Category Archives: Squamous But True

Not A Very Happy Day For Those Who Were There

Today, some 235 years ago, the British flag was raised for the first time on the European settlement of New South Wales. It’s this moment that — at least for the past three decades or so — has been what’s celebrated as Australia Day, our national holiday.

One of the great things I have found about writing game content set in real history is that it makes you learn a lot more about how things really were in times long past. In co-writing Convicts & Cthulhu (with my excellent friend Geoff Gillan), I learned a LOT more about the circumstances of white settlement in Australia. The reasons behind it, the reality of what it was like in the early colonies, and the consequences (intended and otherwise) that arose from it.

One thing that strikes me is that almost NOBODY who was there as a part of the fateful January 26, 1788 proclamation was really happy about it — not the convicts who had just arrived in their new prison home, not the Indigenous Australians who were already starting to lose their land and safety. Even the soldiers (the infamous NSW Corps) were mostly reprobates who were forced into undesirable service. The only people who had cause to celebrate were the Colonial government (I guess), the few free settlers (I guess), and those back in Britain who ran the hideously over-crowded penal system.

Celebrating January 26 as Australia Day has become a problematic thing for some Australians. I would certainly never tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t celebrate … but for me, this is what I will be cracking open instead:

Chaosium’s Terror Australis, 2nd Edition

Squamous But True: Devil Worshippers

While the Cthulhu Reborn blog has been dominated over recent weeks with the “State of the Tentacle” interviews, that doesn’t mean that things haven’t been chugging away with several other projects which will ultimately be released via this perfidious source. There are at least two more scenarios currently, both written by big names in the Call of Cthulhu world, that are being worked on as future Cthulhu Reborn released as well as a whole bunch of other weirdness.

Just to convince everyone that there’s more to Cthulhu Reborn than wonderful interviews … here’s another entry in the rather sporadic series of real-world newspaper articles that read like they *could* have been Call of Cthulhu scenarios (and indeed can be, if you want them to be). The article below was originally published in several newspapers around March 25, 1926 … you’ll need to click on the article to read it (unless your eyesight is really, really good).

Click the image below to view a larger (aka actually readable) version of the article

squamous - devil worshippers 800

Note that this is actually a recreation of the original news article, created using Cthulhu Reborn’s very own (commercially-released) PDF toolkit for make-your-own Jazz-Age newspaper props, available via RPGNow and DrivethruRPG for a smallish sum. Of course you can go straight to the source and nab the original scan of the newspaper if you want to see what it *really* looked like: here’s a link to the version published by the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator … great name for a newspaper. While you’re there you can also read the story about the drunken LA bank robber or the visit to town by the self-proclaimed “director of Hobo College, Chicago” 🙂

Squamous But True: Car Crash

Newspapers seems to delight in showing us pictures of the carnage caused by road accidents. These days it’s horrors of mangled metal that barely resemble a vehicle. In 1930, the same photo looked like this:

Exhibit B: Milwaukie Car Crash, April 1930

SBT Photo - Fatal Car Crash

One person was killed in this two-car collision (a passenger in the other vehicle). Five other people were injured.

Not to diminish fromthis 70+ year old tragedy … but, I figure there are any number of different ways this photo could be re-used in a Lovecraftian RPG scenario. Who knows, maybe *this* is what your shiny new automobile would like like after it had come off second best in an encounter with a Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath … (“after horror collision with tree, it was only the tree that walked away.”)

Squamous But True #1

So, I am currently working on a project to produce a range of nifty templates that will help Keepers (or other prop-obsessed folks) easily create realistic-looking 1920s/1930s newspaper articles. Hopefully I will be in a position to announce more about this on the blog soon.

Anyway, one important aspect of this project has been a mountain-load of research. After all, there’s no point me claiming things are “realistic-looking” if I haven’t done the hard yards to survey the broad ranges of typography and writing styles used in actual period articles. Fortunately there is a wealth of research material readily available these days … so there’s plenty of samples to look at. That is both a good and bad thing (as my weary eye-balls will attest).

One thing that I always find entertaining when going back to read through real newspapers of the 1920s is the language used in articles and … well … the way that a whole bunch of news is reported in such hysterical and quirky ways that the real-world articles SOUND like they should be part of a Lovecraftian horror scenario.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the weirdest and most Lovecraftian examples here on the blog. Feel free to use these odd-ball articles to inspire scenarios, form baffling red herrings to fool your investigators, or simply fill out police case files bursting with reports of weird happenings. Or you could just laugh at the way folks of yesteryear saw the world.

Exhibit A: from several news sources, January 1929

Six Murder Mysteries In One Family

Doctor Accused of Slaying Wife Relies on Baffling Chain of Crimes to Prove His Innocence and Win Freedom

Olathe, Kas. — A mysterious curse that brought death to six members of one family in the course of a third of a century is cited by Dr. S. C. Netherton, retired Olathe physician, as the real reason for the murder of his wife nearly two years ago.

And on this strange explanation, unsatisfactory as the courts thus far have found it, Dr. Netherton bases his hope of being freed from serving the rest of his life in prison.

He was convicted some months ago of the murder of his wife, and is now waiting for the Kansas supreme court to pass on his appeal. His appeal is based on his denial of guilt and his suggestion that the weird, unexplained curse that, he says, hung over his wife’s family, was responsible for her death.

Now he says he fears for the life of his 9-year-old daughter, Dorothy.

“I’m afraid she is the next on the murderer’s list,” he says. “If I go to prison, she will be left to the mercy of those who appear bent on wiping out my wife’s family.”

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and a world traveler, Dr. Netherton retired on a suburban farm here with his wife a decade ago. Mrs. Netherton was well-to-do; she possessed property worth $100,000, but none of the neighbors ever suspected it. The Nethertons lived frugally. The only money they ever spent for anything except actual necessities went to buy dresses and toys for little Dorothy.

In February of 1927, Mrs. Netherton was found, shot to death, in the basement of their home. The bullet had come from behind.

Circumstantial evidence pointed to Dr. Netherton and he was arrested and brought to trial. He insisted he had been in town at the time of the murder, but was unable to prove it. His attorneys tried to bring into court the tale of the previous murders in Mrs. Netherton’s family, but the judge would not admit the evidence. Dr. Netherton was convicted.

Dr. Netherton admits that he is unable to explain the strange chain of killings. He firmly believes that some person or persons have followed his wife’s family for years, trying to wipe it out of existence, but why this is being done he has no idea. At any rate, here is his list of the crimes:

In 1882 Dode Strahl, a trapper, and a nephew of Mrs. Netherton’s mother, was shot to death near Deadwood, S. D.

A few years later Roll Strahl, Dode’s brother, was found shot to death in a farm wagon at Exira, Iowa.

The same year, Colbert Strahl, father of the two slain men, was shot to death while riding on his horse from the town of Exira to his farm.

In 1916 Arthur Strahl, a first cousin of Mrs. Netherton, was shot to death in Chicago.

Four years later Paxton Muir, a second cousin of Mrs. Netherton, was found murdered in a Los Angeles hotel.

No arrests were ever made in any of these murders.

It is upon this story that Dr. Netherton depends to save him from serving the life sentence to which he has been sentenced.

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