• Matt

THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH

The Shadow over Innsmouth is a horror novella by American author H. P. Lovecraft, written in November–December 1931. It forms part of the Cthulhu Mythos, using its motif of a malign undersea civilization, and references several shared elements of the Mythos, including place-names, mythical creatures, and invocations. The Shadow over Innsmouth is the only Lovecraft story that was published in book form during his lifetime.


The narrator is a student conducting an antiquarian tour of New England. He travels through the nearby decrepit seaport of Innsmouth which is suggested as a cheaper and potentially interesting next leg of his journey. There he interacts with strange people and observes disturbing events that ultimately lead to horrifying and personal revelations.

 

NEWBURYPORT RAILWAY STATION

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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I had no car, but was travelling by train, trolley, and motor-coach, always seeking the cheapest possible route. In Newburyport they told me that the steam train was the thing to take to Arkham; and it was only at the station ticket-office, when I demurred at the high fare, that I learned about Innsmouth. The stout, shrewd-faced agent, whose speech shewed him to be no local man, seemed sympathetic toward my efforts at economy, and made a suggestion that none of my other informants had offered. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

IPSWICH, MA

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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“That refinery, though, used to be a big thing, and Old Man Marsh, who owns it, must be richer’n Croesus. Queer old duck, though, and sticks mighty close in his home. He’s supposed to have developed some skin disease or deformity late in life that makes him keep out of sight. Grandson of Captain Obed Marsh, who founded the business. His mother seems to’ve ben some kind of foreigner—they say a South Sea islander—so everybody raised Cain when he married an Ipswich girl fifty years ago." - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

SARGENT-MURRAY-GILMAN-HOUGH HOUSE

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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In his article, “I Found Innsmouth!” (Crypt of Cthulhu No. 57), Will Murray postulates that this historic home, built around 1760, was Lovecraft’s inspiration for the Gilman House Hotel in “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” However, the Gilman House is at least 5 stories tall and has at least 28 rooms per floor. A simpler explanation is that Gilman is a common name in Essex County, particularly on Cape Ann.



Yes, there’s a hotel in Innsmouth—called the Gilman House—but I don’t believe it can amount to much. I wouldn’t advise you to try it. - HPL ~ The Shadow over Innsmouth

 

PLUM ISLAND

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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The day was warm and sunny, but the landscape of sand, sedge-grass, and stunted shrubbery became more and more desolate as we proceeded. Out the window I could see the blue water and the sandy line of Plum Island, and we presently drew very near the beach as our narrow road veered off from the main highway to Rowley and Ipswich. There were no visible houses, and I could tell by the state of the road that traffic was very light hereabouts. The small, weather-worn telephone poles carried only two wires. Now and then we crossed crude wooden bridges over tidal creeks that wound far inland and promoted the general isolation of the region. - The Shadow Over Innsmouth ~ HPL


 

PLUM ISLAND SALT MARSHES

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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People around the country and in the nearby towns muttered a great deal among themselves, but said very little to the outer world. They had talked about dying and half-deserted Innsmouth for nearly a century, and nothing new could be wilder or more hideous than what they had whispered and hinted years before. Many things had taught them secretiveness, and there was now no need to exert pressure on them. Besides, they really knew very little; for wide salt marshes, desolate and unpeopled, keep neighbours off from Innsmouth on the landward side. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



“Well, there must be something like that back of the Innsmouth people. The place always was badly cut off from the rest of the country by marshes and creeks, and we can’t be sure about the ins and outs of the matter; but it’s pretty clear that old Captain Marsh must have brought home some odd specimens when he had all three of his ships in commission back in the twenties and thirties. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


As I thought of these things I looked out over the squalid sea of decaying roofs below me, now brightened by the beams of a moon not much past full. On the right the black gash of the river-gorge clove the panorama; abandoned factories and railway station clinging barnacle-like to its sides. Beyond it the rusted railway and the Rowley road led off through a flat, marshy terrain dotted with islets of higher and dryer scrub-grown land. On the left the creek-threaded countryside was nearer, the narrow road to Ipswich gleaming white in the moonlight. I could not see from my side of the hotel the southward route toward Arkham which I had determined to take. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



This, however, implied that all roads leading out of Innsmouth were similarly patrolled; for the denizens could not have known what route I intended to take. If this were so, I would have to make my retreat across country away from any road; but how could I do that in view of the marshy and creek-riddled nature of all the surrounding region? - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



At last we lost sight of Plum Island and saw the vast expanse of the open Atlantic on our left. Our narrow course began to climb steeply, and I felt a singular sense of disquiet in looking at the lonely crest ahead where the rutted roadway met the sky. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



Innsmouth’s ruined roofs and toppling steeples loomed up greyly toward the southeast, but not a living creature did I spy in all the desolate salt marshes around. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth

 

INNSMOUTH BAY

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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“Dun’t believe me, hey? Heh, heh, heh—then jest tell me, young feller, why Cap’n Obed an’ twenty odd other folks used to row aout to Devil Reef in the dead o’ night an’ chant things so laoud ye cud hear ’em all over taown when the wind was right? Tell me that, hey? An’ tell me why Obed was allus droppin’ heavy things daown into the deep water t’other side o’ the reef whar the bottom shoots daown like a cliff lower’n ye kin saound? Tell me what he done with that funny-shaped lead thingumajig as Walakea give him? Hey, boy? An’ what did they all haowl on May-Eve, an’ agin the next Hallowe’en? An’ why’d the new church parsons—fellers as used to be sailors—wear them queer robes an’ cover theirselves with them gold-like things Obed brung? Hey?” - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

INNSMOUTH

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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The possible location of fictional Innsmouth could have been a town called Little Neck, as seen across the estuary in the photo's below. The map shown in Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying rulebook also shows this spot marked as Innsmouth also.



Innsmouth’s ruined roofs and toppling steeples loomed up greyly toward the southeast, but not a living creature did I spy in all the desolate salt marshes around. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



When visiting the Innsmouth area, the right attire must be worn to appease Father Dagon. The artwork on this shirt was done by the illustrious and talented Jason Eckhardt and featured on the Narragansett Lovecraft ale beer can back in 2015.



“Innsmouth? Well, it’s a queer kind of a town down at the mouth of the Manuxet. Used to be almost a city—quite a port before the War of 1812—but all gone to pieces in the last hundred years or so. No railroad now—B. & M. never went through, and the branch line from Rowley was given up years ago." - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth

 

DAGON HALL - LEGION MEMORIAL BUILDING, GLOUCESTER

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 27, 2020
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HPL scholar S.T. Joshi believes this to be the building that was the inspiration for the Esoteric Order of Dagon Hall in The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Although I still believe the Masonic Hall in Newburyport is a likely candidate too personally. This building was built in 1844–45, and was the original Gloucester Town Hall until 1867. After this, it was the Forbes School until 1919, when the American Legion took over it.



The bus had come to a sort of open concourse or radial point with churches on two sides and the bedraggled remains of a circular green in the centre, and I was looking at a large pillared hall on the right-hand junction ahead. The structure’s once white paint was now grey and peeling, and the black and gold sign on the pediment was so faded that I could only with difficulty make out the words ‘Esoteric Order of Dagon’. This, then, was the former Masonic Hall now given over to a degraded cult....One must not, for example, linger much around the Marsh refinery, or around any of the still used churches, or around the pillared Order of Dagon Hall at New Church Green. - HPL ~ The Shadow over Innsmouth

 

DAGON HALL - MASONIC HALL, NEWBURYPORT

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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There are a couple of possible locations that were thought to inspire the This building is thought HPL scholar S.T. Joshi believes this is not the inspiration of the Esoteric Order of Dagon Hall, despite it being built 3 years before the story was written. Also the street it is on (Green Street) also bears resemblance to the location of the Orders Hall in Innsmouth.



It was called, she said, “The Esoteric Order of Dagon”, and was undoubtedly a debased, quasi-pagan thing imported from the East a century before, at a time when the Innsmouth fisheries seemed to be going barren. Its persistence among a simple people was quite natural in view of the sudden and permanent return of abundantly fine fishing, and it soon came to be the greatest influence on the town, replacing Freemasonry altogether and taking up headquarters in the old Masonic Hall on New Church Green. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth

 

NEWBURYPORT

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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I never heard of Innsmouth till the day before I saw it for the first and—so far—last time. I was celebrating my coming of age by a tour of New England—sightseeing, antiquarian, and genealogical—and had planned to go directly from ancient Newburyport to Arkham, whence my mother’s family was derived. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

STATE STREET, NEWBURYPORT

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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In odd contrast to the tiara’s aspect was its brief and prosy history as related by Miss Tilton. It had been pawned for a ridiculous sum at a shop in State Street in 1873, by a drunken Innsmouth man shortly afterward killed in a brawl. The Society had acquired it directly from the pawnbroker, at once giving it a display worthy of its quality. It was labelled as of probable East-Indian or Indo-Chinese provenance, though the attribution was frankly tentative. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

HIGH STREET, NEWBURYPORT

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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At length the decrepit vehicle started with a jerk, and rattled noisily past the old brick buildings of State Street amidst a cloud of vapour from the exhaust. Glancing at the people on the sidewalks, I thought I detected in them a curious wish to avoid looking at the bus—or at least a wish to avoid seeming to look at it. Then we turned to the left into High Street, where the going was smoother; flying by stately old mansions of the early republic and still older colonial farmhouses, passing the Lower Green and Parker River, and finally emerging into a long, monotonous stretch of open shore country. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

NEWBURYPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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Most interesting of all was a glancing reference to the strange jewellery vaguely associated with Innsmouth. It had evidently impressed the whole countryside more than a little, for mention was made of specimens in the museum of Miskatonic University at Arkham, and in the display room of the Newburyport Historical Society. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

ROWLEY RAILWAY STATION

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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“Innsmouth? Well, it’s a queer kind of a town down at the mouth of the Manuxet. Used to be almost a city—quite a port before the War of 1812—but all gone to pieces in the last hundred years or so. No railroad now—B. & M. never went through, and the branch line from Rowley was given up years ago." - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



"Queer how fish are always thick off Innsmouth Harbour when there ain’t any anywhere else around—but just try to fish there yourself and see how the folks chase you off! Those people used to come here on the railroad—walking and taking the train at Rowley after the branch was dropped—but now they use that bus." - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth

 

MARKET SQUARE, NEWBURYPORT

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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“You could take that old bus, I suppose,” he said with a certain hesitation, “but it ain’t thought much of hereabouts. It goes through Innsmouth—you may have heard about that—and so the people don’t like it. Run by an Innsmouth fellow—Joe Sargent—but never gets any custom from here, or Arkham either, I guess. Wonder it keeps running at all. I s’pose it’s cheap enough, but I never see more’n two or three people in it—nobody but those Innsmouth folks. Leaves the Square—front of Hammond’s Drug Store—at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. unless they’ve changed lately. Looks like a terrible rattletrap—I’ve never ben on it.” - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



Shortly before ten the next morning I stood with one small valise in front of Hammond’s Drug Store in old Market Square waiting for the Innsmouth bus. As the hour for its arrival drew near I noticed a general drift of the loungers to other places up the street, or to the Ideal Lunch across the square. Evidently the ticket-agent had not exaggerated the dislike which local people bore toward Innsmouth and its denizens. In a few moments a small motor-coach of extreme decrepitude and dirty grey colour rattled down State Street, made a turn, and drew up at the curb beside me. I felt immediately that it was the right one; a guess which the half-illegible sign on the windshield—“Arkham-Innsmouth-Newb’port” - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

NEWBURYPORT Y.M.C.A.

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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At the Y.M.C.A., where I was stopping, the clerk merely discouraged my going to such a dismal, decadent place; and the people at the library shewed much the same attitude. Clearly, in the eyes of the educated, Innsmouth was merely an exaggerated case of civic degeneration. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

NEWBURYPORT PUBLIC LIBRARY

DATE(S) VISITED: SEP 26, 2020
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And so I spent part of that evening at the Newburyport Public Library looking up data about Innsmouth. When I had tried to question the natives in the shops, the lunch room, the garages, and the fire station, I had found them even harder to get started than the ticket-agent had predicted; and realised that I could not spare the time to overcome their first instinctive reticences. They had a kind of obscure suspiciousness, as if there were something amiss with anyone too much interested in Innsmouth. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



The Essex County histories on the library shelves had very little to say, except that the town was founded in 1643, noted for shipbuilding before the Revolution, a seat of great marine prosperity in the early nineteenth century, and later a minor factory centre using the Manuxet as power. The epidemic and riots of 1846 were very sparsely treated, as if they formed a discredit to the county. - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth


 

THE DANVERS LUNATIC ASYLUM

DATE(S) VISITED: AUG 23, 2017
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The Danvers State Hospital, also known as the State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers, The Danvers Lunatic Asylum, and The Danvers State Insane Asylum, was a psychiatric hospital located at 450 Maple Street, Danvers, Massachusetts. It was built in 1874, and opened in 1878, under the supervision of prominent Boston architect Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, on an isolated rural site. It was a multi-acre, self-contained psychiatric hospital designed and built according to the Kirkbride Plan. Despite being included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the majority of the building was sadly demolished in 2007.


The Danvers State Hospital is believed by literary historians to have served as inspiration for the infamous Arkham sanatorium from H.P. Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep. (Lovecraft's Arkham, in turn, is the inspiration for Arkham Asylum, a psychiatric hospital within the Batman universe).



“Nobody can ever keep track of these people, and state school officials and census men have a devil of a time. You can bet that prying strangers ain’t welcome around Innsmouth. I’ve heard personally of more’n one business or government man that’s disappeared there, and there’s loose talk of one who went crazy and is out at Danvers now. They must have fixed up some awful scare for that fellow." - HPL ~ The Shadow Over Innsmouth



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