By Phillip H. Garland, © 1991
[TUO4 marked the debut of this column, by teacher and self-described "itenerant historian" Phil Garland. One of Call of Cthulhu's greatest strengths (a strength missing from nearly every other game) is a real sense of history -- that all of what has come before has some influence on current events, as well as current threats. Phil's look at the real world and how the Mythos might be glimpsed in the cracks of the history books remains a part of TUO today. —John Scott Tynes, 1994]
File One: Fall, 1991
Subject: The Presidents of the 1920s and the Mythos
As is well known, the height of recent activities involving the Great Old Ones occurred during the 1920s in this country. Lovecraft himself admitted that federal officials were aware of strange occurrences in parts of New England. The government’s investigation of Innsmouth and the subsequent actions taken against the town spring to mind immediately.
If the government took action, then it is logical to assume that the presidents were briefed on the situations. At least some of them must have kept the investigations going on. The involved presidents, with their terms of office and death dates, were:
Woodrow Wilson, 1912-1920, d. 1924
Warren G. Harding, 1920-1923, d. 1923
Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1928, d. 1933
Herbert Hoover, 1928-1932, d. 1964
Harding died in office of a stroke. Wilson had a stroke during his 1920 campaign for a third term. Coolidge died five years after he left the White House of coronary thrombosis. Of all the presidents of this period, only Herbert Hoover lived past his sixties. At the time, these deaths were looked upon as natural, save for an accusation that Harding’s wife had poisoned him (Harding had a penchant for meeting his mistress in a Capitol Building closet).
Were these deaths completely natural? The later assassination of John F. Kennedy has focused attention on the possibility of a conspiracy in 1963. Was there a conspiracy in the Twenties? The deaths of Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge may be more than coincidence. Indeed, they may be connected with the assassinations of the two Kennedys and Dr. King. There is a thread of continuity involved. One man in political power had a career spanning this entire time. He was J. Edgar Hoover.
Might Hoover have been the key? His career began in 1919, when he was hired by the Justice Department as a unit chief in the enemy alien registration section. Subsequently Hoover was head of the General Intelligence Division, then Assistant Head of the Bureau of Investigation (1920), and finally Director of the Bureau of Investigation (1924). In 1935 the Bureau was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the F.B.I.
Hoover’s later paranoid anti-communism is well known. Was this a cover? Was he a cultist, or was his mind under some form of control? As a man who came into contact with enemy aliens, what sort of aliens did he meet with? What could have been more likely in the years of the first Red Scare than to look upon some of the strange inhabitants of Innsmouth, Arkham, and Dunwich as potential spies? What then might Hoover have uncovered? Or what forces might he have been exposed to?
There are two basic possibilities based on the evidence available. First, Hoover may have been a follower or willing accomplice of the Great Old Ones. In this case, he could have used his position to misguide the forces of the federal government to prevent discovery of or action against the Old Ones and their followers. Secondly, Hoover may have been under some form of mental control. Perhaps the Great Old Ones manipulated his mind to see enemy “Reds” everywhere rather than uncovering evidence of real danger from true alien forces.
In either case, the threat would have been very real. What did Wilson and Harding and Coolidge know? Why was Herbert Hoover able to live out a full, long life? Further research will continue.
For your Call of Cthulhu adventures, possibilities are endless. The Bureau of Investigation may be out to find your investigators. The power and wealth behind the organization will make it hard to defeat, but perhaps those guns and weapons skills will finally come in handy. Or, you may be targeted as a Red if you find out too much in your investigations, and be deported to Soviet Russia in the middle of an adventure (or to start an adventure for that matter). You may find friends you never knew you had — Wobblies, Socialists, Communists, et. al. They may help you in time of need, but if so, then the Bureau will find out, and then they’ll have proof that you’re one of the baddies…
Be careful. Remember, they probably are out to get you.