The Shadow Over Innsmouth
by H. P. Lovecraft
Written Nov - Dec 3, 1931
Published 1936 in The
Shadow over Innsmouth, Everett, PA:
Visionary Publishing Co., p.
the winter of 1927-28 officials of the Federal government made a
strange and secret investigation of certain conditions in the ancient
Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. The public first learned of it in
February, when a vast series of raids and arrests occurred, followed by
the deliberate burning and dynamiting - under suitable precautions - of
an enormous number of crumbling, worm-eaten, and supposedly empty
houses along the abandoned waterfront. Uninquiring souls let this
occurrence pass as one of the major clashes in a spasmodic war on
news-followers, however, wondered at the prodigious number of arrests,
the abnormally large force of men used in making them, and the secrecy
surrounding the disposal of the prisoners. No trials, or even definite
charges were reported; nor were any of the captives seen thereafter in
the regular gaols of the nation. There were vague statements about
disease and concentration camps, and later about dispersal in various
naval and military prisons, but nothing positive ever developed.
Innsmouth itself was left almost depopulated, and it is even now only
beginning to show signs of a sluggishly revived existence.
from many liberal organizations were met with long confidential
discussions, and representatives were taken on trips to certain camps
and prisons. As a result, these societies became surprisingly passive
and reticent. Newspaper men were harder to manage, but seemed largely
to cooperate with the government in the end. Only one paper - a tabloid
always discounted because of its wild policy - mentioned the deep
diving submarine that discharged torpedoes downward in the marine abyss
just beyond Devil Reef. That item, gathered by chance in a haunt of
sailors, seemed indeed rather far-fetched; since the low, black reef
lay a full mile and a half out from Innsmouth Harbour.
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 at years before. Many things had taught them
secretiveness, and there was no need to exert pressure on them.
Besides, they really knew little; for wide salt marshes, desolate and
unpeopled, kept neighbors off from Innsmouth on the landward side.
at last I am going to defy the ban on speech about this thing. Results,
I am certain, are so thorough that no public harm save a shock of
repulsion could ever accrue from a hinting of what was found by those
horrified men at Innsmouth. Besides, what was found might possibly have
more than one explanation. I do not know just how much of the whole
tale has been told even to me, and I have many reasons for not wishing
to probe deeper. For my contact with this affair has been closer than
that of any other layman, and I have carried away impressions which are
yet to drive me to drastic measures.
was I who fled frantically out of Innsmouth in the early morning hours
of July 16, 1927, and whose frightened appeals for government inquiry
and action brought on the whole reported episode. I was willing enough
to stay mute while the affair was fresh and uncertain; but now that it
is an old story, with public interest and curiosity gone, I have an odd
craving to whisper about those few frightful hours in that ill-rumored
and evilly-shadowed seaport of death and blasphemous abnormality. The
mere telling helps me to restore confidence in my own faculties; to
reassure myself that I was not the first to succumb to a contagious
nightmare hallucination. It helps me, too, in making up my mind
regarding a certain terrible step which lies ahead of me.
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. 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.
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 mor'n two or three people in
it - nobody but those Innsmouth folk. 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 been on it."
was the first I ever heard of shadowed Innsmouth. Any reference to a
town not shown on common maps or listed in recent guidebooks would have
interested me, and the agent's odd manner of allusion roused something
like real curiosity. A town able to inspire such dislike in it its
neighbors, I thought, must be at least rather unusual, and worthy of a
tourist's attention. If it came before Arkham I would stop off there
and so I asked the agent to tell me something about it. He was very
deliberate, and spoke with an air of feeling slightly superior to what
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. and M. never went through, and the branch line from Rowley was given
up years ago.
empty houses than there are people, I guess, and no business to speak
of except fishing and lobstering. Everybody trades mostly either here
or in Arkham or Ipswich. Once they had quite a few mills, but nothing's
left now except one gold refinery running on the leanest kind of part
refinery, though, used to he 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
been some kind of foreigner - they say a South Sea islander - so
everybody raised Cain when he married an Ipswich girl fifty years ago.
They always do that about Innsmouth people, and folks here and
hereabouts always try to cover up any Innsmouth blood they have in 'em.
But Marsh's children and grandchildren look just like anyone else far's
I can see. I've had 'em pointed out to me here - though, come to think
of it, the elder children don't seem to be around lately. Never saw the
why is everybody so down on Innsmouth? Well, young fellow, you mustn't
take too much stock in what people here say. They're hard to get
started, but once they do get started they never let up. They've been
telling things about Innsmouth - whispering 'em, mostly - for the last
hundred years, I guess, and I gather they're more scared than anything
else. Some of the stories would make you laugh - about old Captain
Marsh driving bargains with the devil and bringing imps out of hell to
live in Innsmouth, or about some kind of devil-worship and awful
sacrifices in some place near the wharves that people stumbled on
around 1845 or thereabouts - but I come from Panton, Vermont, and that
kind of story don't go down with me.
ought to hear, though, what some of the old-timers tell about the black
reef off the coast - Devil Reef, they call it. It's well above water a
good part of the time, and never much below it, but at that you could
hardly call it an island. The story is that there's a whole legion of
devils seen sometimes on that reef - sprawled about, or darting in and
out of some kind of caves near the top. It's a rugged, uneven thing, a
good bit over a mile out, and toward the end of shipping days sailors
used to make big detours just to avoid it.
is, sailors that didn't hail from Innsmouth. One of the things they had
against old Captain Marsh was that he was supposed to land on it
sometimes at night when the tide was right. Maybe he did, for I dare
say the rock formation was interesting, and it's just barely possible
he was looking for pirate loot and maybe finding it; but there was talk
of his dealing with demons there. Fact is, I guess on the whole it was
really the Captain that gave the bad reputation to the reef.
was before the big epidemic of 1846, when over half the folks in
Innsmouth was carried off. They never did quite figure out what the
trouble was, but it was probably some foreign kind of disease brought
from China or somewhere by the shipping. It surely was bad enough -
there was riots over it, and all sorts of ghastly doings that I don't
believe ever got outside of town - and it left the place in awful
shape. Never came back - there can't be more'n 300 or 400 people living
the real thing behind the way folks feel is simply race prejudice - and
I don't say I'm blaming those that hold it. I hate those Innsmouth
folks myself, and I wouldn't care to go to their town. I s'pose you
know - though I can see you're a Westerner by your talk - what a lot
our New England ships - used to have to do with queer ports in Africa,
Asia, the South Seas, and everywhere else, and what queer kinds of
people they sometimes brought back with 'em. You've probably heard
about the Salem man that came home with a Chinese wife, and maybe you
know there's still a bunch of Fiji Islanders somewhere around Cape Cod.
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. There certainly is a strange kind of
streak in the Innsmouth folks today - I don't know how to explain it
but it sort of makes you crawl. You'll notice a little in Sargent if
you take his bus. Some of 'em have queer narrow heads with flat noses
and bulgy, starry eyes that never seem to shut, and their skin ain't
quite right. Rough and scabby, and the sides of the necks are all
shriveled or creased up. Get bald, too, very young. The older fellows
look the worst - fact is, I don't believe I've ever seen a very old
chap of that kind. Guess they must die of looking in the glass! Animals
hate 'em - they used to have lots of horse trouble before the autos
around here or in Arkham or Ipswich will have anything to do with 'em,
and they act kind of offish themselves when they come to town or when
anyone tries to fish on their grounds. 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
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. Better
stay over here and take the ten o'clock bus tomorrow morning; then you
can get an evening bus there for Arkham at eight o'clock. There was a
factory inspector who stopped at the Gilman a couple of years ago and
he had a lot of unpleasant hints about the place. Seems they get a
queer crowd there, for this fellow heard voices in other rooms - though
most of 'em was empty - that gave him the shivers. It was foreign talk
he thought, but he said the bad thing about it was the kind of voice
that sometimes spoke. It sounded so unnatural - slopping like, he said
- that he didn't dare undress and go to sleep. Just waited up and lit
out the first thing in the morning. The talk went on most all night.
fellow - Casey, his name was - had a lot to say about how the Innsmouth
folk, watched him and seemed kind of on guard. He found the Marsh
refinery a queer place - it's in an old mill on the lower falls of the
Manuxet. What he said tallied up with what I'd heard. Books in bad
shape, and no clear account of any kind of dealings. You know it's
always been a kind of mystery where the Marshes get the gold they
refine. They've never seemed to do much buying in that line, but years
ago they shipped out an enormous lot of ingots.
to be talk of a queer foreign kind of jewelry that the sailors and
refinery men sometimes sold on the sly, or that was seen once or twice
on some of the Marsh women-folks. People allowed maybe old Captain Obed
traded for it in some heathen port, especially since he always ordered
stacks of glass beads and trinkets such as seafaring men used to get
for native trade. Others thought and still think he'd found an old
pirate cache out on Devil Reef. But here's a funny thing. The old
Captain's been dead these sixty years, and there's ain't been a
good-sized ship out of the place since the Civil War; but just the same
the Marshes still keep on buying a few of those native trade things -
mostly glass and rubber gewgaws, they tell me. Maybe the Innsmouth
folks like 'em to look at themselves - Gawd knows they've gotten to be
about as bad as South Sea cannibals and Guinea savages.
plague of '46 must have taken off the best blood in the place. Anyway,
they're a doubtful lot now, and the Marshes and other rich folks are as
bad as any. As I told you, there probably ain't more'n 400 people in
the whole town in spite of all the streets they say there are. I guess
they're what they call 'white trash' down South - lawless and sly, and
full of secret things. They get a lot of fish and lobsters and do
exporting by truck. Queer how the fish swarm right there and nowhere
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.
why I wouldn't go at night if I was you. I've never been there and have
no wish to go, but I guess a daytime trip couldn't hurt you - even
though the people hereabouts will advise you not to make it. If you're
just sightseeing, and looking for old-time stuff, Innsmouth ought to be
quite a place for you."
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 lunchroom, the garages, and the fire station,
I had found them even harder to get started than the ticket agent had
predicted; and realized that I could not spare the time to overcome
their first instinctive reticence. They had a kind of obscure
suspiciousness, as if there were something amiss with anyone too much
interested in Innsmouth. 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
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 19th
century, and later a minor factory center using the Manuxet as power.
The epidemic and riots of 1846 were very sparsely treated, as if they
formed a discredit to the county.
to decline were few, though the significance of the later record was
unmistakable. After the Civil War all industrial life was confined to
the Marsh Refining Company, and the marketing of gold ingots formed the
only remaining bit of major commerce aside from the eternal fishing.
That fishing paid less and less as the price of the commodity fell and
large-scale corporations offered competition, but there was never a
dearth of fish around Innsmouth Harbour. Foreigners seldom settled
there, and there was some discreetly veiled evidence that a number of
Poles and Portuguese who had tried it had been scattered in a
peculiarly drastic fashion.
interesting of all was a glancing reference to the strange jewelry
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. The fragmentary descriptions of
these things were bald and prosaic, but they hinted to me an
undercurrent of persistent strangeness. Something about them seemed so
odd and provocative that I could not put them out of my mind, and
despite the relative lateness of the hour I resolved to see the local
sample - said to be a large, queerly-proportioned thing evidently meant
for a tiara - if it could possibly be arranged.
librarian gave me a note of introduction to the curator of the Society,
a Miss Anna Tilton, who lived nearby, and after a brief explanation
that ancient gentlewoman was kind enough to pilot me into the closed
building, since the hour was not outrageously late. The collection was
a notable one indeed, but in my present mood I had eyes for nothing but
the bizarre object which glistened in a corner cupboard under the
took no excessive sensitiveness to beauty to make me literally gasp at
the strange, unearthly splendour of the alien, opulent phantasy that
rested there on a purple velvet cushion. Even now I can hardly describe
what I saw, though it was clearly enough a sort of tiara, as the
description had said. It was tall in front, and with a very large and
curiously irregular periphery, as if designed for a head of almost
freakishly elliptical outline. The material seemed to be predominantly
gold, though a weird lighter lustrousness hinted at some strange alloy
with an equally beautiful and scarcely identifiable metal. Its
condition was almost perfect, and one could have spent hours in
studying the striking and puzzlingly untraditional designs - some
simply geometrical, and some plainly marine - chased or moulded in high
relief on its surface with a craftsmanship of incredible skill and
longer I looked, the more the thing fascinated me; and in this
fascination there was a curiously disturbing element hardly to be
classified or accounted for. At first I decided that it was the queer
other-worldly quality of the art which made me uneasy. All other art
objects I had ever seen either belonged to some known racial or
national stream, or else were consciously modernistic defiances of
every recognized stream. This tiara was neither. It clearly belonged to
some settled technique of infinite maturity and perfection, yet that
technique was utterly remote from any - Eastern or Western, ancient or
modern - which I had ever heard of or seen exemplified. It was as if
the workmanship were that of another planet.
I soon saw that my uneasiness had a second and perhaps equally potent
source residing in the pictorial and mathematical suggestion of the
strange designs. The patterns all hinted of remote secrets and
unimaginable abysses in time and space, and the monotonously aquatic
nature of the reliefs became almost sinister. Among these reliefs were
fabulous monsters of abhorrent grotesqueness and malignity - half
ichthyic and half batrachian in suggestion - which one could not
dissociate from a certain haunting and uncomfortable sense of
pseudomemory, as if they called up some image from deep cells and
tissues whose retentive functions are wholly primal and awesomely
ancestral. At times I fancied that every contour of these blasphemous
fish-frogs was over-flowing with the ultimate quintessence of unknown
and inhuman evil.
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 labeled as of probable East-Indian or Indochinese provenance,
though the attribution was frankly tentative.
Tilton, comparing all possible hypotheses regarding its origin and its
presence in New England, was inclined to believe that it formed part of
some exotic pirate hoard discovered by old Captain Obed Marsh. This
view was surely not weakened by the insistent offers of purchase at a
high price which the Marshes began to make as soon as they knew of its
presence, and which they repeated to this day despite the Society's
unvarying determination not to sell.
the good lady shewed me out of the building she made it clear that the
pirate theory of the Marsh fortune was a popular one among the
intelligent people of the region. Her own attitude toward shadowed
Innsmouth - which she never seen - was one of disgust at a community
slipping far down the cultural scale, and she assured me that the
rumours of devil-worship were partly justified by a peculiar secret
cult which had gained force there and engulfed all the orthodox
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 in the town, replacing
Freemasonry altogether and taking up headquarters in the old Masonic
Hall on New Church Green.
this, to the pious Miss Tilton, formed an excellent reason for shunning
the ancient town of decay and desolation; but to me it was merely a
fresh incentive. To my architectural and historical anticipations was
now added an acute anthropological zeal, and I could scarcely sleep in
my small room at the "Y" as the night wore away.
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-Newburyport - soon verified.
were only three passengers - dark, unkempt men of sullen visage and
somewhat youthful cast - and when the vehicle stopped they clumsily
shambled out and began walking up State Street in a silent, almost
furtive fashion. The driver also alighted, and I watched him as he went
into the drug store to make some purchase. This, I reflected, must be
the Joe Sargent mentioned by the ticket-agent; and even before I
noticed any details there spread over me a wave of spontaneous aversion
which could be neither checked nor explained. It suddenly struck me as
very natural that the local people should not wish to ride on a bus
owned and driven by this man, or to visit any oftener than possible the
habitat of such a man and his kinsfolk.
the driver came out of the store I looked at him more carefully and
tried to determine the source of my evil impression. He was a thin,
stoop-shouldered man not much under six feet tall, dressed in shabby
blue civilian clothes and wearing a frayed golf cap. His age was
perhaps thirty-five, but the odd, deep creases in the sides of his neck
made him seem older when one did not study his dull, expressionless
face. He had a narrow head, bulging, watery-blue eyes that seemed never
to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularly
undeveloped ears. His long thick lip and coarse-pored, greyish cheeks
seemed almost beardless except for some sparse yellow hairs that
straggled and curled in irregular patches; and in places the surface
seemed queerly irregular, as if peeling from some cutaneous disease.
His hands were large and heavily veined, and had a very unusual
greyish-blue tinge. The fingers were strikingly short in proportion to
the rest of the structure, and seemed to have a tendency to curl
closely into the huge palm. As he walked toward the bus I observed his
peculiarly shambling gait and saw that his feet were inordinately
immense. The more I studied them the more I wondered how he could buy
any shoes to fit them.
certain greasiness about the fellow increased my dislike. He was
evidently given to working or lounging around the fish docks, and
carried with him much of their characteristic smell. Just what foreign
blood was in him I could not even guess. His oddities certainly did not
look Asiatic, Polynesian, Levantine or negroid, yet I could see why the
people found him alien. I myself would have thought of biological
degeneration rather than alienage.
was sorry when I saw there would be no other passengers on the bus.
Somehow I did not like the idea of riding alone with this driver. But
as leaving time obviously approached I conquered my qualms and followed
the man aboard, extending him a dollar bill and murmuring the single
word "Innsmouth." He looked curiously at me for a second as he returned
forty cents change without speaking. I took a seat far behind him, but
on the same side of the bus, since I wished to watch the shore during
length the decrepit vehicle stared 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.
day was warm and sunny, but the landscape of sand and sedge-grass, and
stunted shrubbery became more and 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 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.
in a while I noticed dead stumps and crumbling foundation-walls above
the drifting sand, and recalled the old tradition quoted in one of the
histories I had read, that this was once a fertile and thickly-settled
countryside. The change, it was said, came simultaneously with the
Innsmouth epidemic of l846, and was thought by simple folk to have a
dark connection with hidden forces of evil. Actually, it was caused by
the unwise cutting of woodlands near the shore, which robbed the soil
of the best protection and opened the way for waves of wind-blown sand.
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 road-way met the sky. It was as if the bus were about
to keep on in its ascent, leaving the sane earth altogether and merging
with the unknown arcana of upper air and cryptical sky. The smell of
the sea took on ominous implications, and the silent driver's bent,
rigid back and narrow head became more and more hateful. As I looked at
him I saw that the back of his head was almost as hairless as his face,
having only a few straggling yellow strands upon a grey scabrous
we reached the crest and beheld the outspread valley beyond, where the
Manuxet joins the sea just north of the long line of cliffs that
culminate in Kingsport Head and veer off toward Cape Ann. On the far
misty horizon I could just make out the dizzy profile of the Head,
topped by the queer ancient house of which so many legends are told;
but for the moment all my attention was captured by the nearer panorama
just below me. I had, I realized, come face to face with
was a town of wide extent and dense construction, yet one with a
portentous dearth of visible life. From the tangle of chimney-pots
scarcely a wisp of smoke came, and the three tall steeples loomed stark
and unpainted against the seaward horizon. One of them was crumbling
down at the top, and in that and another there were only black gaping
holes where clock-dials should have been. The vast huddle of sagging
gambrel roofs and peaked gables conveyed with offensive clearness the
idea of wormy decay, and as we approached along the now descending road
I could see that many roofs had wholly caved in. There were some large
square Georgian houses, too, with hipped roofs, cupolas, and railed
"widow's walks." These were mostly well back from the water, and one or
two seemed to be in moderately sound condition. Stretching inland from
among them I saw the rusted, grass-grown line of the abandoned railway,
with leaning telegraph-poles now devoid of wires, and the half-obscured
lines of the old carriage roads to Rowley and Ipswich.
decay was worst close to the waterfront, though in its very midst I
could spy the white belfry of a fairly well preserved brick structure
which looked like a small factory. The harbour, long clogged with sand,
was enclosed by an ancient stone breakwater; on which I could begin to
discern the minute forms of a few seated fishermen, and at whose end
were what looked like the foundations of a bygone lighthouse. A sandy
tongue had formed inside this barrier and upon it I saw a few decrepit
cabins, moored dories, and scattered lobster-pots. The only deep water
seemed to be where the river poured out past the belfried structure and
turned southward to join the ocean at the breakwater's end.
and there the ruins of wharves jutted out from the shore to end in
indeterminate rottenness, those farthest south seeming the most
decayed. And far out at sea, despite a high tide, I glimpsed a long,
black line scarcely rising above the water yet carrying a suggestion of
odd latent malignancy. This, I knew, must be Devil Reef. As I looked, a
subtle, curious sense of beckoning seemed superadded to the grim
repulsion; and oddly enough, I found this overtone more disturbing than
the primary impression.
met no one on the road, but presently began to pass deserted farms in
varying stages of ruin. Then I noticed a few inhabited houses with rags
stuffed in the broken windows and shells and dead fish lying about the
littered yards. Once or twice I saw listless-looking people working in
barren gardens or digging clams on the fishy-smelling beach below, and
groups of dirty, simian-visaged children playing around weed-grown
doorsteps. Somehow these people seemed more disquieting than the dismal
buildings, for almost every one had certain peculiarities of face and
motions which I instinctively disliked without being able to define or
comprehend them. For a second I thought this typical physique suggested
some picture I had seen, perhaps in a book, under circumstances of
particular horror or melancholy; but this pseudo-recollection passed
the bus reached a lower level I began to catch the steady note of a
waterfall through the unnatural stillness, The leaning, unpainted
houses grew thicker, lined both sides of the road, and displayed more
urban tendencies than did those we were leaving behind, The panorama
ahead had contracted to a street scene, and in spots I could see where
a cobblestone pavement and stretches of brick sidewalk had formerly
existed. All the houses were apparently deserted, and there were
occasional gaps where tumbledown chimneys and cellar walls told of
buildings that had collapsed. Pervading everything was the most
nauseous fishy odour imaginable.
cross streets and junctions began to appear; those on the left leading
to shoreward realms of unpaved squalor and decay, while those on the
right shewed vistas of departed grandeur. So far I had seen no people
in the town, but there now came signs of a sparse habitation -
curtained windows here and there, and an occasional battered motorcar
at the curb. Pavement and sidewalks were increasingly well-defined, and
though most of the houses were quite old - wood and brick structures of
the early 19th century - they were obviously kept fit for habitation.
As an amateur antiquarian I almost lost my olfactory disgust and my
feeling of menace and repulsion amidst this rich, unaltered survival
from the past.
I was not to reach my destination without one very strong impression of
poignantly disagreeable quality. 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 gray 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. As I strained to decipher this
inscription my notice was distracted by the raucous tones of a cracked
bell across the street, and I quickly turned to look out the window on
my side of the coach.
sound came from a squat stone church of manifestly later date than most
of the houses, built in a clumsy Gothic fashion and having a
disproportionately high basement with shuttered windows. Though the
hands of its clock were missing on the side I glimpsed, I knew that
those hoarse strokes were tolling the hour of eleven. Then suddenly all
thoughts of time were blotted out by an onrushing image of sharp
intensity and unaccountable horror which had seized me before I knew
what it really was. The door of the church basement was open, revealing
a rectangle of blackness inside. And as I looked, a certain object
crossed or seemed to cross that dark rectangle; burning into my brain a
momentary conception of nightmare which was all the more maddening
because analysis could not shew a single nightmarish quality in it.
was a living object - the first except the driver that I had seen since
entering the compact part of the town - and had I been in a steadier
mood I would have found nothing whatever of terror in it. Clearly, as I
realised a moment later, it was the pastor; clad in some peculiar
vestments doubtless introduced since the Order of Dagon had modified
the ritual of the local churches. The thing which had probably caught
my first subconscious glance and supplied the touch of bizarre horror
was the tall tiara he wore; an almost exact duplicate of the one Miss
Tilton had shown me the previous evening. This, acting on my
imagination, had supplied namelessly sinister qualities to the
indeterminate face and robed, shambling form beneath it. There was not,
I soon decided, any reason why I should have felt that shuddering touch
of evil pseudo-memory. Was it not natural that a local mystery cult
should adopt among its regimentals an unique type of head-dress made
familiar to the community in some strange way - perhaps as
very thin sprinkling of repellent-looking youngish people now became
visible on the sidewalks - lone individuals, and silent knots of two or
three. The lower floors of the crumbling houses sometimes harboured
small shops with dingy signs, and I noticed a parked truck or two as we
rattled along. The sound of waterfalls became more and more distinct,
and presently I saw a fairly deep river-gorge ahead, spanned by a wide,
iron-railed highway bridge beyond which a large square opened out. As
we clanked over the bridge I looked out on both sides and observed some
factory buildings on the edge of the grassy bluff or part way down. The
water far below was very abundant, and I could see two vigorous sets of
falls upstream on my right and at least one downstream on my left. From
this point the noise was quite deafening. Then we rolled into the large
semicircular square across the river and drew up on the right-hand side
in front of a tall, cupola crowned building with remnants of yellow
paint and with a half-effaced sign proclaiming it to be the Gilman
was glad to get out of that bus, and at once proceeded to check my
valise in the shabby hotel lobby. There was only one person in sight -
an elderly man without what I had come to call the "Innsmouth look" -
and I decided not to ask him any of the questions which bothered me;
remembering that odd things had been noticed in this hotel. Instead, I
strolled out on the square, from which the bus had already gone, and
studied the scene minutely and appraisingly.
side of the cobblestoned open space was the straight line of the river;
the other was a semicircle of slant-roofed brick buildings of about the
1800 period, from which several streets radiated away to the southeast,
south, and southwest. Lamps were depressingly few and small - all
low-powered incandescents - and I was glad that my plans called for
departure before dark, even though I knew the moon would be bright. The
buildings were all in fair condition, and included perhaps a dozen
shops in current operation; of which one was a grocery of the First
National chain, others a dismal restaurant, a drug store, and a
wholesale fish-dealer's office, and still another, at the eastward
extremity of the square near the river an office of the town's only
industry - the Marsh Refining Company. There were perhaps ten people
visible, and four or five automobiles and motor trucks stood scattered
about. I did not need to be told that this was the civic centre of
Innsmouth. Eastward I could catch blue glimpses of the harbour, against
which rose the decaying remains of three once beautiful Georgian
steeples. And toward the shore on the opposite bank of the river I saw
the white belfry surmounting what I took to be the Marsh refinery.
some reason or other I chose to make my first inquiries at the chain
grocery, whose personnel was not likely to be native to Innsmouth. I
found a solitary boy of about seventeen in charge, and was pleased to
note the brightness and affability which promised cheerful information.
He seemed exceptionally eager to talk, and I soon gathered that he did
not like the place, its fishy smell, or its furtive people. A word with
any outsider was a relief to him. He hailed from Arkham, boarded with a
family who came from Ipswich, and went back whenever he got a moment
off. His family did not like him to work in Innsmouth, but the chain
had transferred him there and he did not wish to give up his job.
was, he said, no public library or chamber of commerce in Innsmouth,
but I could probably find my way about. The street I had come down was
Federal. West of that were the fine old residence streets - Broad,
Washington, Lafayette, and Adams - and east of it were the shoreward
slums. It was in these slums - along Main Street - that I would find
the old Georgian churches, but they were all long abandoned. It would
be well not to make oneself too conspicuous in such neighbourhoods -
especially north of the river since the people were sullen and hostile.
Some strangers had even disappeared.
spots were almost forbidden territory, as he had learned at
considerable cost. 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. Those churches were
very odd - all violently disavowed by their respective denominations
elsewhere, and apparently using the queerest kind of ceremonials and
clerical vestments. Their creeds were heterodox and mysterious,
involving hints of certain marvelous transformations leading to bodily
immortality - of a sort - on this earth. The youth's own pastor - Dr.
Wallace of Asbury M. E. Church in Arkham - had gravely urged him not to
join any church in Innsmouth.
for the Innsmouth people - the youth hardly knew what to make of them.
They were as furtive and seldom seen as animals that live in burrows,
and one could hardly imagine how they passed the time apart from their
desultory fishing. Perhaps - judging from the quantities of bootleg
liquor they consumed - they lay for most of the daylight hours in an
alcoholic stupor. They seemed sullenly banded together in some sort of
fellowship and understanding - despising the world as if they had
access to other and preferable spheres of entity. Their appearance -
especially those staring, unwinking eyes which one never saw shut - was
certainly shocking enough; and their voices were disgusting. It was
awful to hear them chanting in their churches at night, and especially
during their main festivals or revivals, which fell twice a year on
April 30th and October 31st.
were very fond of the water, and swam a great deal in both river and
harbour. Swimming races out to Devil Reef were very common, and
everyone in sight seemed well able to share in this arduous sport. When
one came to think of it, it was generally only rather young people who
were seen about in public, and of these the oldest were apt to be the
most tainted-looking. When exceptions did occur, they were mostly
persons with no trace of aberrancy, like the old clerk at the hotel.
One wondered what became of the bulk of the older folk, and whether the
"Innsmouth look" were not a strange and insidious disease-phenomenon
which increased its hold as years advanced.
a very rare affliction, of course, could bring about such vast and
radical anatomical changes in a single individual after maturity -
changes invoking osseous factors as basic as the shape of the skull -
but then, even this aspect was no more baffling and unheard-of than the
visible features of the malady as a whole. It would be hard, the youth
implied, to form any real conclusions regarding such a matter; since
one never came to know the natives personally no matter how long one
might live in Innsmouth.
youth was certain that many specimens even worse than the worst visible
ones were kept locked indoors in some places. People sometimes heard
the queerest kind of sounds. The tottering waterfront hovels north of
the river were reputedly connected by hidden tunnels, being thus a
veritable warren of unseen abnormalities. What kind of foreign blood -
if any - these beings had, it was impossible to tell. They sometimes
kept certain especially repulsive characters out of sight when
government and others from the outside world came to town.
would be of no use, my informant said, to ask the natives anything
about the place. The only one who would talk was a very aged but normal
looking man who lived at the poorhouse on the north rim of the town and
spent his time walking about or lounging around the fire station. This
hoary character, Zadok Allen, was 96 years old and somewhat touched in
the head, besides being the town drunkard. He was a strange, furtive
creature who constantly looked over his shoulder as if afraid of
something, and when sober could not be persuaded to talk at all with
strangers. He was, however, unable to resist any offer of his favorite
poison; and once drunk would furnish the most astonishing fragments of
all, though, little useful data could be gained from him; since his
stories were all insane, incomplete hints of impossible marvels and
horrors which could have no source save in his own disordered fancy.
Nobody ever believed him, but the natives did not like him to drink and
talk with strangers; and it was not always safe to be seen questioning
him. It was probably from him that some of the wildest popular whispers
and delusions were derived.
non-native residents had reported monstrous glimpses from time to time,
but between old Zadok's tales and the malformed inhabitants it was no
wonder such illusions were current. None of the non-natives ever stayed
out late at night, there being a widespread impression that it was not
wise to do so. Besides, the streets were loathsomely dark.
for business - the abundance of fish was certainly almost uncanny, but
the natives were taking less and less advantage of it. Moreover, prices
were falling and competition was growing. Of course the town's real
business was the refinery, whose commercial office was on the square
only a few doors east of where we stood. Old Man Marsh was never seen,
but sometimes went to the works in a closed, curtained car.
were all sorts of rumors about how Marsh had come to look. He had once
been a great dandy; and people said he still wore the frock-coated
finery of the Edwardian age curiously adapted to certain deformities.
His son had formerly conducted the office in the square, but latterly
they had been keeping out of sight a good deal and leaving the brunt of
affairs to the younger generation. The sons and their sisters had come
to look very queer, especially the elder ones; and it was said that
their health was failing.
of the Marsh daughters was a repellent, reptilian-looking woman who
wore an excess of weird jewellery clearly of the same exotic tradition
as that to which the strange tiara belonged. My informant had noticed
it many times, and had heard it spoken of as coming from some secret
hoard, either of pirates or of demons. The clergymen - or priests, or
whatever they were called nowadays - also wore this kind of ornament as
a headdress; but one seldom caught glimpses of them. Other specimens
the youth had not seen, though many were rumoured to exist around
Marshes, together with the other three gently bred families of the town
- the Waites, the Gilmans, and the Eliots - were all very retiring.
They lived in immense houses along Washington Street, and several were
reputed to harbour in concealment certain living kinsfolk whose
personal aspect forbade public view, and whose deaths had been reported
me that many of the street signs were down, the youth drew for my
benefit a rough but ample and painstaking sketch map of the town's
salient features. After a moment's study I felt sure that it would be
of great help, and pocketed it with profuse thanks. Disliking the
dinginess of the single restaurant I had seen, I bought a fair supply
of cheese crackers and ginger wafers to serve as a lunch later on. My
program, I decided, would be to thread the principal streets, talk with
any non-natives I might encounter, and catch the eight o'clock coach
for Arkham. The town, I could see, formed a significant and exaggerated
example of communal decay; but being no sociologist I would limit my
serious observations to the field of architecture.
I began my systematic though half-bewildered tour of Innsmouth's
narrow, shadow-blighted ways. Crossing the bridge and turning toward
the roar of the lower falls, I passed close to the Marsh refinery,
which seemed to be oddly free from the noise of industry. The building
stood on the steep river bluff near a bridge and an open confluence of
streets which I took to be the earliest civic center, displaced after
the Revolution by the present Town Square.
the gorge on the Main Street bridge, I struck a region of utter
desertion which somehow made me shudder. Collapsing huddles of gambrel
roofs formed a jagged and fantastic skyline, above which rose the
ghoulish, decapitated steeple of an ancient church. Some houses along
Main Street were tenanted, but most were tightly boarded up. Down
unpaved side streets I saw the black, gaping windows of deserted
hovels, many of which leaned at perilous and incredible angles through
the sinking of part of the foundations. Those windows stared so
spectrally that it took courage to turn eastward toward the waterfront.
Certainly, the terror of a deserted house swells in geometrical rather
than arithmetical progression as houses multiply to form a city of
stark desolation. The sight of such endless avenues of fishy-eyed
vacancy and death, and the thought of such linked infinities of black,
brooding compartments given over to cob-webs and memories and the
conqueror worm, start up vestigial fears and aversions that not even
the stoutest philosophy can disperse.
Street was as deserted as Main, though it differed in having many brick
and stone warehouses still in excellent shape. Water Street was almost
its duplicate, save that there were great seaward gaps where wharves
had been. Not a living thing did I see except for the scattered
fishermen on the distant break-water, and not a sound did I hear save
the lapping of the harbour tides and the roar of the falls in the
Manuxet. The town was getting more and more on my nerves, and I looked
behind me furtively as I picked my way back over the tottering Water
Street bridge. The Fish Street bridge, according to the sketch, was in
of the river there were traces of squalid life - active fish-packing
houses in Water Street, smoking chimneys and patched roofs here and
there, occasional sounds from indeterminate sources, and infrequent
shambling forms in the dismal streets and unpaved lanes - but I seemed
to find this even more oppressive than the southerly desertion. For one
thing, the people were more hideous and abnormal than those near the
centre of the town; so that I was several times evilly reminded of
something utterly fantastic which I could not quite place. Undoubtedly
the alien strain in the Innsmouth folk was stronger here than farther
inland - unless, indeed, the "Innsmouth look" were a disease rather
than a blood stain, in which case this district might be held to
harbour the more advanced cases.
detail that annoyed me was the distribution of the few faint sounds I
heard. They ought naturally to have come wholly from the visibly
inhabited houses, yet in reality were often strongest inside the most
rigidly boarded-up facades. There were creakings, scurryings, and
hoarse doubtful noises; and I thought uncomfortably about the hidden
tunnels suggested by the grocery boy. Suddenly I found myself wondering
what the voices of those denizens would be like. I had heard no speech
so far in this quarter, and was unaccountably anxious not to do so.
only long enough to look at two fine but ruinous old churches at Main
and Church Streets, I hastened out of that vile waterfront slum. My
next logical goal was New Church Green, but somehow or other I could
not bear to repass the church in whose basement I had glimpsed the
inexplicably frightening form of that strangely diademmed priest or
pastor. Besides, the grocery youth had told me that churches, as well
as the Order of Dagon Hall, were not advisable neighbourhoods for
I kept north along Main to Martin, then turning inland, crossing
Federal Street safely north of the Green, and entering the decayed
patrician neighbourhood of northern Broad, Washington, Lafayette, and
Adams Streets. Though these stately old avenues were ill-surfaced and
unkempt, their elm-shaded dignity had not entirely departed. Mansion
after mansion claimed my gaze, most of them decrepit and boarded up
amidst neglected grounds, but one or two in each street shewing signs
of occupancy. In Washington Street there was a row of four or five in
excellent repair and with finely-tended lawns and gardens. The most
sumptuous of these - with wide terraced parterres extending back the
whole way to Lafayette Street - I took to be the home of Old Man Marsh,
the afflicted refinery owner.
all these streets no living thing was visible, and I wondered at the
complete absence of cats and dogs from Innsmouth. Another thing which
puzzled and disturbed me, even in some of the best-preserved mansions,
was the tightly shuttered condition of many third-story and attic
windows. Furtiveness and secretiveness seemed universal in this hushed
city of alienage and death, and I could not escape the sensation of
being watched from ambush on every hand by sly, staring eyes that never
shivered as the cracked stroke of three sounded from a belfry on my
left. Too well did I recall the squat church from which those notes
came. Following Washington street toward the river, I now faced a new
zone of former industry and commerce; noting the ruins of a factory
ahead, and seeing others, with the traces of an old railway station and
covered railway bridge beyond, up the gorge on my right.
uncertain bridge now before me was posted with a warning sign, but I
took the risk and crossed again to the south bank where traces of life
reappeared. Furtive, shambling creatures stared cryptically in my
direction, and more normal faces eyed me coldly and curiously.
Innsmouth was rapidly becoming intolerable, and I turned down Paine
Street toward the Square in the hope of getting some vehicle to take me
to Arkham before the still-distant starting-time of that sinister bus.
was then that I saw the tumbledown fire station on my left, and noticed
the red faced, bushy-bearded, watery eyed old man in nondescript rags
who sat on a bench in front of it talking with a pair of unkempt but
not abnormal looking firemen. This, of course, must be Zadok Allen, the
half-crazed, liquorish nonagenarian whose tales of old Innsmouth and
its shadow were so hideous and incredible.
must have been some imp of the perverse - or some sardonic pull from
dark, hidden sources - which made me change my plans as I did. I had
long before resolved to limit my observations to architecture alone,
and I was even then hurrying toward the Square in an effort to get
quick transportation out of this festering city of death and decay; but
the sight of old Zadok Allen set up new currents in my mind and made me
slacken my pace uncertainly.
had been assured that the old man could do nothing but hint at wild,
disjointed, and incredible legends, and I had been warned that the
natives made it unsafe to be seen talking with him; yet the thought of
this aged witness to the town's decay, with memories going back to the
early days of ships and factories, was a lure that no amount of reason
could make me resist. After all, the strangest and maddest of myths are
often merely symbols or allegories based upon truth - and old Zadok
must have seen everything which went on around Innsmouth for the last
ninety years. Curiosity flared up beyond sense and caution, and in my
youthful egotism I fancied I might be able to sift a nucleus of real
history from the confused, extravagant outpouring I would probably
extract with the aid of raw whiskey.
knew that I could not accost him then and there, for the firemen would
surely notice and object. Instead, I reflected, I would prepare by
getting some bootleg liquor at a place where the grocery boy had told
me it was plentiful. Then I would loaf near the fire station in
apparent casualness, and fall in with old Zadok after he had started on
one of his frequent rambles. The youth had said that he was very
restless, seldom sitting around the station for more than an hour or
two at a time.
quart bottle of whiskey was easily, though not cheaply, obtained in the
rear of a dingy variety-store just off the Square in Eliot Street. The
dirty-looking fellow who waited on me had a touch of the staring
"Innsmouth look", but was quite civil in his way; being perhaps used to
the custom of such convivial strangers - truckmen, gold-buyers, and the
like - as were occasionally in town.
the Square I saw that luck was with me; for - shuffling out of Paine
street around the corner of the Gilman House - I glimpsed nothing less
than the tall, lean, tattered form of old Zadok Allen himself. In
accordance with my plan, I attracted his attention by brandishing my
newly-purchased bottle: and soon realised that he had begun to shuffle
wistfully after me as I turned into Waite Street on my way to the most
deserted region I could think of.
was steering my course by the map the grocery boy had prepared, and was
aiming for the wholly abandoned stretch of southern waterfront which I
had previously visited. The only people in sight there had been the
fishermen on the distant breakwater; and by going a few squares south I
could get beyond the range of these, finding a pair of seats on some
abandoned wharf and being free to question old Zadok unobserved for an
indefinite time. Before I reached Main Street I could hear a faint and
wheezy "Hey, Mister!" behind me and I presently allowed the old man to
catch up and take copious pulls from the quart bottle.
began putting out feelers as we walked amidst the omnipresent
desolation and crazily tilted ruins, but found that the aged tongue did
not loosen as quickly as I had expected. At length I saw a grass-grown
opening toward the sea between crumbling brick walls, with the weedy
length of an earth-and-masonry wharf projecting beyond. Piles of
moss-covered stones near the water promised tolerable seats, and the
scene was sheltered from all possible view by a ruined warehouse on the
north. Here, I thought was the ideal place for a long secret colloquy;
so I guided my companion down the lane and picked out spots to sit in
among the mossy stones. The air of death and desertion was ghoulish,
and the smell of fish almost insufferable; but I was resolved to let
nothing deter me.
four hours remained for conversation if I were to catch the eight
o'clock coach for Arkham, and I began to dole out more liquor to the
ancient tippler; meanwhile eating my own frugal lunch. In my donations
I was careful not to overshoot the mark, for I did not wish Zadok's
vinous garrulousness to pass into a stupor. After an hour his furtive
taciturnity shewed signs of disappearing, but much to my disappointment
he still sidetracked my questions about Innsmouth and its
shadow-haunted past. He would babble of current topics, revealing a
wide acquaintance with newspapers and a great tendency to philosophise
in a sententious village fashion.
the end of the second hour I feared my quart of whiskey would not be
enough to produce results, and was wondering whether I had better leave
old Zadok and go back for more. Just then, however, chance made the
opening which my questions had been unable to make; and the wheezing
ancient's rambling took a turn that caused me to lean forward and
listen alertly. My back was toward the fishy-smelling sea, but he was
facing it and something or other had caused his wandering gaze to light
on the low, distant line of Devil Reef, then showing plainly and almost
fascinatingly above the waves. The sight seemed to displease him, for
he began a series of weak curses which ended in a confidential whisper
and a knowing leer. He bent toward me, took hold of my coat lapel, and
hissed out some hints that could not be mistaken.
whar it all begun - that cursed place of all wickedness whar the deep
water starts. Gate o' hell - sheer drop daown to a bottom no
saoundin'-line kin tech. Ol' Cap'n Obed done it - him that faound aout
more'n was good fer him in the Saouth Sea islands.
was in a bad way them days. Trade fallin' off, mills losin' business -
even the new ones - an' the best of our menfolks kilt aprivateerin' in
the War of 1812 or lost with the Elizy brig an' the Ranger scow - both
on 'em Gilman venters. Obed Marsh he had three ships afloat -
brigantine Columby, brig Hefty, an' barque Sumatry Queen. He was the
only one as kep' on with the East-Injy an' Pacific trade, though Esdras
Martin's barkentine Malay Bride made a venter as late as twenty-eight.
was nobody like Cap'n Obed - old limb o' Satan! Heh, heh! I kin mind
him a-tellin' abaout furren parts, an' callin' all the folks stupid for
goin' to Christian meetin' an' bearin' their burdns meek an' lowly.
Says they'd orter git better gods like some o' the folks in the Injies
- gods as ud bring 'em good fishin' in return for their sacrifices, an'
ud reely answer folks's prayers.
Eliot his fust mate, talked a lot too, only he was again' folks's doin'
any heathen things. Told abaout an island east of Othaheite whar they
was a lot o' stone ruins older'n anybody knew anying abaout, kind o'
like them on Ponape, in the Carolines, but with carven's of faces that
looked like the big statues on Easter Island. Thar was a little
volcanic island near thar, too, whar they was other ruins with
diff'rent carvin' - ruins all wore away like they'd ben under the sea
onct, an' with picters of awful monsters all over 'em.
Sir, Matt he says the natives anound thar had all the fish they cud
ketch, an' sported bracelets an' armlets an' head rigs made aout o' a
queer kind o' gold an' covered with picters o' monsters jest like the
ones carved over the ruins on the little island - sorter fish-like
frogs or froglike fishes that was drawed in all kinds o' positions
likes they was human bein's. Nobody cud get aout o' them whar they got
all the stuff, an' all the other natives wondered haow they managed to
find fish in plenty even when the very next island had lean pickin's.
Matt he got to wonderon' too an' so did Cap'n Obed. Obed he notices,
besides, that lots of the hn'some young folks ud drop aout o' sight fer
good from year to year, an' that they wan't many old folks around.
Also, he thinks some of the folks looked dinned queer even for Kanakys.
took Obed to git the truth aout o' them heathen. I dun't know haow he
done it, but be begun by tradin' fer the gold-like things they wore.
Ast 'em whar they come from, an' ef they cud git more, an' finally
wormed the story aout o' the old chief -- Walakea, they called him.
Nobody but Obed ud ever a believed the old yeller devil, but the Cap'n
cud read folks like they was books. Heh, heh! Nobody never believes me
naow when I tell 'em, an' I dun't s'pose you will, young feller -
though come to look at ye, ye hev kind o' got them sharp-readin' eyes
like Obed had."
old man's whisper grew fainter, and I found myself shuddering at the
terrible and sincere portentousness of his intonation, even though I
knew his tale could be nothing but drunken phantasy.
Sir, Obed he 'lart that they's things on this arth as most folks never
heerd about - an' wouldn't believe ef they did hear. lt seems these
Kanakys was sacrificin' heaps o' their young men an' maidens to some
kind o' god-things that lived under the sea, an' gittin' all kinds o'
favour in return. They met the things on the little islet with the
queer ruins, an' it seems them awful picters o' frog-fish monsters was
supposed to be picters o' these things. Mebbe they was the kind o'
critters as got all the mermaid stories an' sech started.
had all kinds a' cities on the sea-bottom, an' this island was heaved
up from thar. Seem they was some of the things alive in the stone
buildin's when the island come up sudden to the surface, That's how the
Kanakys got wind they was daown thar. Made sign-talk as soon as they
got over bein' skeert, an' pieced up a bargain afore long.
things liked human sacrifices. Had had 'em ages afore, but lost track
o' the upper world after a time. What they done to the victims it ain't
fer me to say, an' I guess Obed was'n't none too sharp abaout askin'.
But it was all right with the heathens, because they'd ben havin' a
hard time an' was desp'rate abaout everything. They give a sarten
number o' young folks to the sea-things twice every year - May-Eve an'
Hallawe'en - reg'lar as cud be. Also give some a' the carved
knick-knacks they made. What the things agreed to give in return was
plenty a' fish - they druv 'em in from all over the sea - an' a few
gold like things naow an' then.
as I says, the natives met the things on the little volcanic islet -
goin' thar in canoes with the sacrifices et cet'ry, and bringin' back
any of the gold-like jools as was comin' to 'em. At fust the things
didn't never go onto the main island, but arter a time they come to
want to. Seems they hankered arter mixin' with the folks, an' havin'
j'int ceremonies on the big days - May-Eve an' Hallowe'en. Ye see, they
was able to live both in ant aout o' water - what they call amphibians,
I guess. The Kanakys told 'em as haow folks from the other islands
might wanta wipe 'an out if they got wind o' their bein' thar, but they
says they dun't keer much, because they cud wipe aout the hull brood o'
humans ef they was willin' to bother - that is, any as didn't be,
sarten signs sech as was used onct by the lost Old Ones, whoever they
was. But not wantin' to bother, they'd lay low when anybody visited the
it come to matin' with them toad-lookin' fishes, the Kanakys kind o'
balked, but finally they larnt something as put a new face on the
matter. Seems that human folks has got a kind a' relation to sech
water-beasts - that everything alive come aout o' the water onct an'
only needs a little change to go back agin. Them things told the
Kanakys that ef they mixed bloods there'd be children as ud look human
at fust, but later turn more'n more like the things, till finally
they'd take to the water an' jine the main lot o' things daown har. An'
this is the important part, young feller - them as turned into fish
things an' went into the water wouldn't never die. Them things never
died excep' they was kilt violent.
Sir, it seems by the time Obed knowed them islanders they was all full
o' fish blood from them deep water things. When they got old an' begun
to shew it, they was kep' hid until they felt like takin' to the water
an' quittin' the place. Some was more teched than others, an' some
never did change quite enough to take to the water; but mosily they
turned out jest the way them things said. Them as was born more like
the things changed arly, but them as was nearly human sometimes stayed
on the island till they was past seventy, though they'd usually go
daown under for trial trips afore that. Folks as had took to the water
gen'rally come back a good deal to visit, so's a man ud often be
a'talkin' to his own five-times-great-grandfather who'd left the dry
land a couple o' hundred years or so afore.
got aout o' the idee o' dyin' - excep' in canoe wars with the other
islanders, or as sacrifices to the sea-gods daown below, or from
snakebite or plague or sharp gallopin' ailments or somethin' afore they
cud take to the water - but simply looked forrad to a kind o' change
that wa'n't a bit horrible artet a while. They thought what they'd got
was well wuth all they'd had to give up - an' I guess Obed kind o' come
to think the same hisself when he'd chewed over old Walakea's story a
bit. Walakea, though, was one of the few as hadn't got none of the fish
blood - bein' of a royal line that intermarried with royal lines on
he shewed Obed a lot o' rites an' incantations as had to do with the
sea things, an' let him see some o' the folks in the village as had
changed a lot from human shape. Somehaow or other, though, he never
would let him see one of the reg'lar things from right aout o' the
water. In the end he give him a funny kind o' thingumajig made aout o'
lead or something, that he said ud bring up the fish things from any
place in the water whar they might be a nest o' 'em. The idee was to
drop it daown with the right kind o' prayers an' sech. Walakea allowed
as the things was scattered all over the world, so's anybody that
looked abaout cud find a nest an' bring 'em up ef they was wanted.
he didn't like this business at all, an' wanted Obed shud keep away
from the island; but the Cap'n was sharp fer gain, an' faound he cud
get them gold-like things so cheap it ud pay him to make a specialty of
them. Things went on that way for years an' Obed got enough o' that
gold-like stuff to make him start the refinery in Waite's old run-daown
fullin' mill. He didn't dass sell the pieces like they was, for folks
ud be all the time askin' questions. All the same his crews ud get a
piece an' dispose of it naow and then, even though they was swore to
keep quiet; an' he let his women-folks wear some o' the pieces as was
more human-like than most.
come abaout thutty-eight - when I was seven year' old - Obed he faound
the island people all wiped aout between v'yages. Seems the other
islanders had got wind o' what was goin' on, and had took matters into
their own hands. S'pose they must a had, after all, them old magic
signs as the sea things says was the only things they was afeard of. No
tellin' what any o' them Kanakys will chance to git a holt of when the
sea-bottom throws up some island with ruins older'n the deluge. Pious
cusses, these was - they didn't leave nothin' standin' on either the
main island or the little volcanic islet excep' what parts of the ruins
was too big to knock daown. In some places they was little stones
strewed abaout - like charms - with somethin' on 'em like what ye call
a swastika naowadays. Prob'ly them was the Old Ones' signs. Folks all
wiped aout no trace o' no gold-like things an' none the nearby Kanakys
ud breathe a word abaout the matter. Wouldn't even admit they'd ever
ben any people on that island.
naturally hit Obed pretty hard, seein' as his normal trade was doin'
very poor. It hit the whole of Innsmouth, too, because in seafarint
days what profited the master of a ship gen'lly profited the crew
proportionate. Most of the folks araound the taown took the hard times
kind o' sheep-like an' resigned, but they was in bad shape because the
fishin' was peterin' aout an' the mills wan't doin' none too well.
the time Obed he begun a-cursin' at the folks fer bein' dull sheep an'
prayin' to a Christian heaven as didn't help 'em none. He told 'em he'd
knowed o' folks as prayed to gods that give somethin' ye reely need,
an' says ef a good bunch o' men ud stand by him, he cud mebbe get a
holt o' sarten paowers as ud bring plenty o' fish an' quite a bit of
gold. O' course them as sarved on the Sumatry Queen, an' seed the
island knowed what he meant, an' wa'n't none too anxious to get clost
to sea-things like they'd heard tell on, but them as didn't know what
'twas all abaout got kind o' swayed by what Obed had to say, and begun
to ast him what he cud do to sit 'em on the way to the faith as ud
bring 'em results."
the old man faltered, mumbled, and lapsed into a moody and apprehensive
silence; glancing nervously over his shoulder and then turning back to
stare fascinatedly at the distant black reef. When I spoke to him he
did not answer, so I knew I would have to let him finish the bottle.
The insane yarn I was hearing interested me profoundly, for I fancied
there was contained within it a sort of crude allegory based upon the
strangeness of Innsmouth and elaborated by an imagination at once
creative and full of scraps of exotic legend. Not for a moment did I
believe that the tale had any really substantial foundation; but none
the less the account held a hint of genuine terror if only because it
brought in references to strange jewels clearly akin to the malign
tiara I had seen at Newburyport. Perhaps the ornaments had, after all,
come from some strange island; and possibly the wild stories were lies
of the bygone Obed himself rather than of this antique toper.
handed Zadok the bottle, and he drained it to the last drop. It was
curious how he could stand so much whiskey, for not even a trace of
thickness had come into his high, wheezy voice. He licked the nose of
the bottle and slipped it into his pocket, then beginning to nod and
whisper softly to himself. I bent close to catch any articulate words
he might utter, and thought I saw a sardonic smile behind the stained
bushy whiskers. Yes - he was really forming words, and I could grasp a
fair proportion of them.
Matt - Matt he allus was agin it - tried to line up the folks on his
side, an' had long talks with the preachers - no use - they run the
Congregational parson aout o' taown, an' the Methodist feller quit -
never did see Resolved Babcock, the Baptist parson, agin - Wrath O'
Jehovy - I was a mightly little critter, but I heerd what I heerd an,
seen what I seen - Dagon an' Ashtoreth - Belial an' Beelzebub - Golden
Caff an' the idols o' Canaan an' the Philistines - Babylonish
abominations - Mene, mene, tekel, upharisn - -."
stopped again, and from the look in his watery blue eyes I feared he
was close to a stupor after all. But when I gently shook his shoulder
he turned on me with astonishing alertness and snapped out some more
believe me, hey? Hey, 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 he sailors - wear them queer robes an' cover their-selves with
them gold-like things Obed brung? Hey?"
watery blue eyes were almost savage and maniacal now, and the dirty
white beard bristled electrically. Old Zadok probably saw me shrink
back, for he began to cackle evilly.
heh, heh, heh! Beginni'n to see hey? Mebbe ye'd like to a ben me in
them days, when I seed things at night aout to sea from the cupalo top
o' my haouse. Oh, I kin tell ye' little pitchers hev big ears, an' I
wa'n't missin' nothin' o' what was gossiped abaout Cap'n Obed an' the
folks aout to the reef! Heh, heh, heh! Haow abaout the night I took my
pa's ship's glass up to the cupalo an' seed the reef a-bristlin' thick
with shapes that dove off quick soon's the moon riz?
an' the folks was in a dory, but them shapes dove off the far side into
the deep water an' never come up ...
ye like to be a little shaver alone up in a cupola a-watchin' shapes as
wa'n't human shapes? ...Heh? ... Heh, heh, heh ..."
old man was getting hysterical, and I began to shiver with a nameless
alarm. He laid a gnarled claw on my shoulder, and it seemed to me that
its shaking was not altogether that of mirth.
one night ye seed somethin' heavy heaved offen Obed's dory beyond the
reef' and then learned next day a young feller was missin' from home.
Hey! Did anybody ever see hide or hair o' Hiram Gilman agin. Did they?
An' Nick Pierce, an' Luelly Waite, an' Adoniram Saouthwick, an' Henry
Garrison Hey? Heh, heh, heh, heh ... Shapes talkin' sign language with
their hands ... them as had reel hands ...
Sir, that was the time Obed begun to git on his feet agin. Folks see
his three darters a-wearin' gold-like things as nobody'd never see on
'em afore, an' smoke stared comin' aout o' the refin'ry chimbly. Other
folks was prosp'rin, too - fish begun to swarm into the harbour fit to
kill' an' heaven knows what sized cargoes we begun to ship aout to
Newb'ryport, Arkham, an' Boston. T'was then Obed got the ol' branch
railrud put through. Some Kingsport fishermen heerd abaout the ketch
an' come up in sloops, but they was all lost. Nobody never see 'em
agin. An' jest then our folk organised the Esoteric Order 0' Dagon, an'
bought Masoic Hall offen Calvary Commandery for it ... heh, heh, heh!
Matt Eliot was a Mason an' agin the sellin', but he dropped aout o'
sight jest then.
I ain't sayin' Obed was set on hevin' things jest like they was on that
Kanaky isle. I dun't think he aimed at fust to do no mixin', nor raise
no younguns to take to the water an' turn into fishes with eternal
life. He wanted them gold things, an' was willin' to pay heavy, an' I
guess the others was satisfied fer a while ...
in' forty-six the taown done some lookin' an' thinkin' fer itself. Too
many folks missin' - too much wild preachin' at meetin' of a Sunday -
too much talk abaout that reef. I guess I done a bit by tellin'
Selectman Mowry what I see from the cupalo. They was a party one night
as follered Obed's craowd aout to the reef, an' I heerd shots betwixt
the dories. Nex' day Obed and thutty-two others was in gaol, with
everybody a-wonderin' jest what was afoot and jest what charge agin 'em
cud he got to holt. God, ef anybody'd look'd ahead ... a couple o'
weeks later, when nothin' had ben throwed into the sea fer thet long
was shewing sings of fright and exhaustion, and I let him keep silence
for a while, though glancing apprehensively at my watch. The tide had
turned and was coming in now, and the sound of the waves seemed to
arouse him. I was glad of that tide, for at high water the fishy smell
might not be so bad. Again I strained to catch his whispers.
awful night ... I seed 'em. I was up in the cupalo ... hordes of 'em
... swarms of 'em ... all over the reef an' swimmin' up the harbour
into the Manuxet ... God, what happened in the streets of Innsmouth
that night ... they rattled our door, but pa wouldn't open ... then he
clumb aout the kitchen winder with his musket to find Selecman Mowry
an' see what he cud do ... Maounds o' the dead an' the dyin' ... shots
and screams ... shaoutin' in Ol Squar an' Taown Squar an' New Church
Green - gaol throwed open ... - proclamation ... treason ... called it
the plague when folks come in an' faoud haff our people missin' ...
nobody left but them as ud jine in with Obed an' them things or else
keep quiet ... never heard o' my pa no more... "
old man was panting and perspiring profusely. His grip on my shoulder
cleaned up in the mornin' - but they was traces ... Obed he kinder
takes charge an' says things is goin' to be changed ... others'll
worship with us at meetin'-time, an' sarten haouses hez got to entertin
guests ... they wanted to mix like they done with the Kanakys, an' he
for one didn't feel baound to stop 'em. Far gone, was Obed ... jest
like a crazy man on the subjeck. He says they brung us fish an'
treasure, an' shud hev what they hankered after ..."
was to be diff'runt on the aoutsid; only we was to keep shy o'
strangers ef we knowed what was good fer us.
all hed to take the Oath o' Dagon, an' later on they was secon' an'
third oaths that some o' us took. Them as ud help special, ud git
special rewards - gold an' sech - No use balkin', fer they was millions
of 'em daown thar. They'd ruther not start risin' an' wipin' aout
human-kind, but ef they was gave away an' forced to, they cud do a lot
toward jest that. We didn't hev them old charms to cut 'em off like
folks in the Saouth Sea did, an' them Kanakys wudu't never give away
up enough sacrifices an' savage knick-knacks an' harbourage in the
taown when they wanted it, an' they'd let well enough alone. Wudn't
bother no strangers as might bear tales aoutside - that is, withaout
they got pryin'. All in the band of the faithful - Order 0' Dagon - an'
the children shud never die, but go back to the Mother Hydra an' Father
Dagon what we all come from onct ... Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui
mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtaga - "
Zadok was fast lapsing into stark raving, and I held my breath. Poor
old soul - to what pitiful depths of hallucination had his liquor, plus
his hatred of the decay, alienage, and disease around him, brought that
fertile, imaginative brain? He began to moan now, and tears were
coursing down his channelled checks into the depths of his beard.
what I seen senct I was fifteen year' old - Mene, mene, tekel,
upharsin! - the folks as was missin', and them as kilt theirselves -
them as told things in Arkham or Ipswich or sech places was all called
crazy, like you're callin' me right naow - but God, what I seen -
They'd a kilt me long ago fer' what I know, only I'd took the fust an'
secon' Oaths o' Dago offen Obed, so was pertected unlessen a jury of
'em proved I told things knowin' an' delib'rit ... but I wudn't take
the third Oath - I'd a died ruther'n take that -
got wuss araound Civil War time, when children born senct 'forty-six
begun to grow up - some 'em, that is. I was afeared - never did no
pryin' arter that awful night, an' never see one o' - them - clost to
in all my life. That is, never no full-blooded one. I went to the war,
an' ef I'd a had any guts or sense I'd a never come back, but settled
away from here. But folks wrote me things wa'n't so bad. That, I
s'pose, was because gov'munt draft men was in taown arter 'sixty-three.
Arter the war it was jest as bad agin. People begun to fall off - mills
an' shops shet daown - shippin' stopped an' the harbour choked up -
railrud give up - but they ... they never stopped swimmin' in an' aout
o' the river from that cursed reef o' Satan - an' more an' more attic
winders got a-boarded up, an' more an' more noises was heerd in haouses
as wa'n't s'posed to hev nobody in 'em...
aoutside hev their stories abaout us - s'pose you've heerd a plenty on
'em, seein' what questions ye ast - stories abaout things they've seed
naow an' then, an' abaout that queer joolry as still comes in from
somewhars an' ain't quite all melted up - but nothin' never gits
def'nite. Nobody'll believe nothin'. They call them gold-like things
pirate loot, an' allaow the Innsmouth folks hez furren blood or is
dis-tempered or somethin'. Beside, them that lives here shoo off as
many strangers as they kin, an' encourage the rest not to git very
cur'ous, specially raound night time. Beasts balk at the critters -
hosses wuss'n mules - but when they got autos that was all right.
'forty-six Cap'n Obed took a second wife that nobody in the taown never
see - some says he didn't want to, but was made to by them as he'd
called in - had three children by her - two as disappeared young, but
one gal as looked like anybody else an' was eddicated in Europe. Obed
finally got her married off by a trick to an Arkham feller as didn't
suspect nothin'. But nobody aoutside'll hav nothin' to do with
Innsmouth folks naow. Barnabas Marsh that runs the refin'ry now is
Obed's grandson by his fust wife - son of Onesiphorus, his eldest son,
but his mother was another o' them as wa'n't never seen aoutdoors.
naow Barnabas is abaout changed. Can't shet his eyes no more, an' is
all aout o' shape. They say he still wears clothes, but he'll take to
the water soon. Mebbe he's tried it already - they do sometimes go
daown for little spells afore they go daown for good. Ain't ben seed
abaout in public fer nigh on ten year'. Dun't know haow his poor wife
kin feel - she come from Ipiwich, an' they nigh lynched Barnabas when
he courted her fifty odd year' ago. Obed he died in 'seventy-eight an'
all the next gen'ration is gone naow - the fust wife's children dead,
and the rest ... God knows ..."
sound of the incoming tide was now very insistent, and little by little
it seemed to change the old man's mood from maudlin tearfulness to
watchful fear. He would pause now and then to renew those nervous
glances over his shoulder or out toward the reef, and despite the wild
absurdity of his tale, I could not help beginning to share his
apprehensiveness. Zadok now grew shriller, seemed to be trying to whip
up his courage with louder speech.
yew, why dun't ye say somethin'? Haow'd ye like to he livin' in a taown
like this, with everything a-rottin' an' dyin', an' boarded-up monsters
crawlin' an' bleatin' an' barkin' an' hoppin' araoun' black cellars an'
attics every way ye turn? Hey? Haow'd ye like to hear the haowlin'
night arter night from the churches an' Order 0' Dagon Hall, an' know
what's doin' part o' the haowlin'? Haow'd ye like to hear what comes
from that awful reef every May-Eve an' Hallowmass? Hey? Think the old
man's crazy, eh? Wal, Sir, let me tell ye that ain't the wust!"
was really screaming now, and the mad frenzy of his voice disturbed me
more than I care to own.
ye, dun't set thar a'starin' at me with them eyes - I tell Obed Marsh
he's in hell, an, hez got to stay thar! Heh, heh ... in hell, I says!
Can't git me - I hain't done nothin' nor told nobody nothin' - -
you, young feller? Wal, even ef I hain't told nobody nothin' yet, I'm
a'goin' to naow! Yew jest set still an' listen to me, boy - this is
what I ain't never told nobody... I says I didn't get to do pryin'
arter that night - but I faound things about jest the same!"
want to know what the reel horror is, hey? Wal, it's this - it ain't
what them fish devils hez done, but what they're a-goin' to do! They're
a-bringin' things up aout o' whar they come from into the taown - been
doin' it fer years, an' slackenin' up lately. Them haouses north o' the
river be-twixt Water an' Main Streets is full of 'em - them devils an'
what they brung - an' when they git ready ... I say, when they git...
ever hear tell of a shoggoth?
d'ye hear me? I tell ye I know what them things be - I seen 'em one
night when ... eh-ahhh-ah! e'yahhh ... "
hideous suddenness and inhuman frightfulness of the old man's shriek
almost made me faint. His eyes, looking past me toward the malodorous
sea, were positively starting from his head; while his face was a mask
of fear worthy of Greek tragedy. His bony claw dug monstrously into my
shoulder, and he made no motion as I turned my head to look at whatever
he had glimpsed.
was nothing that I could see. Only the incoming tide, with perhaps one
set of ripples more local than the long-flung line of breakers. But now
Zadok was shaking me, and I turned back to watch the melting of that
fear-frozen face into a chaos of twitching eyelids and mumbling gums.
Presently his voice came back - albeit as a trembling whisper.
aout o' here! Get aout o' here! They seen us - git aout fer your life!
Dun't wait fer nothin' - they know naow - Run fer it - quick - aout o'
this taown - -"
heavy wave dashed against the loosing masonry of the bygone wharf, and
changed the mad ancient's whisper to another inhuman and blood-curdling
scream. "E-yaahhhh! ... Yheaaaaaa!..."
I could recover my scattered wits he had relaxed his clutch on my
shoulder and dashed wildly inland toward the street, reeling northward
around the ruined warehouse wall.
glanced back at the sea, but there was nothing there. And when I
reached Water Street and looked along it toward the north there was no
remaining trace of Zadok Allen.
can hardly describe the mood in which I was left by this harrowing
episode - an episode at once mad and pitiful, grotesque and terrifying.
The grocery boy had prepared me for it, yet the reality left me none
the less bewildered and disturbed. Puerile though the story was, old
Zadok's insane earnestness and horror had communicated to me a mounting
unrest which joined with my earlier sense of loathing for the town and
its blight of intangible shadow.
I might sift the tale and extract some nucleus of historic allegory;
just now I wished to put it out of my head. The hour grown perilously
late - my watch said 7:15, and the Arkham bus left Town Square at eight
- so I tried to give my thoughts as neutral and practical a cast as
possible, meanwhile walking rapidly through the deserted streets of
gaping roofs and leaning houses toward the hotel where I had checked my
valise and would find my bus.
the golden light of late afternoon gave the ancient roofs and decrepit
chimneys an air of mystic loveliness and peace, I could not help
glancing over my shoulder now and then. I would surely be very glad to
get out of malodorous and fear-shadowed Innsmouth, and wished there
were some other vehicle than the bus driven by that sinister-looking
fellow Sargent. Yet I did not hurry too precipitately, for there were
architectural details worth viewing at every silent corner; and I could
easily, I calculated, cover the necessary distance in a half-hour.
the grocery youth's map and seeking a route I had not traversed before,
I chose Marsh Street instead of State for my approach to Town Square.
Near the corner of Fall street I began to see scattered groups of
furtive whisperers, and when I finally reached the Square I saw that
almost all the loiterers were congregated around the door of the Gilman
House. It seemed as if many bulging, watery, unwinking eyes looked
oddly at me as I claimed my valise in the lobby, and I hoped that none
of these unpleasant creatures would be my fellow-passengers on the
bus, rather early, rattled in with three passengers somewhat before
eight, and an evil-looking fellow on the sidewalk muttered a few
indistinguishable words to the driver. Sargent threw out a mail-bag and
a roll of newspapers, and entered the hotel; while the passengers - the
same men whom I had seen arriving in Newburyport that morning -
shambled to the sidewalk and exchanged some faint guttural words with a
loafer in a language I could have sworn was not English. I boarded the
empty coach and took the seat I had taken before, but was hardly
settled before Sargent re-appeared and began mumbling in a throaty
voice of peculiar repulsiveness.
was, it appeared, in very bad luck. There had been something wrong with
the engine, despite the excellent time made from Newburyport, and the
bus could not complete the journey to Arkham. No, it could not possibly
be repaired that night, nor was there any other way of getting
transportation out of Innsmouth either to Arkham or elsewhere. Sargent
was sorry, but I would have to stop over at the Gilman. Probably the
clerk would make the price easy for me, but there was nothing else to
do. Almost dazed by this sudden obstacle, and violently dreading the
fall of night in this decaying and half-unlighted town, I left the bus
and reentered the hotel lobby; where the sullen queer-looking night
clerk told me I could have Room 428 on next the top floor - large, but
without running water - for a dollar.
what I had heard of this hotel in Newburyport, I signed the register,
paid my dollar, let the clerk take my valise, and followed that sour,
solitary attendant up three creaking flights of stairs past dusty
corridors which seemed wholly devoid of life. My room was a dismal rear
one with two windows and bare, cheap furnishings, overlooked a dingy
court-yard otherwise hemmed in by low, deserted brick blocks, and
commanded a view of decrepit westward-stretching roofs with a marshy
countryside beyond. At the end of the corridor was a bathroom - a
discouraging relique with ancient marble bowl, tin tub, faint electric
light, and musty wooded paneling around all the plumbing fixtures.
being still daylight, I descended to the Square and looked around for a
dinner of some sort; noticing as I did so the strange glances I
received from the unwholesome loafers. Since the grocery was closed, I
was forced to patronise the restaurant I had shunned before; a stooped,
narrow-headed man with staring, unwinking eyes, and a flat-nosed wench
with unbelievably thick, clumsy hands being in attendance. The service
was all of the counter type, and it relieved me to find that much was
evidently served from cans and packages. A bowl of vegetable soup with
crackers was enough for me, and I soon headed back for my cheerless
room at the Gilman; getting a evening paper and a fly-specked magazine
from the evil-visaged clerk at the rickety stand beside his desk.
twilight deepened I turned on the one feeble electric bulb over the
cheap, iron-framed bed, and tried as best I could to continue the
reading I had begun. I felt it advisable to keep my mind wholesomely
occupied, for it would not do to brood over the abnormalities of this
ancient, blight-shadowed town while I was still within its borders. The
insane yarn I had heard from the aged drunkard did not promise very
pleasant dreams, and I felt I must keep the image of his wild, watery
eyes as far as possible from my imagination.
I must not dwell on what that factory inspector had told the
Newburyport ticket-agent about the Gilman House and the voices of its
nocturnal tenants - not on that, nor on the face beneath the tiara in
the black church doorway; the face for whose horror my conscious mind
could not account. It would perhaps have been easier to keep my
thoughts from disturbing topics had the room not been so gruesomely
musty. As it was, the lethal mustiness blended hideously with the
town's general fishy odour and persistently focussed one's fancy on
death and decay.
thing that disturbed me was the absence of a bolt on the door of my
room. One had been there, as marks clearly shewed, but there were signs
of recent removal. No doubt it had been out of order, like so many
other things in this decrepit edifice. In my nervousness I looked
around and discovered a bolt on the clothes press which seemed to be of
the same size, judging from the marks, as the one formerly on the door.
To gain a partial relief from the general tension I busied myself by
transferring this hardware to the vacant place with the aid of a handy
three-in-one device including a screwdriver which I kept on my
key-ring. The bolt fitted perfectly, and I was somewhat relieved when I
knew that I could shoot it firmly upon retiring. Not that I had any
real apprehension of its need, but that any symbol of security was
welcome in an environment of this kind. There were adequate bolts on
the two lateral doors to connecting rooms, and these I proceeded to
did not undress, but decided to read till I was sleepy and then lie
down with only my coat, collar, and shoes off. Taking a pocket flash
light from my valise, I placed it in my trousers, so that I could read
my watch if I woke up later in the dark. Drowsiness, however, did not
come; and when I stopped to analyse my thoughts I found to my disquiet
that I was really unconsciously listening for something - listening for
something which I dreaded but could not name. That inspector's story
must have worked on my imagination more deeply than I had suspected.
Again I tried to read, but found that I made no progress.
a time I seemed to hear the stairs and corridors creak at intervals as
if with footsteps, and wondered if the other rooms were beginning to
fill up. There were no voices, however, and it struck me that there was
something subtly furtive about the creaking. I did not like it, and
debated whether I had better try to sleep at all. This town had some
queer people, and there had undoubtedly been several disappearances.
Was this one of those inns where travelers were slain for their money?
Surely I had no look of excessive prosperity. Or were the towns folk
really so resentful about curious visitors? Had my obvious sightseeing,
with its frequent map-consultations, aroused unfavorable notice. It
occurred to me that I must be in a highly nervous state to let a few
random creakings set me off speculating in this fashion - but I
regretted none the less that I was unarmed.
length, feeling a fatigue which had nothing of drowsiness in it, I
bolted the newly outfitted hall door, turned off the light, and threw
myself down on the hard, uneven bed - coat, collar, shoes, and all. In
the darkness every faint noise of the night seemed magnified, and a
flood of doubly unpleasant thoughts swept over me. I was sorry I had
put out the light, yet was too tired to rise and turn it on again.
Then, after a long, dreary interval, and prefaced by a fresh creaking
of stairs and corridor, there came that soft, damnably unmistakable
sound which seemed like a malign fulfillment of all my apprehensions.
Without the least shadow of a doubt, the lock of my door was being
tried - cautiously, furtively, tentatively - with a key.
sensations upon recognising this sign of actual peril were perhaps less
rather than more tumultuous because of my previous vague fears. I had
been, albeit without definite reason, instinctively on my guard - and
that was to my advantage in the new and real crisis, whatever it might
turn out to be. Nevertheless the change in the menace from vague
premonition to immediate reality was a profound shock, and fell upon me
with the force of a genuine blow. It never once occurred to me that the
fumbling might be a mere mistake. Malign purpose was all I could think
of, and I kept deathly quiet, awaiting the would-be intruder's next
a time the cautious rattling ceased, and I heard the room to the north
entered with a pass key. Then the lock of the connecting door to my
room was softly tried. The bolt held, of course, and I heard the floor
creak as the prowler left the room. After a moment there came another
soft rattling, and I knew that the room to the south of me was being
entered. Again a furtive trying of a bolted connecting door, and again
a receding creaking. This time the creaking went along the hall and
down the stairs, so I knew that the prowler had realised the bolted
condition of my doors and was giving up his attempt for a greater or
lesser time, as the future would shew.
readiness with which I fell into a plan of action proves that I must
have been subconsciously fearing some menace and considering possible
avenues of escape for hours. From the first I felt that the unseen
fumbler meant a danger not to be met or dealt with, but only to be fled
from as precipitately as possible. The one thing to do was to get out
of that hotel alive as quickly as I could, and through some channel
other than the front stairs and lobby.
softly and throwing my flashlight on the switch, I sought to light the
bulb over my bed in order to choose and pocket some belongings for a
swift, valiseless flight. Nothing, however, happened; and I saw that
the power had been cut off. Clearly, some cryptic, evil movement was
afoot on a large scale - just what, I could not say. As I stood
pondering with my hand on the now useless switch I heard a muffled
creaking on the floor below, and thought I could barely distinguish
voices in conversation. A moment later I felt less sure that the deeper
sounds were voices, since the apparent hoarse barkings and
loose-syllabled croakings bore so little resemblance to recognized
human speech. Then I thought with renewed force of what the factory
inspector had heard in the night in this mouldering and pestilential
filled my pockets with the flashlight's aid, I put on my hat and
tiptoed to the windows to consider chances of descent. Despite the
state's safety regulations there was no fire escape on this side of the
hotel, and I saw that my windows commanded only a sheer three story
drop to the cobbled courtyard. On the right and left, however, some
ancient brick business blocks abutted on the hotel; their slant roofs
coming up to a reasonable jumping distance from my fourth-story level.
To reach either of these lines of buildings I would have to be in a
room two from my own - in one case on the north and in the other case
on the south - and my mind instantly set to work what chances I had of
making the transfer.
could not, I decided, risk an emergence into the corridor; where my
footsteps would surely be heard, and where the difficulties of entering
the desired room would be insuperable. My progress, if it was to be
made at all, would have to be through the less solidly-built connecting
doors of the rooms; the locks and bolts of which I would have to force
violently, using my shoulder as a battering-ram whenever they were set
against me. This, I thought, would be possible owing to the rickety
nature of the house and its fixtures; but I realised I could not do it
noiselessly. I would have to count on sheer speed, and the chance of
getting to a window before any hostile forces became coordinated enough
to open the right door toward me with a pass-key. My own outer door I
reinforced by pushing the bureau against it - little by little, in
order to make a minimum of sound.
perceived that my chances were very slender, and was fully prepared for
any calamity. Even getting to another roof would not solve the problem
for there would then remain the task of reaching the ground and
escaping from the town. One thing in my favour was the deserted and
ruinous state of the abutting building and the number of skylights
gaping blackly open in each row.
from the grocery boy's map that the best route out of town was
southward, I glanced first at the connecting door on the south side of
the room. It was designed to open in my direction, hence I saw - after
drawing the bolt and finding other fastening in place - it was not a
favorable one for forcing. Accordingly abandoning it as a route, I
cautiously moved the bedstead against it to hamper any attack which
might be made on it later from the next room. The door on the north was
hung to open away from me, and this - though a test proved it to be
locked or bolted from the other side - I knew must be my route. If I
could gain the roofs of the buildings in Paine Street and descend
successfully to the ground level, I might perhaps dart through the
courtyard and the adjacent or opposite building to Washington or Bates
- or else emerge in Paine and edge around southward into Washington. In
any case, I would aim to strike Washington somehow and get quickly out
of the Town Square region. My preference would be to avoid Paine, since
the fire station there might be open all night.
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 country-side
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.
was irresolutely speculating on when I had better attack the northward
door, and on how I could least audibly manage it, when I noticed that
the vague noises underfoot had given place to a fresh and heavier
creaking of the stairs. A wavering flicker of light shewed through my
transom, and the boards of the corridor began to groan with a ponderous
load. Muffled sounds of possible vocal origin approached, and at length
a firm knock came at my outer door.
a moment I simply held my breath and waited. Eternities seemed to
elapse, and the nauseous fishy odour of my environment seemed to mount
suddenly and spectacularly. Then the knocking was repeated -
continuously, and with growing insistence. I knew that the time for
action had come, and forthwith drew the bolt of the northward
connecting door, bracing myself for the task of battering it open. The
knocking waxed louder, and I hoped that its volume would cover the
sound of my efforts. At last beginning my attempt, I lunged again and
again at the thin paneling with my left shoulder, heedless of shock or
pain. The door resisted even more than I expected, but I did not give
in. And all the while the clamour at the outer door increased.
the connecting door gave, but with such a crash that I knew those
outside must have heard. Instantly the outside knocking became a
violent battering, while keys sounded ominously in the hall doors of
the rooms on both sides of me. Rushing through the newly opened
connexion, I succeeded in bolting the northerly hall door before the
lock could he turned; but even as I did so I heard the hall door of the
third room - the one from whose window I had hoped to reach the roof
below - being tried with a pass key.
an instant I felt absolute despair, since my trapping in a chamber with
no window egress seemed complete. A wave of almost abnormal horror
swept over me, and invested with a terrible but unexplainable
singularity the flashlight-glimpsed dust prints made by the intruder
who had lately tried my door from this room. Then, with a dazed
automatism which persisted despite hopelessness, I made for the next
connecting door and performed the blind motion of pushing at it in an
effort to get through and - granting that fastenings might be as
providentially intact as in this second room - bolt the hall door
beyond before the lock could be turned from outside.
fortunate chance gave me my reprieve - for the connecting door before
me was not only unlocked but actually ajar. In a second I was though,
and had my right knee and shoulder against a hall door which was
visibly opening inward. My pressure took the opener off guard, for the
thing shut as I pushed, so that I could slip the well-conditioned bolt
as I had done with the other door. As I gained this respite I heard the
battering at the two other doors abate, while a confused clatter came
from the connecting door I had shielded with the bedstead. Evidently
the bulk of my assailants had entered the southerly room and were
massing in a lateral attack. But at the same moment a pass key sounded
in the next door to the north, and I knew that a nearer peril was at
northward connecting door was wide open, but there was no time to think
about checking the already turning lock in the hall. All I could do was
to shut and bolt the open connecting door, as well as its mate on the
opposite side - pushing a bedstead against the one and a bureau against
the other, and moving a washstand in front of the hall door. I must, I
saw, trust to such makeshift barriers to shield me till I could get out
the window and on the roof of the Paine Street block. But even in this
acute moment my chief horror was something apart from the immediate
weakness of my defenses. I was shuddering because not one of my
pursuers, despite some hideous panting, grunting, and subdued barkings
at odd intervals, was uttering an unmuffled or intelligible vocal
I moved the furniture and rushed toward the windows I heard a frightful
scurrying along the corridor toward the room north of me, and perceived
that the southward battering had ceased. Plainly, most of my opponents
were about to concentrate against the feeble connecting door which they
knew must open directly on me. Outside, the moon played on the
ridgepole of the block below, and I saw that the jump would be
desperately hazardous because of the steep surface on which I must
the conditions, I chose the more southerly of the two windows as my
avenue of escape; planning to land on the inner slope of the roof and
make for the nearest sky-light. Once inside one of the decrepit brick
structures I would have to reckon with pursuit; but I hoped to descend
and dodge in and out of yawning doorways along the shadowed courtyard,
eventually getting to Washington Street and slipping out of town toward
clatter at the northerly connecting door was now terrific, and I saw
that the weak panelling was beginning to splinter. Obviously, the
besiegers had brought some ponderous object into play as a
battering-ram. The bedstead, however, still held firm; so that I had at
least a faint chance of making good my escape. As I opened the window I
noticed that it was flanked by heavy velour draperies suspended from a
pole by brass rings, and also that there was a large projecting catch
for the shutters on the exterior. Seeing a possible means of avoiding
the dangerous jump, I yanked at the hangings and brought them down,
pole and all; then quickly hooking two of the rings in the shutter
catch and flinging the drapery outside. The heavy folds reached fully
to the abutting roof, and I saw that the rings and catch would be
likely to bear my weight. So, climbing out of the window and down the
improvised rope ladder, I left behind me forever the morbid and
horror-infested fabric of the Gilman House.
landed safely on the loose slates of the steep roof, and succeeded in
gaining the gaping black skylight without a slip. Glancing up at the
window I had left, I observed it was still dark, though far across the
crumbling chimneys to the north I could see lights ominously blazing in
the Order of Dagon Hall, the Baptist church, and the Congregational
church which I recalled so shiveringly. There had seemed to be no one
in the courtyard below, and I hoped there would be a chance to get away
before the spreading of a general alarm. Flashing my pocket lamp into
the skylight, I saw that there were no steps down. The distance was
slight, however, so I clambered over the brink and dropped; striking a
dusty floor littered with crumbling boxes and barrels.
place was ghoulish-looking, but I was past minding such impressions and
made at once for the staircase revealed by my flashlight - after a
hasty glance at my watch, which shewed the hour to be 2 a.m. The steps
creaked, but seemed tolerably sound; and I raced down past a barnlike
second storey to the ground floor. The desolation was complete, and
only echoes answered my footfalls. At length I reached the lower hall
at the end of which I saw a faint luminous rectangle marking the ruined
Paine Street doorway. Heading the other way, I found the back door also
open; and darted out and down five stone steps to the grass-grown
cobblestones of the courtyard.
moonbeams did not reach down here, but I could just see my way about
without using the flashlight. Some of the windows on the Gilman House
side were faintly glowing, and I thought I heard confused sounds
within. Walking softly over to the Washington Street side I perceived
several open doorways, and chose the nearest as my route out. The
hallway inside was black, and when I reached the opposite end I saw
that the street door was wedged immovably shut. Resolved to try another
building, I groped my way back toward the courtyard, but stopped short
when close to the doorway.
out of an opened door in the Gilman House a large crowd of doubtful
shapes was pouring - lanterns bobbing in the darkness, and horrible
croaking voices exchanging low cries in what was certainly not English.
The figures moved uncertainly, and I realized to my relief that they
did not know where I had gone; but for all that they sent a shiver of
horror through my frame. Their features were indistinguishable, but
their crouching, shambling gait was abominably repellent. And worst of
all, I perceived that one figure was strangely robed, and unmistakably
surmounted by a tall tiara of a design altogether too familiar. As the
figures spread throughout the courtyard, I felt my fears increase.
Suppose I could find no egress from this building on the street side?
The fishy odour was detestable, and I wondered I could stand it without
fainting. Again groping toward the street, I opened a door off the hall
and came upon an empty room with closely shuttered but sashless
windows. Fumbling in the rays of my flashlight, I found I could open
the shutters; and in another moment had climbed outside and was fully
closing the aperture in its original manner.
was now in Washington Street, and for the moment saw no living thing
nor any light save that of the moon. From several directions in the
distance, however, I could hear the sound of hoarse voices, of
footsteps, and of a curious kind of pattering which did not sound quite
like footsteps. Plainly I had no time to lose. The points of the
compass were clear to me, and I was glad that all the street lights
were turned off, as is often the custom on strongly moonlit nights in
prosperous rural regions. Some of the sounds came from the south, yet I
retained my design of escaping in that direction. There would, I knew,
be plenty of deserted doorways to shelter me in case I met any person
or group who looked like pursuers.
walked rapidly, softly, and close to the ruined houses. While hatless
and dishevelled after my arduous climb, I did not look especially
noticeable; and stood a good chance of passing unheeded if forced to
encounter any casual wayfarer.
Bates Street I drew into a yawning vestibule while two shambling
figures crossed in front of me, but was soon on my way again and
approaching the open space where Eliot Street obliquely crosses
Washington at the intersection of South. Though I had never seen this
space, it had looked dangerous to me on the grocery youth's map; since
the moonlight would have free play there. There was no use trying to
evade it, for any alternative course would involve detours of possibly
disastrous visibility and delaying effect. The only thing to do was to
cross it boldly and openly; imitating the typical shamble of the
Innsmouth folk as best I could, and trusting that no one - or at least
no pursuer of mine - would be there.
how fully the pursuit was organised - and indeed, just what its purpose
might be - I could form no idea. There seemed to be unusual activity in
the town, but I judged that the news of my escape from the Gilman had
not yet spread. I would, of course, soon have to shift from Washington
to some other southward street; for that party from the hotel would
doubtless be after me. I must have left dust prints in that last old
building, revealing how I had gained the street.
open space was, as I had expected, strongly moonlit; and I saw the
remains of a parklike, iron-railed green in its center. Fortunately no
one was about though a curious sort of buzz or roar seemed to be
increasing in the direction of Town Square. South Street was very wide,
leading directly down a slight declivity to the waterfront and
commanding a long view out a sea; and I hoped that no one would be
glancing up it from afar as I crossed in the bright moonlight.
progress was unimpeded, and no fresh sound arose to hint that I had
been spied. Glancing about me, I involuntarily let my pace slacken for
a second to take in the sight of the sea, gorgeous in the burning
moonlight at the street's end. Far out beyond the breakwater was the
dim, dark line of Devil Reef, and as I glimpsed it I could not help
thinking of all the hideous legends I had heard in the last twenty-four
hours - legends which portrayed this ragged rock as a veritable gateway
to realms of unfathomed horror and inconceivable abnormality.
without warning, I saw the intermittent flashes of light on the distant
reef. They were definite and unmistakable, and awaked in my mind a
blind horror beyond all rational proportion. My muscles tightened for
panic flight, held in only by a certain unconscious caution and
half-hypnotic fascination. And to make matters worse, there now flashed
forth from the lofty cupola of the Gilman House, which loomed up to the
northeast behind me, a series of analogous though differently spaced
gleams which could be nothing less than an answering signal.
my muscles, and realising afresh - how plainly visible I was, I resumed
my brisker and feignedly shambling pace; though keeping my eyes on that
hellish and ominous reef as long as the opening of South Street gave me
a seaward view. What the whole proceeding meant, I could not imagine;
unless it involved some strange rite connected with Devil Reef, or
unless some party had landed from a ship on that sinister rock. I now
bent to the left around the ruinous green; still gazing toward the
ocean as it blazed in the spectral summer moonlight, and watching the
cryptical flashing of those nameless, unexplainable beacons.
was then that the most horrible impression of all was borne in upon me
- the impression which destroyed my last vestige of self-control and
sent me running frantically southward past the yawning black doorways
and fishily staring windows of that deserted nightmare street. For at a
closer glance I saw that the moonlit waters between the reef and the
shore were far from empty. They were alive with a teeming horde of
shapes swimming inward toward the town; and even at my vast distance
and in my single moment of perception I could tell that the bobbing
heads and flailing arms were alien and aberrant in a way scarcely to be
expressed or consciously formulated.
frantic running ceased before I had covered a block, for at my left I
began to hear something like the hue and cry of organised pursuit.
There were footsteps and gutteral sounds, and a rattling motor wheezed
south along Federal Street. In a second all my plans were utterly
changed - for if the southward highway were blocked ahead of me, I must
clearly find another egress from Innsmouth. I paused and drew into a
gaping doorway, reflecting how lucky I was to have left the moonlit
open space before these pursuers came down the parallel street.
second reflection was less comforting. Since the pursuit was down
another street, it was plain that the party was not following me
directly. It had not seen me, but was simply obeying a general plan of
cutting off my escape. This, however, implied that all roads leading
out of Innsmouth were similarly patrolled; for the people 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? For a moment my brain reeled - both from sheer
hopelessness and from a rapid increase in the omnipresent fishy odour.
I thought of the abandoned railway to Rowley, whose solid line of
ballasted, weed-grown earth still stretched off to the northwest from
the crumbling station on the edge at the river-gorge. There was just a
chance that the townsfolk would not think of that; since its
briar-choked desertion made it half-impassable, and the unlikeliest of
all avenues for a fugitive to choose. I had seen it clearly from my
hotel window and knew about how it lay. Most of its earlier length was
uncomfortably visible from the Rowley road, and from high places in the
town itself; but one could perhaps crawl inconspicuously through the
undergrowth. At any rate, it would form my only chance of deliverance,
and there was nothing to do but try it.
inside the hall of my deserted shelter, I once more consulted the
grocery boy's map with the aid of the flashlight. The immediate problem
was how to reach the ancient railway; and I now saw that the safest
course was ahead to Babson Street; then west to Lafayette - there
edging around but not crossing an open space homologous to the one I
had traversed - and subsequently back northward and westward in a
zigzagging line through Lafayette, Bates, Adam, and Bank streets - the
latter skirting the river gorge - to the abandoned and dilapidated
station I had seen from my window. My reason for going ahead to Babson
was that I wished neither to recross the earlier open space nor to
begin my westward course along a cross street as broad as South.
once more, I crossed the street to the right-hand side in order to edge
around into Babson as inconspicuously as possible. Noises still
continued in Federal Street, and as I glanced behind me I thought I saw
a gleam of light near the building through which I had escaped. Anxious
to leave Washington Street, I broke into a quiet dogtrot, trusting to
luck not to encounter any observing eye. Next the corner of Babson
Street I saw to my alarm that one of the houses was still inhabited, as
attested by curtains at the window; but there were no lights within,
and I passed it without disaster.
Babson Street, which crossed Federal and might thus reveal me to the
searchers, I clung as closely as possible to the sagging, uneven
buildings; twice pausing in a doorway as the noises behind me
momentarily increased. The open space ahead shone wide and desolate
under the moon, but my route would not force me to cross it. During my
second pause I began to detect a fresh distribution of vague sounds;
and upon looking cautiously out from cover beheld a motor car darting
across the open space, bound outward along Eliot Street, which there
intersects both Babson and Lafayette.
I watched - choked by a sudden rise in the fishy odour after a short
abatement - I saw a band of uncouth, crouching shapes loping and
shambling in the same direction; and knew that this must be the party
guarding the Ipswich road, since that highway forms an extension of
Eliot Street. Two of the figures I glimpsed were in voluminous robes,
and one wore a peaked diadem which glistened whitely in the moonlight.
The gait of this figure was so odd that it sent a chill through me -
for it seemed to me the creature was almost hopping.
the last of the band was out of sight I resumed my progress; darting
around the corner into Lafayette Street, and crossing Eliot very
hurriedly lest stragglers of the party be still advancing along that
thoroughfare. I did hear some croaking and clattering sounds far off
toward Town Square, but accomplished the passage without disaster. My
greatest dread was in re-crossing broad and moonlit South Street - with
its seaward view - and I had to nerve myself for the ordeal. Someone
might easily be looking, and possible Eliot Street stragglers could not
fail to glimpse me from either of two points. At the last moment I
decided I had better slacken my trot and make the crossing as before in
the shambling gait of an average Innsmouth native.
the view of the water again opened out - this time on my right - I was
half-determined not to look at it at all. I could not however, resist;
but cast a sidelong glance as I carefully and imitatively shambled
toward the protecting shadows ahead. There was no ship visible, as I
had half-expected there would be. Instead, the first thing which caught
my eye was a small rowboat pulling in toward the abandoned wharves and
laden with some bulky, tarpaulin-covered object. Its rowers, though
distantly and indistinctly seen, were of an especially repellent
aspect. Several swimmers were still discernible; while on the far black
reef I could see a faint, steady glow unlike the winking beacon visible
before, and of a curious colour which I could not precisely identify.
Above the slant roofs ahead and to the right there loomed the tall
cupola of the Gilman House, but it was completely dark. The fishy
odour, dispelled for a moment by some merciful breeze, now closed in
again with maddening intensity.
had not quite crossed the street when I heard a muttering band
advancing along Washington from the north. As they reached the broad
open space where I had had my first disquieting glimpse of the moonlit
water I could see them plainly only a block away - and was horrified by
the bestial abnormality of their faces and the doglike sub-humanness of
their crouching gait. One man moved in a positively simian way, with
long arms frequently touching the ground; while another figure - robed
and tiaraed - seemed to progress in an almost hopping fashion. I judged
this party to be the one I had seen in the Gilman's courtyard - the
one, therefore, most closely on my trail. As some of the figures turned
to look in my direction I was transfixed with fright, yet managed to
preserve the casual, shambling gait I had assumed. To this day I do not
know whether they saw me or not. If they did, my stratagem must have
deceived them, for they passed on across the moonlit space without
varying their course - meanwhile croaking and jabbering in some hateful
guttural patois I could not identify.
more in shadow, I resumed my former dog-trot past the leaning and
decrepit houses that stared blankly into the night. Having crossed to
the western sidewalk I rounded the nearest corner into Bates Street
where I kept close to the buildings on the southern side. I passed two
houses shewing signs of habitation, one of which had faint lights in
upper rooms, yet met with no obstacle. As I tuned into Adams Street I
felt measurably safer, but received a shock when a man reeled out of a
black doorway directly in front of me. He proved, however, too
hopelessly drunk to be a menace; so that I reached the dismal ruins of
the Bank Street warehouses in safety.
one was stirring in that dead street beside the river-gorge, and the
roar of the waterfalls quite drowned my foot steps. It was a long
dog-trot to the ruined station, and the great brick warehouse walls
around me seemed somehow more terrifying than the fronts of private
houses. At last I saw the ancient arcaded station - or what was left of
it - and made directly for the tracks that started from its farther
rails were rusty but mainly intact, and not more than half the ties had
rotted away. Walking or running on such a surface was very difficult;
but I did my best, and on the whole made very fair time. For some
distance the line kept on along the gorge's brink, but at length I
reached the long covered bridge where it crossed the chasm at a
dizzying height. The condition of this bridge would determine my next
step. If humanly possible, I would use it; if not, I would have to risk
more street wandering and take the nearest intact highway bridge.
vast, barnlike length of the old bridge gleamed spectrally in the
moonlight, and I saw that the ties were safe for at least a few feet
within. Entering, I began to use my flashlight, and was almost knocked
down by the cloud of bats that flapped past me. About half-way across
there was a perilous gap in the ties which I feared for a moment would
halt me; but in the end I risked a desperate jump which fortunately
was glad to see the moonlight again when I emerged from that macabre
tunnel. The old tracks crossed River Street at grade, and at once
veered off into a region increasingly rural and with less and less of
Innsmouth's abhorrent fishy odour. Here the dense growth of weeds and
briers hindered me and cruelly tore at my clothes, but I was none the
less glad that they were there to give me concealment in case of peril.
I knew that much of my route must be visible from the Rowley road.
marshy region began very abruptly, with the single track on a low,
grassy embankment where the weedy growth was somewhat thinner. Then
came a sort of island of higher ground, where the line passed through a
shallow open cut choked with bushes and brambles. I was very glad of
this partial shelter, since at this point the Rowley road was
uncomfortably near according to my window view. At the end of the cut
it would cross the track and swerve off to a safer distance; but
meanwhile I must be exceedingly careful. I was by this time thankfully
certain that the railway itself was not patrolled.
before entering the cut I glanced behind me, but saw no pursuer. The
ancient spires and roofs of decaying Innsmouth gleamed lovely and
ethereal in the magic yellow moonlight, and I thought of how they must
have looked in the old days before the shadow fell. Then, as my gaze
circled inland from the town, something less tranquil arrested my
notice and held me immobile for a second.
I saw - or fancied I saw - was a disturbing suggestion of undulant
motion far to the south; a suggestion which made me conclude that a
very large horde must be pouring out of the city along the level
Ipswich road. The distance was great and I could distinguish nothing in
detail; but I did not at all like the look of that moving column. It
undulated too much, and glistened too brightly in the rays of the now
westering moon. There was a suggestion of sound, too, though the wind
was blowing the other way - a suggestion of bestial scraping and
bellowing even worse than the muttering of the parties I had lately
sorts of unpleasant conjectures crossed my mind. I thought of those
very extreme Innsmouth types said to be hidden in crumbling, centuried
warrens near the waterfront; I thought, too, of those nameless swimmers
I had seen. Counting the parties so far glimpsed, as well as those
presumably covering other roads, the number of my pursuers must be
strangely large for a town as depopulated as Innsmouth.
could come the dense personnel of such a column as I now beheld? Did
those ancient, unplumbed warrens teem with a twisted, uncatalogued, and
unsuspected life? Or had some unseen ship indeed landed a legion of
unknown outsiders on that hellish reef? Who were they? Why were they
here? And if such a column of them was scouring the Ipswich road, would
the patrols on the other roads be likewise augmented?
had entered the brush-grown cut and was struggling along at a very slow
pace when that damnable fishy odour again waxed dominant. Had the wind
suddenly changed eastward, so that it blew in from the sea and over the
town? It must have, I concluded, since I now began to hear shocking
guttural murmurs from that hitherto silent direction. There was another
sound, too - a kind of wholesale, colossal flopping or pattering which
somehow called up images of the most detestable sort. It made me think
illogically of that unpleasantly undulating column on the far-off
then both stench and sounds grew stronger, so that I paused shivering
and grateful for the cut's protection. It was here, I recalled, that
the Rowley road drew so close to the old railway before crossing
westward and diverging. Something was coming along that road, and I
must lie low till its passage and vanishment in the distance. Thank
heaven these creatures employed no dogs for tracking - though perhaps
that would have been impossible amidst the omnipresent regional odour.
Crouched in the bushes of that sandy cleft I felt reasonably safe, even
though I knew the searchers would have to cross the track in front of
me not much more than a hundred yards away. I would be able to see
them, but they could not, except by a malign miracle, see me.
at once I began dreading to look at them as they passed. I saw the
close moonlit space where they would surge by, and had curious thoughts
about the irredeemable pollution of that space. They would perhaps be
the worst of all Innsmouth types - something one would not care to
stench waxed overpowering, and the noises swelled to a bestial babel of
croaking, baying and barking without the least suggestion of human
speech. Were these indeed the voices of my pursuers? Did they have dogs
after all? So far I had seen none of the lower animals in Innsmouth.
That flopping or pattering was monstrous - I could not look upon the
degenerate creatures responsible for it. I would keep my eyes shut till
the sound receded toward the west. The horde was very close now - air
foul with their hoarse snarlings, and the ground almost shaking with
their alien-rhythmed footfalls. My breath nearly ceased to come, and I
put every ounce of will-power into the task of holding my eyelids down.
am not even yet willing to say whether what followed was a hideous
actuality or only a nightmare hallucination. The later action of the
government, after my frantic appeals, would tend to confirm it as a
monstrous truth; but could not an hallucination have been repeated
under the quasi-hypnotic spell of that ancient, haunted, and shadowed
town? Such places have strange properties, and the legacy of insane
legend might well have acted on more than one human imagination amidst
those dead, stench-cursed streets and huddles of rotting roofs and
crumbling steeples. Is it not possible that the germ of an actual
contagious madness lurks in the depths of that shadow over Innsmouth?
Who can be sure of reality after hearing things like the tale of old
Zadok Allen? The government men never found poor Zadok, and have no
conjectures to make as to what became of him. Where does madness leave
off and reality begin? Is it possible that even my latest fear is sheer
I must try to tell what I thought I saw that night under the mocking
yellow moon - saw surging and hopping down the Rowley road in plain
sight in front of me as I crouched among the wild brambles of that
desolate railway cut. Of course my resolution to keep my eyes shut had
failed. It was foredoomed to failure - for who could crouch blindly
while a legion of croaking, baying entities of unknown source flopped
noisomely past, scarcely more than a hundred yards away?
thought I was prepared for the worst, and I really ought to have been
prepared considering what I had seen before.
other pursuers had been accursedly abnormal - so should I not have been
ready to face a strengthening of the abnormal element; to look upon
forms in which there was no mixture of the normal at all? I did not
open my eyes until the raucous clamour came loudly from a point
obviously straight ahead. Then I knew that a long section of them must
be plainly in sight where the sides of the cut flattened out and the
road crossed the track - and I could no longer keep myself from
sampling whatever honor that leering yellow moon might have to shew.
was the end, for whatever remains to me of life on the surface of this
earth, of every vestige of mental peace and confidence in the integrity
of nature and of the human mind. Nothing that I could have imagined -
nothing, even, that I could have gathered had I credited old Zadok's
crazy tale in the most literal way - would be in any way comparable to
the demoniac, blasphemous reality that I saw - or believe I saw. I have
tied to hint what it was in order to postpone the horror of writing it
down baldly. Can it be possible that this planet has actually spawned
such things; that human eyes have truly seen, as objective flesh, what
man has hitherto known only in febrile phantasy and tenuous legend?
yet I saw them in a limitless stream - flopping, hopping, croaking,
bleating - urging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a
grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. And some of them
had tall tiaras of that nameless whitish-gold metal ... and some were
strangely robed ... and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishly
humped black coat and striped trousers, and had a man's felt hat
perched on the shapeless thing that answered for a head.
think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had
white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of
their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid,
while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes
that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills,
and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on
two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no
more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly wed tar
articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their
staring faces lacked.
for all of their monstrousness they were not unfamiliar to me. I knew
too well what they must be - for was not the memory of the evil tiara
at Newburyport still fresh? They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the
nameless design - living and horrible - and as I saw them I knew also
of what that humped, tiaraed priest in the black church basement had
fearsomely reminded me. Their number was past guessing. It seemed to me
that there were limitless swarms of them and certainly my momentary
glimpse could have shewn only the least fraction. In another instant
everything was blotted out by a merciful fit of fainting; the first I
had ever had.
was a gentle daylight rain that awaked me front my stupor in the
brush-grown railway cut, and when I staggered out to the roadway ahead
I saw no trace of any prints in the fresh mud. The fishy odour, too,
was gone, 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. My watch was still going, and told me
that the hour was past noon.
reality of what I had been through was highly uncertain in my mind, but
I felt that something hideous lay in the background. I must get away
from evil-shadowed Innsmouth - and accordingly I began to test my
cramped, wearied powers of locomotion. Despite weakness hunger, horror,
and bewilderment I found myself after a time able to walk; so started
slowly along the muddy road to Rowley. Before evening I was in village,
getting a meal and providing myself with presentable clothes. I caught
the night train to Arkham, and the next day talked long and earnestly
with government officials there; a process I later repeated in Boston.
With the main result of these colloquies the public is now familiar -
and I wish, for normality's sake, there were nothing more to tell.
Perhaps it is madness that is overtaking me - yet perhaps a greater
horror - or a greater marvel - is reaching out.
may well be imagined, I gave up most of the foreplanned features of the
rest of my tour - the scenic, architectural, and antiquarian diversions
on which I had counted so heavily. Nor did I dare look for that piece
of strange jewelry said to be in the Miskatonic University Museum. I
did, however, improve my stay in Arkham by collecting some genealogical
notes I had long wished to possess; very rough and hasty data, it is
true, but capable of good use later no when I might have time to
collate and codify them. The curator of the historical society there -
Mr. B. Lapham Peabody - was very courteous about assisting me, and
expressed unusual interest when I told him I was a grandson of Eliza
Orne of Arkham, who was born in 1867 and had married James Williamson
of Ohio at the age of seventeen.
seemed that a maternal uncle of mine had been there many years before
on a quest much like my own; and that my grandmother's family was a
topic of some local curiosity. There had, Mr. Peabody said, been
considerable discussion about the marriage of her father, Benjamin
Orne, just after the Civil War; since the ancestry of the bride was
peculiarly puzzling. That bride was understood to have been an orphaned
Marsh of New Hampshire - a cousin of the Essex County Marshes - but her
education had been in France and she knew very little of her family. A
guardian had deposited funds in a Boston bank to maintain her and her
French governess; but that guardian's name was unfamiliar to Arkham
people, and in time he dropped out of sight, so that the governess
assumed the role by court appointment. The Frenchwoman - now long dead
- was very taciturn, and there were those who said she would have told
more than she did.
the most baffling thing was the inability of anyone to place the
recorded parents of the young woman - Enoch and Lydia (Meserve) Marsh -
among the known families of New Hampshire. Possibly, many suggested,
she was the natural daughter of some Marsh of prominence - she
certainly had the true Marsh eyes. Most of the puzzling was done after
her early death, which took place at the birth of my grandmother - her
only child. Having formed some disagreeable impressions connected with
the name of Marsh, I did not welcome the news that it belonged on my
own ancestral tree; nor was I pleased by Mr. Peabody's suggestion that
I had the true Marsh eyes myself. However, I was grateful for data
which I knew would prove valuable; and took copious notes and lists of
book references regarding the well-documented Orne family.
went directly home to Toledo from Boston, and later spent a month at
Maumee recuperating from my ordeal. In September I entered Oberlin for
my final year, and from then till the next June was busy with studies
and other wholesome activities - reminded of the bygone terror only by
occasional official visits from government men in connexion with the
campaign which my pleas and evidence had started. Around the middle of
July - just a year after the Innsmouth experience - I spent a week with
my late mother's family in Cleveland; checking some of my new
genealogical data with the various notes, traditions, and bits of
heirloom material in existence there, and seeing what kind of a
connected chart I could construct.
did not exactly relish this task, for the atmosphere of the Williamson
home had always depressed me. There was a strain of morbidity there,
and my mother had never encouraged my visiting her parents as a child,
although she always welcomed her father when he came to Toledo. My
Arkham-born grandmother had seemed strange and almost terrifying to me,
and I do not think I grieved when she disappeared. I was eight years
old then, and it was said that she had wandered off in grief after the
suicide of my Uncle Douglas, her eldest son. He had shot himself after
a trip to New England - the same trip, no doubt, which had caused him
to be recalled at the Arkham Historical Society.
uncle had resembled her, and I had never liked him either. Something
about the staring, unwinking expression of both of them had given me a
vague, unaccountable uneasiness. My mother and Uncle Walter had not
looked like that. They were like their father, though poor little
cousin Lawrence - Walter's son - had been almost perfect duplicate of
his grandmother before his condition took him to the permanent
seclusion of a sanitarium at Canton. I had not seen him in four years,
but my uncle once implied that his state, both mental and physical, was
very bad. This worry had probably been a major cause of his mother's
death two years before.
grandfather and his widowed son Walter now comprised the Cleveland
household, but the memory of older times hung thickly over it. I still
disliked the place, and tried to get my researches done as quickly as
possible. Williamson records and traditions were supplied in abundance
by my grandfather; though for Orne material I had to depend on my uncle
Walter, who put at my disposal the contents of all his files, including
notes, letters, cuttings, heirlooms, photographs, and miniatures.
was in going over the letters and pictures on the Orne side that I
began to acquire a kind of terror of my own ancestry. As I have said,
my grandmother and Uncle Douglas had always disturbed me. Now, years
after their passing, I gazed at their pictured faces with a measurably
heightened feeling of repulsion and alienation. I could not at first
understand the change, but gradually a horrible sort of comparison
began to obtrude itself on my unconscious mind despite the steady
refusal of my consciousness to admit even the least suspicion of it. It
was clear that the typical expression of these faces now suggested
something it had not suggested before - something which would bring
stark panic if too openly thought of.
the worst shock came when my uncle shewed me the Orne jewellery in a
downtown safe deposit vault. Some of the items were delicate and
inspiring enough, but there was one box of strange old pieces descended
from my mysterious great-grandmother which my uncle was almost
reluctant to produce. They were, he said, of very grotesque and almost
repulsive design, and had never to his knowledge been publicly worn;
though my grandmother used to enjoy looking at them. Vague legends of
bad luck clustered around them, and my great-grandmother's French
governess had said they ought not to be worn in New England, though it
would be quite safe to wear them in Europe.
my uncle began slowly and grudgingly to unwrap the things he urged me
not to be shocked by the strangeness and frequent hideousness of the
designs. Artists and archaeologists who had seen them pronounced their
workmanship superlatively and exotically exquisite, though no one
seemed able to define their exact material or assign them to any
specific art tradition. There were two armlets, a tiara, and a kind of
pectoral; the latter having in high relief certain figures of almost
this description I had kept a tight rein on my emotions, but my face
must have betrayed my mounting fears. My uncle looked concerned, and
paused in his unwrapping to study my countenance. I motioned to him to
continue, which he did with renewed signs of reluctance. He seemed to
expect some demonstration when the first piece - the tiara - became
visible, but I doubt if he expected quite what actually happened. I did
not expect it, either, for I thought I was thoroughly forewarned
regarding what the jewellery would turn out to be. What I did was to
faint silently away, just as I had done in that brier choked railway
cut a year before.
that day on my life has been a nightmare of brooding and apprehension
nor do I know how much is hideous truth and how much madness. My
great-grandmother had been a Marsh of unknown source whose husband
lived in Arkham - and did not old Zadok say that the daughter of Obed
Marsh by a monstrous mother was married to an Arkham man trough trick?
What was it the ancient toper had muttered about the line of my eyes to
Captain Obed's? In Arkham, too, the curator had told me I had the true
Marsh eyes. Was Obed Marsh my own great-great-grandfather? Who - or
what - then, was my great-great-grandmother? But perhaps this was all
madness. Those whitish-gold ornaments might easily have been bought
from some Innsmouth sailor by the father of my great-grand-mother,
whoever he was. And that look in the staring-eyed faces of my
grandmother and self-slain uncle might be sheer fancy on my part -
sheer fancy, bolstered up by the Innsmouth shadow which had so darkly
coloured my imagination. But why had my uncle killed himself after an
ancestral quest in New England?
more than two years l fought off these reflections with partial
success. My father secured me a place in an insurance office, and I
buried myself in routine as deeply as possible. In the winter of
1930-31, however, the dreams began. They were very sparse and insidious
at first, but increased in frequency and vividness as the weeks went
by. Great watery spaces opened out before me, and I seemed to wander
through titanic sunken porticos and labyrinths of weedy cyclopean walls
with grotesque fishes as my companions. Then the other shapes began to
appear, filling me with nameless horror the moment I awoke. But during
the dreams they did not horrify me at all - I was one with them;
wearing their unhuman trappings, treading their aqueous ways, and
praying monstrously at their evil sea-bottom temples.
was much more than I could remember, but even what I did remember each
morning would be enough to stamp me as a madman or a genius if ever I
dared write it down. Some frightful influence, I felt, was seeking
gradually to drag me out of the sane world of wholesome life into
unnamable abysses of blackness and alienage; and the process told
heavily on me. My health and appearance grew steadily worse, till
finally I was forced to give up my position and adopt the static,
secluded life of an invalid. Some odd nervous affliction had me in its
grip, and I found myself at times almost unable to shut my eyes.
was then that I began to study the mirror with mounting alarm. The slow
ravages of disease are not pleasant to watch, but in my case there was
something subtler and more puzzling in the background. My father seemed
to notice it, too, for he began looking at me curiously and almost
affrightedly. What was taking place in me? Could it be that I was
coming to resemble my grandmother and uncle Douglas?
night I had a frightful dream in which I met my grandmother under the
sea. She lived in a phosphorescent palace of many terraces, with
gardens of strange leprous corals and grotesque brachiate
efflorescences, and welcomed me with a warmth that may have been
sardonic. She had changed - as those who take to the water change - and
told me she had never died. Instead, she had gone to a spot her dead
son had learned about, and had leaped to a realm whose wonders -
destined for him as well - he had spurned with a smoking pistol. This
was to be my realm, too - I could not escape it. I would never die, but
would live with those who had lived since before man ever walked the
met also that which had been her grandmother. For eighty thousand years
Pth'thya-l'yi had lived in Y'ha-nthlei, and thither she had gone back
after Obed Marsh was dead. Y'ha-nthlei was not destroyed when the
upper-earth men shot death into the sea. It was hurt, but not
destroyed. The Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even though the
palaeogean magic of the forgotten Old Ones might sometimes check them.
For the present they would rest; but some day, if they remembered, they
would rise again for the tribute Great Cthulhu craved. It would be a
city greater than Innsmouth next time. They had planned to spread, and
had brought up that which would help them, but now they must wait once
more. For bringing the upper-earth men's death I must do a penance, but
that would not be heavy. This was the dream in which I saw a shoggoth
for the first time, and the sight set me awake in a frenzy of
screaming. That morning the mirror definitely told me I had acquired
the Innsmouth look.
far I have not shot myself as my uncle Douglas did. I bought an
automatic and almost took the step, but certain dreams deterred me. The
tense extremes of horror are lessening, and I feel queerly drawn toward
the unknown sea-deeps instead of fearing them. I hear and do strange
things in sleep, and awake with a kind of exaltation instead of terror.
I do not believe I need to wait for the full change as most have
waited. If I did, my father would probably shut me up in a sanitarium
as my poor little cousin is shut up. Stupendous and unheard-of
splendors await me below, and I shall seek them soon. Ia-R'lyehl
Cihuiha flgagnl id Ia! No, I shall not shoot myself - I cannot be made
to shoot myself!
shall plan my cousin's escape from that Canton mad-house, and together
we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that
brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to
Cyclopean and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep
Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.
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