Ayuh – The Mythos Society Guide to New England

The Mythos Society Guide to New England

Author: Clint Staples
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing LL
Page Count: 146
Available Format: PDF (DTRPG) – $9.99

Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, the upper Eastern United States, makes up New England with its covered bridges, loose rock stone walls, and village greens, a prominent feature of most town squares. The land is rich in history, old and new. The Mythos Society Guide to New England covers elements unique to the land and separates them into seven chapters, each covering a different aspect of New England’s history and culture. Within are the building blocks to bring a sense of realization to any New England-oriented roleplaying game.

Chapter one covers New England’s geography and climate. New England has a very rugged and rocky terrain with breathtaking views, but its geography and climate are not universal. There are variations within each state, and the publication recognizes them by highlighting each state or grouping of states that offer unique features. For example, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts all have lush but rugged greenery. Still, it is very different if we compare the rocky shoreline of Maine to the twisting shoreline of Rhode Island. These little nuances elevate this publication from a simple Wikipedia entry. You get a complete description and feel for each area as if the author is writing about the location they are currently observing.

The weather in New England seems to always be in flux. Mark Twain characterized it best in his speech at a New York dinner in 1876.

“There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration—and regret. The weather is always doing something there, always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring, I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”

New England weather changes frequently. The common saying “don’t like the weather, wait a minute” is a poignant metrological adage. New England receives a healthy dose of snow in the winter and rains in the spring and fall. Storms unexpectedly batter the area from the coastline and interior, which can be ferocious and destructive. The climate for New England is universal though those at higher elevations face colder temperatures than coastal areas.

Chapter two features historical events and news of note in New England, covering the 1920s and 1930s, the classic era of Call of Cthulhu. There has been a lot written about the period between wars in other sourcebooks about its fashion, politics, and the rise of organized crime with the enactment of Prohibition. An aspect not readily discussed in most sourcebooks is the day’s news and how events and technological advancements help shape the decades. Automobiles by the 1920s were widely available, and The Mythos Society Guide to New England dives into its effect on society, industry, and communities. The chapter also covers the attitudes of New Englanders as an influx of European Immigrants sailed their way across the sea to settle on its shores, setting off concerns and nervousness about their alien culture and traditions. Starting in 1919 with the Great Molasses Disaster in Boston, the book travels along a timeline of events, hitting major and minor events that can be woven into a storyline for gaming purposes. Fictional events from H.P. Lovecraft’s works also are present. They live side by side with other historical events in this chapter. For example, in 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants found guilty of anarchist activities, were executed, is alongside the raid of Innsmouth from “The Shadows Over Innsmouth.” The details of the raid are not exposed. Only the event is mentioned. This is true with other literary references to fictional events. The timeline continues until 1938 when Hitler comes to power in Germany, and Orson Wells broadcasts “War of the Worlds.”

Chapter three goes back further in time into New England’s prehistory. This chapter covers theories and speculations about human migration from Asia and Europe pre-1492. It discusses theories about the Red Paint People, also known as the Maritime Archaic Culture, who settled in Canada’s Nova Scotia and Labrador territories. Their name derives from their burial practice of lining their tombs in red ochre and its use in other ceremonial practices. Also mentioned is The Empire of Woden-Lithi, with its megalithic sites found in Ontario, Canada. This chapter also notes the works and life of Boston historian and archeologist Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, an expert on pre-Columbian America who theorizes a connection between ancient Egypt and the Aztecs. The Phoenicians, Basques, Libyans, and Celts are all speculated to have visited New England in Pre-Columbian times, along with the more widely known arrival of Erik the Red in the Celt’s second invasion. Each of their accounts is highlighted. Lastly, the chapter touched on the missing land of Norombega, where a ruined citadel of ancient origin known as the Newport Tower once stood.

Chapter four covers the native tribes of New England with a basic overview of their lives and cultures. Many different tribes made New England their home, but the book only covers the ten major tribes and their interactions with early settlers. The first tribe mentioned is the Abenaki, who inhabited most of modern Maine. The friendly Massachuset of the Boston area followed next—they were ravaged by disease and violence from European settlers. Then the Mohegan of Connecticut—not to be confused with the Mahicans mentioned in the novel Last of the Mohicans. The Narraganset tribe—occupied most of modern Rhode Island and sided with the colonists in the Pequot War. The Nipmuc,  renowned for their basket-making, weaving, and leatherwork, and neighbors of the Massachuset. The Passamaquoddy part of the Abenaki Confederacy. The Pennacook of New Hampshire, parts of Maine, and northeast Massachusetts. The seasonally semi-nomadic Penobscot was also part of the Abenaki Confederacy. The Pequot the most powerful and aggressive tribe in New England. And finally, the Wampanoag—one of the first tribes to come into contact with European settlers. Each of the tribes has a decent write-up touching on their culture and interaction with European settlers.

This chapter also discusses a couple of myths that derive from their native lore. The Spirits of the Wampanoag of the Nauset Wampanoag were polytheistic and worshipped several deities. There is the myth of The Torrent That Came Upon the Lands of Men, which rid the world of evil. Finally, there is Maushop the Hero, a giant, and Too-quah-mis-quan-it, a sea-maiden whom he laid down with. Too-quah-mis-quan-it is also known as Granny Squannit or Sqounanit.

Chapter five holds a collection of monsters of New England with many tales of sea serpent sightings dating from the 15th century until the beginning of the 20th century. There is a recounting of several monstrous sea creatures like a giant squid and octopi, the Lake Champlain monster, and demonic whales. On land, the devil made several appearances throughout in many forms. A ferocious panther-like monstrosity known as The Ding-Ball, which was entirely devoid of flesh or fur, is also discussed. The last creature to appear is the Gougou—the body of a woman, the tail of a fish, flippers for arms, and a carnivore of human flesh.

Chapter six is all about witches and witchcraft in New England. It starts with the most famous witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Much of the chapter comprises the events of the trial and the people involved. Further in the chapter is a biography of notable witches and warlocks of New England. The personalities covered are Moll Pitcher, a famed fortune teller. John Diamond—a wizard of great power that could foresee weather. Old Meg, the Witch of Gloucester—a dealer in supernatural things. Old Nanny Redd of Marblehead—who possessed the “evil eye.” Uncle Kaler, the great storm caller and calmer. Old Betty Booker of Kittery, Maine, bedded with the devil in return for youth and beauty. The chapter also covers lesser-known witches, which only get the briefest descriptions.

The last chapter, chapter seven, looks at each of New England’s six states and focuses on the mysteries found in each. The first three events include all of New England. The first of the three was the Dark Days. Church partitioners attending noon services found themselves in complete and utter darkness for thirty minutes while seated in their pews in May of 1780. The Yellow Day is similar to the Dark Days, with the light turning an odd hue giving everything a strange brass color. The last all-encompassing phenomenon was the Strange Lights Witnessed by Thousands. This event spanned several months starting in September and ending shortly after Christmas of the same year. Many across New England reported seeing bright lights hovering in the night sky. These mysterious lights and sightings continued outside New England into the southern states and even across the Atlantic to England several years later. The rest of the chapter then focuses on the specific strangeness of each state in New England. For example, Connecticut has six mysterious entries, while Massachusetts has over 40 listings. Not all the listings are deep dives. Some entries are concise and explain little of the event other than when it occurred.

Final Thought

Mostly, The Mythos Society Guide to New England is a history book geared toward roleplayers. It features strange and usually events that can be woven into games of horror or to enhance your New England setting. With its historical events, people, theories of migration, geography, climate, myths, and monsters, it is a great place to start or stop depending on how far you wish to dive into New England’s rich history. It is an excellent primer for those who know little about New England. I was raised in Connecticut and lived there until early adulthood. For the most part, most of the book was common knowledge for me, but I did learn several new things about New England I did not know of before.

Historial reference books like The Mythos Society Guide to New England are a great start to more profound research. Though the book can’t cover everything, it provides a top-level overview of the essential and creepy things found in New England, leaving the reader to delve deeper into its secrets with their own historical research. For more on weird New England, I suggest revisiting my article “Double Trouble: Strange New Englands?” where I showcase two internet sources and podcasts with the same name covering strange events of New England. One focuses on odd landmarks and cave systems, while the other features strange stories and personalities.

The picturesque havens of New England played a prominent part in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary works, and The Mythos Society Guide to New England adds Lovecraft’s fictitious characters and events alongside New England history as if they were part of it. It also features a couple of handouts in the book’s introduction corresponding to the content that can be used in a New England-themed roleplaying game. A letter from Dr. Michael A. Schumann mentions discovering an unknown manuscript from Cotton Mather of the Salem Witch Trials. The second item is a page from the unknown manuscript, and the third is an illustration of the new world as seen on a hanging tapestry in front of an open tome and quill.

New England is like no other place. There is no mistaking it, and The Mythos Society Guide to New England captures its essence. It sets the stage for developing a prosperous campaign set in New England. It covers all the essential information needed and whets the appetite for more profound research if desired. It is the perfect reference book for getting started or adding flavor to your game. Though the title calls out Mythos, not much is present, but the other strangeness makes up for it. The Mythos Society Guide to New England is a great starting point if you want more insight into New England.

~Stephen Pennisi

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