel/The Novel as History,” which rather gives the game away.) Those daisies, redirected from the abortive Aztec aircraft abracadabra, wound up in the arms of the protestors — and a photograph of hippie Superjoel (or possibly a different hippie named Hibiscus) putting a daisy in the barrel of a soldier’s gun became the iconic image Hoffman had dreamed up but never imagined. Six months and ten days later, driven in large part by ballooning anti-war sentiment in his own party, President Johnson announced he would not seek re-election in 1968.

 

Many of us ride winter and summer, but the ultimate thing for us would be to have an endless summer. The only way to do this is to travel around the world.

— Narrator, Endless Summer (1966)

When older DELTA GREEN agents reminisce – when the painkillers and the bourbon hit at the same time, or when they pass the row of unmarked black tiles near the Reflecting Pool entrance to Wing Five of the Munitions Building – they might talk about the War, sure. Or they might talk about the Raid, although even these grizzled veterans don’t remember that far back. But what they want to talk about is what they want to remember: the time when God and Eisenhower protected the right, when a man with a brush cut and a U.S. diplomatic passport could overthrow a kingdom, when the program had Nazis to hunt and Deep Ones on ice. They were in their element then, the survivors and the cowboys. DELTA GREEN may be falling now, they will tell you, but in the Fifties, it was summertime all year round.

The Fall of DELTA GREEN corebook mentions eight operations carried out by the program in this decade: SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS, SEVEN, LANCASTER, BRISTOL, ADVANCE MAN, SKUNKED, and MALLORY. Here are eight more missions for your grizzled veterans to look back on with pride and horror.

1950: Operation AUDITOR

Part of SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, this operation tasks the Agents with the capture – alive – of Francois Genoud, Swiss financier of the ODESSA rat lines, and perhaps of the remaining Karotechia. When they track him down, he is trading in artifacts in Beirut: including idols and tablets pertaining to Dagon, al-Abhi, Nirgal, and other unnatural entities. His cultist customers are the real threat, even more than his Nazi partners in crime. This might be a straight-up snatch job, or more of a long con, depending on the Agents’ skill set.

1951: Operation FLORIDA

The Olaegodae (“very old”) mountain tribes around Hwasun in southwestern Korea held out after the main North Korean elements were pushed back in October 1950. Desperation led them to return to old habits of worship: the Hwasun miners’ communes called down the “North Emperor,” Gugwang. In February 1951, DELTA GREEN inserts two companies of occult counter-insurgents to capture and destroy the Olaegodae black stone monolith in the mountains.

Keep watching the skies!

1952: Operation ORSON

Following multiple UFO sightings over Washington, D.C. by military pilots, civilians, and radar technicians on 19-20 July 1952, President Truman orders MAJESTIC-12 to come up with two explanations: a real one, and one suitable for a press conference on 29 July. The program gets swept up in this “all hands on deck” moment as an even bigger Grey armada buzzes the capital on 26-27 July. For one week, nobody at MAJESTIC is paying attention, and the Agents can push things as far as they dare.

 

1952: Operation STITCHER

On 12 September 1952, five boys and a West Virginia National Guardsman saw a cone-shaped, round-headed, tentacled monster near Flatwoods, West Virginia while investigating strange lights. The next day, MJ-3 and DELTA GREEN send a BLUE BOOK team to investigate and cover up this possible Yithian sighting; the Agents discover that MJ-3 might be more interested in harnessing this fold in time to the Triassic than in shutting it down. Meanwhile, the eyewitnesses report mysterious ailments: prehistoric contagion, Yithian possession, or unnatural toxicity?

1953: Operation HAWKEYE

DELTA GREEN sends the Agents to examine Lomarian ruins uncovered by the extension of the runway at Barter Island, Alaska during construction of a radar station for the Distant Early Warning line. While they are there, the station emits a pulse that awakens Arnos, a lich of primordial Lomar. He sends his consciousness into the USAF personnel there, and then into the DELTA GREEN team, until they cannot tell who is human and who is some kind of thing from another time.

1954: Operation HIPPOLYTA

During the chaos around the CIA’s Operation SUCCESS in Guatemala, archaeologist Karla Lawrence disappears on 21 June 1954 near the suspected Deep One hybrid colony at Laguna Negra. The program scrambles a rescue mission, not least because Lawrence is a former OSS agent and DELTA GREEN friendly. Things get complicated when examination of Lawrence’s effects indicates she knew about the Deep One presence, and perhaps arranged her own kidnapping as a way to find out what the immortal beings know about the ancient Maya.

1956: Operation EPHESUS

On 5 February 1956, many of the citizens of Blue Hill, New Mexico oversleep and cannot be wakened until nightfall. At night, they paint graffiti on walls, move rocks, and bury water tanks in certain spots. Because Blue Hill is a residential community for the White Sands missile range, the program tasks the Agents to investigate a possible unnatural threat. A cult of Tamash in the Dreamlands city of Ilarnek has begun dreaming itself into the waking world, intending to overthrow the god Bokrug by shifting him into New Mexico to be killed by the Army. There may be some psychic backlash to the residents of Blue Hill, or of New Mexico – but it’s worth it in their eyes to rid Ilarnek of their hideous lizard tyrant. How exactly the Agents respond to this invasion of the Bokrug switchers – and how they’ll find them all amongst the innocent townsfolk — is up to them.

1957: Operation MULE TRAIN

Interest in Antarctica rises during the International Geophysical Year, and the program has picked up on Soviet plans to investigate the ruins of Kadath uncovered by the Lake expedition in 1930. The Soviet occult operatives (possibly GRU-SV8) have been inserted into the Second Soviet Antarctic Expedition; in December DELTA GREEN inserts the Agents into the Navy’s Operation DEEP FREEZE III. Their mission: shadow the Soviets, find out what they find out, and leave Kadath untampered with in its cold waste. Whatever they find out may trigger the Antarctic Ocean “nuclear tests” on 27 August through 6 September 1958, code named Operation ARGUS.

“But let us turn to the Tyrrhenians while they still remain; for under the maddening power of Dionysos the forms of dolphins are creeping over the Tyrrhenians — not at all the dolphins we know, however, nor yet those native to the sea. One of the men has dark sides, one a slippery breast, on the back of one a fin is growing, one is growing a tail, the head of one is gone but that of another is left, the hand of one is melting away, while another laments over his vanishing feet.”

— Philostratus of Lemnos (ca. 220 CE)

Philostratus purports to be describing a painting here, but read it through a Lovecraftian lens and wonder with me about the other big-brained mammal that washes up against Y’ha-nthlei. Note, by the way that the forms the Tyrrhenians metamorphose into are “not at all the dolphins we know” and also not “those native to the sea.” What could he be talking about? Why, the Deeper Ones, of course.

Kkkrrrkkkk-thulhu fhtagn!

The Deeper Ones are to dolphins what the Deep Ones are to humans: the result of a hybrid breeding program that produces a blend of the two phenotypes. Since dolphins are already aquatic, the changes mostly come inside it: gills emerge, pressure-resistant scales form beneath its blubber, the eyes distend, the flippers lengthen. The most visible difference is a thick bristly crest along the Deeper One’s spine, but it can lay that down voluntarily. The Deeper Ones behave more brutally and ruthlessly than regular dolphins, with a much stronger and more violent sexual appetite — one not limited to the delphinoid species. They are as intelligent as human-hybrid Deep Ones. If a Deeper One has not fully shifted into hybrid form, or is deliberately subduing its Deeper One “tells” then it requires a spend of Biology, Outdoorsman, or the equivalent to notice something uncanny about the beast.

Edward P. Berglund’s “The Sand Castle” names the Deeper Ones the Laniqua Lua’huan, who serve Tsur’lhn, a high priest of Cthulhu who resembles an enormous razor clam filled with tentacles and shadowy protrusions. James Wade’s wonderful Lilly-derived tale “The Deep Ones” goes still farther and indicts even regular dolphins as willing servants of Cthulhu and the telepathic amplifiers, coursing hounds, and sacred beasts of the Deep Ones. Dolphins as amplifiers of Deep One telepathy and/or Cthulhu’s dream sendings evoke the hypnotic songs associated with mermaids and Sirens. The concept also provides a wonderful opening for all manner of horrible stories — mass mind control, hypnotic suicide, dream attacks, cult frenzy — made still worse by the sunny refusal of everyone else to believe anything bad of the ocean’s perfect companion. I used this duality in my own game several years back, and I still cherish the players’ flinch when the sunny NPC docent announced “There has never been a recorded incident of a dolphin attacking a human.” As one of my players muttered in response: “Not recorded … because they kill all the witnesses.”

Trail of Cthulhu Keepers should look into Marine Studios (later Marineland) south of St. Augustine, Florida, which became the first public dolphin exhibit park in the world in June of 1938. It opened with one bottlenose dolphin, attracting tourists and literati. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed at Marineland in 1954, and the dolphinarium remained extremely popular well into the Fall of DELTA GREEN era. However Flipper, filmed between 1963 and 1967, drew crowds to Marineland’s rival, the Miami Seaquarium. Perhaps a failing marine park desperately promotes its particularly intelligent dolphin, and covers up the surely unrelated rash of deaths.

• In addition, Fall of DELTA GREEN Handlers might consider involving the Deeper Ones with the Navy Marine Mammal Program. The NMMP starts in 1962 at Point Mugu, California; in 1967 the program becomes classified, transfers to the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center at Point Loma near San Diego and adds a second facility at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. Dolphin teams deploy to Vietnam in 1965, tasked with minesweeping and anti-frogman security. The Navy prefers the more aggressive dolphins with Deep One genetics; DELTA GREEN differs.

Deeper One

“Though the ordinary Delphinus delphis is a cetacean mammal, unable to subsist without air, I watched one of the swimmers closely for two hours, and did not see him alter his submerged condition. … the peculiar dolphins were still about us, even at a depth where the existence of high organisms is considered impossible by most naturalists.”

— H.P. Lovecraft, “The Temple”

Abilities: Athletics 16, Health 10, Scuffling 12

Magic: 7; spells connected with Cthulhu or the Deep Ones.

Hit Threshold: 4 (big but agile)

Alertness Modifier: +1 (+2 vs. moving objects underwater)

Stealth Modifier: +2

Attack: bite (-1), bash (+0 or more)

Armor: -1 vs. any (subdermal scales)

Stability Loss: +0

Charging Bash: If a Deeper One can charge its target, it can convert more of its 500 kg of momentum into impact damage. A Deeper One that attacks from Near or farther can spend 2 Athletics to add +1 to its damage (max. +3). It must spend at least one round swimming back out to Near distance to launch a charging bash attack the next round.

Fully Aquatic: Deeper Ones, unlike dolphins, don’t need to surface or breathe air.

Orca Hybrid: Orcas, or killer whales, are a very large and aggressive genus of dolphin, and may also interbreed with the Deep Ones. For an orca Deeper One template, increase Athletics, Health, and Scuffling by +6. Its bite does +4 damage; its bash starts at +2; its Armor is -3. The orca hybrid can also grab and hold with its bite: by paying 2 Scuffling points, the Deeper One clamps down on its foe and automatically hits with a free bite attack each round thereafter. It and its victim take -1 to their Hit Threshold against each other.

Regular Dolphin: A regular, non-hybrid dolphin has Athletics 9, Health 7, Scuffling 6, and no Armor. (Increase these abilities as above for a regular orca.) It may or may not have Magic, or a pod of dolphins may have a common Magic pool, depending on the Keeper’s view of dolphin intelligence.

Telepathy: A Deeper One can read the mind of, and send its thoughts to, any Deep One, Deeper One, dolphin, hybrid, or dreaming human within a mile. (Stability test against the Deeper One’s roll+spend (of Magic) total to resist; the Deeper One may add +1 to its result for every five telepaths assisting it.) Alcohol (drinking enough to cost 2 Health) may block the Deeper Ones’ telepathic abilities.

 

Ken is working hard on Fall of Delta Green, due to be released in summer 2017. Here’s a sneak preview of one of the creatures from it – ghouls.

Ghouls

Rubbery, loathsome, foul-smelling humanoids with semi-hooved feet, pointed ears, and claws, ghouls dwell in graveyard warrens, subway tunnels, and the like beneath many human cities. Their greenish or grayish skin is matted with grave earth or flecked with leprous lesions and leathery dead spots. They move in a low, hunched posture, almost semi-bipedal; they climb, leap, and lope at prodigious speed. Their eyes are red or yellow, and glow in pitch blackness or when hungrily attentive on something or someone. Ghouls can see into both infrared and ultraviolet; in utter darkness, they can find a foe by smell or sound.

Ghouls eat dead flesh, especially human corpses. Some heretical ghouls consume very fresh corpses – transients, the lost and curious – but most ghouls restrict themselves to rotting flesh for religious reasons. They also know that too much predation on the living invites human investigation. Ghouls can digest almost anything; flesh soaked in formaldehyde and other embalming fluid goes down as easy as flesh left rotting in the sewer for a month.

They speak their own language, one of gibberings and meepings, although some recall or have learned human tongues. These ties to humanity extend past diet and language: ghouls associate with human witches as go-betweens, and with human necrophiles, serial killers, and other unwholesomely death-obsessed sorts. Indeed, a human of particularly thanatophilic tendencies can transform into a ghoul over a prolonged period of time.

Most significantly of all, ghouls regularly exchange human and ghoul infants, raising and nursing the kidnapped human child as a ghoul and leaving the ghoul changeling to ignorant human parents. Some human children interbreed with their ghoulish warren-mates to produce hybrids or mongrels; some human cultists or degenerates mate with ghouls for their own purposes, likewise. And of course many ghouls brought up as humans never reconnect with their true species and marry humans. Like Deep One hybridism, ghoul hybridism can turn recessive and pass through several human generations before reverting to type, usually upon exposure to some ghoulish stimulus or infection vector.

Human-Ghoul Changelings

Humans raised by ghouls might metamorphose into ghouls or remain human to serve as interlocutors and ghoul agents in the surface world. In addition to likely high scores in Scuffling and perhaps Conceal, they have a +1 Alertness Modifier, and suffer no penalties for darkness.

Ghoul changelings or hybrids raised as humans have the same adjustments to their statistics.

Ghoul

Abilities: Athletics 12, Fighting 14, Health 13

Hypergeometry: 5-9 for pure-born ghoul priests of their dark gods; 10+ for once-human ghoul-lich sorcerers. Liches may have Raise From Essential Saltes; both liches and priests may have Charnel Meditation for negotiations in strange cemeteries.

Hit Threshold: 4 (5 underground)

Alertness Modifier: +2 (+0 in daylight)

Stealth Modifier: +3

Attack: claws (d+1), bite (d+0); ghouls can engage in two claw attacks and a bite against the same target in one round.

Armor: Resilient [L-5]

Stability Loss: +0; +1 if the ghoul was known to the witness when alive

Charnel Feast: Consuming rotten human flesh immediately restores 3 Health to an injured ghoul. This may be done once per 24 hours.

Charnel Visage: A ghoul that eats a corpse can take the appearance of the devoured human. This ritual costs 2 Hypergeometry pool points. Many ghouls can transform rapidly between their native form and any of a dozen previously consumed human forms.

Diseased: Even if ghouls don’t spread supernatural ghoul-virus, there is nothing more infectious than a mouth full of teeth clogged with rotting human flesh. A few (2-8) days after a ghoul bite, the victim must make a Difficulty 8 Health test to avoid horrible infection. If the ghoul bite was immediately treated with First Aid, her Difficulty is 4; if medical treatment waited until after the battle or the next day, her Difficulty is 6. (Claw wounds are -1 to those Difficulties.) On a failure, the victim becomes Hurt and takes +3 damage to Health. She loses 3 Health and 3 Athletics thereafter each day until cured or dead.

Inhuman Agility: By spending 2 Athletics, a ghoul can leap 5 yards in any direction from a standing position, scale and cling to any surface including ceilings, run up to 35 mph, or drop up to 50 feet without damage.

Mephitic Memories: A ghoul that eats the brain or sensoria of a corpse can “imbibe” the memories of the deceased. This works for all vertebrate flesh, not just for humans. The memories last forever, or at least until the ghoul would normally forget them.

Pack Attack: Up to three ghouls may attack a single target in one round. The foe’s Hit Threshold drops by 1 against the third ghoul.

Tunneling: Ghouls can tunnel through soil, brick, concrete, or solid bedrock in minutes, hours, or days.

Worrying Bite: If two bite attacks in a row succeed against the same target, the ghoul worries the victim with its mighty canine jaws, and the second attack thus does double damage. The ghoul continues to do normal bite damage to the victim automatically each round until killed or driven off. The target can attempt an Athletics test (as with Monstrous Grappling, p. XX) to pull free.

Investigation

Biology: The flies in the Wensdon house have the characteristic hunched thorax and scuttling movement of Megaselia scalaris, the coffin-fly. There’s a dead body hidden somewhere in there – from the number of flies, possibly a good many bodies.

Forensics: The entire body is covered in bite marks. Oddly, although the marks are clearly canine, the jaws are unusually short and wide. From the marks, we estimate three or four of the animals. The eyes were plucked from their sockets, and are missing, as are the kidneys, spleen, liver, thymus gland, pancreas, and intestines. The large wound in the belly was a tearing wound. The skull, on the other hand, was smashed open postmortem on the gravestone, and the gray matter scooped out with some kind of clawed utensil and taken. Also postmortem, the long bones of the limbs were cracked and pried open with a four-pronged, sharpened tool, and the marrow removed. Extensive saliva traces were found in and around the bone cavities.

Notice: The “newly dug grave” over in the next plot has a marker on it labeled 1949.

Occult: It’s probably just a coincidence, but the Greenyear and Detiller families we’ve been investigating could be descendants – perhaps refugees who changed their names in the New World – of Jean Grenier and Pierre de la Tilhaire, accused werewolves in Bordeaux in 1603.

The Ghouls of New York

In the 1636, a religious order run by a heretic named Mogens Dekker fled from the Holy Roman Empire to New Amsterdam (later New York), and there set about the secretive worship of an unknown god. Dekker and his followers — known as the Keepers of the Faith — were ghouls in the making, once-human monstrosities who dug into the earth and fed on dead human flesh.

After a 1925 police raid in Red Hook, Brooklyn nearly exposed the ghoul colony, most of the ghouls migrated outward to cemeteries in New Jersey and Queens. The remaining fanatical Keepers grow lean as the cemeteries in Manhattan (all closed in 1851) empty. Heretical new-fledged ghouls hunt transients and bums in the sewers and alleys, risking exposure to DELTA GREEN.

Ghouls in Old Europe

Ghouls once infested all of Europe, and warrens still persist beneath industrial cities with regular influxes of the dead. World War II provided a rich bounty that boosted the ghoul population; individual ghouls haunt cemeteries all over Western Europe. Even then, London, Paris, Rome, and the other ancient capitals are as hunted out as New York.

The largest and most dangerous ghoul outbreak occurred in Russia during the reign of Josef Stalin, whom Russia’s ghouls called the “Great Provider.” The Soviet counter-unnatural agency GRU SV-8 (p. XX) still hunts the Cult of the Great Provider in the gulags and charnel pits of the Workers’ Paradise. Thanks to GRU SV-8, the ghoul populations behind the Iron Curtain have been culled, or at least driven into hiding.

 

“Do you realize that this project concerns human evolution, and that it’s one of the most important questions the human race has ever dealt with? And here these damned fools are thinking in terms of espionage and counter espionage and murder …”

— Colin Wilson, The Black Room (1971)

Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the “Black Sorcerer” of the CIA. For real.

The 1970s are not the official decade of Fall of DELTA GREEN, but they are the decade that gave us the “modified limited hangout,” which is spy-speak for what the mystical-minded Masons call “Making Manifest That Which Should Be Hidden.” In other words: you reveal some of the truth, but as a distraction or cover for the real secrets behind everything. This, of course, is why Beyonce is always making the Illuminati gesture with her hands, and why MAJESTIC-12 greenlit Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and why everybody knows about MK-ULTRA, the CIA mind-control project so secret that CIA Director Richard Helms destroyed 138 boxes of MK-ULTRA records rather than turn them over to the Church Committee in 1975.

The “MK” digraph means that MK-ULTRA fell under the purview of the CIA’s Technical Services Staff (TSS), the Company’s “Q Branch.” In 1953, when MK-ULTRA spun up from the previous Project CHATTER (a Navy program begun in 1947) and Project ARTICHOKE (previously Project BLUEBIRD, a CIA program run under the Office of Scientific Intelligence, which by the 1970s was absolutely not building bionic astronauts), Director Allen Dulles put the TSS’ head chemist, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, in charge of it. Gottlieb, delightfully, was known as the “Black Sorcerer,” because of his expertise in poisons. Gottlieb rapidly expanded the remit of MK-ULTRA from brainwashing, LSD experiments, and hypnosis into some really weird stuff. (Delightfully, the “foreign deployment” sub-project of MK-ULTRA was called MK-DELTA. You cannot make this stuff up, or rather, you just never need to.) In 1964, MK-ULTRA became MK-SEARCH; in 1967, Gottlieb became head of the TSS and came up with even more wonderful toys including a microwave gun for planting voices in people’s heads. In 1972, Gottlieb retired; MK-ULTRA shut down (officially) the next year. Cue Congressional investigation, and Helms’ fun with shredders.

From ULTRA to OFTEN

So if MK-ULTRA is the modified limited hangout, what on Earth must the real deal have looked like? Well, according to researchers who quite frankly begin at “dodgy” and go down from there, the real deal is an MK-ULTRA spinoff called MK-OFTEN. In Congressional testimony, Director Helms claimed that MK-OFTEN was just another name for MK-CHICKWIT, a CIA-Defense Department program for testing “medical procedures” on prisoners at Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia from 1967 to 1973. MK-CHICKWIT, meanwhile, has also been associated with investigations into South American and Asian hallucinogens, tests of tropical disease prevention, or a research program to “identify new drug developments in Europe and Asia and to obtain information and samples.” Several intelligence historians believe that MK-OFTEN primarily researched pharmaceuticals for a wide variety of purposes, maintaining an enormous database of tens of thousands of chemicals and drugs. Congressional testimony indicated that MK-OFTEN experiments tried to “disturb a person’s psyche,” create “violent” or “irrational or irresponsible behavior” or “temporary psychotic states in subjects.” Like MK-ULTRA, MK-OFTEN was supposedly shut down in 1972 or 1973.

But we know better, thanks to pioneering (if that’s the word I want) research by Gordon Thomas, a pop-historian of intelligence. According to Thomas, MK-OFTEN’s task was to “explore the world of black magic” and “harness the forces of darkness and challenge the concept that the inner reaches of the mind are beyond reach.” Thomas posits Gottlieb really living up to his nickname, meeting with astrologers and fortune-tellers, “Chinese palmists,” voodooists, practitioners of Satanism, and who knows what else. (This is about when Army Intelligence officer Michael Aquino joins Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, by the way.) The CIA supposedly even approached the monsignor in charge of exorcisms for the Archdiocese of New York, with unknown results.

A different historian of the MK-ULTRA project, John Marks, claims that MK-OFTEN began in 1968 and not under Gottlieb but one Dr. Stephen Aldrich of the Office of Research and Development (which if true means it should just be Project OFTEN, not MK-OFTEN). He claims OFTEN sought “a compound that could simulate a heart attack or a stroke in the targeted individual,” which sounds like the “zombie cucumber” powder in Haiti to me and perhaps also to Gottlieb or Aldrich or whomever. Aldrich was a veteran of ARTICHOKE, and a medical doctor as well, so it may be a distinction without a difference.

Conspiratologist Alex Constantine starts “OFTEN-CHICKWIT” in 1962, and makes sure to rope in the Scientific Engineering Institute (a Boston think tank that may have developed the film for the U-2 flights) and its 1972 “social laboratory” at the University of South Carolina: “a college class in black witchcraft, demonology and voodoo.” He also identifies Aldrich’s main asset in the magical community: neopagan witch and astrologer Sybil Leek. Miskatonic University, this wasn’t. But that said, OFTEN gets fingered as the hand behind the 1968 “Rockland Project,” an alleged repository of computerized personality tests and psychiatric records from all over New England (especially Vermont, hint hint) operating through a front group called Pyschological Assessment Associates in Washington, D.C.

Finally, scholar of the fringe (and take that how you will) Peter Levenda puts OFTEN in 1969, built by Gottlieb after the CIA black-bagged the lab of Canadian mind-control researcher Ewen Cameron, who if you Google him will take you down an endless rabbit hole leading to Rudolf Hess and the Montauk Project among other things. He also cites the human experimentation from CHICKWIT, basing it “out of Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland” but expanding its purview after 1969 into “everything from séances and witchcraft to remote viewing and exotic drugs,” which gets us to any number of places, all of them exciting.

In the final analysis, then, we don’t know what we know, much less what we don’t know. OFTEN might be the side program for Mythos research run by the CIA outside MAJESTIC’s supervision, or it might be an attempt to build a super-soldier (or a vampire, Night’s Black Agents Directors), or it might be a concealed cult preparing to sporulate into the People’s Temple, the Church of Set, the Process Church of the Final Judgement, and the rest of the poisoned fruit of the 1970s supernatural scene. All your agents know is they have a chance to stop it before it spreads — and that doesn’t happen very often.

“Cosmic Love is absolutely Ruthless and Highly Indifferent.”

— John C. Lilly

There are not enough pages in any rulebook, and especially not enoughlilly_and_dolphin in the Fall of Delta Green chapter that looks like it will have to suffice for both 1960s history and backgrounder and scenario seeds, to tackle even a fraction of the weirdness that the Sixties brought to life or to light. And there probably aren’t even enough pages to do proper justice to the many and manifold weirdnesses of John Cunningham Lilly (1915-2001). But in his pioneering spirit, we’ll shoot up with a whole bunch of ketamine and decide we can do it here anyway.

Lilly was a sort of Midwestern ideal type of the Lovecraftian protagonist: born in St. Paul to wealthy parents, he studied chemistry and philosophy from an early age. His undergraduate career at Caltech (1933-1938) almost exactly overlaps the period of the alchemist-Crowleyite John Whiteside Parsons’ GALCIT rocketry program there, and both were chemistry students. (Lilly and Parsons almost certainly met, Caltech not being that big a world in the Thirties, but what happened — or Happened — during that Trail of Cthulhu time slot has managed to go un-recorded in their various biographies.) He entered Dartmouth medical school in 1938, then transferred to Penn where he continued his Lovecraftian development by conducting various medical experiments on himself and writing a forbidden text: a book (this was 1942) called How To Build an Atomic Bomb. He conducted postgraduate work under pioneering biophysicist (and putative Majestic-12 member) Detlev Bronk and at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), doing research for the Air Force — among other things developing early electro-encephalograms and, in 1954, the first sensory deprivation tank. According to his memoirs, he was approached by the CIA to work on such things as animal-activated surveillance and explosives, and (perhaps) on the MK-ULTRA mind-control project. According to Lilly, he refused, nobly insisting that his work remain open for all. He loudly resigned from NIMH in 1958.

The K-r-r-k-k-k-k-k of Cthulhu

Having boldly proclaimed his independence from government control, Lilly founded the Communication Research Institute Inc. (CRII) on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. CRII was, of course, funded by NASA, the U.S. military, and possibly other shadowy figures. Lilly had become interested in the question of dolphin brains: much like those of humans, cetacean brains are very large in ratio to their bodies and have an even higher density of neurons. Lilly set up dolphin tanks and pools, and began to experiment on dolphins, most notoriously when his dolphin Peter fell for researcher Margaret Lowe Howitt while she tried to teach Peter to speak English. It wasn’t all dolphin grabass in the islands, though: Lilly also dissected and probed the brains of the cetaceans, in between drug experiments (on them and himself) and attempts to decipher dolphin communication by floating next to them in sensory deprivation tanks.

James Wade’s terrific 1969 short story “The Deep Ones” provides a fictionalized Lilly in the form of Miskatonic hippie guru Alonzo Waite, and in the form of his opposite number, dolphin researcher Dr. Frederick Wilhelm. Most impressively, it casts the dolphins as one more intermediary between man and Cthulhu, cousin or evolutionary stage of the Deep Ones. Wade mentions the ancient Greek myth that dolphins were pirates turned into beasts by Dionysos, tying it wonderfully into the deeper Mythos truths of Dagon and human-oceanic interbreeding of the Innsmouth sort. Any Fall of Delta Green Handler has a whole mini-campaign just lying there between Wade’s fictions and the CRII’s madness.

But it doesn’t end there. Wade doesn’t even bring in Lilly’s involvement in SETI, which (likely again via NASA back channels) wound up connecting Lilly and the CRII with astrophysicist Frank Drake, who considered dolphins a template for alien life on Earth. Lilly presented his dolphin theories at the Green Bank astrophysics conference in 1961 where Drake coined his famous equation for the probability of alien life. He was such a hit that Drake, Lilly, a pre-turtleneck Carl Sagan, and biologist J.B.S. Haldane all made up the “Order of the Dolphin” and wore dolphin lapel pins when they were wearing lapels, which wasn’t often in St. Thomas.

Lucy in Sarnath with Diamonds

But Lilly was losing interest in his dolphins for the time being, because his dolphins weren’t receptive to injections of LSD. (Although he later decided dolphins could telepathically project sonar images into his head while he floated in his nearby sensory deprivation tank, he somehow didn’t associate those results with his LSD use.) Despite Lilly’s official rejection of government support, he wound up getting on the approved list of LSD researchers, and began charting his own passage into the “province of the mind” at, among other places, the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC) in Catonsville, Maryland in 1968-1969. The MPRC just happens to be located in the Spring Grove Mental Hospital, founded in 1797, and a major center for research into schizophrenia, with a large collection of human brains. Which means, of course, that we could go in any number of Lovecraftian directions here, from the mental experiments of “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” to the search for the biological boundaries of death in “Herbert West — Re-Animator” to the, well, large collection of human brains in “Whisperer in the Darkness.”

But perhaps it’s most fun to put a probe in all that and head inside instead, to the Dreamlands. The “province of the mind,” visited by special questers during a ritual dream state, sounds very familiar to us Lovecraftians. As Lilly put it: “In the province of the mind what one believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits. These limits are to be found experimentally and experientially. When so found these limits turn out to be further beliefs to be transcended. In the province of the mind there are no limits.”

Lilly mostly wrote up his psychedelic experiments in the context of “reprogramming the human biocomputer” rather than as a way to discover the face of the gods of Earth … assuming there is a difference. What else does Randolph Carter seek, both on Kadath and in the Silver Key, than the human source code, the image of the creators and the geometry of time? Lilly’s own experiences with Gnosticism, at a retreat in the Chilean desert, convinced him that there was a specific ritual control mechanism known to ancient man for opening that “province,” but we should move on before we get trapped in the Witch-House.

The Facts in the K of Arthur Jermyn

Anyone who has seen Ken Russell’s film Altered States knows the next bit of this story. In search of a cure for his migraines, Lilly told his friend Dr. Craig Enright to inject him with ketamine while floating in his isolation tank. After a massive dose did, indeed, end his migraines, Lilly went off the deep end. He and Enright injected each other and recorded the results, even after one time in 1973 when Enright accidentally “reprogrammed himself” to “return to the pre-hominid state of man” and began hopping around the room howling and trying to smack Lilly in the face. Their conclusion sounds like yet another Lovecraftianism, possibly out of HPL’s druggie/Neo-Platonism combo tale “Hypnos”: “One’s internal reality could differ radically from the external reality in which one was participating, even with regard to prominent features of the physical environment.” Parallel worlds, pre-hominids, and K, oh my.

The ECCO Out of Time

In a development surely unrelated to the massive doses of ketamine he was on, in 1974 Lilly made contact with the Earth Coincidence Control Office. This network of higher realities that overlaps ours controls our existence by means of coincidences: Lilly’s entire life became a pattern of ECCO-directed research. (Research, Lilly believed, was merely the decanting of higher truth into our truth by a “universal network of mind.”) During an earthquake in 1971 Lilly had discovered the “Alternaty,” a doorway or window into all futures simultaneously; ECCO has picked the door it wants us to walk through and will suffer no backtalk. Once aware of ECCO, their target must remain ready for the catastrophic and impossible, remain in the “training program” for life, and “use your best intelligence” in its service. This reminds me of nothing so much as the Motion, the Delta Green name for the Yithian agents mentioned in “The Shadow Out of Time,” directing history to produce the Great Race’s ideal conditions for their return.

And just as the Yithians fear and hate the Mi-Go and the Yellow Sign, so too do the ECCO oppose the SSI, who crashed a jet at LAX in 1974 to get Lilly’s attention. SSI are the Solid-State Intelligence rising in all electronics, preparing to eradicate biological water-based intelligence, beginning with the dolphins. (Echoes of a Mi-Go war with the Deep Ones perhaps?) Eventually the SSI, like Wilbur Whateley, plan to “wipe the world clean” and create a low-temperature vacuum, their ideal living conditions. Lilly warned us of the ongoing and escalating ECCO-SSI war in 1981 but surely its, er, echoes reach back two decades to the shadowy forces that gave Lilly access to LSD and (through Bronk and his associate Britton Chance) to the world of early computing. ECCO and SSI, dolphins and pre-hominids, Cthulhu and Carl Sagan: it all flows together in the Mythos cyclone that is the mind and life of John C. Lilly.

 

 

 

 

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