Out of the Innsmouth Triangle
by Robert Anton Wilson
from The Realist, No. 120, Summer 1992
From the greatest horrors, irony is never absent. I will forever curse the dark, dreadful and demonic destiny that led me to the unhallowed and accursed town of Salem to confront the noisome and foetid Creature invoked by the hideous spells of Das Verichteraraberbuch, yet I thought I was only on a simple assignment to cover the founding of a new trade union…
Oh, yes – you may not know Das Verichteraraberbuch (“The Book of the Mad Arab”). This is Adam Weishaupt’s infamous and unspeakable translation of Olaus Wormius’s loathed and abominatedNecronomicon (“The Book of the Names of the Dead”), the least bowdlerized and most terrible Latin rendition of the vile and venomous Al Azif (roughly, “Songs You Hear Alone in the Desert at Night”) of Abdul Alhazred, “the Mad Arab.”
Recent scholarship indicates that the adjective “mad” traditionally associated with Alhazred is a dubious translation of the term used by his contemporaries, khou-k’ou, which may also mean “intoxicated,” “wildly enthusiastic,” “poetically inspired” or even “stoned out of his gourd.” Be that as it may, the psychotheology of this remarkable bard holds that every time we experience a so-called “dream,” a trans-spatial monster called Cthulhu is actually attempting to take over our minds and make us his slaves.
Why, why, I ask myself-as with shaking hands I pour another glass of laudnum to hold off the surreal and Dantescan fantasies that now haunt my nights-why did I go to that eldritch city, and why on the fearsome Walpurgis Night?
The answer was money – filthy lucre. Paul Krassner had promised to pay me handsomely if I attended the first annual meeting of the I. W. W. (International Witches and Wizards-‘the world’s first magickal trade union), successfully infiltrated the nameless Sabaat that would follow, and returned alive and still sane enough to write about what I had experienced.
Indeed, as I drove down the accursed Aylesbury Pike that followed the evilly twisting path of the ill-reputed Miskatonic River, I was thinking of the $10,000 that Paul, with his usual generosity, had offered me for this assignment. The money was a pleasant thought and helped to distract me from unpleasant mulling about the sinister speculations of local ecologists, who remain puzzled and somewhat disturbed by the fact that known pollutants, including the toxic and radioactive, do not fully account for the foulness of Mistakatonic water or the awfully mutated creatures that often crawl and slither out of it to attack some lonely farm.
Then I noticed the eldritch bumper-stickers on the Toyota Corolla in front of me: Campus Crusade for Cthulhu; Turn Back to the Necronomicon; Invoke Often!; Have You Hugged Your Shoggoth Today?
As the implications of this swept over me, another car, a virgin vintage Edsel, passed me on the right. I saw from the bumper sticker that this was another of the delegates to the I. W. W.: I brake for ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that gae BUMP in the night. But then I saw absolutely the most sinister bumper sticker I have ever gazed upon, even in the years when I lived in Southern California: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
A reflex shudder involuntarily passed through me. I had never before given much credence to the legends of the “Innsmouth Triangle” – the ill-famed area (bounded by Salem itself, Providence to the south and Dunwich inland) where Cotton Mather once found “more Deviltrie, Daemonalitrie & Abomination than all the reste of Newe England” and where the sullen, inbred and uncouth rustics still insist that Great Cthulhu, and Hastur the Unspeakable, and Iok-Sotot, Eater of Souls, and their minions and satraps – e.g., the foul shoggoths and hideous Tcho-Tcho people, alone with Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman and all their. kith and kin-have often broken-through “the Gates of the Silver Key” (somewhere between Dunwich and Innsmouth) to invade our normal space-time from the mad n-dimensional “other world” in which they hold dominion.
“Backwood superstition, ” I thought scornfully.
Still, it was, to be frank, unheimlich to be driving behind people who did believe that sort of thing, and to wonder what other enormities such twisted minds might harbor. I found myself contemplating the Black Goat With a Thousand Young, and The King in Yellow, and the Hounds of Tindalos, and the Knights of Malta, and. the Centipede Mob, and many such foetid and fearsome things; it was not soothing to have such images running through my head as the sky turned Stygian black and thunder began to roar threateningly in the distance.
I repeated Thurber’s Great Mantra against weirdity: “The mome rath hasn’t been born that can outgrabe me. The mome rath hasn’t been born that can outgrabe me. THE MOME RATH HASN’T BEEN BORN .. .” But I remembered uneasily that de Selby and Comte d’Erlette, among others, claimed that the mome raths were even more formidable (“formidable”) than the shoggoths.
The journalist Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who has left us the best records of Cthulhoid, UFOnautical and similar abductions in the Innsmouth Triangle, never dared to describe shoggoths explicitly, but he left an impressionistic suggestion that they were physically unattractive, had loathesome dining habits and could never find gainful employment outside Santa Cruz. (Shoggoths are now a protected species, under the O.A.S. Guacamole and Guano Convention passed in St. Olaf’s in 1978, which also protects the beaked Guatamalan tse-tse fly and the African malaria mosquito.)
The rain was pounding down with the fury of bullets as I turned into the driveway of the Gallows Hilton on 666 College Way in Salem. I noticed another distinctly odd bumper sticker on the Silver Wraith Rolls Royce beside me: Human beings were created by water to carry it uphill. Some form of mystic Wisdom, like a Zen koan, or merely a trite evolutionary observation? “Is not the sea our great sweet mother?” Buck Mulligan had asked. How could I distinguish poetry from pretense on a night like that? I was entering the Twilight Zone, or maybe even Interzone.
Despite the rain, some religious and atheist Fundamentalists were picketing outside the hotel. The Christians had various signs warning against what Rev. Mather had called “Deviltrie, Daemonalitrie and Abominations” and the American Atheist Association and the skeptical factions shared a big banner that said, Repent! You are being irrational!
Passing them all, I fearlessly walked through the entrance door, under the grim inscription, Abandon Hope. The Gallows Hilton, I found, had a tasteful lobby, if you really groove on cobwebs, underground streams, stalactites and lots and lots of crooked candlesticks. The oil paintings were elegantly done and featured such gentry as Brigit Bishop, Bela Lugosi (in his Dracula cape), Abigail Williams, the 23 Holy Martyrs (i.e., the 23 witches hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692), Uncle Aleister (of course) and Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz, engraved with the suitable Magick motto: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN.
A zombie immediately approached me. “May I share something with you? Would you like to learn more about the Church of Scientology?” he asked in a flat dead tone. I dodged around him and encountered another of the Undead.
“May I share something with you? The Church of Scientology has the answers you are seeking,” she said in an insectoid but intense whisper.
I escaped her, too, and approached the main desk.
The woman at registration, who bore a distinct resemblance to Anjelica Huston made up as Morticia Addams, told me the Presidential Suite had been reserved after I showed by Realist credentials. She added that all my needs had been provided for-the suite contained a Mac Plus word processor with laser printer, a trampoline, two cases of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, garlic and wolfbane over every door and window, three professional circus clowns and five Playboy bunnies. I marveled again how Paul always sees that his writers get the royal red carpet treatment. But, then, with all the money he got in the 1988 pay-off, when he agreed not to publish the full truth about the Girl Scouts’ role in the JFK assassination, he could afford to be lavish.
I rode up in the elevator with another zombie and some Hispanic gent who looked like Raul Julia playing Gomez Addams. Gomez’s luggage consisted largely of wire boxes full of live and squawking chickens. A member of the Santaria delegation, no doubt. The zombie also wanted to share something about Scientology.
The clowns were already busy when I entered the Presidential Suite, whacking each other with bladders, squirting seltzer and falling over their Bigfoot shoes. They helped me pry open the first case of Jameson’s and then we uncorked two bottles and three Bunnies, got on the trampoline and I distributed the acid.
It was a great night. Uncle Duke would have loved it.
The next morning, I only encountered two zombies in the hall and one on the elevator, “May I share something with you? Have you heard the truth about Scientology. . .” I wished Hubbard hadn’t learned so much about mind control in his days in Naval Intelligence.
After a tasty omelette in the Hannibal Lecter Café – where they use lots of extra ketchup, of course – I went to the first organizational meeting, the registration of delegates. There was the usual problem about the Satanists. Nobody wanted to be associated with them – “It just multiplies the Christian paranoia against the rest of us” – but, due to Roberts Rules of Order, the I. W. W. had to allow a debate.
The Satanists, again as usual, had an eye on the possible support of the Third World brujas and brujos, and argued that preference for “white” magick over “black” magick indicated latent racism. All the Politically Correct witches, wizards, mages and shamans looked guilty but stubborn, and still voted with the majority.
That is, the Satanists got voted down. They left, pausing at the door to howl a few colorful Curses and Maledictions, and went off, I guess, to form their own labor union. The First Church of Satan, Scientist, trailed out at the end of the parade, following Baphomet’s Witnesses, The Four-Square Tabernacle of Beezlebub, the Born Again Assembly of Lucifer, the Crackofarians, the whole Black Studies Department of Miskatonic University and a bisexual punk group called the Left Handed Manque’ Wrenches.
After that, the registration of delegates grew more parliamentary and tedious. I decided to stroll around the lobby and see what I might overhear, as a kind of aural montage of the Occult World Today.
“. . . the sect of Fred Mertz, Bodhisattva. They believe that if you look at enough I Love Lucy re-runs when you’re really wasted, eventually you’ll hear Fred reveal the most esoteric Zen teachings. . . . ”
“That’s the RDNA – Reformed Druids of North America. We’re the RNADNA – Reformed Non-Aristotelian Druids of North America. They teach that Nature is good, but we teach that it seems good to us. . . .”
“The chicken really wants to sacrifice herself for Papa Legba, mon.”
“No, it’s the Rastas who use Weed. We Javafarians use coffee. . . .”
“You’ll love this one: How many Gardnerians does it take to change a light-bulb? That’s a Craft Secret. . . .”
“What it is, is you’re really inna shit. Inna deep shit. You don’t have any more fuckin’ brains’n a fuckin’ cockroach, so you need a lawyer, get you outa the shit.” Obviously, a character from a George V. Higgins novel who had wandered into the wrong reality-tunnel.
“Blavatsky thought his name was KootHoomi. She didn’t realize she was being taken over by Cthulhu. . . .”
“I was initiated by Crowley himself, on the fifth astral. . . .”
I went into the Papa Tetragrammaton bar and saw the Outer Head of the Golden Dawn chatting with Don Juan Matus, the Outer Head of the Ordo Templi Ashtarte, the Outer Head of the Argentum Astrum, and some oddly garbed strangers who later turned out to be a rock group called the Heads of Easter Island, who had arrived at the table by mistake.
“So what’s the story?” I asked. “What’s really coming down?”
“Failure of the Will,” Don Juan said. “Gringo magicko. A mutual defense association for timid mediocrities.”
An Outer Head spoke with falcon eyes piercing me. “The Nicaraguan brujas hold the balance of terror. They have a terrible tax burden under the new puppet government. Hell, more people use them than use M.D.s, dig? So naturally their taxes are higher’n Godzilla’s shit-house. They put the whammy woogie on Georgie Boy in Tokyo. You didn’t think flu could knock a guy off his chair like that? The conqueror of 1945 at the feet of the conquerors of 1992. Bruja humor.”
One of the Heads of Easter Island suddenly began speaking in a dead hollow inhuman voice: “One of the things that-we’ll dean this up for this marvelous audience-burns me up-put it that way-is the charge that I don’t care. And I can understand it. Times are tough. This state has gone through hell. It’s gone through an extraordinarily difficult time, coming off a pinnacle, you might say, of low unemployment.” He was obviously channeling George Bush.
“The sidewalk was in trouble,” another Head said abruptly in the same dead tone, “and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up. Please put me in that room. Please keep him in control.”
“For seven and a half years,” the first Head went on channeling George, “I have worked alongside Ronald Reagan, and I am proud to be his partner. We have had triumphs, we have made mistakes, we have had sex. I mean, we have had upsets. . . .”
“I want to pay. Let them leave me alone. French Canadian bean soup.” More Dutch Shultz.
The first Head went on channeling Bushman: “Remember Lincoln going to his knees in times of trial and the civil war and all that stuff. You can’t be, and we are blessed. So don’t feel sorry for, don’t cry for me, Argentina. ”
I got out of there, before George could go any deeper into what he’d call” the pinnacle of low unemployment thing.” I’m a broadminded man, I hope, and I don’t mind if people in my vicinity start channeling Cagliostro or John Dee, but I absolutely will not stand still for any walk-ins who spout George Bush and Dutch Shultz in tandem. It’s weirder than 20 years of Jimmy Swaggart shows.
Another zombie caught me as I left the cafe. “May I share something with you? Have you ever tried the E-meter? Do you want to be Clear? Let me tell you about Scientology. . . .” I escaped again without acting out the impulse to mayhem.
It seemed like a good idea to stroll through the huckster’s room. I examined a collection of Hellmark Cards, with quotes from Aleister Crowley- When You Care Enough To Send The Very Beast, said the merchant’s banner. The usual crystals and talismans. A live chicken yard, for disciples of voudon and santaria who had arrived unprepared for the Sabaat. Bumper stickers of the various sects: God is Red(the Native American shamans), Thou Art God (the neo-pantheist pagans), Thou Art Goddess (the feminist neo-pantheist pagans), Yog Sothoth Neblod Zin (Campus Crusade for Cthulhu again), God is a Crazy Woman and Her Name Is Eris (Paratheoanametamystikhood of Eris Esoteric), Next Year in Stonehenge (Chasidic Druids of North America).
Another zombie caught me as I left. “May I share something with you? Scientology has the power . . .”
I quickened my step and strolled over to the Inverse Pentagram Bar. Since the sun wasn’t over the yardham yet, I ordered a Virgin Mary. On second thought, I told them to put in a little vodka, but not more than a double shot. (“Moderation in all things,” as Rasputin once told Gurdjieff.) Then I looked around for familiar faces-people who might tell me some of the inside story of what was going on here.
The Inner Head of the Ordo Templi Orientis recognized me and raised his glass, inviting me to his table. This was, as Vito Corleone would say, an offer I could not refuse. Very few people even get to know the name of the Outer Head of the O.T.O.; to have a drink with the Inner Head was a rare privilege indeed.
“So what’s the real story here?” I asked, after we had exchanged the illuminati hand shake, the Mason Word, the Rose Cross formulae, the secret address of Cthulhu and a few other formalities of that sort.
“It rains,” he said. “Lie down on the floor and keep calm.”
I thanked him, very warmly and sincerely, and immediately went to my room, to begin packing. It is seldom that Mages of the O. T. O. speak with so few levels of metathesis or allegory. The warning had been almost explicit. The clowns and bunnies bade me a sad farewell and I began creeping, with my two traveling bags, down the dark, echoing back staircase, which had an unpleasant number of bats flying about in its labyrinth. I crossed the Pink Dimension and encountered bumping and whistling things in the Realm of Thud. Shemp Howard and W. C. Fields waved from the Black Pussy Cafe. Re-entering the lobby I checked in with a registration clerk who looked like Kathleen Turner in a Hitler Youth sweater. She gave me ten Scientology pamphlets.
There were no clowns or bunnies in my tiny room behind the elevator shaft. I opened the closet and passed through a hundred wounded galaxies to the Delegates Meeting where the Satanists were standing at the door, trapped in the time-warp, still hurling Curses and Maledictions before leaving. “May your cows abort, your income tax get audited every year and your crops fail!” “May you drink of dog vomit, eat chimpanzee turds and be forced to memorize Gilligan’s Island scripts!” “May you be condemned to a career of writing for Gnosis and Weekly World News!” “May your daughters join the Radical Lesbians and your sons die in foreign wars to enrich the oil barons!”
Time moved in a quantum lurch. I passed through an aeon of dead time and opened the closet door to find the lobby again. Madonna was at registration and said I had the Triple Moon Goddess Suite. The 3 Stooges dressed as bellhops helped me carry the 23 bags of luggage I had mysteriously acquired. They knocked over every vase and broke every chair we passed, of course, and every time they broke something Moe would stick his finger in Curly’s eye. Don Juan and Don Genaro, for some reason, kept looking over the top of the page and laughing hilariously. I wondered if some wise ass from the Amazon had spiked my Demi-Virgin Mary with ayahuasca.
We were toiling up the hill to the historic gallows of 1692. The Campus Crusade were reciting foul incantations from Alhazred. A bug-eyed octopus led us in singing “Mr. Wong has the Biggest Tong in Chinatown.” Veronica Lake was threatening Frederick March with a whip. “I’ll send my car to pick a you up,” said Chico Marx. Whitley Strieber and some midgets (or were they children? I couldn’t be sure in the half-light of the gibbous moon) were inviting everybody to a party in a big round white brightly-lit edifice that looked like a modernistic hamburger joint, sort of. I passed that by and went on to the Toad Elevating Moment, at which the Tantric Libertarians put a 7-year genital warts curse on everybody who worked for the I.R.S.
We all came down the stairs into the Grand Ballroom. The organizational charter had been finished. Every local of the I. W. W: would be responsible for its own finances and pension fund. If the Teamsters or Mafia tried to horn in, the toad curse would be put on them, too. An international legal team, supported by all locals, would begin a series of libel suits against the worst anti-witch or anti-magick fanatics among “the Christians and Atheists who control the Organization of American States.” Everybody seemed happy and well satisfied, but I was not quite sure I remembered all that had happened, or that most of what I remembered had really happened at all, at all.
It was two nights later that the damnable nightmares began. Cthulhu trying to take control of my mind? Over-work and nervous tension? I know not; I know only that I cannot forget those images of things only a Dore could paint, things that could not and should not and must not be true. . . those wild fantasies (they must be fantasies) of dark uninvited delegates on Gallows Hill that night. . . the loathesome shoggoths and abominable Tcho-Tchos, the mad faceless Nyarlathotep, the unspeakable Alien Intelligence normally masked as J. Danforth Quayle. . . the Wascal Wabbit . . . Ia! Shub Niggurath!
May I share something with you? Scientology may be the answer to your problems. . .