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The Crack'd and Crook'd Manse, Part Two

Thomas Craven


The ladies spend a day pursuing various leads in town and in the surrounding countryside.


Session Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Session Location: Six Feet Under Games, New Holland, Pennsylvania


* Elspeth Marsh, a librarian at the Miskatonic University
* Stephanie MacLeod, an archaeologist at Cambridge University
* Lynn Conners, a stage magician in Arkham, Massachusetts


Saturday, February 7, 1925


After dinner, Stephanie offers to help Edith with the dishes. Edith politely refuses at first, pointing out that Stephanie is a guest, and Edith is more familiar with the kitchen than anyone else. Stephanie mentions that she is interested in managing an inn of her own someday, and asks if Edith has any advice for her, seeing as how she maintains such an excellent boarding house. Edith succumbs to flattery and begins to describe all the ways in which she strives to keep the lodging in good order - especially by keeping out the "riffraff."


While Stephanie keeps Edith occupied, Lynn and Elspeth encourage Hank to tell them more about the Fitzgerald Manse. He warns them that the house has a dark history, and begins to describe the previous owners. There were the Franklins, an elderly couple who lived there peacefully until they died of old age. Before them were the Curwens, a wealthy family from New York. They bought the property about thirty years ago, wanting to raise their children in an idyllic rural setting. Then something happened to Arthur Curwen, who became increasingly irritable until finally butchering his family with an axe and then disappearing. Hank notes that Arthur was never found, and he mentions that Sheriff Whitford - who was only a deputy at the time - was shaken up by the whole grisly affair and was never the same afterward. Hank apologizes for disturbing the ladies, but doesn't refrain from telling them about the 'original sin' that stained the mansion right from its beginning, when John Fitzgerald returned home from the Civil War, killing his entire family and then himself. Hank thinks that the place is cursed, and advises the ladies to steer clear of it.


The ladies decide to retire for the evening. Lynn, who has always been a night owl, stays up late and reads the book from Cornthwaite's study - The Missing People, by Thomas Pratt. She notes a curious reference to a "great dome" that is believed to have held some religious significance to a South American tribe that vanished.


Sunday, February 8, 1925


Stephanie and Elspeth rise early, the latter having recalled a strange dream in which she had committed a ghastly crime and was now confined in a small space with no hope of escape.  Elspeth studies Cornthwaite's ledgers again and notices that some information seems to be missing from last month's expenditures. She awakens Lynn and asks her to review the accounts to confirm her findings. Lynn blearily agrees before returning to bed.


Stephanie joins Hank as he works in the yard; she inquires about the missing horse and asks for advice about renting steeds for the day. She and Elspeth travel to the Watkins farm, where they learn that one of the prize horses disappeared sometime during the night. There was a thick dew on the paddock the next morning, and they believe that any tracks would have been seen. Stephanie negotiates the acquisition of two horses for the day. Farmer Watkins recognizes Elspeth as the winner of a local derby last year, and he is pleased to help the ladies.


They decide to take a circuitous route toward the Fitzgerald property. It is a mild day (for February), and the two ladies enjoy their ride until Stephanie spots something under an old, gnarled tree. They women draw closer and see an assortment of large bones on the ground. Stephanie dismounts, draws her Webley, and cautiously approaches. She believes that the bones belonged to a horse, and that they have not been here long. There are no signs of blood or sinew; it looks as though the bones have been picked clean. Unnerved, the ladies search the nearby area but find nothing.


Since they are very close to the Fitzgerald Manse by now, they decide to have another look at the grounds. As they approach the mansion, they are again struck by an odd sense of wrongness about the place - as if the house is somehow crooked. Stephanie ventures into the overgrown garden, followed carefully by Elspeth, who soon stumbles upon a tree root that she swears was not there a moment earlier.  Up ahead they see a small shed, and their sense of dread unaccountably increases when they see that the door hangs open.  Stephanie has her revolver out as she cautiously peers inside and sees a scattered collection of tools.  Elspeth follows Stephanie into the small chamber, and they narrowly avoid stepping on the edged instruments.  They notice a space on the wall where an axe used to hang, and then a sudden breeze begins to stir the dead leaves on the floor, making it look as though some of the tools are beginning to move.  The ladies scurry out of the shed and quickly complete their tour of the garden before deciding to return to Gamwell.


Back at the boarding house, Lynn studies the ledgers and confirms Elspeth's discovery - some details have been omitted from the most recent expense list.  She visits the local bank and asks an accountant to review the ledgers to verify her findings.  [Keeper's note:  I totally forgot that this was supposed to take place on Sunday.]  She then visits the library, where she finds a large collection of books that Mr. Cornthwaite donated just before his disappearance.  Many of the books pertain to South America, and Lynn notices that some of them contain scrawled notes in the margins.  A pattern begins to develop; it seems that Cornthwaite was very interested in legends concerning a "great dome" that the natives worshipped long ago.  When she returns to the bank, the accountant agrees that a considerable amount of expenses have been deleted from the final entries - perhaps as much as $50,000.  Lynn leaves the bank just as Stephanie and Elspeth ride into town, and the three of them compare notes during lunch.

The ladies then return to the attorney's office, where they confront Walter Dodge about the missing expenses.  After closing the door, Mr. Dodge quietly informs the ladies that Cornthwaite had requested a large amount of salt to be purchased just before he disappeared - a truck full, in fact.  The attorneys thought the request odd, but Mr. Dodge is now concerned that Cornthwaite was experiencing some sort of mental breakdown - a suspicion that is supported when the ladies reveal the crumpled note they found in the Fitzgerald Manse.  Dodge asks them to keep their findings to themselves; he does not want rumors to spread about Cornthwaite's state of mind.  He urges them to continue their investigation and find Cornthwaite as soon as possible.


The investigators agree that there is no choice.  They must return to the Fitzgerald Manse to continue their search.


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Keeper's Comments


Presenting the garden and the sinister shed made me scratch my head a bit.  The Keeper is supposed to convey a sense of menace and dread - but there's really nothing there.  I guess it's just meant to build an ominous atmosphere.  In retrospect, I could have had Joe Virelli or Sheriff Whitford barge in and startle them, but I was planning to save that for the main house.


This was another session with no supernatural events.  If I was playing the adventure, I would have been happy to follow up on the various leads - but I sense that these players are getting thirsty for more visceral encounters, which the next session will almost certainly provide.  Still, there is a long, slow build-up, and some players get bored with that.  I need to think of ways to spice things up, adding in some drama and tension where appropriate.


The next session will probably be the final one, and I am still not sure how deadly I want to make it.  Much will depend on sanity rolls and other skill checks, and I am really looking forward to that final, horrific scene.


Please feel free to offer any comments, suggestions, or advice, especially if you've had experience with this scenario.  Thanks!


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