Monthly Archives: October 2015

Gedney: Laurence J. Cornford

Letter to Edward Lyle of Brown University:

Dear Edward,

Having now had time to examine the full archive of the Starkweather-Moore Expedition, I can say that I think it would make a fine web site. There is an abundance of material including diaries, reports, manifests, photographs, drawings, logs and the surviving gramophone recordings, all of which would make an excellent immersive account of early polar expedition. Indeed, there is considerably more material than from the Miskatonic’s disastrous expedition of only a few years earlier, and upon which the Starkweather-Moore Expedition was to build.

I would advise that the connections with the 1931 Miskatonic trip and the sensation caused by Professor William Dyer’s press briefings at the time be downplayed. The opinion of the time was that Dyer suffered a mental collapse upon his return from Antarctica, and these unfortunate events only mar the beginning of the expedition. They can probably be dealt with quickly, despite the interest of conspiracy theorists and cranks looking for lost pre-human cities in Professor Dyer’s statements. I think we should not seek to encourage such people with the site. After all, the clinching proof that Dyer was unwell lies in his claim that there was a mountain range taller than the Himalayas on Antarctica—if so where is it! Starkweather and Moore report nothing of the kind. Nor did the Second Byrd Expedition later the same year. How can the world’s biggest mountain range vanish in the space of three years? Unless an enormous piece of the physics puzzle is missing, then the only rational answer is that Dyer’s account was fiction.

If the conspiracy theorists could see the whole archive, they would certainly make much of the subjective impressions of the explorers. Indeed, although nowhere near as eventful as the 1931 expedition, there are still a number of odd events recounted in diaries, such as the account of the frozen bodies of many hundreds of penguins, apparently crushed or bitten, covering an icy inland plain. Or the sound of aeroplanes heard at night, although none of the team’s planes were flying at the time. Of course, the Starkweather-Moore Expedition was not the only one in the region at the time, but even so, these reports are curious.

Perhaps most curious is what was reported to have happened at Base 2. Base 2 was a storage dump and refueling point for ferrying supplies further inland, and as such it had only a three-man crew (using the old lighthouse keeper principle that if one person was fatally injured, the remaining men would still be able to support each other until help came). Probably the last thing any of them expected was for some stranger to come walking out of the ice and into their camp. Yet that is exactly what happened on the morning of December 28 1933.

They hadn’t been keeping any sort of a lookout, as they were not expecting anyone to arrive from the expedition. They saw him on the edge of the camp shuffling with awkward movements towards the main building, his clothing heavily rimed with frost. Quickly they ran to help him inside. The first thought was the man was in a bad way, heavily frostbitten, and they set about the process of warming him up. He seemed to recover quickly and showed no signs of long-term harm. He is described in journals as having the physique of a none too successful pugilist. They estimated that he was just over six feet tall, and thick-set, with rough-hewn features, although his ears were not the “cauliflower ear” of many boxers. Nor did they see signs of scarring to indicate fighting, accident, frostbite, or any major adverse effect from his long exposure to cold.

He spoke like a man unused to speaking. They were most shocked when he gave his name: Gedney. He claimed to be a survivor of the Miskatonic Expedition.

The City at the Two Magnetic Poles: Glynn Owen Barrass

3rd August 1928, Miskatonic University, Arkham, Mass.

In the small hours of the early morning, Dr Henry Armitage awoke from a phantasm-haunted slumber to the sound of fierce barking, issuing from the university’s campus watchdog. The savage and relentless noise increased in pitch until it transformed into a frantic and frightened yelp before a sudden retort of gunfire cut the dog off mid-howl. For some reason, the nullifying silence succeeding the gunshot chilled Armitage to the very pit of his soul, leaving him too frozen with fear to move till the increasing shouts and commotion on campus roused him enough to investigate the events unfolding beyond his window.

After quickly dressing, Armitage rushed through the grounds towards the college buildings and found a large crowd of students, staff, and faculty gathered at the foot of the library steps. As he approached he noted that the burglar alarm had been activated, its klaxon sounding low and erratic through the cool night air. Sensing that an event far greater than a mere break-in had occurred, the chill inside his chest intensified a hundred fold as he veered towards the small group that stood before the open window to the building’s side.

To his fear-filled eyes the gaping window resembled the wailing mouth of a doomed soul, as Armitage pushed past the crowd of onlookers to climb in through the open aperture, closely followed by two members of the group, his colleagues Professor Warren Rice and Dr. Francis Morgan. He had spoken to them only recently about his apprehensions regarding the Whateley boy’s insistence in examining the Necronomicon, the tome Armitage knew was the source of this insidious late night break-in.

The alarm having abated moments earlier, the interior of the library lay dark, deathly silent. Like a man hypnotized by fate, Armitage led the other men across the hall towards the genealogical reading room, which led in turn to the smaller, locked room where the restricted books were stored. He knew what he would find before getting there—had known this would happen since the time he had last witnessed the Whateley boy’s crafty, goat-like countenance.

Flicking on the light switch, Armitage gasped in horror. The campus watchdog lay panting on the carpet, thick crimson pumping from the bullet wound to its chest. Beyond it the door to the restricted room stood on bent hinges, its lock smashed asunder. In hindsight, none of this surprised Armitage in the slightest, and, as his companions stepped with caution towards the door, he knew in all certainty which book they would find missing. He understood also what the sinking feeling in his chest finally meant. The end of the world was near.

22nd January 1931, Somewhere in the Antarctic.

A solitary form dragged a wooden sled through the world of snow the Antarctic called summer, a figure barely discernable through the shimmering haze of icy mist. A normal man would have long ago succumbed to the treacherous conditions of this frozen hell, but Wilbur Whateley was no normal man. Nine feet tall, his white-bearded face surrounded by a shock of long white hair, he was a blasphemous Moses in a desert of death. Dressed from head to toe in thick black furs, his meager protection concealed something more alien than human.

MonoChrome: T.E. Grau

Wheelhouse

The phone rang on the nightstand, sounding like an alarm bell signaling the end of the world. End of a poor night’s sleep, at the very least.

It was a rotary phone, robin’s-egg blue with proper metal innards and a nest of copper wiring twisted up inside. A solid American-made piece of equipment, 25 years past its prime. The sound it made was horrible, and it kept coming with that relentless 2/4 beat. Two seconds of ring to four seconds of silence.

A groan escaped from somewhere under a twist of quilt and sofa bed. The only thing visible of Henry Ganz was the lower half of a whiskered face peaking through the mass of patchwork fabric. He’d forgotten to pull the phone chord from the wall last night, and the anger at this sloppy oversight fired blood back into his limbs, forcing him to crawl back to the waking world. Worse yet, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing on its own. Shards of plastic and wire that had once been a nearly antique answering machine littered the corner of the room, broken under a boot heel three nights ago. So the phone would keep ringing until the caller decided to hang up, or we finally arrived at the heat death of the universe.

Ganz could have ended his suffering and just answered the goddamn thing, but he didn’t particularly like phone calls, as they more than likely meant bad news. That or a conversation, which usually proved to be worse. But in his line of work, whatever that exactly was these days, Ganz needed a phone, good news or bad. He’d find an angle for either. That’s what he was good at, which made him the cop he once was, the reporter he became, and the high functioning degenerate that he’d always been. Always with the angle. Finding degrees even when everything was bent into a pretzel.

After what was probably its fortieth ring, Ganz snatched the receiver from its cradle and mashed it against the blanket over his ear. The voice on the other end didn’t wait for a greeting, as he knew it wouldn’t come.

“Secretary quit?” Victor Baumgartner’s barrel voice had a sarcastic chuckle to it.

“Ran off and joined the circus,” Ganz rasped, unsuccessfully clearing last night from this throat.

“You hear the news?”

“I write the news, motherfucker.”

“No, on TV.”

“What time is it?” Ganz refused to open his eyes, not that it would have helped. The room was lit by a fat glass lamp with a stained shade resting on the floor next to his pull-out bed. The living room was mostly empty, as were the rooms beyond, aside from the stacks of books and newspapers that rose in dusty columns throughout the house. No natural light filtered through the windows sealed shut with aluminum foil. Like a Vegas casino, never letting in the outside world to remind the poor bastards bleeding their baby’s college fund at the craps table that it was time to get the hell out of town.
“2:30.”

“AM?”

“What do you think?”

“Then no, I haven’t heard the fucking news. Why are you calling me so early?”

“Turn on the TV. KTLA.”

“You’re an asshole, Bum,” Ganz said. He’d long ago broken down “Baumgartner” into simply “Bum,” which was far easier to say after a few cocktails. It had predictably stuck. “Goddamn Kraut bastard….” Ganz’s head hurt, just like it always did when it was time to get up and sleepwalk through another day, counting his steps to the grave.

“You’re just as German as I am,” Bum said, feigning insult.

“I’m Prussian, you cocksucker,” Ganz said. “I got more in common with the Polacks than you lousy fascists. How many times do I have to tell you this?”

“As many times as it takes to make it true.”

“I’m going back to sleep.”

“Turn on this news first. You still have a TV, right?”

“I’m going to shoot you, Bum. I’m going to find you and I’m going to—”

“Then turn it on. This is a neighborhood matter, and right in your wheelhouse.”

“So?”

So… the Park Plaza Hotel just ate four people.”

…“What?”

“KTLA.”

Click.

The Continent of Madness: Ken Asamatsu

1. To Neuschwabenland

June 21, 1939.

Goebbels had just given his speech at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, and the huge bonfires of the midsummer celebrations were being lit. It mattered little to us, as far as we were from the summer and the flames. We were in the hold of the Hölderlin, a freighter bound for Antarctica. Packed with three of the very latest snow crawlers, a disassembled Messerschmitt, and massive amounts of arms and ammunition, the ship was headed toward an “Antarctic paradise” that couldn’t possibly exist.

It was all due to the absurd reports filed by that crackpot Nazi adventurer, Kriegsmarine Kapitän Ritscher, and Hitler’s fawning sycophants. In 1938, Kapitän Ritscher was given a secret order by the Führer himself, who had discovered a cryptic note in von Junzt’s Unaussprechlichen Kulten. They were headed to a spot about a thousand kilometers south of the northernmost tip of the Antarctic continent, called Queen Maud Land by the British.

Their orders were to investigate some six hundred thousand square kilometers of land.

According to von Junzt, water temperature was high in the region due to volcanic activity, with a warm-water lake, lush vegetation, and a balmy climate warm enough to walk about outdoors in your shirtsleeves in the summer. Anyone claiming that such a temperate zone existed in this southernmost continent of snow and ice was clearly insane, but the Führer believed the delusion. He allocated a massive sum from the national treasury, gave Kapitän Ritscher command of a team of eighty-two military and scientific personnel, and sent them on their way south.

The reports sent back by Ritscher became increasingly unbelievable. Using an aircraft, he had flown in the depths of the continent, dropping swastika flags every twenty kilometers, claiming the land in the name of the Third Reich. Using dogsleds and snow crawlers, he advanced into the region on the ground as well, to discover a mountain range on the scale of the Alps, soaring to four thousand meters, ground free of ice and snow, and a warm-water lake surrounded by a profusion of beautiful flowers and lush greenery.

Ritscher ended his 107-day expedition and returned via the Cape of Good Hope, bringing with him a large number of photographs and even movie film. Hitler was delighted at “the discovery of the century” and christened the new, ice-free land Neuschwabenland—New Swabia. Many officers in the Wehrmacht decried the discovery, calling Ritscher a charlatan who had falsified reports out of ambition. One of them was Army Major Richter von Hausen: me.

I asked a newspaper reporter friend of mine to look into Ritscher’s background, revealing that he had close connections with the Völkischer Beobachter newspaper, a propaganda masterpiece run by the Nazis. We were convinced that the lush greenery shown in those photographs was created by photomontage techniques, and the films shot not in Antarctica, but in some Universum Film studio. Our research proved it. Unfortunately, the SS heard of our interest and thought it disloyal of citizens who were neither soldiers nor members of the Nazi party. And so when I was drafted into the Wehrmacht on March 24, 1939, I was ordered to guard duty for one year in Neuschwabenland. The order was signed Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer.

In other words, I was being exiled to Antarctica. In all, thirty-two of us were assigned to guard this nonexistent domain. We were all Wehrmacht, and all deemed to be uncooperative in the eyes of the Nazis. To keep us under control, a party of fourteen SS soldiers and two Gestapo agents was also attached to the mission, under the command of SS Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Weber… who, as it happens, had been in prison on suspicion of murdering five prostitutes. In fact, all of the security force were criminals or, to be kind, unusual people, not only Weber. It was pretty clear what it all meant. The Wehrmacht had decided to take advantage of the opportunity to rid itself of all its undesirable soldiers at once, along with the SS soldiers who might prove an embarrassment. Just ship them all off to Antarctica!

The Hölderlin departed the military port of Kiel on April 1, 1939. An old freighter, it was close to scrap, but I got along well enough with the three men sharing my quarters. The trip was uneventful and even restful. At first. The oldest of my bunkmates was Kriegsmarine Leutnant Krenz, age 41. Two years older than I. With pale blonde hair and a tough, decisive expression, he looked the perfect German professional soldier, and had been assigned to naval intelligence. His father, we came to know, had commanded a U-boat in the first Great War, going down with his boat in battle with the enemy in the Atlantic. The other two, younger than I, were Army Oberstleutnant von Müller and Kriegsmarine Unterleutnant Heinrich. Eric von Müller was 29, born to a noble family in Karlsruhe. Intelligent and handsome, he made friends easily, although he seemed somewhat high-strung at times. Heinrich, on the other hand, was a brash giant of a man who said he had come from the Ruhr. When he added that his mother had been Belgian, I at once understood his sunny personality. He was 27.

We became close friends, joking and laughing together as if we had known each other for a decade… that gaiety began to fade after about ten days, finally turning to leaden despair.

It all began at seven in the evening on April 11, with a furious knocking on the hatch. “Come in!” called Heinrich, sprawled out on his bunk reading a magazine. The hatch immediately sprang open to reveal Oberstleutnant Weber and one of the Gestapo officers, dressed in plain clothes and wearing rimless eyeglasses. I recalled that the Gestapo man was named Heinicke as I asked what they wanted.

“Nothing from you,” snapped Weber. With exaggerated politeness, he added, “Count von Müller, would you come with us?”

“Me!? But why?” responded von Müller, only to be cut off by Heinicke.

“We have just received orders from Reichsführer Himmler to put the Mask of Yoth-Tlaggon on you.”

At his words, von Müller paled.