While I know I promised more musing on my rpg influcences, I had a looksee at my bookshelf and noticed a certian book that truly shaped the way I approach scenario writing:
Judging by the date of publication I must have purchased this book in 1982 or ’83 (my copy appears to be the 6th edition).
According to the back cover…
Ghosts can appear any place, and in many forms. This book will help you be ready – in case you come across one!
*See the kinds of places where ghosts gather!
* Learn how to hunt for ghosts in your neighborhood!
*Find out how to spot a fake!
You’ll amaze your friends – and terrify yourself – but you’ll know everything there is to know about demons and spirits from the world beyond.”
While it wasn’t my first foray into the spooky realm (which was probably either “In Search Of…” or Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow), this book cemented two tendancies I have retained in my interest in Call of Cthulhu – skeptical investigation and what I call the “oooooooh” factor, that tingle-inducing moment where fear gives your rational mind a beating. The former is easy (hey, this kid’s book claims to be the authorative treatment of “demons and spirits from the world beyond”) but the latter… now that is hard (but fun!).
Here is a partial list of occult or otherwise creepy phenomena I first remember reading of in this book:
Gibbets, poltergeists, lemures, Reverend Richard Dodge, the Great Eastern, UB-65, Black Shuck, Gef the talking mongoose, screaming skulls, the village of Pluckley, the eating ghosts of the Banks Islands, Yurei, scientific ghost hunting techniques (Ghost Hunters et al might learn something, sadly), the Brocken Spectres, spirit mediums (and their fakery), telepathy, the Raynam Hall ghost, Doppelgangers (not the AD&D kind), and Will-o-whisps. (Was some of this stuff bogus? Of course, but does that matter for a fictional game?)
Combine that with some rather nice color illustrations, and I was hooked.
Next time: more AD&D, I swear.