Unnatural Settings

MonsonYesterday I received this book in the mail. I don’t know how we missed it when cleaning out my mother’s home but apparently we did.  This is the story of the town where my mother’s family has lived for well over one hundred years.  It’s also the setting for the flashback scenes in Flipka 2 which I’m currently working on and so its arrival was mundo fortuitous.

I could say Monson is your typical small town in New England and in many ways it is, particularly back when I was growing up.


My great grandfather watering the dirt roads (one of his many jobs).

During summertime visits, I’d run wild through the town, picking blackberries and scoring free cokes at a garage owned by the town’s wealthiest man whose hobby was stock car racing but whose son had been “born bad.”  On his estate there was also a baseball diamond, a swimming pool and a pond with a boat and so the gang of poor locals I ran with happily tolerated the murderous son.


“You wild heathens better not drag mud through my kitchen!!!”

In the evenings the sticky heat of the day was generally alleviated by cackling t-storms and regretfully we’d head inside to get chewed out by Gram.

However idyllic as it seems, the town and the surrounding area were also the setting for the Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos.


H.P. Lovecraft, Master of the Macabre, 1934

Lovecraft felt that area of Massachusetts was a “lonely and curious country” whose residents had “come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding.”  There were a couple of reasons why he felt that way.  First, the original settlers were from Salem Massachusetts and were therefore the descendants of witches.


Most likely the rock piles were used by the Native Americans for cooking and not orgies.

Second, there are many mysterious rock piles in the hills. Preachers of the 1800s postulated they were “the unhallowed rites and conclaves of the Indians” who “made wild orgiastic prayers” which were in turn answered by “loud cracklings and rumblings” in the earth. According to Lovecraft, they were the ancient ones demanding to be freed from the bowels of the earth so they could rape the locals and create monsters.


Another of great grandpa’s jobs – milliner. He is the seventh man from the left.

Hum, I wonder if the Monson library stocks any of Lovecraft’s books.  Somehow I doubt it. 

IMG_1114What is your hometown’s claim to fame that the city fathers probably would not include in a history book?

34 thoughts on “Unnatural Settings

  1. Growing up in San Diego, I hadn’t thought about the claim to fame best unsaid. But the first thing that popped into my head as it searched the back reaches was Hotel Del Coronado, don’t know why. So a quick search brought up: Kate Morgan and her untimely death in 1892, now claimed to be haunting the hotel. Was her death a suicide, or did her husband murder her husband? For more details: http://stevecory.net/0704vac/katemorgan.html

  2. Jan – so cool! I love your blog, your ability to research is second to none as shown in the Operating Engineers book and your writing is engaging, fun, humorous and more. Thanks!

  3. I recently stumbled onto some old documents describing the early days of the town I was born in. Nothing remarkable, but it was still nice to connect a few dots. You had to be pretty happy when that book arrived.

    1. Yes, I was! I got a lot of good information from that book but they certainly didn’t mention inspiring Lovecraft! Luckily I had taken a class in supernatural lit.

  4. I learned so much from your post! I left my hometown at the age of seventeen, and I can only recall one murder. The man was a serial killer – they got him the same summer.

  5. These are fantastic artifacts you’ve discovered Jan. I particularly like the felting department photo. There are all sorts of stories from small towns that never come to light. The town I live now used to be the egg capital of the world, and there’s still a lot of agricultural work both in and around town, which for saying its only 40 miles from San Francisco is pretty amazing. There are 2 working dairies in town – fortunately I love old industrial buildings. it’s well balance with lots of pretty victorians too.

  6. Not sure I can top yours Jan. We had a folly (about 200 yards from our font door) in our little village in Hampshire where I grew up. This is what wiki says (it’s a fairly good summary of what I was told about Judge Peterson)
    Sway is perhaps best known for Sway Tower. It is 66 metres (200 ft) tall and is a Grade II listed building. It is also known as “Peterson’s Folly”

    Built by Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson on his private estate from 1879–1885, its design (and the use of concrete) was influenced by the follies Peterson had seen during his time in India. It is constructed entirely out of concrete made with Portland cement, with only the windows having iron supports. It remains the tallest non-reinforced concrete structure in the world.

    It was originally designed as a mausoleum, with a perpetual light at the top. However this was not allowed by Trinity House {they run the lighthouses around the UK coast}, as it was thought the light would confuse shipping. It also served to publicise the superiority of Portland cement; even then not fully accepted.

    The tower is visible from much of the New Forest, and most of the western Solent. A smaller 50-foot (15 m) folly, built as a ‘prototype’, stands in a group of trees to the north of the taller tower.There are many small concrete features (mainly walls) to be found in Milford, Sway and Hordle.

      1. Yes, the Isle of Portland is just off the Dorset coast (connected to the land by a causeway) and Portland stone is some of the hardest around hence making very hard cement. A lot of London’s skyscrapers are clad in Portland stone

  7. Interesting. I don’t know, I just don’t know. We had Skiles Test and the House of Blue Lights, but that was more of a myth. We had a heinous mass murder. I just dunno. Yours is sure interesting though.

    1. Gotta check that out. Re myth – I’m really hoping I’m not descended from a race of inbred degenerates although that might explain a few things. ; )

  8. Don’t you love finding story ideas in our own ancestry? I’m exploring mysteries no one’s around any longer to explain, too. Can’t get enough of that wacky family history—and the long dead won’t protest if we get it wrong. Or take some license. What a fortuitous gift you got.

  9. My hometown of Wallace, Idaho has a very checkered past full of mining and prostitution. I’m not sure what its claim to fame would be that wouldn’t get printed in history books since my hometown prides itself on being eccentric. Then again, I’m sure history books wouldn’t print much about how the madames of various houses gave a lot of money to the local school district and even bought the marching band new uniforms at one time. It wasn’t until 1988 when the last rooms closed down when a huge FBI raid hit the town to confiscate illegal gambling machines. Or I read once that Wallace had the most bars per capita in the US at some point. Go figure Shoshone county has the highest crime rate and unemployment in the the state…

    1. They were probably a gang of sweetie pies. New England at one time had a thriving textile industry. Now everything is made in China and those small towns are struggling.

  10. Born and raised in Boston. I loved your story – and I’m a huge Lovecraft fan. So much of New England is mysterious. Those rock piles seem similar to Mystery Hill in Salem, NH. An author named Barry Fell wrote a book about these rock monuments throughout New England called America, BC.

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