July 9, 2018 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)
While the Arkham Gazette is looking for all kinds of material (as covered on our Submissions page), there is one item that I’m especially interested in currently, short items of historical or occult interest (and perhaps bearing some hint of the Mythos) that we’ve dubbed “Curios”.
Curios, as a particular category, were suggested to me by layout impresario and illustrator Chris Huth, who described them thusly:
Enigmatic items, described in no more than 250 or 500 words each. A leftover from an era or event of Lovecraft Country‘s past. These are drop-in elements Keeper’s can use to reinforce the region’s haunted history, hint to a future scenario, or simply unnerve.
Each item follows the same format:
- A short physical description; what does it look like? What can you learn by examining it?
- The item’s history; what can you potentially learn via research? What can an expert tell you?
- Placement; suggestions saying where it might be found or who might have it.
- Secrets; Keeper’s information about the piece that investigators may uncover or suffer the effects of
- Plot hooks and scenario seeds; elaborating on what is implied in the items above, as needed.
A few caveats:
- Ideally a curio should have a strong link to one or more Lovecraft Country locations. A cursed wall clock is just fine, but a cursed wall clock that was manufactured by an Aylesbury clock-maker who died in a madhouse is better.
- That being said, if needed, you should be able to explain how said item came to Lovecraft Country. Smaller, portable brick-a-brac is easy, but a complete Easter Island Moai is rather a stretch.
- You do not need to offer some definitive answer as to the nature of a curio. A polished piece of coral could simply be an odd souvenir from Tahiti, a Deep One talisman, or something else entirely. Offering multiple options for the Keeper is encouraged.
The Arkham Gazette is tightly focused on Lovecraft Country and any curio submission should be something appropriate for that region. We’re willing to branch out, somewhat, to the wider greater New England region, as the need arises.Our next issue, #4, is focused on Kingsport, so ideally your curio would have some connection to that fog-shrouded port town. Items for other Lovecraft Country places, either yet to be covered (such as Dunwich) or already covered (Arkham, Innsmouth) are accepted by may not see the light of day for a while.
Pay for curios is the same as our standard rate – 3¢ a word, plus a copy of whatever work your curio appears in.
Send any submissions to ArkhamGazetteMagazine@gmail.com; please include “Curio Submission” in the subject line.
Example – The Witch Doll (by Bret Kramer), from Arkham Gazette #1
A porcelain-headed doll of an old woman in colonial garb. Very fine details have been captured in the making of the doll, including tiny buttons, and diminutive leather shoes. Most remarkably the doll’s head appears to have been cast specifically for this doll – a wrinkled, scowling face rather than beatific one in the style traditionally used Upon examination, the investigator will realize that there is also a tiny hempen cord (3’) coiled around the doll’s neck, complete with noose.
The doll was part of a set made by Hilda Francks, an Arkham doll-maker, and was sold at a now defunct Arkham toy store around the turn of the century. The route from initial purchase to current owner can be as simple or complex as desired. Bad luck seems to follow along with the doll – anything ranging from minor accidents to family-wide tragedies are possible, as the Keeper wishes – though the associated mishaps should not be outside the bounds of reasonable misfortune. Despite these mishaps, the doll has survived more or less intact, save a long-lost broom.
The other dolls from that set, six in all, may be able to be found with enough searching. They are “the Reverend”, “an Indian Brave”, “a British Red Coat”, “Puritan Goodwife”, and “Goodman Farmer”. Unless the Keeper wishes, these other dolls have no supernatural connection.
For more information on Hilda Francks, see “A Painted Smile” by Richard Watts, from Tales of the Miskatonic Valley.
The doll might be found any place a doll could reasonably turn up – the attic of an abandoned house, among a child’s things, among the unwanted items donated to a local church or charity, or tucked onto a dusty neglected shelf at the Diamond Credit Agency (A209).
The doll is not just a generic witch but was, subconsciously modeled upon Franck’s ancestor Goody Fowler (see A404 and A1009). Because of this, the doll has a supernatural link to the now-spectral witch. It is possible her ghost might be able to manifest remotely, in limited ways, through the doll, perhaps poltergeist-like phenomena at first, escalating to nightly “night-hag” experiences where the victim feels like they are being choked by the phantom witch. The doll might also serve as a focus as part of a seance to contact Fowler’s ghost, likely a very dangerous undertaking.
Depending on the utility the Keeper wishes to assign sympathetic magic in their games, the doll, because of its connection to Fowler, might also prove to be a tool that could be, with the right supernatural preparation, be used against Fowler’s malign spirit.
The effects or bringing the doll to Hangman’s Hill are left to the Keeper; we quietly suggest they be most dire. The doll could play a small role in the aforementioned scenario “A Painted Smile” as well as “Spare the Rod” in More Adventures in Arkham Country.
Example – The White Fur Costume (by Ben Wenham) from Arkham Gazette #2
A costume, made from heavy white-furred hide and what appears to be ivory and sized to fit a woman or larger child (roughly 5’ – 4’6”), of a strange six-legged beast. There are two large tusks or possibly horns, a large fanged-lined mouth, and the hands end in long, yellowed claws. The four surplus arms are held out from the body with a simple harness or hide and bone. A Natural History or hard Biology roll can identify the component materials as polar bear and seal fur, walrus ivory, and bones, mostly whale. An Anthropology roll will recognize it as of Inuit (then usually called Eskimo) manufacture; an impale result will recognize it as a rarely mentioned personification of blizzards, though there are no previously known examples of it in traditional religious costume. (A Cthulhu Mythos roll or access to texts like the Book of Eibon can identify this as a stylized representation of the dreaded gnoph-keh, a terrible creature of the far north said to control the wind.)
The piece has been poorly cared for – the hide is shedding fur while the leather is cracked badly in several spots; conservation efforts will be needed to preserve this costume much longer.
This costume was originally brought to Innsmouth in 1813, by the merchantman Jeremiah Gilman. Supposedly purchased by Gilman from an unidentified Norwegian on the west coast of Greenland the year previous during a mostly fruitless attempt to hunt whales in the Greenland Sea. The costume was donated to the little museum of the East India Marine Merchant’s Bank of Innsmouth (I210) where it was displayed for many years. All of this information is (or at least was) displayed on a card posted with the costume there.
Unless the Keeper wishes, the costume remains draped loosely over a rack at the Merchant’s museum in Innsmouth; see below for some scenario options for this oddity.
This is indeed a representation of a gnoph-keh, crafted by one of the degenerate Hyperborean-descended tribal groups that have been encountered in Greenland, probably some time in the 18th century. It was originally used in certain shamanic rites of the tribe invoking the powers of the gnoph-keh and its supernatural might against enemies of the tribe – a careful examination of the costume can locate dried blood in several crevices but faint traces of symbols of some sort daubed onto the hide. This is a very degenerate form of the Hyperborean script Tsath-yo.
At the Keeper’s discretion wearing the costume might aid in casting certain spells involving the gnoph-key, Ithaqua, or related entities; a +10% chance perhaps, high if the investigators can learn the appropriate Inuit ritual associated with the costume
Here are three scenario options for the white fur suit; they may be combined or modified as desired.
- The Academic: The costume has attracted the interest of one of the faculty of Miskatonic University – Terrence Bhule (from The Trail of Tsathoggua) is one option – who asks one or more of the investigators to personally visit Innsmouth and attempt to borrow the piece from the East India Marine Merchant Bank or at least permit the scholar to study it as their “museum”. Having never been to Innsmouth, the investigators’ academic associate might be shocked to hear how poorly they are treated by the staff and other locals. Potentially the Marsh family misinterprets their interest in the costume as a cover for something more dangerous for the Deep Ones; the investigators (and/or their friend) might be followed or surveilled, perhaps even fall victim to theft or sabotage, at least until the Marsh family is sure they are who they claim to be.
- The Cultist – The costume comes to the attention of someone with some inkling of the Mythos – perhaps a dabbler, a moderately talented sorcerer, or even a cultist of Ithaqua. They want the costume to further some larger scheme, perhaps hoping it was actually made from the (rare and supernaturally potent) hide of a gnoph-keh, or for use in a ritual, etc. Knowing that there are forces operating in Innsmouth they do not wish to cross, the investigators might serve as useful dupes to obtain the costume while distracting the Deep Ones and their hybrid allies.
- The Hooligans – The costume has been stolen! One or more of the ghastly Gilman boys (I401) snuck into the East India Marine Merchant Bank while the scant staff was at lunch and spirited away the costume and one or two other items to amuse themselves with. The bank’s manager, a pliant human named Robert Jenckes want to avoid any strife with the E.o.D. and decides he might swap a favor with these outsiders – help him get the stolen goods back and he will help expedite whatever financial transactions needed by the investigators. The unfortunate Mrs. Gilman can do little to help the investigators track down her malicious offspring, resulting in a wide-ranging hunt for the boys anywhere the Keeper might like the investigators to explore. Eventually they should be run to ground but the condition of the costume might be quite dire once they have finished “playing” with it.