John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

Things That Go Bump In the Night (Part One)

Saturday night, as a combination fill-in game and Halloween event, I ran the first session of a Call of Cthulhu adventure. hantamouse couldn't make it, but laurie_robey, jamesbarrett, and sirfox were on hand; I handed out pregenerated investigators and ran "The Haunting," the CoC rulebook's sample adventure for every edition since the first, downloadable from the Chaosium website.

The basic premise is that in 1925, a Boston lawyer by the name of Arthur Pickman (a junior partner in the law firm of Hermitage, Pickman, and Lovejoy) has been tasked with selling off a local property ("the Corbitt House") as part of settling an estate, but the house has such a reputation for being "haunted" that it won't sell. So he brings in various investigative experts for the weekend with the task of "de-ghosting" the house so he can put the stories to rest.

Naturally, this being Call of Cthulhu, it doesn't turn out that way.

sirfox played Pickman; jamesbarrett played Sherman Bath, a local pulp horror writer and occult expert; laurie_robey played Dr. Erica Jurgens, one of three women in New England to be a licensed psychologist. (The other two pregenerated characters, an Arkham University professor and a private eye respectively, didn't get chosen, but they may make an appearance yet. More on that later!)

The scenario began, as so many CoC scenarios do, with researching the history of the case. The group started at the library and found that the house had a history of tenants becoming ill or going insane; Dr. Jurgens, with a Know roll of 99%, was familiar with the most recent case, the Macario family, who lived in the house a year before the father went completely insane and attacked the rest of the family with a knife — which in turn drove the mother insane and ended up with both parents in an asylum and the children shipped off to relatives in Baltimore. Theories included contaminants in the paint or plumbing, some kind of mass hysteria, etc., but nothing definitive was found and the case has never been adequately solved.

They then split up, with Sherman (the writer) headed to the county Hall of Records to research the history of the property while Pickman and Dr. Jurgens went out to Roxbury Sanatorium to interview the Macario parents. The Hall of Records tied the house, and specifically early owner Walter Corbitt (giving the house its name) to an obscure sect called "Chapel of Contemplation & Church of Our Lord Granter of Secrets" — and suggested that Corbitt had been buried in his basement. It was also revealed that the Chapel of Contemplation had closed rather suddenly in 1912.

The Macario interview revealed much; Vittorio (the father) was incoherent and had little to say other than references to a "dark man waiting by the gate." Gabriela (the mother) was calmer and could hold a sustained conversation, and told the investigators about their experiences in the house. She spoke of a creature, like a man but "wrong," that would occasionally appear standing over them in the middle of the night; she also explained that the presence in the house didn't always appear, but could make things fly around when it was angry, and that it seemed to hate Vittorio, having once pushed a bookshelf over on him and at another time having pushed him down the stairs. Finally Vittorio managed to talk to the presence and made some kind of a deal (the details of which Gabriela did not know), but that a few days later was when Vittorio had gone mad and attacked her and the children. Her exact memory of that event was vague at best.

Reunited in the law library at the hall of records, the investigators worked out that the Chapel of Contemplation had been closed due to legal problems, but the details were not available. Such things would be at the police station, but it was 5:00 and all public records offices around town would surely be closed. So the group stopped to have dinner and compare notes, then drove out to see the Corbitt House itself. Dilapidated and dreary, the house was almost disappointingly unremarkable from the outside, except for a persistent rotting sewage smell and a few rats. They opted not to go in just yet, but instead interviewed neighbors. Tony, owner of a corner store across the street, showed them traps full of enormous rats that he claimed came from the Corbitt house and filled in a few more details about the history of the house; he also referred them across the street to Mrs. Méche, a long-time neighborhood resident.

She decided the investigators "looked like nice people" and invited them all in for tea; she then reiterated the stories they'd already heard about the house, telling them that she'd warned the Macarios not to take the house, and giving them more details about the odd downward-spiral of Vittorio's behavior. She also described having been awake late one night a few years previously and having seen some sort of creature, seven or eight feet tall, carrying what looked like a child around to the back of the house.

The investigators retired to their homes for the evening, although Sherman, being eager to experience anything creepy for his next book, snuck back in the middle of the night in an effort to see anything weird. Other than a few rats, no luck.

Day two (Saturday) began with a trip down to police headquarters to look up criminal records associated with the Chapel of Contemplation; apparently impressed by Pickman's credentials (and a high Credit Rating roll), the clerk gave them access to a file regarding a secret raid performed by the police to break up cult activity in 1912, which was not mentioned in any newspaper reports although the police record clearly states that a reporter from the Boston Globe who had been assisting with the investigations was present during the raid.

So, the group tromped over to the Boston Globe, where they found in the paper's morgue a never-published story written by Jackson Elias (see also Masks of Nyarlathotep) about the raid. They called Elias via his current employer, the New York Times, who took a message and said he would call them back.

At this point, having done all the research they cared to for a while, they headed over to the Corbitt House to actually go in and examine the place. What happened there will be described in my next entry on the topic.

-The Gneech
Tags: gaming, uncanny midnight tales, yog-sothothery
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