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Sunday, 11 February 2018

Empty Streets

Ever since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the coastal town of Safehaven, New Jersey has had a sizeable number of homeless people. This situation became especially aggravated in the Reagan years, to the point where the traditionally liberal populace of Safehaven showed signs of animosity towards the homeless. A few beatings were reported, and local aid was drastically reduced. Despite all this, the homeless remained.

Now, they are gone.

Overnight, every last hobo, drifter, and bag-lady vanished without a trace. At first, no one seemed to notice. Then a social worker voiced concern. The mayor conjectured the homeless had moved to Pennsylvania with its higher welfare benefits. The police chief argued they had probably moved to warmer climates. Most people were relieved; the streets were so much cleaner, nicer, and safer now. The streets were empty.

Possibilities

1 After the disaster in Innsmouth, the Deep Ones of the Atlantic seaboard scattered. They found fertile new breeding grounds in those impoverished by the Great Depression. They did not have to worry about another government attack: nobody cared. They have been replenishing their numbers for 60 years.

But now, they have called all their kin to a reef off the coast of New Jersey, for the stars are right, and Dagon awaits.

2 Zaka’rn, a man of Leng and a sorcerer, has opened a physical gate between the Dreamlands and the waking world. He has given a special potion (via the soup kitchens) to the homeless of Safehaven, and has led them sleepwalking to the gate, which is located in the side of a cliff on Safehaven beach. In the Dreamlands, he intends to sell the homeless to his masters, the Moonbeasts, who savour the taste of living flesh. His reward will be great.

3 A secret government weapons and pharmaceuticals research laboratory is at work near Safehaven. With the help of the mayor and the police chief, they have captured the homeless to conduct terrible experiments on them. Everybody is happy: the scientists can progress, the police chief’s work is now much easier, and the mayor’s chances for re-election are excellent.

© Markus Huenemoerder

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Puzzle Boxes

In a left luggage locker at a local mainline station there is a large carpet bag containing 19 intricately carved and extremely devious puzzle boxes...

The key to the locker is found on the body of Dr Allen McNair. Dr McNair is found dead at his desk in his surgery, with the twentieth puzzle box open in his hands.  McNair’s body is in a state of some discomposure and the expression on his rotting face can only be described as one of surprise and fear.

There is considerable debate as to how long McNair has been dead; the state of his body suggests some considerable time, but many patients swear they were treated by him during surgery only yesterday.

Possibilities

1 McNair has been killed by a violent and extremely virulent fungal infection, the spores of the fungus were released directly into his face as he successfully opened the ancient puzzle box. He purchased the boxes whilst on vacation in India from a lone street trader, believing they would make good presents for friends and colleagues.

Unfortunately, the street trader was a servant of darkness and has laced the puzzle boxes with a toxic fungus. The fungus is now starting to spread, infecting all who have come into contact with McNair’s body.

2 McNair was the unwitting victim of a bacterial agent released from within the puzzle box. The boxes were being used by an old friend of McNair’s, Alaistair Mickleson who was using the boxes to smuggle the bacterial agent (a weapon developed by an unscrupulous bio technology company).

Mickleson had asked McNair to place the bag in the luggage locker for him fearing he was being followed, he never dreamed that McNair would open a box.

3 The puzzle boxes were purchased by McNair on a recent trip to New Orleans. The seller had no idea what they contained and had never managed to open one, but knew they were connected to the local Voodoo culture.

McNair is dead, but the powerful magics in the puzzle boxes mean that in two days time he will rise from the dead, a zombie hungry for sustenance!

© Derek Mayne

The Grainger Street Plates

A carved doorway on Grainger Street is quite unlike any other. It has a carved column on one side while the other door frame is now part of next-door. Above the door are two mirrors, too high to be of any use. The door is held firmly shut by a large brass latch and padlock; the original door lock is exposed where someone has forced off the wood covering it.

On the door frame are four brass plaques. Two are for companies: a shipping company and an accountancy firm. The third and fourth are strange indeed. On the third plaque is the inscription: Bonny looked at the box on top of the refrigerator. Inside it was a ham. As Bonny’s hand touched it, they began to fuse to form a whole new organ.

The fourth plaque states: Bonny’s hand, Bonny’s organ, Bonny’s dead. Who cares?

Possibilities

1 Behind the doorway, a set of steps leads up to another door. It is carved like the outer one and also has mirrors at the top, but these show the reflection of something. If inspected closely, different faces can be seen in the mirrors, but no reflections.

This door is unlocked. Behind it is a long corridor, stretching much farther than should be possible. The corridor is lined with statues of men and women, all missing one hand. Each is faceless. At the end of the corridor there are empty plinths and a large refrigerator. On top of it is a box and inside there is a ham.

The statues are people who have been lured inside. Their images are trapped in the mirrors and they become statues if the touch the ham.

2 On maps of the Grainger Market, the doorway does not exist. Should they break in, a staircase behind the door leads up into darkness and ends in a blank wall.

The original owner of the market, Anthony Philips, had the rooms sealed off and erased from the plans. A little digging will reveal that there were strange stories about the mysterious disappearance of Anthony’s secretary and eldest daughter.

Anthony Philips was a dabbler in the occult and had learned much whilst in India as a tea merchant. Once home having made his fortune, he continued to search out bizarre books and happenings. His daughter became interested, as did his secretary (his wife was a devout catholic and became alienated from her husband over the matter). The two women agreed to be part of a ritual, but things went wrong. Both daughter and secretary became possessed by some fiendish power and ripped each other to pieces. Philips barely escaped with his life, and sealed everything up himself to hide the awful truth.

Whatever possessed the two women is still trapped behind the brick wall. It cannot escape because the brass plaques are inscribed with powerful wards. The responsibility for maintaining the wards is passed down through the family, generation by generation.

If the investigators check the two plates carefully, they see that one is newer than the other. The first plate was stolen a few years ago, and had to be replaced. The current guardian is another Anthony Philips and he added the reference to a refrigerator (the original mentioned a chest) to include himself in the family legend.

Should the plaques be removed, then the creature will be able to escape its prison and will look for the man who summoned it into the world – Anthony Philips. It does not care that the original Anthony is dead.

3 A local poet is currently having very strange dreams. He is inspired to write bizarre pieces, have them inscribed on brass plaques and put up at various sites around the town. After a week he takes them down and puts them in a new location.

The muse strikes erratically and new plaques appear now and again. The poet is technically insane, but thinks of himself as a tortured genius and of these poems as his greatest work, guaranteeing his immortality.

© Lynne Wilson

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Cassandra

A psychic research institute is currently investigating a local phenomenon. After a near death experience, Cassandra Wilson, an art student who talks in her sleep, seems to be able to predict the future. However, none of her predictions are remotely happy, and most have to do with people she knows dying. Needless to say, this knowledge is not pleasant, and has resulted in Cassandra seeking psychiatric help. Her psychiatrist, Alexander Marcus, is a firm believer in her psychic abilities, which doesn’t really help her all that much.

Lately, Cassandra has predicted several events of disaster proportions, and she doesn’t know what to do or how to alter the future.

Possibilities

1 Cassandra is not psychic. She is merely a young woman who tends to have nightmares and talk in her sleep. However, Dr. Marcus is profoundly disturbed himself, and the strength of his beliefs in the paranormal will not allow him to consider the possibility that Cassandra is normal. Therefore, he has been making her “predictions” come true.

Investigation will show that every single event that Cassandra has successfully predicted can be accomplished by one person, and that only the predictions that Dr. Marcus have heard come true. He is currently planning a way to make the first of her disaster predictions come true. He will not look favourably on anyone who tries to prevent it or anyone who seems like that might be trying to prove that Cassandra isn’t the real deal. He is also extremely violent when angry.

2 Cassandra is a precognitive. She was always a latent psychic, but almost being killed made her abilities active. If she ever comes to terms with this, her predictions would prove most helpful. It is possible to alter the futures she sees, but it will be difficult and complicated.

3 Cassandra is the subject of a Yithian’s experiment. The Yithian found a way to fragment a human’s consciousness across the time stream. It transposed parts of Cassandra’s consciousness from the future and the present. The nightmares that she has are the memories of her future-self surfacing in her sleep.

As time goes on, it will be noticed that in addition to her visions of the future, she has periods when she can’t remember anything that happened recently. If left alone, the Yithian will eventually become bored with the experiment and abandon it. Cassandra’s precognitive abilities will then start to fade as time catches up to her.

© Megan McKnight

Small Things Forgotten

Following the death of his two children about 30 years ago, and his wife to pneumonia about five years ago, Hiram Dretts has lead a quiet, solitary existence deep in the hills, working his farm. He is well known and liked by the folk of the nearby town, and is known for a sharp mind.

Hiram’s farm does not have the modern conveniences of electricity or gas, but does have a coal burning furnace. While stoking the furnace one evening, a lump of coal broke apart to reveal an object: a worked triangular piece of green stone. The two long sides measured approximately two inches long, and the piece was about a quarter of an inch thick. The base of the triangle was unfinished and appeared to have broken off from a larger piece. Strange marks were along the two finished edges, giving the impression of some kind of writing or symbols.

Hiram has never had a formal education beyond the third grade, but he knew that what he found was very old. Hiram placed it on his mantle with the intention of sending it to a museum next time he was in town.

Possibilities

1 The fragment is a piece of an elder sign used by serpent people in the late Carboniferous period. The whole elder sign had been originally used to seal a gate but has been destroyed and fragmented for over 275 million years. The gate is no longer active, but if the serpent people learn of the fragment, they may make attempts to recover it and discover if more fragments exist.

2 The fragment belonged to a powerful serpent people sorcerer priest called Tthast-smmun. The fragment contains part of Tthast-smmun’s essence, and as the days progress, the sorcerer begins to take possession of Hiram. Hiram begins experiencing dreams of the long past times of the serpent people’s glory, and his sanity begins to crumble. Over a few weeks, Hirem starts worshipping Yig.

Through rituals taught via dream, Hiram begins a physical transformation into a serpent people-hybrid. Tthast-smmun plans to inhabit Hiram’s body as soon as he is completed. Hiram will be no more.

3 The fragment originally comes from an elder Sign used by the Great Race of Yith to trap and contain a flying polyp. The seals holding the polyp have been destroyed over time, but the polyp has long since been trapped in a pocket in the rock. It is only a matter of time before miners discover more of the fragments, then the pocket itself . . .

© Bill Dietze

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Automaton

A friend of the investigators, Stuart Blatherly, is intrigued by an automaton chess player. The automaton, displayed by a Professor Wurtzel, is based on Kemplen’s 1769 device, and Blatherly is determined to discover how it works. However, despite several trials Blatherly can’t figure it out. Things take a turn for the worse when Blatherly is murdered. His body is so badly mangled that it is almost impossible to identify.

Possibilities

1 Blatherly was murdered by the automaton’s operator. Hidden inside the automaton’s base is a man, who runs the machine. This chess player is poor and desperate. He thinks that Blatherly is about to expose the automaton’s workings. If that happens, then the operator is out of a job. Professor Wurtzel doesn’t know that his chess player is a murderer, but he suspects.

2 Blatherly was murdered by Professor Wurtzel. Wurtzel is a no-talent stage magician who discovered that Mythos magic works very well. Wurtzel has found a way to bind the wraiths of dead men into objects, like the automaton, and make them do his bidding. The chess player was his first success, but he has other automata that he wants to display. Blatherly has been sacrificed to make one of Wurtzel’s machines work. Soon, Wurtzel hopes, he will have a whole range of performing machines.

3 Blatherly isn’t dead. Blatherly is a near-insane Mythos hunter, who wants a book that the investigators have. Blatherly intends to distract the investigators by getting them to investigate the red-herring chess player. The corpse is that of the automaton’s operator, and Blatherly now works the machine. Professor Wurtzel is kept under control by spells. When Blatherly thinks the investigators are off-guard, he will strike.

© Adam Gauntlett

Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Wall of Bones

Unique in England, the carefully-stacked wall of bones, almost 7ft high by 5ft wide, divides the cavernous crypt into two aisles, stretching into the gloom. To either side, shelves full of human skulls cram the walls from floor to vaulted roof. Records of the crypt can be traced back for centuries, but there is some confusion over the origin of its contents. Some say that the bones came from the numerous battlefields around the area, others are of the opinion that the bones were exhumed from a plague-pit.

The guardian of the crypt is an elderly monk; he is slightly hunched and slow in his mannerisms, his face hidden by a heavy cowled robe. He rarely speaks but instead nods and points to items of interest. The public who pay to see the bones think it`s all part of the act. Indeed, his eccentricity adds to the popularity of the crypt as a gruesome tourist attraction. There is an elaborately carved chair near the bones - for a small fee people are allowed to sit in the chair and pose for their holiday photos.

Possibilities

1 An eroded, easily missed sigil carved on the keystone of the arched entrance may be recognised as a representation of Anubis, Egyptian protector of the dead. In the shadows at the back of the crypt there is a door bearing the same sigil. It leads into one of the oldest ghoul colonies in England, established beneath a barrow built when the Phoenicians first reached England's South coast. The guardian is a changeling, appointed to watch over the gateway. The wall of bones has been slowly growing over the years and all cemeteries within a day's march have been robbed of bodies. Tourists are a minor disadvantage of such a palatial entrance-hall.

2 During a group tour of the crypt, the guardian shows unusual interest in one of the visitors, although he still hides his face and does not speak. He eventually backs off, and they leave no wiser. Over the next few days, the visitor becomes the focus of poltergeist activity - subtle at first, but with increasing intensity. During this time the guardian may be seen in the vicinity - but disappears if anyone approaches him.

The bones were recovered from a mass grave for Medieval plague victims. In the 17th century the bones were moved from the plague-pit to the crypt. However, the souls of the dead, angry at their inhuman treatment after death, have manifested as the guardian to point out their fate to the living. The guardian's interest arises because the visitor was wearing an item of jewellery, a family heirloom that the guardian recognises.

3 The bones are from a Medieval plague pit. However, the 18th century chair is something far more sinister. A few people who take the seat are later dogged by nightmares and hallucinations. They believe that they have the plague, and are covered with open sores and boils that drive them to distraction. Eventually, the hallucinations draw them back to the crypt where they disappear.

The guardian is a soul-eater, draining the souls of people who sit in his chair. He projects images of the plague drawn from the bones to drag his victims back to the crypt. He must strap his victims into the chair overnight to feed properly, which he does once each lunar month. Those who succumb are never found - the soul-eater sucks them dry and places their bones with the rest.

Inspired by the crypt of St. Leonard's Church, Hythe, Kent

© Helen Rich