Dear friends, before we move on in the presentation of our upcoming label related activities, there is one loose end to tie up. Though the new album "MANTA" of the Lovecraftian post-rock project Postcards from Arkham is out for some time now, our Lovecraftian mystery tale that accompanied the whole enterprise is missing its ending.
Of course, a remedy is in order, so let us invite you one more time to the legendary Arkham for the conclusion of the case of the Orphic Assembly of Manta Primordialis:
As usual, we have for you a transcript for an easier read:
INVESTIGATION NOTES OF W. A. GRAHAM
- Back in Arkham. Visited the offices of Arkham Advertiser to speak with O’Connor. He remains positive that the person he saw on the West Bridge yesterday was one of the cultists involved in the February gathering on the Arkham battlements. If he is here, he must be found, for he surely knows what happened at the Strange High House and where R. Greeves is.
- At APD; description given to every policeman in the city with instructions to be on the lookout. Also added the descriptions of the other cultists caught on the photographs, for if one is here, chances are the others are too. We must be careful though and not spook them, or else they may disappear again, at which they are quite adept.
- It has been a week and so far, nothing tangible. Few unconfirmed sightings; nothing ever came of it. Did they realize we are looking for them and bailed out? Are they simply laying low, waiting for something? Or are they continuing their machinations out of sight, in places we know nothing of?
- Some luck at last; from what at first appeared to be an unrelated matter. Yesterday APD raided the Witch House. Ever since the Gilman incident, this building on the corners of Pickman and Parsonage Street, once long ago inhabited by the infamous witch Keziah Mason (hence the name), was abandoned. However, in past months, life returned among its ancient walls, as the building became the nexus of the Arkham artistic avant-garde. It is only logical. These fringe artists are always drawn to the weird and the bizarre, so a derelict house with such a colorful reputation would attract them like a flame would moths. And so, they moved in and made it a place of their meetings and salons – a place, where young Edward Derby recited his nightmarish poems, or where Richard Upton Pickman from Boston displayed his decadent and shocking paintings – or so it is said.
At first, they kept a low profile, but recently, their seances became more and more disturbing. Tenants from the neighborhood started to complain to APD about terrifying sounds, accompanied by eerie glow, emanating from the Witch House at night. Rumors began to spread – of unholy rites, like those once practiced by Keziah Mason. The situation soon forced APD to act. First, they put House under surveillance, which soon confirmed what the neighbors were saying, which lead to a decision to raid the premises when the next gathering hits. And that was yesterday.
I was there also; on one hand to help my fellow officers, on the other hoping that it may move my own investigation forward, since the Orphic Assembly had close ties to these avant-garde circles. Already during afternoon, our lookouts reported greater than usual number of people arriving to the Witch House, indicating that a séance was about to take place. By evening all movement ceased, whereupon our raiding party moved to a staging area nearby. There, we waited. Nothing was happening at first. It was a quiet night. Then, around 2 AM, noises, too subtle to really describe, began to invade the nightly silence. We readied ourselves. Then, it happened. Out of the blue, a deafening cacophony of sounds that were most definitely not of this world erupted into the night, only to be cut short by an even louder scream…as if all the souls of the damned shrieked in unison from the depths of their infernal torment...a moment of utter silence…then the whistle sounded and we moved.
Truth be told, after what we heard outside, I was expecting to be welcomed inside by a scene of mayhem, bloodshed even, but as we breached the front door, the interior was serene. Granted, the place looked odd – some of the rooms felt as if their inner geometry was somehow twisted, distorted, playing tricks on perspective, depth and angles; and everywhere on display pieces of art of various form and subject matter, the description of which I will rather leave to someone more qualified – but it was intact. If we thought that we would be staring into the mouth of Hell, we were wrong.
We found them upstairs, in the room that Gilman once rented. They were fine, albeit somewhat disoriented. At the center of the room, there was a gramophone and on it a record, bearing the inscription “Her Cosmic Songs”. We took them all in for questioning.
- Spent the last two days interrogating the artists. They all seem very surprised by our raid, and neither of them could explain what we heard outside the Witch House. They all claim they were just listening to a piece of an “experimental music” that recently began to circulate in their circles throughout Essex County. The copy we found was brought in by one of their group – Harley Warren, a scholar of sorts. Fortunately for me, Warren is among those in our custody, so I will focus further interrogation on him.
- - Questioned Warren extensively today. He is either an excellent liar, or really knows nothing about the Orphic Assembly or the whereabouts of R. Greeves. According to his testimony, about ten days ago, some of the group held an evening poetry recital at the Wooded graveyard on Hangman’s Hill. There, he was approached by a man he did not know and never saw before. The man introduced himself as R. F. Daniels, an avant-garde musician from Ipswich. They conversed for a while about various oddities in arts and philosophy, and before parting ways, Daniels gave Warren the record, telling him to be “a glimpse into the latest project he had the pleasure of participating in”, and of which “there is soon to be its grand invocation”.
Ten days ago – that was shortly after the incident at the Strange High House. Out of curiosity, I showed Warren the photographs of the Orphic Assembly members that Greeves took in February. As I suspected, Daniels was on them, and it was the same person O’Connor claimed to have seen on the West Bridge.
If we assume what we know about their design to be correct, we can hypothesize that the Orphic Assembly did gather at the Strange High House on April 5 and that they were successful in this key moment of their endeavors. Then, they somehow left Kingsport undetected and began to distribute, for reasons unknown, at least a partial outcome of their “project” among the avant-garde circles of Essex County. Finally, based on Warren’s testimony, we can also hypothesize that there is yet to be a final phase of the endeavor, which is to come at an unspecified point in the near future.
Since the Assembly reached out to these avant-garde artists, it would be wise to keep an eye on them, in case they do so again.
- Visited the Witch House to look for any additional clues that may help me. Our forensic team is still cataloguing the contents of the site and they had to ask the Miskatonic University for help given the rather specific nature of some of the items. I was not looking for anything specific, and still struck gold so to speak. In one of the ground floor rooms, one that had a particularly weird layout, I found in the corner a book, which turned out to be “Azathoth In Musica” – the same title that Greeves had with him, when he disappeared.
Is it the very same book? If so, that would mean that either Greeves, or someone from the Orphic Assembly was in the Witch House! And if that was the case, then how recently was this? I need to talk to Warren again. He may not have been entirely honest with me.
- - Since the artists were released (fined for disorderly conduct, and told to stay away from the Witch House), I had to track Warren down, but as we now had all their addresses on file, it was not difficult. I confronted him about the book and after a while, he did reveal that their listening session that day was preceded by a lecture on fringe ontology and cosmology that used the book as the source material.
A lecture by whom? According to Warren, a gentleman from somewhere in New England, who went by the name of van der Heyl. Who brought him in, he did not know. I recall the name. Greeves mentioned it in one of his articles, as belonging to a Dutch occultist, who explored the same subject matter as “Azathoth In Musica”. Could it have been actually him? The description Warren gave me fits neither Greeves, nor anyone from the Orphic Assembly we know of.
What happened to him after the lecture, Warren also did not know. He did not end up in our custody, that was for sure. He must have slipped away somehow, and perhaps while doing so, he forgot the book behind, or lost it. I tried to read it, but what it considers is far beyond my understanding. Still, Greeves was sure that this book can shed light on what the Orphic Assembly is trying to accomplish. If that is so, I will need someone’s expertise to crack it. I recall that early in his investigation, Greeves consulted Professor Armitage from the Miskatonic. I will do the same. I will take the book to him and see what he can tell me.
- - At Miskatonic; had a long talk with Dr. Armitage. For context, I told him the entire case history. He said he never heard of the Orphic Assembly of Manta Primordialis before, but immediately added that there is a myriad of obscure cults, existing in the dark corners of the Earth and dedicated to the worship of primordial forces and various unfathomable deities, as well as an equal plethora of secret societies laboring toward untold ends. One can only need to browse through the “Unaussprechlichen Kulten” by von Junzt to get the picture. This Orphic Assembly can very well be one of them, judging by what was unearthed about their agenda which has something to do with what lies beyond the so-called “angled space”.
On the subject of “Azathoth In Musica”, Armitage observed that it is a peculiar tome indeed. Its author, date and place of publication remain a mystery. Over the ages, it is known to had been in the possession of several notable occultists, so its origin is posited to be sometime in the early Middle Ages, perhaps even sooner. Based on what can be deduced from secondary sources, the book is tied to a particular esoteric tradition that is devoted to the so-called “Old Ones”, who are to be some primal deities from the time of mankind’s infancy, thus being in line with such works as “Al Azif”, “Cultes des Ghoules”, “De Vermis Mysteriis” and “Unaussprechlichen Kulten”. As to its contents, it is claimed that it writes about the ultimate, hidden nature of things, as well provides instructions on reaching it, using some very special musical means. It is of course impossible to tell if such assessment is true, Armitage continued, since no copies of the book survived till today.
Well, imagine his surprise, or rather astonishment, when I showed him my find. When he somewhat regained his composure, I told him of the presumed connection between the tome and the Orphic Assembly and my need to know how this work guides their actions. Since Armitage was indeed anxious to get his hands on it, he quickly agreed to look into it and let me know if he finds anything.
In parting I asked him about van der Heyl. He replied that if I meant Claes van der Heyl, then he was a little-known Dutch occultist, who has been dead for centuries.
- Our surveillance of the Arkham avant-garde circle so far yielded nothing. It seems, they are laying low. Either our raid of the Witch House spooked them, or it is the proverbial calm before something big - the grand invocation of the project, perhaps, as Daniels put it.
- Curious development: Harley Warren is dead. Or so says the testimony of his close associate Randolph Carter, who was found two days ago wandering in delirious condition the Big Cypress Swamp in Florida. As our own surveillance reported, Warren left Arkham last week in the company of another individual. We did manage to ascertain that their destination was Florida, but the purpose of the trip, or the identity of Warren’s companion, remained unknown. Now thanks to our colleagues from the Carnestown PD, we have a clearer picture. Based on what Carter told the Carnestown officers during questioning, Warren was no ordinary scholar, but a notable occultist involved in all sorts of bizarre studies. At one point, Warren acquired a book written in some unknown script, and apparently its contents prompted him to seek out an ancient cemetery located somewhere in the Big Cypress Swamp, where, according to Carter, he met his end.
As noted in the deposition, once on site, Warren opened one of the tombs and descended beneath the surface, insisting that Carter stayed outside. The two nonetheless remained in contact via a portable telephone, so that Carter heard first Warren claiming to have discovered something “terrible – monstrous – unbelievable”, then beseeching him to abandon the place and run for his life, and finally some “unearthly, inhuman voice” informing him of Warren’s demise.
As weird as this incident sounds, it makes me wonder, if Warren’s trip to Florida had anything to do with the Orphic Assembly. The timing seems a little bit suspicious. And that strange book. The Orphic Assembly clearly has ties to the Arkham avant-garde, so he could have been acting as their agent. I mean, given what he was into, he would make an ideal candidate. That would mean he lied when I questioned him. Or what if he was intrigued when I told him about the Assembly, and decided to investigate. Then again, it may have been some solo enterprise of his. I definitely need to speak to Carter once he is back in Arkham.
- Talked to Carter today. Though being Warren’s close friend for five years and an accomplice (sometimes an involuntary one) to his activities, he knew surprisingly little. He never heard Warren mention the Orphic Assembly, but admitted that Warren kept many things from him, especially those regarding his occult studies. A pity.
He was nonetheless kind enough to let me see Warren’s room, which was filled to an absurd degree with his collection of occult lore. Something tells me Dr. Armitage would have a field day here. I also did not leave empty-handed. While glancing over Warren’s desk, I noticed some recent correspondence, especially a curiously colored paper that bore the image of a great manta in its header. On it was a sketch of a solitary megalith in a countryside that anyone who knows Arkham well would immediately recognize as the Old White Stone, and a short note: “Three days hence”. This must be it – the invitation to the grand finale! According to Carter, it was in the morning mail, so there is still time to prepare.
- Preparations underway, one day left. Urgent telephone call from Dr. Armitage: seems he managed to crack “Azathoth In Musica”, and what he found unhinged him. Frantically, he was telling me something about “the rhythm of creation, hidden from our ears”, “the unilateral distinction between what is and what we perceive to be”, “the transgression of the Secondary production”, and “the scrying of the Abstract Machine at the nucleus of expression” – I could not make heads or tails of it. I could surmise though that he was very worried as to what the Orphic Assembly’s grand design may bring forth. When I finally managed to interrupt his frenzied monologue, I told him of the presumed upcoming gathering at the Old White Stone and of my suspicion that the endgame may be upon us. He fell silent and then said only: “We are in the hands of happenstance now”.
INCIDENT REPORT, MAY 2ND, 1923, THE OLD WHITE STONE
The ongoing investigation into the disappearance of R. J. Greeves, reporter of Arkham Advertiser, established the organization known as the “Orphic Assembly of Manta Primordialis” as the primary suspect responsible for said disappearance. Further inquiry revealed a connection between said organization and circles of resident avant-garde artists. On April 29, W. A. Graham, in charge of the investigation, obtained evidence of a planned mass meeting between the two subjects to take place May 2nd, at the Old White Stone north of the Arkham outskirt. Given the high chance of apprehending the suspects, APD Chief Inspector Reynolds issued an order to raid this meeting.
Since early hours on May 2nd, a series of covert lookout posts were established alongside the Dark Ravine to keep the area of the Old White Stone under surveillance, since the exact time of the meeting was not specified in the obtained evidence. The site of the Old Chapman Farm House was chosen as the staging area for the raid forces that arrived at 10:15 A.M., as well as the command post for the entire operation.
First unusual movement around the target area was reported in late afternoon, around 5:45 P.M., as the artists began to arrive to the site in small groups, as well as individually. Several attendees approached using the Ravine Lane, which runs in close proximity to the Farm House, yet fortunately, the presence of APD forces remained undetected.
By 7 P.M., the influx to the site ceased. Surveillance estimated that around 40 people were now present, yet was unable to confirm the presence of any of the known members of the Orphic Assembly. By 8:30 P.M., surveillance reported the crowd becoming agitated, which was evaluated as an indication that the event is about to commence. An order was issued for the APD raiding force to quietly move out of the staging area into the Ravine. Around the same time, the officers at the command post observed a thick fog forming within Arkham, entirely obscuring the view of the city approx. 20 minutes later.
By 9 P.M., surveillance reported fires being lit in the target area, but no other unusual activity. Surprisingly, nothing was going on at the Old White Stone. Two hours later, another report was received, indicating that the crowd is getting increasingly restless and is about to disperse. An order was issued for the APD forces to move in and apprehend all present.
However, when the APD forces began to move, the entire area was suddenly illuminated by a bright glow, whose source was after a while identified as being somewhere in Arkham. Closer localization was impossible due to the heavy fog still obscuring the city. The phenomenon threw our forces, as well as the gathered crowd into chaos. Before the situation could be properly assessed and order restored, it was discovered that half of the raiding unit, under the direct command of W. A. Graham, was on its way back to Arkham, and that the same has ordered the other half of the raiding force to move in on and secure the Old White Stone.
At 11:55 P.M. the glow suddenly ceased and the fog began to disperse. Shortly thereafter, the elements of the raiding unit that remained on site returned to the staging area with some 30 detainees. The rest managed to escape in the commotion. These were then taken to APD headquarters for questioning, while contact was reestablished with Graham and the remainder of the raiding force, who were currently securing the Island in the Miskatonic.
By 2:30 A.M., May 3rd, all elements of the raiding force were present at APD headquarters, whereupon W. A. Graham explained his actions as follows:
“When the artists began to arrive, I was convinced that we will finally crack the case wide open. But as the evening went on, and nothing was happening at the Old White Stone, it all started to feel wrong. At first, I was wondering that perhaps the Assembly got wind of our operation and thus will simply not show up. Yet as the fog descended, I was beginning to suspect something else in play. Then, as the glow irradiated the night, it hit me: it was a decoy, a fake, and not just for us, but for everyone. The Assembly was going ahead with the final phase of its endeavor, but elsewhere. The gathering at the Old White Stone was never meant to be the real deal, but to pull everyone else involved away, thus giving them room to carry out their work.
Then, as I realized that the glow is coming from Arkham, it hit me again: the West Bridge – the Island! That place has a peculiar reputation of its own, so if we rule out the Witch House, which we raided, and the Old White Stone, which we had under surveillance, the Island was the next best choice left. That is why I took some men and headed there. I told the rest to go on with the raid as planned just in case. When we were heading back to Arkham, I did not know what to expect. I was reading myself for all kinds of hellish things, but due to the fog, our progress was slow, so when the glow suddenly ceased and the fog began to lift, we were still making our way through the city.
Needless to say that when we finally got to the Island, the place was deserted. The only thing pointing to something transpiring there, was a small piece of a music sheet that one of the officers found, while searching the place. On it was a strange symbol, very like those on the sheets that Greeves received back in February from Professor Downbarrow. I would recommend interviewing those who live by the riverfront, if they saw or heard anything unusual, but I suspect nothing will come of it.
My gut tells me it is over. They did what they came to do. Whether they succeeded or not, we may never find out. Or what happened to Greeves for that matter.”
Questionings of the detained artists and interviews of the riverfront residents were carried out the next day to little effect.
A surprising development however occurred on May 4th: in the morning, APD received a message from Arkham Sanitarium, requesting police presence, specifically that of W. A. Graham. When the detective in the company of two other officers arrived on site, the staff took them to one of the wards, where they showed them one of the patients, whom detective Graham immediately recognized as the missing R. Greeves. He was, and remains, in a comatose condition, so no questioning has thus far been possible. Stranger still, the Sanitarium staff is unable to provide any information as to when was R. Greeves admitted, who admitted him, or who oversees his treatment.
The investigation now has only recourse, but to wait if R. Greeves regains consciousness.
CASE REMAINS OPEN.
I - Black day at Miskatonic | II - Weird séance on Arkham battlements | III - Mystery deepens | IV - Innsmouth | V - From Innsmouth to Dunwich | VI - Dunwich | VII - On the verge of breakthrough? | VIII - Kingsport | IX - Reporter missing | X - The deposition of Walter A. Graham (part one) | XI - The deposition of Walter A. Graham (conclusion), Activity log