Carnacki Institute

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Name(s): Carnacki Institute, formerly The Carnacki Institute for Paranormal Studies, formerly the Carnacki Detective Agency

First Appearance: inspired by Simon R. Green's Ghost Finders series, which in turn was inspired by William Hope Hodgson's series of stories featuging supernatural detective Carnacki, the "Ghost Finder"

Short Description: Simon R. Green pays homage to William Hope Hodgson with his Ghost Finders series, where the protagonists work for the mysterious Carnacki Institute, an organization which exists to "Do Something" about ghosts and other spirits: when reports of the supernatural reach the Institute, an elite team of "Ghost Finders" is dispatched to assess the situation.


History and Scope

The organization's history is shrouded in mystery, but apparently began as the legacy of Gaslight-era supernatural detective Thomas Carnacki, in the form of a loosely-organized amateur detective agency handling investigations into reports of hauntings and spiritualist and occult activity gone wrong. Through much of the Atomic Age and Cold War, the organization dropped out of public sight, apparently to contribute to British and NATO experiments in weaponizing the supernatural against the Soviet Union and other political enemies. By the 21st Century, the Carnacki Institute resurfaced in the public under the premise of merely "studying" the paranormal, though rumors persist that the organization is fighting a secret spiritual war against unspecified enemies on the "Other Side" of the veil between the world of the Living, and some alien, Astral world of the Dead.

The Carnacki Institute is a nominally private organization suitable for linking PC investigators together with academic, scientific, and occult resources and experts, especially those involved in tracking and investigating seemingly supernatural phenomena such as psychic abilities/experiences, apparent hauntings, cryptozoological sightings, and other such activity of a more paranormal nature than a strictly scientific one. The Carnacki Institute is partly funded and by extension partly and loosely controlled by the government, allowing the institute's resources to be deployed with plausible deniability to investigate cases that the British government might not want to be seen paying public attention to.

Identification, Psychology and Behavior

Investigators tend to be professional specialists working together as part of a "Ghost Finder" team; these parties typically contain scientific experts, equipment technicians, occult scholars, psychics and mediums, priests and demonologists, and others prepared to scientifically study reports of paranormal phenomenon, attempt to debunk them, and deal with genuine supernatural threats head-on when they are revealed to be present.

The Carnacki Institute itself is a nominally private organization with alleged ties to the British government; the group's official, public goal is to "Do Something" about dangerous supernatural intrusions, particularly hauntings and infestations of spirits, demons, intruders from the Astral Realm, and other paranormal beings and phenomena. The government's role in the Institute's investigations appears to be one of curiosity, of protecting British National Security interests, and allegedly also to study paranormal phenomenon and either weaponize them, or fight a secret psychic war against an unseen, alien enemy.

There is an aspect of bureaucratic paranoia to the organization's leadership: investigators might be treated like sacrificial pawns in a game of cosmic chess played by callous and desperate Carnacki Institute leader amateurs against an eldritch-horror chess master accessing the game from beyond time and space; the organization might keep the investigators in the dark about exactly what sort of threat they are being sent to deal with, what the Institute really knows about it, and what role the investigators are really expected to play in studying or defeating it. Investigators are just as likely to find that they are over-qualified guinea pigs in a dangerous experiment as they are to find that they are exactly the confident, capable professional scientists and exterminators they would like to believe themselves to be.


Resources

Tomes, Artifacts, Sites


Allies, Enemies, Creatures and Deities

Enemies and typical subjects for "study" include:

Allies include:

  • cult: the "Ab-human Priests of Raaee", a shadowy and ancient cult from which the contents of the Sigsand Manuscript appear to have been drawn
  • organizations: the Carnacki Institute has forged partnerships with amateur "ghost hunter" groups across the UK, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and western Europe, and has also been known to work with similar groups in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere

Cases

Notable Cases:

  • event: the "Quake Wars", a secret psychic war conducted between NATO intelligence organizations and a supernatural entity on the Astral Plane code-named "Quake", in which the Carnacki Institute played a key role at several points; the war started in connection with a CIA experiment in remote viewing conducted during the late 1970s, and ended suddenly in 1996 under mysterious circumstances
  • event: the disastrous and possibly apocryphal live "Pilot Episode" of the organization's Ghost Finders: International television programme, aired only once and then suppressed by the Institute and public authorities, which involved a haunted house and a seemingly routine investigation into drafty windows and leaky faucets that concluded with a half-hearted seance that suddenly turned violent when the investigators accidentally contacted a violent "inhuman elemental entity"; one investigator was hospitalized, a number of crew members resigned from the programme, and several people involved in the investigation have reported long-term physical and psychological problems resulting from the seance
  • event: a controversial live television investigation in one of the last seasons of the organization's television programme, involving the reportedly haunted "ghost town" of Midian, New Zealand, which resulted in conflict with what was publicly reported to be a "doomsday cult", until anonymous sources close to the investigation leaked allegations that the conflict was "staged" and evidence of supernatural activity "faked" by the investigators

Other Resources

  • television programme: Ghost Finders: International, sponsored by the institute as a recruiting tool, field test for experimental equipment and new members, and


Ghost Finders: International

The public face of the Carnacki Institute, Ghost Finders: International is a wildly popular "reality" television programme launched on British and American television in the early 2000s, and sponsored by grants from the Carnacki Institute. The programme, filmed in a sort of documentary format mixed with stylistic elements of "found footage" horror films, follows groups of amateur paranormal investigators on their explorations of hauntings both famous and obscure, armed with the help of experts and experimental equipment supplied by the Carnacki Institute.

Behind the scenes, Ghost Finders: International is apparently a recruiting tool, training exercise, and testing ground for the Carnacki Institute, which apparently recruits talent from the amateurs it works with to help fight the Institute's secret paranormal wars, trains inexperienced agents in the seemingly "low-level" threat of false alarms and garden-variety hauntings, and allows the Institute to field-test experimental equipment, occult theories, and "Ghost Finding" techniques.

The Ghost Finders: International programme is well-known for its use of amateur volunteers who (generally) try to apply the Scientific Method and other techniques to debunking alleged paranormal activity during a "Science Phase" which attempts to rule out natural and commonplace causes for the phenomena, before launching into a "Paranormal Phase" which uses psychics, experimental devices, and other techniques to try to capture and analyze any paranormal activity that may be occurring, and concluding with an "Analytic Phase" in which the evidence is reviewed, compared, and analyzed before presentation to stakeholders in the investigation (typically home-owners and business people who contacted the show for help or, in many cases, publicity), followed by the the investigation's verdict on the investigation's results: "Haunted", "Plausible", "Bunkum".

The programme was also infamously involved in a handful of bizarre scandals, including claims of faked footage, alleged cover-ups of actual supernatural activity caught on tape, at least two widely-reported incidents involving mysterious disappearances, nervous breakdowns, and even deaths of investigators working with the programme, and the infamous 1992 live "pilot episode" in which paranormal activity caused by an apparently demonic presence was caught on live television by respected members of the press working with Carnacki Institute experts. That live "pilot" was never again shown on television and references to it have largely been suppressed by the Carnacki Institute and the BBC in a well-coordinated disinformation campaign, until audience memories of that episode has come to be frequently and incorrectly reported to have been an urban legend or a faked publicity stunt intended to generate word-of-mouth advertising, though crude VHS copies of excerpts of the episode apparently captured by television viewers have recently begun to resurface on video streaming websites.

Trivia, Heresies and Controversies

  • Content supplied in the original April 2018 version of this page was borrowed from Judas Ghost (2013 film), with some original ideas borrowed from Ghost Hunters (2008 series) and its Ghost Hunters: International spin-off, as well as Ghostwatch (1992 film), by a wiki contributor who has not read the books. The intention is to supply an organization that a group of Call of Cthulhu investigators might work for, an organization with a dark side, which operates in variety of different formats, including the familiar "paranormal documentary" ghost-busting television programmes. Much of the original content of this page could thus be considered "heretical" to the source material as a result.


Keeper Comments

  • Sample plot hooks:
    • In the Gaslight era, the investigators' "Ghost Finder" detective agency franchise is assigned a local case involving a bizarre haunting which may involve ghosts from another world....
    • During the Cold War, the Institute has assigned the investigators to work on a bizarre "remote viewing" project, apparently designed for spying on the Soviets. The investigators soon begin to realize that the experiment appears to have gone out of control as the psychics involved are guided to spy on locations outside of this world, alerting evil spirits from the Other Side to the project's existence....
    • In a Modern setting, the investigators are members of an amateur "ghost busters" who have been selected to work with the Carnacki Institute on an investigation into a famous haunting on the live Ghost Finders: International television programme. The publicity the series will provide seems like a windfall to the group, until the haunting is revealed to be far more real than expected, while the Institute appears to know more than it is letting on, while using the investigators as bait and/or guinea pigs in a paranormal experiment that seems to be going wrong....
    • In the Modern setting, the Carnacki Institute assigns a group of hardened specialists to investigate a dangerous case that appears at first to be a routine haunting, but soon reveals itself to be a ferocious battle on the front lines of cosmic psychic war, with the investigators left alone to guard some remote, forsaken, haunted beach-head against a full-scale spectral invasion from the Other Side....


Quotes

Appearances