Occult Occurrences

A Trip to Portsmouth

Gene delicately turned the flame-scarred pages of the journal from Brockford’s house. Alton Damascus stood beside him, his brow wrinkled in thought as he saw the word “Portsmouth” repeating in the scrawl. Most interesting was the strange symbol drawn throughout the shoddy paragraphs, a triangular shape with an eye in the center. It was no mark of a typical vagabond, perhaps one of a madman, but it clearly held some significance in relevance to the author’s travels.

Maybe this journal could be a key piece in unmasking more of the seacoast’s lost lore? In a joint effort between the history and language departments, Miskatonic University had recently called for a dedicated few to embark on a special research assignment. The focus was developing a further understanding on the role local lore and superstition played in shaping the New England seaside communities. It was conceived as a landmark study that could very well overturn the notion that most of the colonial settlements adhered to strict European religious dogma. The project would be led by Alexander Biss, published author and associate professor at Miskatonic. Professor Biss, whom Gene, Eleanor, and Alton were already familiar with, insisted there was little time to waste in following this new lead, and recruited the small group to head to the railroad station.

January 14, 1920

Stepping off the train, the smell of the ocean carried Gene’s thoughts back to the Maine coastline he had visited just days before. He and Eleanor were still rattled from their harrowing experience on that isolated island, so he hoped being back out in the fresh air with populated new scenery would help put their minds at ease.

Professor Biss led the group to the hotel, where they left their luggage and planned a course of action. The public library would be the first stop, but produced only a limited opportunity to learn more about the city. After speaking with the librarian, the group decided to check out the Athenaeum, proud home of the Portsmouth Historical Society.

They would quickly discover the hallowed halls of the Athenaeum were welcome only to members of the society. Determined to make something of the visit, Biss inquired if any of his published material was kept in the library, and they were ushered into a lavish reading room. Alton listened intently to the gossip in the hallway while the professor examined a newspaper, the New Hampshire Gazette. Gene, looking to keep their options open for later, attempted to disable the locking mechanism on the room’s window.

It was only a few moments later the group was asked to leave. They decided what Alton had overheard, about an Athenaeum member recently caught up in a prostitution sting, was enough to warrant further investigation into the society. Back outside, they obtain lunch from a street cart before splitting up to explore the city.

Alton and Eleanor would return to the public library, seeing if they could dig up anything related to the Historical Society. It seemed somewhat strange there was next to nothing written in the collection of books, save a mere reference in an essay on a violent time in the city’s recent past. Alton read about the end of Portsmouth’s infamous red light district; a tale of working girls, murdered navy sailors, corrupt officials, and public outcry for reform in August of 1912. Interestingly enough, it seemed the Athenaeum funded their own investigation into the deaths of the sailors during that summer, but the book made no further mention of what, if anything came from it – though noted was the fact that the society would lose a major donor that year and its operating budget was severely impacted.

Alexander took a walk to the headquarters of The New Hampshire Gazette. There was only one man working in the smoky front office, who the professor would learn was the editor Arty Wilmont. There was something unusual in the way the man fiddled at his desk, but it was hard to tell what seemed off. Biss was seeking a chance to read anything the paper may have printed about the historical society’s Athenaeum, and was surprised to hear that in the past the editor thinks some of its members attempted to have certain stories suppressed. The professor tried to gain some rapport in an effort to access the newspaper’s archives, ultimately having to bribe the man before being allowed into the basement storage area. In the musty cellar he would dig through years of clippings looking for unpublished material. To his dismay, hours passed and he would only find one seemingly unrelated article that never made the front page, a half-written story about a supposedly haunted house that ruined the multiple immigrant families who moved in over the years.

Gene mingled in the Market Square hoping someone could point him in the direction of some social hot spots. It didn’t take long to learn many of the unsavory activities occurred at the waterfront, so Gene went to explore the harbor. Near the docks he came across a weathered building labeled “The Sal_on,” where a gruff looking “barber” denied him the chance to have a “haircut” in the back room. Admittedly he was looking more for information than a stiff drink, so recalling a mention of a certain Water Street, he headed back into the neighborhoods.

Although the signage advertised legitimate looking storefronts, Gene got a certain kind of vibe from this area, which was not so long ago a part of the red light district. He wandered into a very fancy parlor of what was now supposed to be a boarding home. The aging woman who descended the stairs regretted to inform him there were no vacancies available, but perhaps one of the girls wouldn’t mind letting him stay over a little while. He took an opportunity to “just ask a couple questions” with one of the young women. Here he confirmed that some members of the Portsmouth Historical Society took advantage of the services in this area, but he was unable to press for more information. Asking a little more about the surroundings, he did learn at one point the working girls could receive care at a small church that burned down 8 years ago. New girls would also be warned to stay away from one place in particular – the house of “old man Corbitt,” which apparently had a reputation for being haunted. Although the prostitute appreciated that Gene didn’t want to just have a cry like some of her other clientele, he was dismissed from the parlor.

The day was growing late, and the companions had agreed to meet back at the hotel for dinner. There they share with each other some of the interesting bits of information they learned about Portsmouth. They conclude there is much more to this city than meets the eye, and they are determined to get to the bottom of the Historical Society’s seemingly mysterious dealings.

With the cover of darkness approaching, Professor Biss rationalizes breaking into the New Hampshire Gazette office, in the name of studious research. Mostly though, he’s very curious about what the editor has stashed in his desk. He can’t help but be disappointed to find nothing more than empty bottles and flasks – appears the editor just has a drinking problem.

Having set the precedent, there was no reason to rule out a return to the Athenaeum after regular business hours. Careful to ensure they were not being watched, the group made their way to the side of the building. With some combined effort, they were actually able to force open the window Gene had tampered with during their earlier visit. Quietly they slipped inside the darkened halls, and began to pry into the depths of the society’s secrets…

Week of January 11th: Planning Phase
Players must decide the next course of action...

We left off with Gene, Eleanor, and Rosie having returned to the mainland after a weekend at the Brockford House.

This group of Player Characters (PCs) are currently in Maine on the afternoon of Sunday, January 11th.

It is assumed if they do not choose to linger for very long, there will be no issue returning to Arkham to attend classes at Miskatonic University on Monday.

Players are encouraged to plan out their next actions in the “Comments” section below. This could be some thoughts written in-character, a working concept of what the PC would be doing next, or a declaration of what activities a PC is engaging in for the immediate future.

Whatever is written will help shape the course of events that play out over the following in-game week.

Weekend at the Brockford House (Session 2)

January 10th, 1920

The group stood outside the cave, debating what to do next. The sunlight shining through the entrance indicated a person could fit inside, and that the tunnel lead deeper under the island.

Gene was feeling particularly brave. Lantern in hand, he took some cautious steps forward into the dark unknown. Reluctantly, Rosie and Eleanor began to follow him. Although the path was narrow and slippery at first, it became apparent the tunnel would widen into a cavern. The only problem with continuing into the depths would be to lose sight of the way they came…

Carefully minding his footing, Gene proceeded over the exposed sheet of bedrock. With a stroke of luck he stopped just short of a hole looming ahead of him. Intrigued, he slowly shed light on the inky blackness below, to notice it seemed to be more of a gradual slope down. That, and the fact that there was an indistinct, shadowy shape lurking not far beyond.

Suddenly, a heavy, guttural croak emanated from the hole. It either echoed off the walls of the cavern, or worse, it was answered by something else!

Everyone was rattled by the unfamiliar and foreboding sounds in the darkness, and Eleanor and Rosie needed no signal from Gene to hastily turn back the way they came. What the hell was that? More importantly- would it follow?

They emerged from the cave and sprinted towards the house. Unimpeded, they hustled inside and locked the front door. Perhaps there was something sinister on this island after all!

With time passing uneventfully they seemed convinced they hadn’t been followed, and the group tried to regain their composure and get a further grasp on their surroundings:

Eleanor prepared a meal, to keep up their strength.

Rosie read more of the burned journals, now becoming increasingly concerned for the group’s safety as the horrors described on the tattered pages twisted her imagination.

Gene manages to convince the others to take a look in the basement. After all, they should examine the house in its entirety to verify the nature of this “haunting.” And knowing they still had to spend another night there, they all hoped whatever they may have encountered underground wasn’t sleeping right beneath them.

The cramped dirt cellar seemed unremarkable at first. There were some boxes filled with linens, clothes, and other fabrics, perhaps from the home’s previous owner. There was a collection of glass bottles, and some spare kerosene on a rusted old shelf. With her curiosity satisfied, Rosie moved to head back upstairs, when she detected a trap door under a thin layer of dirt!

She lifted it, only to realize she damaged the latch in the process. Gene would eventually repair it after descending the small ladder to explore the hidden sub-basement below. The friends were disturbed to learn this hidden area contained a make-shift stone altar and a large, crudely-carved stone that roughly resembled a huge fish emerging from water. With the day growing more surreal by the hour, they hurried back upstairs, and pushed a bed in front of the door to the basement.

Determined to figure out what exactly was going on, Gene was able to pick the lock on the door upstairs. The room appears to be undergoing renovations, with the furniture covered, a wall ripped up, and some carpentry tools scattered about. Upon closer inspection, something is seriously wrong:

Eleanor opens a desk drawer to discover a handful of human teeth roll towards her!

Stashed away in an armoire, Rosie finds chains and shackles, along with bent metal spikes. Taking into consideration the damage in the wall, she concludes someone could have once been held captive here.

Gene opens some more drawers to find multiple different-sized pieces of female clothing, most with traces of blood.

At this point there is no ignoring the grim reality that has set in on the three friends- something bad has happened on this island, and they are trapped here until tomorrow afternoon.

Gene goes down the hall to acquire the shotgun. Turns out Rosie had pocketed some ammunition earlier.

The hour is growing late, and they decide to hole up in the study, each taking a shift to stay alert while the others sleep.

January 11th, 1920

Now well past midnight, Rosie succumbs to heavy eye lids. She slips into a brief nightmare, where she witnesses the night sky swallowed whole by an unnatural darkness. A pale but full moon pierces the veil, only to partially reveal a seemingly endless swarm of shadowy humanoid figures, turned to the sky in worship. Rosie snaps awake in a cold sweat.

There is a faint sound in the distance.

Rosie perks up. The sound is real. It’s getting louder. Panic sets in as she quickly wakes Eleanor and Gene. They hear it too.

What is that noise? There is a low, deep and rhythmic tone now radiating though the house. Is it… chanting? Suddenly, there is more noise, different and more pronounced. Movement, from underneath them!

There’s a loud thud. Something’s trying to get through the basement door! The friends glance at each other in hesitation. Gene’s knuckles turn white as his grip on the gun tightens; for a moment he considers confronting whatever is coming through the door, but with a shout to his companions he decides to escape the house.

The group flees in fear of whatever has come up to find them. They run further into the island, where the trees get very dense and the house can no longer be seen.

Gene, Eleanor, and Rosie spend hours in the woods, huddled together on high alert. Their minds race with the possibilities of what is out to get them. Rosie, having read into some local lore and legends of the old fishing communities, believes the malevolent entities would likely disperse by the light of day.

Dawn approaches and the group creeps back towards the house. With no apparent activity going on inside, Gene leads the return into Brockford’s estate, ready to open fire on whatever may lurk within.

The house had been ransacked; something or someone made a mess searching for inhabitants. At least one, but probably more, two-legged beings had emerged from the basement. The most telling sign were the slimy tracks of footprints, so wide as to be webbed, appearing in and out of the rooms.

Gene, in a test of courage, followed the prints through the house and into the basement. On the ladder down the trap door, he collected a sample of the sticky substance before carefully descending below. Gene is shocked to discover the make-shift altar had been cast aside to reveal a hole into a dark abyss. Fearing the consequences of lingering any longer, they all leave the basement.

Fortunately for the group, it was almost time for Reggie to pick them back up. They decided to spend the last of the morning waiting out on the jetty. Soon after the boat does arrive, and they safely return to the mainland. While the drunken fisherman doesn’t seem interested in their tale, the trio is shaken by their experience and debate what to do next…

Weekend at the Brockford House
Three friends embark on a weekend getaway...

A smirk crept over Gene Bowman’s face as he envisioned his plan coming to fruition. It looked as though he had just found an ideal location to host his ultimate party on the eve of Prohibition. A weekend bash with some of his finest peers from Miskatonic University, to be held on a private island off the coast of Maine.

It was a simple arrangement, or so he thought. A family acquaintance, the wealthy venture capitalist Mr. Joyce Brockford, had recently come into some exceptional vacation property. The only problem, according to the seemingly astute yet superstitious old man, was that the house was rumored to be haunted by some terror in the night. Though light on the details, Gene struck a deal to use this place to host his soiree, if he was able to put Mr. Brockford’s mind at ease regarding supernatural activity.

With the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act soon to warp America’s social scene, Gene quickly prepared for an initial visit to Brockford’s new estate.

January 9th, 1920

Along with his Miskatonic University friends Eleanor Beacon and Rosie MacIntyre, Gene took a train from Arkham into Maine, where he followed Brockford’s instructions to meet up with a man, Reginald “Reggie” Harny, who would ferry them across the water. A small selection of gear and provisions in tow, the gang set off for the island without delay. Rosie, a young photographer excited for the ample opportunity to use her new camera, clung tightly to her possessions as the small wooden boat briefly traversed the cold and unforgiving waves of the Atlantic.

Following a slippery arrival onto the rocky jetty, Gene requested Reggie return to pick them up on Sunday afternoon. The group then approached the house with caution and began to slowly explore the interior of the residence. After becoming accustomed to the layout of the ground floor and the rooms upstairs, they were ready to settle down for a relaxing weekend far from the bustle of city life. This remote location lacked some modern amenities, but it was a quaint setting for an intoxicating getaway.

Only there were a few peculiar aspects the three friends couldn’t help but consider…

Among the variety of books available in the finely furnished study, Rosie was first drawn to the work of classic playwrights. But with a discerning eye she soon discovered a few burned journals, badly damaged, that had been carefully tucked away. Upon initial examination it was clear these would prove to be more interesting than any of the other literature on the shelves.

Upstairs, Gene couldn’t resist tampering with the one locked door, to no avail. Brockford had mentioned the house needed a little work, but the renovations should be completed before the party. Was it really necessary to close off one of the rooms?

Beside some bedrooms on the second floor was a game room of sorts, filled with parlor entertainment and hunting trophies. A shotgun hung over the mantle. Gene felt there was something strange about the deer head on display, going so far as to pry the glass eyes out of it, but couldn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.

Yet there was one place in the house the group dared not look: the depths of the basement. For having such an inquisitive nature, these Miskatonic intellectuals sure were easily spooked- as the night of drinking winded down, they would find rest boarded up together in the master bedroom.

January 10th, 1920

It was a late start to the morning, but sleeping off a hangover seemed like a reasonable course of action for a Saturday. The weather was mild for winter, and the friends took this opportunity to explore the small island.

Not much more than a mile between shores, the island featured a rocky outcropping that eased into a densely-wooded center, with the house along the southern edge. A leisurely hike to survey the territory came to an end when the group found a narrow path leading to the mouth of a small cave…

Weekend at the Brockford House (Session 2)

Occult Occurrences

Roleplaying in Lovecraft’s 1920s New England using Call of Cthulhu 3rd/7th edition rules

Hello everyone,

I have set up our game on obsidianportal.com so that all of the available information is easily accessible for myself and the players alike. I want to use this site to supplement our in-person sessions, at the very least for handling pre-adventure preparation and session recaps. You can also describe what you’d like your characters to do during in-game downtime and other events and I will write how it all plays out.

Please take some time to develop a page for your character. You are welcome to fill out the digital character sheet (6th edition is fine), but Description and Bio are important enough for now.

The site works similar to wikipedia, so use the sidebar (top menu on mobile) to navigate to different areas and click on colored wording to follow a link to the referenced page.

Looking forward to playing both online and off!

- Nate


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