Ipswich as a location for Call of Cthulhu

Cawles Memorial Cemetery, IpswichI awoke this morning with the sudden realization that Ipswich would make a wonderful Call of Cthulhu (COC) campaign. For a moment, I thought it had already been done, because Dunwich and Ipswich are alike in name and both prominently feature marshes. So I did a bit of digging.

My first stop was the Chaosium, because they produce COC. Well, I think they have done a pretty poor job of placing the locations of these places in Lovecraft Country. Maybe they were trying to trying to avoid badmouthing the locals, but their locations don’t make sense to me. Joseph Morales, a Californian, doesn’t worry about offending the New Englanders, and he places Innsmouth at Newburyport. That makes sense geographically, since Lovecraft said Innsmouth was a neighbor of Newburyport, even though Lovecraft’s directions gave it a fictional location south of Plum Island, southeast of Rowley, and north of Cape Ann, with Ipswich being a near neighbor. Of course, if you try to place Lovecraft’s places in the real world without replacing existing towns, you don’t have much space to do it. If you assume it is in another plane, another Earth, another universe very close to our own, then Innsmouth can be said to occupy the same relative space in that world that Ipswich does in ours. But I’ll accept Mr. Morales’ identification of Newburyport as Innsmouth, because the flavor is right, and because Ipswich doesn’t have those rotting docks. In “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” Lovecraft describes it as follows:

“It 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….
The 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….
Here 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 to 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’s Reef.”

There’s a little bit of Gloucester in there as well, which Donovan K. Loucks points out. But let’s assume that Innsmouth is a very close neighbor of Newburyport, in fact it is just one plane away.

Here’s how I would place the other locations of Lovecraft’s world.

Widener Library c1910sArkham: I personally think Arkham is Cambridge or perhaps Boston as a whole. Some folks have placed it up in Beverly, and identified Gordon College as Miskatonic University. Gordon College was only founded in 1889, which doesn’t give it much historical depth around here. The house I live in is from the 1680s! So there’s no way the Gordon College Library is the home to those eldritch horrors. I always identified Miskatonic with Harvard’s Widener Library (left). Now there’s a library!

Dunwich: Lovecraft placed this far northwest of Arkham, but it was inspired by Springfield, which is in south central Massachusetts. It’s not on the north shore, so I’m not going to worry too much about it.

Kingsport: This one is easy, because Lovecraft actually identified it as Marblehead.

So that leaves Ipswich up for grabs! I’ll start putting together materials.


About lostdelights

An old gamer flying his freak flag, I've been playing table-top role-playing games since 1978. I've been building my own system (Journeyman) since 1981.
This entry was posted in Call of Cthulhu, Ipswich. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ipswich as a location for Call of Cthulhu

  1. Matt says:

    Is there a way to subscribe to your blog? I found your post while researching Ipswich as a potential setting for my upcoming COC game. Thanks.

    • lostdelights says:

      Yep. Just go to the bottom right of the screen and click on “Entries RSS”; that will lead you through the subscription process. I used to live in Ipswich (Mass.). Is that where your campaign will be, or is are you talking about Ipswich UK? And you know that Dunwich was Ipswich, right?

      • Matt says:

        Okay, thanks. Ipswich Ma. Is my setting. I didn’t know Dunwich was modeled on the town. I had assumed Innsmouth was . In any case- I agree with your blog post- Ipswich will make a great setting for Call of Cthulhu.

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