Using Local Myths and Legends

Having already touched on making use of local history, I wanted to talk a bit about using local (or at least regional) myths and legends in crafting Call of Cthulhu Scenarios.

The easiest (but I caution not the only) place to look is online.  A couple well-worded internet searches go a long way towards setting you on a path of further research.   Please don’t imagine that everything of interest can be found online, especially when it comes to the realm of local history and legend.  I also notice that often you’ll see a story repeated (sometimes verbatim) from one site to another.  Ah internet plagiarism.

It is better to, once you have an idea of where you are looking, to hit the old library (either public or personal) and find some dead tree fuel for your imaginative fires.

For example- based on Lovecraft’s description of Aylesbury’s location, I settled on a cluster of towns in north central Massachusetts as useful proxies for Aylesbury itself.  They all were mid-sized industrial towns with a population floating around 20,000 in 1920; this included Gardner, Fitchburg, and Leominster.  With those proxies in mind, I took to the library

There I found several books of interest- an collection of tales from the region (anecdotal history, collecting unusual or interesting events), a history of the Swift River valley (which was flooded to form the Quabbin Reservoir– not quite right but with some interesting tall tales), and a children’s book of Wampanoag myths.  I found tales of witchcraft (well, unpopular old ladies, spoiled milk, and questionable illnesses), spirits, curses, lost treasures, and all manner of oddness.

The purpose of this is two-fold; the first is generate inspiration for your writing and the second is to strengthen your foundation of knowledge, as the better you know your real-world inspiration the richer you will understand your fictional version.  The plus for fiction and gaming authors is, of course, that we can pick and chose what we include and are free to twist reality to fit our narrative.

Not all of these bore fruit of course, at least not immediately.  For example, in my reading I noticed that Mount Wachusett, the highest point in MA east of the Connecticut River, once had a hotel at the top, one destroyed in a fire… This didn’t fit for Aylesbury, either by location or the themes that Dan was seeking to expand upon.  I filed that away for future reference.  😉

I did come across an account of a late 18th century forger and con-artist who claimed to have found a method by which he could turn a barrel full of coins into three barrels of coins… now that was inspiration for my scenario for the Aylesbury book- “Shadow Alchemy”.  But more on that later.