Mucking about in the Shadow of Lovecraft

Over the weekend two librarians and a dilettante journeyed into the wild hills of Massachusetts, seeking clues into a decades old mystery…

Actually I joined Dan Harms and Brian Courtemanche on a tour of select sites in Central Massachusetts. Since we all had previously been to the Salem-Marblehead-Ipswich area, we decided to check out some of the spots that inspired Lovecraft’s fiction, in this case “The Dunwich Horror“. Dan, suspiciously consulting a heavily annotated black tome, directed us along our merry way. Unfortunately we selected one of the coldest days of the year to embark on our jaunt, so we were on a constant look-out for Ithaqua. (Links to Brian and Dan‘s versions of events.)

First up on our itinerary was Worcester’s Bancroft Tower… Dan muttered something about needing a good site to summon Lob (or what that Yug?)-something or other. I should have been suspicious but my excitement over our pending endeavor made me blind to his eldritch scheming.

Next up was the Wilbraham/Hampden/Monson area. We visited several spots – a home where Lovecraft had stayed while visiting the area, a site thick with whippoorwills, and an eerie ravine – in Monson. Tornado damage from a pair of twisters in June of last year was still in evidence in the region, though strange tracks in the mud and the occasional streak of noxious orange ichor belie the official account.

Next we made our way to Hapden, hoping to see Goat Rock, the inspiration for Dunwich’s Sentinel Hill. After a brief stop in the town’s Old Cemetery (Brian insisted he needed “a pinch of graveyard soil for a certain Necromantic Rite, as described by von Juntz” (and I should note it was interesting to see how the oldest stones were all of Connecticut brownstone rather than the slate I’m used to elsewhere in the state) we headed west, looking for a clear place to espy the rumor-haunted peak.

Wisely electing not to ascend the summit, due to both the frigid air and a certain distinct unwholesome quality to the surrounding forest, which seemed almost to reach out and grasp at us when we drew near. Instead we retreated to a local eatery and had a lively discussion as to the state of Lovecraftian gaming.

I note with interest this snippet from the wikipedia entry for Hampden:

“Several factors, however, changed the destiny of the town. The lack of transportation to deliver the materials manufactured is probably the greatest deterrent. When the proposed railroad from Stafford to Springfield failed, quarries and mills were forced to use limited facilities, thereby slowing delivery of goods.

Fires leveled some of the mills and, with the lack of marketing, other businesses failed. The advent of automobiles enabled men to find occupations outside of the town.”

Echoes of Dunwich, perhaps, albeit a different era than that doomed town?

Our next stop was Wilbraham itself. Dan, who showed too much interest in nearby Rattlesnake Mountain, wanted to see two cemeteries there- for academic purposes he insisted. We examined a curious metal marker in Woodland Dell Cemetery and then several antique markers in nearby Adams Cemetery. While he was gleefully mocking the various tragedies recorded on the aged stones, I noticed our companion Mr. Courtemanche had taken this opportunity to converse with a hunched, limping figure, clad in a heavy coat and a hat that obscured his features. He insisted that the stranger was an acquaintance who was helping him procure “rare tomes and other documents long thought lost for his ‘special collection'”. I shudder now to think of him and his ungainly canter as he departed.

Our next stop, some miles distant, was Shutesbury, MA, and some curious stone chambers north of the village. We passed to the west of the Quabbin Reservoir, where four villages were drowned for the sake of a glass of water in Boston. Shutesbury itself, though picturesque, was strangely empty, as if the people themselves were hiding away from whatever horrors we sought there. Our destination were a series of mysterious stone chambers north of town along Mount Mineral Road. I note with some worry that the area is owned by a spirtualist group, who consider the place somewhere where one can “reconnect to nature”. Hmmm…

Perhaps fortunately for our sakes, the roads to the chambers were far too ice-covered for us to continue, and with the hour growing late, we journeyed north, seeking Bear’s Den a waterfall and small cave northwest of New Salem. Some driving about (and a brief looksee at the Hessian Stone) we found the trail to the site. With the help of some friendly locals, we found our way to the ice-covered falls. Despite the distractions of my companions who seemed intent on finding some heretofore unknown entrance “to the Voorish chambers named by the Arab”, I was struck by the beauty of the site.

Sunset was almost upon us, so we decided to conclude our expedition, after a quick visit to an especially antique cemetery in Lancaster. As the darknesses shrouded us and stretched out shadows (and fearful of my companion’s intentions after some of their stranger activities…) I conceived of a desperate ploy and distracted them from their occult machinations with a game of Arkham Horror, loaned from the collection of a mysterious recluse in my area. We battled against Yig and, thanks to my two companion’s unique knowledge of that Great Old One, we were triumphant.