twenty-two years of nightmare and terror, saved only by a desperate conviction
of the mythical source of certain impressions, I am unwilling to vouch
for the truth of that which I think I found in Western Australia on the
night of 17-18 July 1935. There is reason to hope that my experience was
wholly or partly an hallucination - for which, indeed, abundant causes
And yet, its realism was so hideous
that I sometimes find hope impossible.
If the thing did happen, then man
must be prepared to accept notions of the cosmos, and of his own place
in the seething vortex of time, whose merest mention is paralysing. He
must, too, be placed on guard against a specific, lurking peril which,
though it will never engulf the whole race, may impose monstrous and unguessable
horrors upon certain venturesome members of it.
It is for this latter reason that
I urge, with all the force of my being, final abandonment of all the attempts
at unearthing those fragments of unknown, primordial masonry which my expedition
set out to investigate.
Assuming that I was sane and awake,
my experience on that night was such as has befallen no man before. It
was, moreover, a frightful confirmation of all I had sought to dismiss
as myth and dream. Mercifull there is no proof, for in my fright I lost
the awesome object which would - if real and brought out of that noxious
abyss - have formed irrefutable evidence.
When I came upon the horror I was
alone - and I have up to now told no one about it. I could not stop the
others from digging in its direction, but chance and the shifting sand
have so far saved them from finding it. Now I must formulate some definite
statement - not only for the sake of my own mental balance, but to warn
such others as may read it seriously.
These pages - much in whose earlier
parts will be familiar to close readers of the general and scientific press
- are written in the cabin of the ship that is bringing me home. I shall
give them to my son, Professor Wingate Peaslee of Miskatonic University
- the only member of my family who stuck to me after my queer amnesia of
long ago, and the man best informed on the inner facts
of my case. Of all living persons,
he is least likely to ridicule what I shall tell of that fateful night.
I did not enlighten him orally before
sailing, because I think he had better have the revelation in written form.
Reading and re-reading at leisure will leave with him a more convincing
picture than my confused tongue could hope to convey.
He can do anything that he thinks
best with this account - showing it, with suitable comment, in any quarters
where it will be likely to accomplish good. It is for the sake of such
readers as are unfamiliar with the earlier phases of my case that I am
prefacing the revelation itself with a fairly ample summary of its background.
My name is Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee,
and those who recall the newspaper tales of a generation back - or the
letters and articles in psychological journals six or seven years ago -
will know who and what I am. The press was filled with the details of my
strange amnesia in 1908-13, and much was made of the traditions of horror,
madness, and witchcraft which lurked behind the
ancient Massachusetts town then
and now forming my place of residence. Yet I would have it known that there
is nothing whatever of the mad or sinister in my heredity and early life.
This is a highly important fact in view of the shadow which fell so suddenly
upon me from outside sources.
It may be that centuries of dark
brooding had given to crumbling, whisper-haunted Arkham a peculiar vulnerability
as regards such shadows - though even this seems doubtful in the light
of those other cases which I later came to study. But the chief point is
that my own ancestry and background are altogether normal. What came, came
from somewhere else - where I even now hesitate to assert in plain words.
I am the son of Jonathan and Hannah
(Wingate) Peaslee, both of wholesome old Haverhill stock. I was born and
reared in Haverhill - at the old homestead in Boardman Street near Golden
Hill - and did not go to Arkham till I entered Miskatonic University as
instructor of political economy in 1895.
For thirteen years more my life
ran smoothly and happily. I married Alice Keezar of Haverhill in 1896,
and my three children, Robert, Wingate and Hannah were born in 1898, 1900,
and 1903, respectively. In 1898 I became an associate professor, and in
1902 a full professor. At no time had I the least interest in either occultism
or abnormal psychology.
It was on Thursday, 14 May 1908,
that the queer amnesia came. The thing was quite sudden, though later I
realized that certain brief, glimmering visions of several, hours previous
- chaotic visions which disturbed me greatly because they were so unprecedented
- must have formed premonitory symptoms. My head was aching, and I had
a singular feeling - altogether new to me -
that some one else was trying to
get possession of my thoughts.
The collapse occurred about 10.20
A.M., while I was conducting a class in Political Economy VI - history
and present tendencies of economics - for juniors and a few sophomores.
I began to see strange shapes before my eyes, and to feel that I was in
a grotesque room other than the classroom.
My thoughts and speech wandered
from my subject, and the students saw that something was gravely amiss.
Then I slumped down, unconscious, in my chair, in a stupor from which no
one could arouse me. Nor did my rightful faculties again look out upon
the daylight of our normal world for five years, four months, and thirteen
It is, of course, from others that
I have learned what followed. I showed no sign of consciousness for sixteen
and a half hours though removed to my home at 27 Crane Street, and given
the best of medical attention.
At 3 A.M. May my eyes opened and
began to speak and my family were thoroughly frightened by the trend of
my expression and language. It was clear that I had no remembrance of my
identity and my past, though for some reason seemed anxious to conceal
his lack of knowledge. My eyes glazed strangely at the persons around me,
and the flections of my facial muscles were altogether unfamiliar.
Even my speech seemed awkward and
foreign. I used my vocal organs clumsily and gropingly, and my diction
had a curiously stilted quality, as if I had laboriously learned the English
language from books. The pronunciation was barbarously alien, whilst the
idiom seemed to include both scraps of curious archaism and expressions
of a wholly incomprehensible cast.
Of the latter, one in particular
was very potently - even terrifiedly - recalled by the youngest of the
physicians twenty years afterward. For at that late period such a phrase
began to have an actual currency - first in England and then in the United
States - and though of much complexity and indisputable newness, it reproduced
in every least particular the mystifying words of the
strange Arkham patient of 1908.
Physical strength returned at once,
although I required an odd amount of re-education in the use of my hands,
legs, and bodily apparatus in general. Because of this and other handicaps
inherent in the mnemonic lapse, I was for some time kept under strict medical
When I saw that my attempts to conceal
the lapse had failed, I admitted it openly, and became eager for information
of all sorts. Indeed, it seemed to the doctors that I lost interest in
my proper personality as soon as I found the case of amnesia accepted as
a natural thing.
They noticed that my chief efforts
were to master certain points in history, science, art, language, and folklore
- some of them tremendously abstruse, and some childishly simple - which
remained, very oddly in many cases, outside my consciousness.
At the same time they noticed that
I had an inexplicable command of many almost unknown sorts of knowledge
- a command which I seemed to wish to hide rather than display. I would
inadvertently refer, with casual assurance, to specific events in dim ages
outside of the range of accepted history - passing off such references
as a jest when I saw the surprise they created. And I
had a way of speaking of the future
which two or three times caused actual fright.
These uncanny flashes soon ceased
to appear, though some observers laid their vanishment more to a certain
furtive caution on my part than to any waning of the strange knowledge
behind them. Indeed, I seemed anomalously avid to absorb the speech, customs,
and perspectives of the age around me; as if I were a studious traveller
from a far, foreign land.
As soon as permitted, I haunted
the college library at all hours; and shortly began to arrange for those
odd travels, and special courses at American and European Universities,
which evoked so much comment during the next few years.
I did not at any time suffer from
a lack of learned contacts, for my case had a mild celebrity among the
psychologists of the period. I was lectured upon as a typical example of
secondary personality - even though I seemed to puzzle the lecturers now
and then with some bizarre symptoms or some queer trace of carefully veiled
Of real friendliness, however, I
encountered little. Something in my aspect and speech seemed to excite
vague fears and aversions in every one I met, as if I were a being infinitely
removed from all that is normal and healthful. This idea of a black, hidden
horror connected with incalculable gulfs of some sort of distance was oddly
widespread and persistent.
My own family formed no exception.
From the moment of my strange waking my wife had regarded me with extreme
horror and loathing, vowing that I was some utter alien usurping the body
of her husband. In 1910 she obtained a legal divorce, nor would she ever
consent to see me even after my return to normality in 1913. These feelings
were shared by my elder son and my
small daughter, neither of whom
I have ever seen since.
Only my second son, Wingate, seemed
able to conquer the terror and repulsion which my change aroused. He indeed
felt that I was a stranger, but though only eight years old held fast to
a faith that my proper self would return. When it did return he sought
me out, and the courts gave me his custody. In succeeding years he helped
me with the studies to which I was driven, and today, at thirty-five, he
is a professor of psychology at Miskatonic.
But I do not wonder at the horror
caused - for certainly, the mind, voice, and facial expression of the being
that awakened on l5 May 1908, were not those of Nathaniel Wingate Peastee.
I will not attempt to tell much
of my life from 1908 to 1913, since readers may glean I the outward essentials
- as I largely had to do - from files of old newspapers and scientific
I was given charge of my funds,
and spent them slowly and on the whole wisely, in travel and in study at
various centres of learning. My travels, however, were singular in the
extreme, involving long visits to remote and desolate places.
In 1909 I spent a month in the Himalayas,
and in 1911 roused much attention through a camel trip into the unknown
deserts of Arabia. What happened on those journeys I have never been able
During the summer of l9l2 I chartered
a ship and sailed in the Arctic, north of Spitzbergen, afterward showing
signs of disappointment.
Later in that year I spent weeks
- alone beyond the limits of previous or subsequent exploration in the
vast limestone cavern systems of western Virginia - black labyrinths so
complex that no retracing of my steps could even be considered.
My sojourns at the universities
were marked by abnormally rapid assimilation, as if the secondary personality
had an intelligence enormously superior to my own. I have found, also,
that my rate of reading and solitary study was phenomenal. I could master
every detail of a book merely by glancing over it as fast as I could turn
the leaves; while my skill at interpreting complex
figures in an instant was veritably
At times there appeared almost ugly
reports of my power to influence the thoughts and acts of others, though
I seemed to have taken care to minimize displays of this faculty.
Other ugly reports concerned my
intimacy with leaders of occultist groups, and scholars suspected of connection
with nameless bands of abhorrent elder-world hierophants. These rumours,
though never proved at the time, were doubtless stimulated by the known
tenor of some of my reading - for the consulltation of rare books at libraries
cannot be effected secretly.
There is tangible proof - in the
form of marginal notes - that I went minutely through such things as the
Comte d'Erlette's Cultes des Goules, Ludvig Prinn's De Vermis Mysteriis,
the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, the surviving fragments of the
puzzling Book of Eibon, and the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul
Alhazred. Then, too, it is undeniable that a fresh and evil wave of underground
cult activity set in about the time of my odd mutation.
In the summer of 1913 I began to
display signs of ennui and flagging interest, and to hint to various associates
that a change might soon be expected in me. I spoke of returning memories
of my earlier life - though most auditors judged me insincere, since all
the recollections I gave were casual, and such as might have been learned
from my old private papers.
About the middle of August I returned
to Arkham and re-opened my long-closed house in Crane Street. Here I installed
a mechanism of the most curious aspect, constructed piecemeal by different
makers of scientific apparatus in Europe and America, and guarded carefully
from the sight of any one intelligent enough to analyse it.
Those who did see it - a workman,
a servant, and the new housekeeper - say that it was a queer mixture of
rods, wheels, and mirros, though only about two feet tall, one foot wide,
and one foot thick. The central mirror was circular and convex. All this
is borne out by such makers of parts as can be located.
On the evening of Friday, 26 September,
I dismissed the housekeeper and the maid until noon of the next day. Lights
burned in the house till late, and a lean, dark, curiously foreign-looking
man called in an automobile.
It was about one A.M. that the lights
were last seen. At 2.15 A.M. a policeman observed the place in darkness,
but the strager's motor still at the curb. By 4 o'clock the motor was certainly
It was at 6 o'clock that a hesitant,
foreign voice on the telephone asked Dr Wilson to call at my house and
bring me out of a peculiar faint. This call - a long-distance one - was
later traced to a public booth in the North Station in Boston, but no sign
of the lean foreigner was ever unearthed.
When the doctor reached my house
he found me unconscious in the sitting room - in an easy-chair with a table
drawn up before it. On the polished top were scratches showing where some
heavy object had rested. The queer machine was gone, nor was anything afterward
heard of it. Undoubtedly the dark, lean foreigner had taken it away.
In the library grate were abundant
ashes, evidently left from the burning of the every remainmg scrap of paper
on which I had written since the advent of the amnesia. Dr Wilson found
my breathing very peculiar, but after a hypodermic injection it became
At 11.15 A.M., 27 September, I stirred
vigorously, and my hitherto masklike face began to show signs of expression.
Dr Wilson remarked that the expression was not that of my secondary personality,
but seemed much like that of my normal self. About 11.30 I muttered some
very curious syllables - syllables which seemed unrelated to any human
speech. I appeared, too, to
struggle against something. Then,
just afternoon - the housekeeper and the maid having meanwhile returned
- I began to mutter in English.
"- of the orthodox economists of
that period, Jevons typifies the prevailing trend toward scientific correlation.
His attempt to link the commercial cycle of prosperity and depression with
the physical cycle of the solar spots forms perhaps the apex of -"
Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee had come
back - a spirit in whose time scale it was still Thursday morning in 1908,
with the economics class gazing up at the battered desk on the platform.
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