Welcome to Virtual Geographic. Today we hunt for the infamous Necronomicon, otherwise known as The Book of the Dead and originally titled Kitab al-Azif. Eyewitnesses report a powerful grimoire full of arcane knowledge.

In History of the Necronomicon written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1927,  he says “the very act of studying the text is inherently dangerous, as those who attempt to master its arcane knowledge generally meet terrible ends.” My task as a virtual explorer is to find out. Is it horror or hoax?

My search begins at the Miskatonic University’s library where Wilbur Whateley reportedly consulted a “unabridged” version of the Necronomicon. Located in Arkham, Massachusetts, this library is only one in five known to hold a copy of this rare book. I’ve already searched for it in The British Museum, The Bibliothèque nationale de France, Widener Library of Harvard University and The University of Buenos Aires to no avail. Miskatonic University is my next best hope.

Due to unexpected delays, it was already dusk when I arrived in Arkham and the Miskatonic University was nearly closed. Luckily, it was across from the bus stop so I wasted no time getting inside. The town had an ominous feel to it I’d rather not experience after dark.

A quick search of the library’s rare book section, though quite an impressive collection, turned up nothing I needed. I studied a framed poster of Lovecraft on the wall and wondered what his connection to the library was—a founder perhaps? A copy of Qanoon-e-Islam caught my eye, but before I could reach it the librarian was shuffling me out the door. I would have to return in the morning. I looked for a place to stay.

The streets were empty and for all I could tell, the librarian might have been the only Arkham resident. I was relieved to find a relatively modern looking hotel just a block away until I found the doors locked. No one answered my knocks despite their being a light shining in the basement. With no place to shelter, I moved on in hopes I’d find a place to escape the dark streets.

A brightly lit radio studio was still open. Unlike the hotel, the doors were unlocked. I went inside and found the On Air sign lit up and ready for a broadcast. I sat and waited with anticipation. After some time passed I thought maybe I was in the wrong area, so I explored the building. It was empty except for me. A graphic show poster in the lobby made me nervous so I decided to move on. The solitude was wearing. I needed to find other people and a place to stay.

I explored to town to find plenty of places open, but like the radio station, all were devoid of life. I couldn’t buy a beer at the tavern because there was no barkeep. A magazine stand was open wide with no one to take my money for a magazine. I grabbed a couple of copies of Space & Time and left an IOU.

Even a curio shop was left empty, door wide open, waiting to be robbed. Perhaps the creepy handicrafts on display frightened thieves. I saw a coffee shop down the road and headed that way. Coffee houses are universal places of sanctuary…

…except in Arkham, Massachusetts. After waiting for the barista, I started to notice the curious art on the wall. Most of it had been smeared with red, a macabre vibe for a pleasant coffee house. Deciding no one would come take my order here either, I went behind the counter to make my own coffee. I would just spend the night here. Warm, safe and fresh coffee in abundance. Then I saw the cookie on the counter. I headed for the bus stop.

Of course, there was no one there and no schedule posted. I was cold and completely spooked by this point. I huddled against the old, crumbling wall shivering. The entire trip was hopeless, a mistake on my part. Risk is part of being an explorer, but risk in an empty town in the dead of night feels more like folly. And then I saw the sign: Feckhamsmith’s Antiquated Books. Maybe, just maybe. My hopes nudged upward.

Inside the shop I found plenty of books—books in all states of abuse and disrepair! Books propping up chairs, tumbled in dusty piles on the floor, covered in wax as candle holders… Disgusted I perused the stacks to find nothing I needed. Even if the Necronomicon were among these tortured tomes, it would most likely be too damaged to test.

I was about to trudge back to the bus stop in failure, when I heard a curious hum from upstairs. A dull thrum, like a hive of bees crying out in unison, vibrated through the plaster ceiling. Cautious but curious, I ascended the stairs as quietly as I could. There was only one room over the book shop. The rhythmic pulsing whir came from it. I entered to find…

…the Necronomicon, at last! My trip was not in vain. It appeared that I had interrupted some sort of ritual. Candles were half burnt, wax melting in rivulets through the thick dust on the table. A goblet of viscous red sat among black stones carved in runic symbols. The Necronomicon sat open on a pedestal, one page slightly creased as if in the midst of being turned. On the wall, a pentagram painted in what looked like blood began to glow, a swirling portal opening up at the center and spreading to fill the circle. The buzz increased dramatically, filling my head with the scream of an insect legion. Outside, the clock began chiming a deep, toneless count.

At risk to my life, I quickly documented my finds so that, should I survive, I will have added to our understanding of this book and its abilities. I reached out to secure the massive work. Suddenly, I remembered the words of H. P. Lovecraft: “those who attempt to master its arcane knowledge generally meet terrible ends.”

As the wall began to crack, plaster crumbling into the dun colored carpet, I chalked the mission up as a success. My task, as a virtual explorer, was to find out whether or not the Necronomicon was a hoax or horror. I decided it was definitely a horror. I flipped the weathered cover closed and watched the glowing portal twist in on itself with a shriek and wink out.

I spent the rest of my time in Arkham, Massachusetts shivering at the bus stop. I take my job seriously and an explorer must always make it out with the data alive or any discoveries are a waste. The first bus out arrived as the sun rose and I was on it, satisfied that I had witnessed the power of the Necronomicon and survived. One day I will return to Arkham to unravel it’s secrets, but for now, this intrepid explorer needs a hot coffee and a warm bed. ☕☕☕

Today on Virtual Geographic we explored the virtual town of Arkham, Massachusetts as written about by American horror author H. P. Lovecraft. The Necronomicon is a fictional grimoire appearing in stories by Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft’s 1924 short story “The Hound,” written in 1922. Among other things, the work is said to contain an account of the Old Ones, their history, and the means for summoning them.

The virtual town of Arkham is owned by the Innsmouth Preservation Society founded by Arik Metzger. You can read all about their events and this tribute to H.P. Lovecraft here. You can visit and explore this virtual Arkham yourself by visiting it here.

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About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Shimanchu-American and an award-winning poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), a two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020, she offers free classes for writers on her website.

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