Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tales Out of Miskatonic University & Contest


The Necronomicon, Arkham, and Miskatonic University are some of H. P. Lovecraft's most famous and popular creations. He has a long list to his name -- for having written so few works. But these certainly stand out. I wonder how many people have spotted an MU shirt in a film or television program (that wasn't related to Lovecraft). Bumper stickers, hats, sweatshirts, bookmarks, t-shirts, dice bags, the list goes on and on.

And as luck would have it, I'm compiling a collection of stories about Miskatonic University for Mythos Books. Undoubtedly, many of you have guessed the title from above (or the present working title) Tales Out of Miskatonic University. As the anthology is in progress, I can't say too much about it. Oddly, the setting is MU, but the subjects vary, hopefully providing a bit of a tour of the university through stories. The stories will skip across time, and likely include a few favorites.

For those who have read Herbert West -- Reanimator, then you'll know that Lovecraft spent quite a bit of time sneaking around MU, in and out of labs, and dealing with quite a few professors. I wonder what are some of other people's favorite Lovecraft tales that mention MU. Herbert West, as pulply as it is, is one of my favorites.

--CONTEST PART--

As for the MU logo, that is just something I put together to have an image on the post -- and to make sure I didn't step on anyone's copyrights. As an experiement, I thought over the next couple of months, I'd gather posts (here) from students of MU. That is to say, people are welcome to offer replies as though they were students at MU today, and in those brief posts, explain what an weird school MU is to attend. Depending upon length, I will take up to 5 (or more) of the posts and include them in the book. And in return, you'll get a free copy of the book (we're talking short, but interesting blog posts). The posts are likely to be edited by me, and you will retain the rights to your post. However, I cannot be responsible if any posts happen to be similar to an author's stories. So here is an easy way to get into print. Make the posts clever and original.

And everyone is welcome to post as many times as you like, but only one post per final person will be selected.

12 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

That's a neat little contest. I will have to give it a go. Good luck with this book.

MKeaton said...

Good old Miss You. I used to spend a lot of time there before my illness. I could have attended as a legacy (my great-grandfather was a graduate and assistant librarian) but the war got in the way and my "formal" education spread itself across four continents. I ended up with an honorary degree from M. U. after the whole Queen in Yellow affair and spent the best part of two decades first teaching then, as my health faded, as a research consultant.
As for stories, there were plenty. I suppose everyone's heard of when the shipment for the biology department went to the cafeteria instead and, of course, the thing in the fountain but there were other things that only a few of use were privy to—the huge fight with the board when a Marsh applied for admission, the library expansion project when we had to lease storage space from M. I. T., the fire in the women's dormitory that still burns to this day (albeit only in a closet), the literature department debating the artistic merits of cultic chants as popular poetry (before the music department got involved and turned them into raps; a decidedly bad idea)—yes, a lot of stories.
Even with my spotty memory, I can remember the building construction department using artificial reality as wallpaper and trying to use time as paving stone, the unusually high sulfur levels the chemistry department discovered in the drinking water, and the night an entire astronomy simply walked away, due north, never to be heard from again. Archeology and Anthropology were, in my experience, simply more trouble than they were worth and I was among those who voted, unsuccessfully, to move their departments to a separate campus. Student pranks were a problem too, like when some misguided fellow swapped the covers of the Yellow and the Ebon Book. The physics department, my own bailiwick, I'll not speak of save to say that I was there when the orbital shells disintegrated and we all became seamstresses trying to prevent...well, I do go on so.
I think of Miskatonic a good deal these days when I hear the younger folk argue that knowledge should be free and that no one should own information. I suppose they don't know any better. At Miss You, we often paid for our education with more than just tuition.

MKeaton, DD, Spec. Ad. Phy.

Daniel J. Hogan said...

I attended Miskatonic University on a track scholarship a few years ago (they were really desperate for runners after most of the team spontaneously combusted during an ill-fated midnight practice), and it certainly was the strangest six years of my life.

I quickly became accustom to getting new roommates every few months as all of mine tended to go missing or suffer from what the university called ‘Severe Mental Fatigue.’

I had a difficult time choosing a major, but it was hard to turn down a full-ride scholarship to an ivy league school – even if I had never heard of the place before this wild-eyed doctor visited my high school. I changed majors a lot, but no one seemed to mind what I did as long as I kept doing well at track meets. I tried just about everything: History, Zoology, Anthropology, Archeology – you name it, I probably had a class or two.

My advisor finally told me years later to make it easy for everyone and just major in English.

That was fine by me, I had made a few enemies in the labs by accidentally killing some specimen of theirs and was happy to get away from those guys.

Speaking of guys, my main complaint of MU was the lack of women. No wonder all of those guys in the labs were going bonkers – none of them could find any dates! The joke on campus was that if you wanted a date, your best bet was the local cemetery.

Those guys had a really weird sense of humor.

MU had a very unique night life – the campus really came alive at night, almost literally it seemed at times from all the noise. I remember this one time my latest roommate left to go to a ‘midnight study group’ at the library – and the next thing I know, all these weird colored lights are shooting out of the library’s roof!

The next day, I had a new roommate. That was life at good ol’ MU.


Daniel J. Hogan
BA (English) and track

Steve Buchheit said...

Josh must be down getting breakfast and I've gotta tell someone. He ran out and I figured I'd catch up with him in the dorm room and he's just gotta see this jar. It's so cool, he'll just freak.

See, last night we were exploring the service tunnels and found a whole new level. Josh and me were going through some of the civil defense stores. He was talking about his high school and playing with that damn class ring of his like always. He was also complaining about the musty smell setting off his allergies. I had just scored a tin of CD crackers and said we could head back. That's when we found a new room that wasn't on the map. I don't think the janitors had been there since the crackers had expired, it was so covered in dust. The fluorescent lights were out, but we could see that inside that room was an elevator.

Nowhere had we heard about an elevator in the tunnels, so we were jazzed about finding something new. Near as we could tell we were under the pump house that served the duck pond on the quad. That brick shed looked too small to hold anything interesting so we never went inside. Wow, were we wrong about that.

Josh and me checked our flashlights and the backups and went in. We didn't expect the buttons to work, but Josh pressed the down button as a joke, so when it lit up laughed out loud. The machinery ground like mad, but in a few seconds the doors opened. Inside looked like a volcano. The lights in the car weren't so much strobing, they were more like boiling.

Josh and I went in and the doors closed. There were three floor buttons, G, ST, and LL. Before I could say anything Josh hit LL and we started going down. After a few minutes of shaking the doors opened on a dark room. All the lights were off down there. Josh used his reserve flashlight to keep the elevator doors from closing all the way.

We started exploring the new tunnels. There weren't any steam pipes or conduits in the hallways down there, and the place looked like a hospital wing, but without any windows. The walls were yellow tile on top and black tile down at the bottom. The linoleum floors were warping and some edges were curling up. The whole place looked like some of the bad, off campus housing we had gone to parties at. None of the light switches worked.

There were a lot of rooms on each side and widely spaced. Most of the rooms were storage, with things floating in large glass jars filled with formaldehyde, I guess. Some of the jars were out in the hallways. And we were guessing this was where they kept the specimens for the med students way back when cause when we checked them out there were organs, tape worms, and even a full head in one. There were some other weird things in there. I'm sure if I was a bio major I could tell what kinds of animals there were. They looked like props from some mad-scientist movie. Josh was getting all spooked out but I thought they were funny.

Josh kept on sneezing, which after rooming with him Fall Semester I knew was a nervous habit, just like playing with that ring of his. And now he was saying he kept on hearing noises. He would jerk around and shine his flashlight down the corridor behind us or into the corners of the rooms we were in.

Then in one room we found something one what Josh and I thought was a dissecting table. This one had to be a prop. I didn't exactly flunk biology, but this was just all wrong. Like someone was doing their own alien autopsy movie. Only this looked like some fish-man swamp-thing cross-breed. That's when my flashlight gave out.

Josh just freaked out then. I was trying to get my backup out and Josh is all harshing my mellow by screaming and babbling. I know he comes from coastal Maine and they're a little weird up there, but Dude, really. I don't think he was speaking English for some of that. Just as I get my backup flashlight out and start shaking it, it's one of those kind of flashlights, he goes running out of the room and the door slams behind him.

I don't know what he did to the door, but it took me forever to get it back open. I had to keep shaking the flashlight so I could see what I was doing. Once I got out I needed to find Josh and tell him what an ass he was for leaving me. You should never leave your buddy when you're exploring.

His reserve flashlight wasn't at the elevator. While I was waiting for the elevator to come back down I saw the jars along the floor. One of them had this hand with a ring just like Josh's. I figured nobody is going to miss it, so I brought it back up to show to Josh. He'll probably just freak again, but that's okay because I think it's cool.

The little jerk pilled things up in front of the doors at the top that I had to climb through, so if Josh freaks out, I'm good with that. He was a real ass today. I can't believe he's not back yet. He's probably telling everybody about how he found the elevator and taking all the credit.

Anyway, time to take a shower and change clothes. Can't wait to freak Josh out with this hand.

batglynn said...

I wouldn't have killed, skinned, gutted and eaten half as many people as i have done if not for attending this prestigious university. Plus the cafeteria has bagels to die for.

denise said...

Two here:

Pond life

Midnight before an 8am test and there are maintenance trucks out front--yes, yet another flood in the Ramsey basement. By the time they were done fishing it was too late for anything but panic, then coffee, then panic, then...lucky, lucky me...the chance to find some fugitive crudlet curled up in the sink. And no, I didn't get a closer look at it. I value my ignorance. We have to shower in that stuff, we have to drink it--I mean, how do those things make babies? Seriously, I don't want to know.

[Posted by "Lulu"]

Wednesday @ 12pm, Macgregor Mason Center

After two months of grad school I guess it's time to get out there and make my pitch.

My work uses a lot of math, the kind that can open doors, and I've done enough reading to be sure I want to commit. Plus I've tried some of the hands-on stuff already. I know how to stay in control and when to lose it. I can deal with messy.

So see you in the M&M. If you're for real you'll find me.

[Posted by "Maxwell's Demon"]

jason said...

During my years at Miskatonic University, I only had a few unusual experiences. The University always seemed to have a larger than normal amount of students that could not handle the stress of the school’s curriculum. I remember one time, in the middle of November, I heard voices in the courtyard. When I looked out my window, I could make out the Arkham Police searching with their flashlights, looking for something or someone on the grounds. I tried to get back to sleep but the sounds of hideous laugher and crying pulled me back to the window. I was shocked to see the police officers taking away Jasper Holmes, a student I studied with in the ancient cultures and languages program. He was a decent fellow who always kept to himself. He kept screaming over and over again, “The yellow man will get us all.” The tone of his voice sent a cold shiver down my spine and I spent the rest of the night struggling to get back to sleep. Jasper was brought up on charges of assault. I later checked up on Jasper at Arkham Asylum to see how he was doing. Jasper was babbling about the yellow man and told me to take care of his book for him. He told me to get Reflections of A Bottomless Sea from where he had hidden it in the biology stacks at the library. It would tell me everything the man in yellow had planned for us. After leaving the asylum, I hurried over to the library, wondering what could have changed my friend in such a way. I turned into the biology stacks just in time to see the head librarian pull the book from its hiding place. When I approached her about needing the book for my research, she calmly informed me that it was being moved to the restricted collection and I would need to fill out a request form. I was never able to fulfill Jasper’s request.

denise said...

Baffled

Anyone know why we had to have a blood test to register at the library? Or was there a blood drive or something? It was like a pint of blood, a quart. I feel totally wasted. And did you see those two old baldies with tattoos? What was that all about?

[Posted by "Jennifer"]

Hotspot

Exercise for the reader. Go anyplace in the areaway between the physics labs and the library stacks and log on to MuNet--the screen blacks out, dead black but like there's something moving around in there staring back at you. Mucho weird.

(For extra credit, go out there around 3am and put a call through on your cellphone. Sounds like you're talking to yourself, except...not.)

[Posted by "Alex"]

jason said...

One night I was asleep in my dorm room when there was a bright flash of light, so bright that it seemed as though I had a light house in my room. As I tried to focus on the bright light, it stopped and something hard hit my thigh. I was startled and I curled up into a ball. There was a thud as something was knocked from the bed to the floor. It took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness. I kept still as I worked up the courage to look down at the floor to see what had caused the sound. I peered over the edge of bed and was surprised to see a baseball sitting on the floor. I looked at the windows and they were all shut. I picked up the baseball and the only thing that I found unusual about it was that it had the number “four” written on it.

The next day, I went online looking for any stories about numbered baseballs. The only thing I found were a few newspaper articles in New York during the 1930’s. They found some of the baseballs in museums, churches, and family homes. The local authorities said it was some sort of prank. It seemed that the baseball prank only ran for a short period of time and then it suddenly stopped. I looked into the obituaries to see if anyone had died an unusual death or disappeared around the time the prank had ended, but the only name that popped up was a Dr. Harris. He died in a mysterious fire and they found strange equipment on the site. No one knew what the equipment was for, but it was clearly destroyed by the fire. The property was left alone for a long time, but was now owned by United Pharmaceuticals, part of some group called Blackmoore Corporation. I tried to discover where the equipment was sent but all I found are dead ends.

Steve Buchheit said...

Okay, I'm not sure of what I saw, but maybe someone out there knows something about this. If not I may have to go to student health services and get some pills or something. Today in Drawing from Life, old Waterson had staged another one of his weird stuffed chimeras on the platform.

The Pickman School of Art has some strange models in storage. The profs all say it's to help us unlearn what we've learned, to drop our mental prejudices and ties to Euclidean forms and sketch from what's in front of us. There's things with tentacles in the oddest places, or rats heads on monkey bodies. And then there's some things that seem to move, even as you know they couldn't have. Like by standing still, their dried out skins crawl over their bodies. It makes sketching them damn difficult. You sketch out the from and start filling in details and those details aren't the same when you relook at the model.

Todays model was up before we shuffled in. It was roughly man sized, although covered with scales, squamous was what old Waterson called it, with hair poking out in strange places. It's head was dog like, although still human enough to give us all the willies. It was like a fish werewolf hybrid. He had it posed like it was sitting on a stool. Wacky Waterson had us all open our sketchbooks and do some form drawings and quick pose interpretations. Then he had us take a break and locked us out of the room. Well, it's Wacky, he does weird things like that all the time.

When he lets us back in, he'd reposed the thing in a half crouch, half open stance and brought out some of the potted plants to create an almost tropical look to it. The lighting was low, and he had added some underlighting which threw odd shadows on the ceiling. Then he said we were to draw the scene in pastels.

I had pastels, they get all over you and you feel like you're eating chalk for the next week. But, he's the guy in charge of the grade so we all settle in and start drawing. I had just finished modeling an arm when I looked up to recheck how the stomach was shadowed, and I had drawn the arm in the wrong position. I never do that. But, that's what good artist can do, you adapt.

But then when class was over, we didn't have a critique, but Wacky told us to go home and we'd critique next class. I was the last one headed out of the class, and I looked back to check that I had gathered up all my supplies and I swear the model had moved and was standing upright watching me. Like it was sizing me up and seeing if it could eat me whole or in parts. I ran out of there, knocking over some of the other students. They yelled at me, but I was still running out of the building.

I didn't sleep well last night. I kept having dreams of the model chasing me through the school, calling outside my dorm window. I mean, I couldn't have seen what I thought I saw. It was a stuffed model. I've looked on google and it's not a real animal. But this afternoon is drawing class. I don't want to go back in that room, I know it'll be waiting for me. Because I saw it, saw that it was a live. I'd rather drop out and go back to community college than enter that room again, knowing it was there, somewhere in the back with the other models, breathing slowly, bidding its time.

Maybe I should go to health services. Maybe they can help me.

Steve Buchheit said...

Say, anybody out there ever get a pass to visit the restricted stacks in the basement of the library? I'm doing a paper in Comparative Cryptozoology and every reference I need is stored in that room. I can't request any of them through interlibrary loan and none of my profs will write the pass, saying they didn't have permission to do. Last night I tried sneaking in and found myself sneaking into the third floor mensroom. I went to student services and asked my advisor who said that not all tests are on paper. WTF? So, anybody know how to get in there?

Duke said...

I would have a hard time recommending Miskatonic University to anyone on the "college hunt". I decided to leave during my first year, needless to say my parents were angry I was quiting such a prestigious school but I just couldn't stay there any longer.

The first time I noticed one of them was in November. It was late and I decided to go to the library to do some studying. I was sitting in my usual spot taking some notes when I got the feeling I was being watched. I looked up and saw a man about my age staring at me. He didn't have and books or papers in front of him, he was just sitting there staring at me. I turned back to my notes but he wouldn't look away. I thought about going over to talk to him but every time I looked up I lost my nerve. I ended up leaving the Library.

After that he started to show up to my classes, sometimes with other people like him. I guess you could call them his friends but I really don't know. All they would do is stare at me. It didn't stop at my classes. When I was out on a date or with my friends they would be there, just watching.

They even began to show up in my dreams. It was different though, they did just stare at me in my dreams they did horrible things. I don't want to go in to detail here, its not really the place.

I couldn't find the courage to confront them after I started having the dreams. When ever they would show up their cold eyes would remind me of my dreams. I usually ended up leaving any place that they followed me to. I would leave classes just to get away from them which caused my grades to slip. Of course my social life was non-existent due to them. It seemed that the only place I was safe was in my dorm so I stayed in there for days on end.

The breaking point was when I went to see the dean about it. I wanted to know if anyone else had been having this trouble.

On the way to his office you walk down this hall that is decorated with pictures from the university's history. I was looking at a picture from what must have been at lest 50 years ago and I saw them. The strangers (who looked the same age) were in the picture standing, staring back at me.

I left the building with out seeing the dean and called my parents, the next day I was on a flight back home.

This may all sounds crazy. I know you think that I am just some paranoid nut but I promise you, the fear I felt during my time at Miskatonic University was real. If you do end up there I hope your experience is better then mine