Call of Cthulhu: The Waldegrave Mansion Horror (preamble)

Count Otto Black

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Invitation.jpg



24th October 1923 - The invitations have been sent out, and the lucky recipients are wondering quite what to make of them. A genuine investigation of the mysteries of the next world in one of the few places on Earth where answers might be found? A publicity stunt which will in all probability involve a fair bit of hoaxing? Or just an excuse for a rattling good Halloween party? Who knows? Serious occultists, representatives of the not terribly serious lower echelons of the media, and bright young things who just want to have fun are all on the guest-list, but none of them quite know why. Never mind, they'll find out soon enough...

This CoC scenario is not based on any published material, and since this is PbP, certain concessions will be made to the slowness of the medium. Combat, the curse of PbP because it takes forever to resolve a serious fight, will be kept to a minimum, and battles will almost certainly be brief, either because very little force was required to defeat a minor adversary, or because you're making a very big mistake trying to take on something like that with a gun! Besides, how much heavy artillery is even the most paranoid person likely to be packing at a Halloween party?

It's more in the nature of a classic country house murder mystery with some very nasty twists. So although the other Investigators are the only guests who you're absolutely sure aren't part of any sinister plot, given that this is a pretty big party and some of the invitations were sent not to specific people but to institutions such as newspapers, you can reasonably assume that there are a lot of innocent bystanders. Therefore it's not a good idea to assume that everyone within 20 miles who isn't one of the PCs is a Child of Yog-Sothoth and can be killed on sight, or that it's a good plan to blow up the house and everyone in it with all that dynamite you conveniently found in the cellar. And I'll tell you right now, you won't find any dynamite in the cellar! If you were inviting a horde of complete strangers round to your place to get drunk, would you leave incredibly dangerous objects that look very similar to fireworks lying around and hope nobody lit one?

Some of you may suspect from the outset that this isn't just the spook-themed hootenanny it's made out to be, but you have no suspicions at all that anything really, seriously bad might happen, otherwise most of you wouldn't be going. And whatever your backgrounds may be, none of you have ever encountered absolute proof that anything conventionally supernatural, such as ghosts, really exists, let alone all that nonsense about Squidzilla!

Players who have already expressed interest should start threads here for their characters. Since the game isn't quite ready to start yet, this thread is for preliminary discussions and attempts by the Investigators to find out useful background information in the week leading up to Halloween (which, if for some reason you need to know, is on a Wednesday). You haven't met each other yet, but any solo preliminary investigating you choose to do may give the other players an idea of what your Investigator is like before you all get together on the big day.

Since you have plenty of time and aren't being opposed or endangered in any way, preliminary information-gathering requires no dice-rolling, and exactly what you find out depends on exactly what you're looking for. Actually, dice may be rolled if what you want to know is more important than you realise, but I won't ask you to roll. I'll do it myself based on your skills, and if I succeed I won't say "That was a hard thing to find out so I did a Library Search roll for you and you passed", but I will drop a hint that you discovered something obscure enough for a roll to be made. But if I fail I'll say nothing, and you'll never know you didn't find out everything you might have.

Many rolls, especially Perception Checks, will be done throughout the game in this way, partly to speed things up, and partly because it makes more sense. For instance, if you want to search a room, you don't roll anything. Instead, you describe exactly what you're doing, and I combine that with your skill levels to decide how hard the task is, and then I roll for you, and if you fail, you won't know whether I rolled unsuccessfully or didn't roll at all because there's nothing here to find.

A simple example: the only thing worth finding in a certain room is the strange scribbled text on the walls, which has been completely papered over. Therefore it's very hard if not impossible to spot unless you tear off the wallpaper, which you're extremely unlikely to do unless you already suspect there's something under it, and is not included in the statement "We search the room". However, if you adopt the perverse habit of stripping the wallpaper every time, thus giving yourselves a 100% chance of finding any other similar clues, I'll always be bearing in mind that this takes a considerable time to do, is quite messy, makes it screamingly obvious that you've searched the room, and, if the house isn't derelict, probably won't go down too well with the owners even if they aren't Children of Yog-Sothoth.

All of you will already have heard of the notorious Waldegrave Mansion, a huge house in a tiny town built about a hundred years ago by a very rich man who didn't get much joy from his wealth and now wanders the echoing corridors of his Old Dark House for all eternity in search of his missing head. Or something like that. And there's a spectral Indian chief still on the warpath for scalps, and a White Lady of some sort, and probably a Headless Horseman because there always is. The usual suspects. Or so you've vaguely heard. Anyway, it's one of those places that always feature in trashy books about ghosts but mainstream science is oddly uninterested in, suggesting that perhaps the information in those books is a tiny bit more sensational than the truth. Here are some other people you'll all have vaguely heard of:


Titus Twimbly.jpg

Titus Twimbly

Sole heir to the Twimbly confectionery empire's millions thanks to being the healthiest and luckiest member of an extraordinarily sickly and misfortunate family, since losing his last living relatives to the double whammy of the Great War and the 1919 influenza pandemic, Titus, always a gloomily introspective man who shunned publicity as much as someone in his position could, and famously never married because "she's sure to die like all the rest", has become obsessed with proving there's life after death, and in recent years has spent much of his fortune in ways the less highbrow newspapers gleefully mock, wasting vast sums on embarrassingly obvious con-artists and lunatics. Though on the other hand, sales of Twimbly Bars have increased because he's so painfully sincere that most people feel sorry for him even if he's a thousand times richer than they'll ever be.


Jules Amthor.jpg

Amthor

One of the best-known stage magicians currently performing in America, and one of the most controversial, due to his claim that he has genuine magical powers, and the tricks featured in his occult-themed shows are better than those of his rivals because he has demons at his beck and call. He supplements his income by writing popular books on all aspects of the occult and supernatural. Perhaps he does have genuine supernatural powers, since the gossip columnists can't find very much to say about him, and his private life remains private even to them.


Hildegarde Trout 2.jpg

Hildegarde Trout

Mrs. Trout's reputation is, to put it mildly, mixed! According to her own publicity, she first discovered her amazing powers in 1903 when her grief following the death of her husband Herbert, combined with her great love for him, allowed them to join hands across the Great Divide, etc. etc. etc. She now sits for anyone who can afford her fees, which are considerable, assisted by the late Herbert Trout, who has stayed invisibly by her side in his capacity as one of the few spirit guides who isn't a strangely inauthentic-sounding Red Indian. The well-known British occult investigator Harry Price did her reputation considerable damage when, after attending several of her séances in 1920, he announced to the press that he wasn't sure whether she was the most ham-handed fraud he'd ever encountered or simply mad, but he suspected she might be both. Though not as much damage as she herself did by losing a court-case in her native Britain in 1921 and being found guilty of "pretending to conjure spirits" under the Witchcraft Act of 1735. She spent six months in jail before emigrating to the USA, where she has gone a long way towards rebuilding her reputation, mainly thanks to the astute guidance of her new manager, Amthor. Mrs. Trout has always explained the little embarrassments that have plagued her throughout her career by either blaming "malicious entities who vibrate on a very low frequency" or airily saying "I have good days and bad days" before changing the subject.


Earl Constantine.jpg

Earl Constantine
Rising to overnight fame in 1922 on the strength of his jazz orchestra's smash hit "I'll Put My Hoodoo On You", Earl Constantine's popularity took a severe knock a few months later when it was discovered that the wife he tried to keep out of the public eye, to whom he had already been married for two years, was only fourteen. He avoided jail through a legal technicality, the judge's explanation of which was so convoluted and incomprehensible that rumours of bribery were rife. Other rumours, which gossip columnists constantly remind the public of as blatantly as they can without being sued, involve his helpless addiction to various illegal substances such as morphine and cocaine. The public may have a short memory, but it's going to take something big to put his career back on track. Perhaps this is it?

Oh, and in case you're wondering, none of you have ever heard of the Rotting Stump Rhythm Boys. By the way, don't forget:


Amthor Knows All.jpg
 
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Tulpa Girl

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You might want to edit the title of this thread with an [OOC] tag, to help avoid any confusion in posting with the in-character play thread.
 

Dumarest

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Is this the OOC thread? I thought it was in-character given the invitation. This bit doesn't really affect anything anyway, just a bit of context and flavor for J. Pierpont Finnegan, celebrated author of what will soon be termed the Jazz Age.

In a lavish drawing room somewhere on the island of Manhattan:
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"Look at this invitation, Daisy! I daresay this sounds like a great excuse for a rattling good Hallowe'en party. Do you remember that night we got half seas over at the Cotton Club? What larks! 'The Rotting Stump Rhythm Boys,' eh? Sounds like berries, but I'll bet they're not a patch on Red Nichols and the Johnny Johnson Orchestra! It's a shame you can't attend, Daisy, old sport, but you've got to take it easy on account of your influenza. What's this bit at the bottom? Kentucky? Why on earth would anyone live in Kentucky when we have New York? Well, can't ankle it that far! I'd take a jitney but the hay-burner would probably stop at every Podunk from New Jersey to Kentucky to pick up a farmer at every flophouse en route and I'd risk arriving after this bash has already gone bust! I'll drive the Bearcat and bring a case of giggle juice along to keep me alert while I drive! I wonder if there'll be any hotsy-totsies in attendance! Oh, don't be a wet blanket, Daisy, you know you're the choicest bit of calico in the five boroughs! Besides, I'm only going to collect material for my novel. Kentucky! I certainly hope this soirée isn't stuffed wall to wall with Reubens! Well, ta ta, Daisy dear, I've a long drive ahead of me!"

Edit: added my character write-up as requested.
JPFCOC.jpg
 
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Tulpa Girl

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Couldn't find how to determine the Move value, don't know the stats for a ..22 snub-nosed revolver.

Margaret Ashford.jpg
 

Baeraad

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Name: Millard Jackson
Occupation: Journalist
Age: 37

APP 55 (27/11)
CON 45 (22/9)
DEX 60 (30/12)
EDU 60 (30/12)
INT 65 (32/13)
POW 50 (25/10)
SIZ 45 (22/9)
STR 35 (17/7)

Luck 30 (15/6)
Damage Bonus: -1
Build: -1
Hit Points: 9
Sanity: 50

Occupation Skills: Art/Craft (Photography) 50%, Credit Rating 25%, Fast Talk 70%, History 31%, Language: English 60%, Library Use 40%, Persuade 60%, Psychology 50%, Stealth 60%
Other Skills: Climb 40%, Disguise 25%, Dodge 50%, Jump 40%

Personal Description: Small and slight, with slicked-back black hair and a small mustache. Wears cheap and somewhat tasteless suits.
Beliefs: Give people what they want! No one actually wants the truth, but everyone loves an entertaining liar. The paranormal don't really exist, but people will pay money to read about it, so let's pretend it does. Everyone's ultimately looking out for number one, but that's no reason to be unpleasant - put on a big smile and tell people what they want to hear, and everyone's going to be in a better mood than otherwise.
Millard spends some time before departing to dig through old newspapers for articles about the house, and even more so about Amthor and Trout. He'll pack his photo equipment, along with a portable typewriter, and he'll bring both his nicest not-very-nice suit for the formal get-together and more sturdy and practical clothes for digging through boarded-up attics or similar.
 

Count Otto Black

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Since we haven't really started yet, I'll keep this thread for odds and ends, including the intro bit where it doesn't really matter whether you're in or out of character because you haven't met up and begun to interact. Incidentally, bringing your own car is optional, since there are trains to Knossos, which used to be prosperous enough to justify the building of a branch line.

One thing which would be useful is for every confirmed player (I think we have four) to start a personal thread here with the character sheet as the first post. You can use this to store information you might need later, and for conversations with me that the other players can't read. This will be handy if you ever go insane, since I intend to play insanity a bit more subtly and realistically than the official rules suggest I should. Why would anyone suddenly have a terrible fear of chickens for no reason at all except that they got a nasty shock and I rolled 05 on the phobia table? Unless of course they were attacked by a giant rabid mutant zombie chicken.

Basically, if you go mad enough to be definitely unhinged but not so loopy you're an NPC, you'll get a little voice in your head that the other Investigators can't hear feeding you misleading information. Which gives you the option of having your character realise they're not thinking straight and trying to ignore their own paranoia. The trouble is, you can't logically figure out which of the weird ideas and impressions you're getting are false in a situation where incredibly strange things really are happening...

Returning to character activity:

JPF has no reason to know any of the people thus far mentioned, and he doesn't expect to meet anybody that he does know. He perhaps assumes the hosts are fans of his fiction, or maybe they just invited anyone they could think of who might write about the bash, and he represents the more articulate end of the scribbling classes. So he's probably leaning towards the "publicity stunt" hypothesis. After all, if you're seriously trying to penetrate the veil between this world and the next, you don't usually invite the kind of people who call themselves the Rotting Stump Rhythm Boys, do you? So off he goes without further ado.

Millard, having plenty of time to do a thorough search, and probably not much else to do right now if his editor is packing him off to a Halloween party in Kentucky, goes down to the basement room charmingly known in journalistic circles as the morgue, and digs in. The first folder he consults is the promisingly fat file on the Waldegrave Mansion. However, most of the clippings, and all the recent ones, are silly season page-fillers rehashing the same old facts and embroidering them a little more each time. The number of servants who have over the years committed suicide is anywhere between two and eight, probably because careless reporting of some incidents resulted in them being listed as happening on more than one date. The files go back 70 years, and with clippings that old, especially those concerning a not terribly serious story like this, some are bound to get lost. Also, most of them seem to be quoting (or misquoting) The Knossos Chronicle, an obscure local paper of the type which frequently prints deliberately implausible made-up stories on slow news days.

The house was completed in 1841, and the oldest story you have on file is from 1853, though some of the others refer back to earlier incidents of doubtful authenticity. The 1853 story refers to a murder and suicide nasty enough to be reported nationwide. It seems that the butler went mad, killed his wife with an axe, and burned her remains in a furnace before doing away with himself. Some of the details were allegedly too awful to print.

The biggest and best-reported story, and apparently the one which gave the mansion its reputation for being haunted, dates from 1858, when the slaves on the estate's cotton plantation rebelled and killed the master of the house, Augustus Waldegrave, for whom it was built in 1841, and five overseers. Slave rebellions were extremely rare, due to the impossibility of escape and the inevitability of ruthless punishment, and the reporter speculates that the conditions on the plantation must have been literally worse than death to drive the slaves to such a desperate act, for which 28 of them were hanged when the US Cavalry retook the estate two days later, and a further 87, including women and children, were killed by the soldiers for supposedly resisting them.

But the report also condemns the slaves for not only murdering their master but allegedly eating him! Another odd detail is that in the two days during which the slaves were in control of the estate, they supposedly stripped out all the Christian furnishings from the mansion's private chapel and blasphemously filled it with foul pagan idols.

After this, the stories get gradually sillier over the years. The half-eaten Augustus Waldegrave roams the house looking for various missing bits of himself, while Absalom, the slave who led the rebellion, apparently a giant of a man and hideously ugly, lurks in the shrubbery with a bloody mouth and a rope around his broken neck looking for little white children to gobble up. Clough the mad butler prowls the basement with an axe in one hand and his wife's head on the other. Assorted seduced maidservants who killed themselves drift woefully along every available corridor, and in 1899 you see the first mention of Chief Hooting Owl, a bloodthirsty redskin who haunts the grounds still hunting white men's scalps. Oddly enough, no such person is listed in the Indian Wars file, and in fact that part of Kentucky had no trouble from the natives at all, the local Shawnee being the apathetic remnant of a tribe decimated by smallpox who died out entirely round about 1750.

Two other stories were important enough to have made the national news. One concerns the so-called Deadly Dinner, which took place in 1877. Adoplphus Waldegrave, the cousin and only living relative of the late Augustus, inherited the estate and lived there with his family, in somewhat reduced circumstances, the cotton plantation no longer being economic to run due to the abolition of slavery, but happily enough, until the dreadful day when the cook, for unknown reasons officially recorded by the coroner as temporary insanity, laced the chicken soup with an unidentified deadly poison, killing Augustus' wife and four children, as well as the local parson who chose a very bad day to drop in for dinner.

The cook cut her throat immediately after doing the deed, leaving no clue as to why, the only survivor being Adolphus, the biggest and strongest person present, for whom the dose didn't quite prove fatal. The tragedy affected his mind and he became a recluse, breaking off all contact with humanity other than two swarthy servants from unknown foreign parts, and never again leaving the house until his death in 1902.

The other big story concerns a Halloween party held in 1903 by a group of wealthy young thrill-seekers, who rented the house for the night from the State of Kentucky, to which the house now belonged unless a legitimate heir unexpectedly turned up. The guests included a young man named Samuel Washbourne and his girlfriend Nancy Broderick. As midnight approached, and the other guests attempted to provoke the house into doing something spooky by conducting a rather half-hearted séance, the two lovers slipped away, and nobody was surprised when they didn't come back. It wasn't until the next day, when they still hadn't turned up, and Samuel's car was still parked outside so they couldn't have gone anywhere, that their companions began to worry.

No trace of either of them was ever found. There was of course a lengthy police investigation, but in the absence of any clues at all, combined with the fact that Samuel's family strongly disapproved of Nancy, whom they considered to be a gold-digger only interested in their son because of his considerable wealth, the official explanation was that they had most likely eloped and started a new life together under different names, and Samuel had never withdrawn any money from his huge bank account to prevent his family from tracing them. Which seemed a bit of an overreaction, especially as once the two of them were legally married there wasn't much the Washbourne family could do about it, but it was the best explanation available that didn't involve them being kidnapped by ghosts.

The Broderick family eventually accepted that their daughter wasn't coming back and was probably dead, but the Washbournes, especially Samuel's mother Beulah, refused to give up, and made tremendous efforts to find their him, including the offer of a reward which as time went by increased. Samuel's father died many years ago, but his mother Beulah is still alive, and still obsessed with finding her son, whom she still refuses to accept is dead, and that reward is still available. It is currently $1m (almost $26m in today's money) for anyone who can produce her son alive, $250k for proof that he is dead, and lesser but still very large sums for any reliable information about the fate of him or Nancy.

The story pops up again every few years when somebody tries to claim the reward, and usually goes to jail for their heartless attempt to defraud a pathetic old lady who obviously isn't entirely sane. One exceptionally audacious con-man actually claimed to be Samuel Washourne, and even half-convinced Mrs. Washbourne that he might be, only admitting the truth when Nancy Broderick's surviving relatives attempted to have him tried for the murder of their daughter.

* * * * *​

There's an even fatter file on Mrs. Trout, but it doesn't take Millard long to get the general idea. The lady is obviously not rowing with both feet in the saddle, and has never made any attempt whatsoever to come across as plausible. Her most notorious debacle was the séance at which she claimed to be in contact with the spirit of Dracula, but had no idea that the historical Dracula was a 15th. century Wallachian prince who liked impaling Turks, and the 19th. century bloodsucker was a fictional character. The papers, including Millard's, had fun with that one!

Mrs. Trout frequently calls up the ghosts of other fictional characters, including Hamlet, Don Quixote, and her personal favourite, Little Nell from Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, whom she claims to have been in a previous life, along with Cleopatra, Juliet, Madame Pompadour and Mary Magdalene. Her "real" spirits aren't much more convincing. And her famous conviction under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 wasn't for actual witchcraft, but because a peculiarity of English law means that the only way a very fake medium whose antics the authorities are thoroughly sick of can be sent to jail specifically for conducting fraudulent séances rather than just being fined is to charge them under an archaic statute which is only still on the books because they forgot about it.

However, she does have a considerable folllowing of people so desperate to believe that they excuse her every failure and absurdity by saying her power comes and goes unpredictably and, saintly woman that she is, she sometimes fakes it because she can't bear to disappoint anyone. And besides, the exceptional spiritual gift she is blessed with puts a considerable strain on her mind, so it's hardly surprising if she's sometimes a little bit eccentric. They're also fond of pointing out that if she was deliberately trying to fool anyone she'd tell better lies. This last one you have to admit is a fair point.

* * * * *​

Amthor's file is the least useful. The false and rather pompous aura of mystery with which he surrounds himself for professional reasons extends to his private life, and just about everything on record about him is publicity material written by himself. You skip over the predictable garbage about how he studied the secrets of the Universe with the Hidden Masters in the legendary secret Tibetan city of Shamballah - every white guy in a turban who does card tricks uses the same tired old spiel they pinched from Mme Blavatsky. And then some faintly scribbled reference numbers on one yellowed clipping catch your eye...

(And there's something here which Millard was very lucky to find out and may be of considerable importance later, but might not be the sort of thing he'd casually chat about to everybody because it has the potential to seriously annoy a certain fellow if the subject is mentioned at all. So I was going to make it visible only to him, but there doesn't seem to be a button for it. How does one do that on this site?)
 

Baeraad

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(And there's something here which Millard was very lucky to find out and may be of considerable importance later, but might not be the sort of thing he'd casually chat about to everybody because it has the potential to seriously annoy a certain fellow if the subject is mentioned at all. So I was going to make it visible only to him, but there doesn't seem to be a button for it. How does one do that on this site?)
One doesn't, as far as I know. Start a private conversation with me? That might be the best way to do private threads, too.
 

Dumarest

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The trouble is, you can't logically . So I was going to make it visible only to him, but there doesn't seem to be a button for it. How does one do that on this site?)
You can use spoilers:
Peering into the murky water, you see what looks to be a shiny object, possibly a set of keys.
The hoarse male voice at the other end of the phone says, "You and your friends had better stop digging if you know what's good for you." Click, the call suddenly disconnects.

Also, if you take a look at the various PBP threads I've run, we use italics to identify out-of-character comments/questions from the player to the referee and/or other players, ordinary text to state what we're doing in character, and ordinary text in quotation marks to indicate what we are actually saying in character. For instance:

Is there anything in the janitor's closet I can use as a weapon, maybe a mop or broom?

I turn to the janitor and explain, "Sorry, I was trying to find a restroom."
 
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Count Otto Black

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Oh, right; that's the very thing I was looking for, only I forgot it was called Spoilers, and didn't notice it tucked away in the little "insert" menu.

And all that should be hidden was veiled from the eyes of all men. Except Amthor, obviously, because Amthor Knows All.

OK, that seems to work. It's not cheat-proof, but nobody here would think of doing such a thing, would they? Also, it occurs to me that if I do this:

You've gone mad!
.

You've gone madder!!

Oh boy, J. Pierpont Finnegan has turned into a cake! Yummy! Take a bite!

...even if nobody peeks who isn't supposed to, it'll be obvious to everyone that poor "Loopy" may be in a certain amount of trouble. So actually Baeraad's suggestion is a good one as far as insanity is concerned. Therefore what I'll do from now on is, for fairly trivial things like one of you noticing something odd that you can't mention right now because the bad guys will overhear, I'll use spoilers. But if someone's gone bonkers, I'll use conversation mode so it won't be too obvious to everyone else when the voice in their head is talking.
 

Tulpa Girl

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Margaret looked at the invitation, a grin forming on her face. "Waldegrave Mansion, eh?" she said to herself, pleased that she recognized the name. Sounds like this could make for a pleasant diversion, she thought to herself. She had her doubts that this might lead to anything otherworldly, but she had been issued an invitation, and it would be rude not to accept a chance at what at least promised to be entertaining party, if nothing else.

It also would be good to get away from Arkham for a little bit, and the so-called 'good people' of that moribund city.

She would make a basic effort to see if she could find anything else regarding Waldegrave Mansion in her small library of books concerning the supernatural, although if she didn't find anything she would be neither overly surprised nor disappointed. It truth, she would probably be spending more time picking out which dress to wear.

Fortunately, being the heir to a railroad company meant that arranging transport for herself down to Hopkinsville County was not an issue. She would make arrangements for a hotel room in the area for the 31st and the first of November - there was no telling if she might need some time to recover from any entertainments the party might provide - with the train arriving in the early afternoon of the 31st.
 

Count Otto Black

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@ Tulpa Girl - Your holiday arrangements get off to a disappointing start when you discover that the once-booming town of Knossos is nowadays something between a village and a ghost town (of the economic variety rather than the supernatural, though of course it's allegedly the other kind too), and any hotels there might once have been went out of business before the turn of the century. The abolition of slavery was very bad news for cotton plantation owners, and Knossos never bounced back.

However, the Waldegrave Mansion was built to cater for larger numbers of guests than it ever had, and apparently it's in reasonably good repair, maintained by the State of Kentucky who own it in the absence of an heir, though they don't know quite what to do with the place. Presumably the hosts of a party this ambitious, one of whom is extremely rich even by your standards, will have made the place habitable.

Your 'small library of books concerning the supernatural' turns out to contain several entire chapters on Waldegrave Mansion, since it gets at least a passing mention in just about every book on the subject written in the last half-century, and is frequently referred to as 'The American Glamis Castle' (supposedly the most haunted building in the world, and associated with a very odd real-life Lovecraftean legend about an aristocratic family and the monstrous mutant horror they gave birth to and hid from the world in a secret room).

However, you soon discover that the authors of these books obviously did their research by quoting the previous book almost word for word and adding another ghost, so you have doubts about their reliability. The most recent is the 1921 Amthor's Complete Encyclopedia of the Weird and Queer, featuring the usual 'Amthor Knows All' publicity image and his name in big letters on the front cover. He may even have written some of it.

* * * * *​

"Waldegrave Mansion, the Mount Everest of haunted houses, was built in 1841 by the wealthy philanthropist Augustus Waldegrave, whose admiration for Ancient Greek culture was such that he arranged by means of a generous contribution to the civic welfare fund for the name of the nearby town to be changed from Rotting Stump to Knossos, the capital of the once mighty Minoan Empire. A kindly and, for his time, progressive man, Augustus Waldegrave, who had extensive medical training, though he never qualified as a doctor due to being obliged to leave his native England suddenly for delicate personal reasons before completing his studies, was keen to ensure that the slaves upon whom he depended for his livelihood, unlike those negroes unlucky enough to have less enlightened masters, benefited fully from the latest advances in the modern medicine unavailable to them in the festering jungles and swamps they called home before the coming of the white men. Ironically, this act of selfless generosity would prove to be his undoing.

Or was he doomed from the moment when, scorning the primitive superstitions of the Indians, he chose an old Shawnee burial ground as the site for his palatial home? Chief Hooting Owl, a bloodthirsty redskin whose savage spirit prowls the mansion's grounds on a never-ending warpath seeking white scalps to adorn his spectral wigwam, is the oldest of the many ghosts to haunt this house of ill omen, but in 1853 the chief was joined in his endless hunt by Arthur Grole, the deranged butler who one day, perhaps possessed by the dark spirits of the restless red men whose eternal slumber the construction of the mansion had disturbed, one day dragged his screaming wife down to the cellar and savagely dismembered her with a hatchet, and after burning her mangled remains in the furnace, killed himself with the same weapon. It is said that he had to drive his forehead against the blade eleven times before life was at last extinguished. The ghosts of both the demented murderer, clutching his wife's head and grinning from what remains of his own, and his hapless victim's squirming torso, endlessly searching for its severed appendages, are sometimes seen by those ignorant or reckless enough to venture into the cellar during the hours of darkness.

But the greatest horror of all was the 1858 slave uprising that cost Augustus Waldegrave his life. The barely-tamed savages, their primitive minds unable to grasp the subtleties of white civilisation, became convinced that the medical care supplied by their master, which for their own good he was obliged to make compulsory, was some form of witchcraft, and in their superstitious terror they rose up and, along with five other innocent people, slaughtered their well-meaning guardian and, in an act of bestiality almost unthinkable in this modern age, ate him. When the cavalry arrived two days later, justice was swift, and the killers were soon swinging from the nearest tree. The instigator of the rebellion, a gigantic negro called Absalom of such hideous aspect that he was more ape than man, is another of the grisly specters often seen in this house of horror. As is the luckless Augustus Waldegrave, desperately trying to flee from his ghastly fate by dragging his mutilated body out of the mansion's chapel where he fruitlessly fled for succour from murderous savages who respected God no more than they did the laws of civilised men. It is said that the rebels even desecrated the House of God by making it a temple to their own hideous African devil-gods, though their mumbo-jumbo availed them naught when the soldiers came.

Augustus' heir, a distant cousin named Adolphus Waldegrave, was no more fortunate. After a deceptively happy interlude of domestic bliss during which he and his good lady wife were blessed with four children, one terrible night in 1877 the entire family were poisoned by the cook, Eliza Mountbatten, a woman of previously good character who, for reasons which will never be known, conceived a murderous hatred of her employers, and did away with them, along with a visiting clergyman, in this ghastly fashion before cutting her own throat. Her murderous scheme wasn't quite a complete success, as Augustus himself, though for days his life was despaired of, barely survived. But although his body recovered, his mind was forever broken. For the remaining twenty-five years of his life he became a recluse, neither receiving visitors nor leaving the house until his death in 1902. He is said to have devoted his lonely days to prayer and meditation in the chapel where his late relative suffered his awful fate, and the nights to contemplation of the heavens from his private observatory. The tragedy is said to be spectrally re-enacted on its anniversary, August the first, in the cavernous chamber which has ever since been known as 'the Dining Room of Doom'.

Other restless spirits too numerous to name haunt the mansion's sprawling maze of corridors, including the five chambermaids who over the years gave the 'Suicide Room' its sinister name, the mysterious Screaming Woman, and the even more mysterious Crawling Thing, the sight of which cost a hapless stableboy his sanity in 1874. But perhaps the strangest mystery of them all may not involve ghosts at all. In 1903, not long after the demise of Augustus, the last living Waldegrave, the rich and fashionably decadent Adrian Marrowbone conceived the amusing notion of holding a Halloween party in the now tenantless mansion. Two of the guests were young Samuel Washbourne and his inamorata Nancy Broderick, who, as is the way with young lovers, slipped away together during a midnight séance. They were never seen again. Despite lengthy police inquiries, no trace of the lovers was ever found, and the million dollar reward offered by the young man's grief-stricken mother remains unclaimed to this day. Was it, as the police eventualy decided, a simple elopement? Or was it the relentless Chief Hooting Owl, the mad butler Arthur Grole, or the unnameable Crawling Thing itself which, in some spectral fashion too terrible to contemplate, caused the young lovers to softly and suddenly vanish away and never be met with again? We shall never know.

But one fact we do know, and upon which all serious students of the paranormal agree, is that although whatever walks the cobwebbed corridors of Waldegrave Mansion keeps its secrets, it does not walk alone, and perhaps, after many years of solitude, it has begun to hunger once more for fresh blood. As long as this benighted house still stands, once in a while another doomed soul will be plucked from the world of the living to join that gloomy band who should be resting in the eternal peace of the grave, but whose dreadful fate is to forever haunt the echoing halls of this mansion of the damned."

* * * * *
Oh, and by the way, just for a bit of fun, you happen to notice amongst a pile of records you never got around to playing one by Earl Constantine and his Orchestra, so, seeing as you'll soon be meeting that controversial fellow, you wind up the gramophone and give it a spin:

 

Tulpa Girl

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The more that Margaret read up on Waldegrave Mansion, the more she felt a growing sense of unease that she couldn't quite overcome. Granted, any site reputed to be haunted usually had something gruesome occur in its history - ghosts weren't said to remain on this mortal plane because they couldn't manage to get a fourth for bridge when they were still alive, after all - but the number of deaths surrounding this place, and the sheer level of heinousness involved, had tampered her earlier enthusiasm... although not enough to keep her from going.

She didn't buy into the near-saintly reputation that the author had bequeathed upon Augustus Waldegrave. Slaves during the war had generally only attempted rebellion under the most desperate of circumstances. What was old Augustus doing to them to force their hand? Some sort of immoral medical experiments? Was the 'delicate personal reasons' for leaving the mother country something less-than-savory that he had to flee England from on short notice?

Attempting to shake off her sense of disquiet, she let the record play that she had found, while picking out her clothes and other accessories for the trip. Not quite as danceable as I would prefer, she mused, but a least the music should prove entertaining.
 

Toric

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Luca Moretti sat on an uncomfortable wooden bench in Penn Station waiting for his train that would take him to Philadelphia and then eventually on to Kentucky. He pulled out the invitation once again and stared at it.

"Spend the night at a haunted house with some magician and other weirdos," Luca mumbled. After a moment, he looked up from the invitation and saw a man sitting across from him staring at him over his newspaper. Luca gave the man an intimidating look, folded the invitation back up, and placed it back in his coat pocket.

He winced as his scraped knuckles rubbed on the course material of his coat. His right hand was sore, but the throbbing had subsided at least and having experience in such matters, he knew that it wasn't broken. The same couldn't be said for Lester Brown's nose. The damn junkie musician had tried to talk Luca out of giving him a thrashing but the people that Lester owed money to for his habit didn't care to hear excuses. Luca was to send a message, plain and simple.

Lester hadn't coughed up money, only blood. But he had produced the invitation that was now tucked safely back in Luca's coat pocket. He had told Luca that the bandleader Constantine that would be attending this little party would be good for the money that Lester owed. After finding no money on the junkie, there was nothing else for Luca to do except take the invitation. He liked the idea of getting out of the city for a couple of weeks. Of course, he had no idea if he actually came back with money to pay Lester's debts, if Lester would even still be alive.

Luca was tired. Tired of doing the mob's dirty work, tired of beating on people who couldn't defend themselves, and tired of fighting when it didn't add to his won-loss record. No matter how hard he tried to get out of the life, they kept drawing him back in. Leaving the city for awhile was just what he needed. He toyed with the idea at the edge of his mind of not coming back and was still daydreaming about that when he boarded his train to head south.
 
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Count Otto Black

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This thread's getting a bit cluttered, so I'll start some new ones. Firstly, could everyone who is actually playing this game post their character sheets in the Characters thread? I might as well have all them in one place where they're easy to keep track of, and if you post your own sheets you can edit them as needed.

Other threads will be added presently. The OOC thread should be used for game-related purposes, and will sometimes contain useful information about game mechanics, so keep an eye on it. The thread called Trivia is for anything which people randomly feel like mentioning that has nothing whatsoever to do with the game.
 
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