Cthulhu 100

Case 007 - The Eyes Of A Stranger

Are the mind transferring beings from another planet the start of an invasion?

March 1893

Several of the investigators were invited to a social gathering held by wealthy London entrepreneur John Bidwell. The party was heralded as the social event of the season and there was very little that the investigators knew about Bidwell, other than him being a wealthy entrepreneur involved in shipping and industry in Britain and its colonies. He was something of an adventurer and had visited America, the Orient and Australia. He was a well-educated man, known for his keen mind and sharp wit. Bidwell had many wealthy and powerful friends, including members of the royal family. He was never married and had no family. Bidwell had been conspicuously absent from society for sometime and rumour had it that he was suffering from an exotic illness and was confined to a hospital until just before March 1893, but Jonathan Asbatch knew that he had not been confined in a hospital but in Albrooke Asylum in Mercy Hill, Gloucester. Bidwell’s influential friends had kept his collapse quiet, so nothing more was known.

Jonathan, Edith, Charles Van Winstin Hine and Yumi decided to attend the party, with Yumi attending as Charles’ guest (an event that occurred a loss of some social prestige to Charles).

A light, damp fog had descended on the city the night of Bidwell’s party. The gaslamps flickered along the streets and the clatter of hooves and carriages echoed in the clammy night air. Big Ben chimed ominously in the foggy distance. Several carriages were already standing waiting when the investigators arrived at Bidwell’s residence in Blenheim Terrace in fashionable St. John’s Wood. Groups of hackney-coachmen clustered under gaslamps, their forms silhouetted in the fog. A warm glow eminated from the house where London’s elite had gathered. Upon showing their invitations, a doorman announced each guest and they were shown into the ballroom of Bidwell’s mansion. Men in formal attire passed trays of champagne, while chefs served food from an enormous buffet. The sound of a string quartet hung above the clatter and chatter of the revelers who mingled, ate, drank and danced. Silver trays, champagne glasses and jewelry sparkled in the soothing glow of the gas-lit chandeliers.

The wealthy and influential of London were everywhere, but nowhere was that evening’s host. Mingling with the other guests, the investigators learnt that John Bidwell had yet to appear at his party.

Among the guests were government officials, businessmen and celebrated artists and writers. Also among the guests were numerous members of London’s spiritual and occult community. Identified among the guests were Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary; Major Henry Smith, Commissioner of the City of London Police; Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society; Florence Farr and Dr. William Wynn Westcott of The Golden Dawn; Robert James Lees, official psychic to the court of Queen Victoria; celebrated psychich Godfrey Williamson; wealthy shipping magnate Nigel Stander; the retired Col. Albert Hardwicke; authors Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and H.G. Wells; actor Henry Irving and his frequent leading lady, Ellen Terry; and artists Walter Sickert and Aubrey Beardsley.

As a clock struck 9:00 PM a gaunt figure entered the ballroom. The man was pale and frail-looking, his black hair and goatee streaked with silver; he was dressed in black formal wear and walked with the aid of a cane. All eyes turned toward the man and the musicians fell silent as one of the servants announced the arrival of the evening’s host, John Bidwell. Most of the guests had not seen Bidwell in a very long time and he appeared in obvious ill health, Bidwell smiled and waved to his guests, the music started up again, and the party continued.

Bidwell spent the next two hours slowly mingling with his guests. Surprisingly, he was lucid and sharp-witted: only his body seemed to have suffered the ravages of disease – his mind was as sharp as ever. It was noted that Bidwell was in full possession of his faculties, although he was somewhat distracted – preoccupied with something.

Bidwell spoke with the investigators for several moments, thanking them for coming and exchanging pleasantries. He was very cordial to the male investigators, however, it was noticed that whilst he was a proper gentleman, he was very cool and distant towards both Edith and Yumi. Finally he turned the conversation to the occult, asking the investigators if they had any interest in such things. When they confirmed that they did indeed hold an interest in the occult, Bidwell invited them to take part in a seance at midnight. The seance was to be held in a room upstairs, and Bidwell asked the investigators to keep the event to themselves.

At 11:00 PM Bidwell thanked his guests for coming, but excused himself, saying that he had grown tired. With the departure of the host, many guests began to leave and by 11:30 only a few revellers remained: those invited to the seance made their way upstairs.

The seance was to be held in Bidwell’s upstairs library. In the centre of the room was a long, heavy table covered with a purple cloth; a large ornate candelabrum rested in the centre of the table. The windows had been drawn closed, and thirteen chairs had been arranged around the table. Other than the investigators, the guests at the seance included the Theosophical Society’s Annie Besant, Florence Farr and Dr. William Wynn Wescott of the Golden Dawn and psychichs Robert James Lees and Godfrey Williamson as well Dr. Peter Begg, Paul Donner and Sir Phillip Knight. Also in attendance was the wealthy dilettant Simon Masters who was there to photograph the event.

Shortly before midnight, Bidwell’s butler Hanson entered the library and closed all the drapes. Hanson, lit the candles, extinguished the gaslamps and asked that everyone take a seat around the table. When everyone was seated, he exited the room, locking the doors behind him. John Bidwell then entered the library from the adjoining den. He was dressed in a black hooded robe and carried a crystalline cube. The clock began to strike midnight.

Bidwell instructed everyone to join hands and close their eyes. As the twelfth chime struck, the seance began, Bidwell began a litany of occult rhetoric, stating over and over that he wished to send his mind out – out to contact ‘the Others’. One word that was picked out by the investigators was Yekub, but they did not at this point understand what it meant.

The seance continued until 12:45, apparently unsuccessful when Bidwell slumped into his chair, breaking contact with those on either side of him. His voice was nearly gone and he was breathing heavily. He wearily declared the seance a failure, then thanked his guests and politely asked them to leave. He said that he would gladly speak with anyone the next day, but that night he must rest.

The following morning Jonathan was awoken by a knocking on his door. It was the police, Inspector Martin Cleveland and Detective Sergeant John Craig who informed him that Bidwell had been found murdered in his study, having been stabbed through the heart with a fireplace poker, the chief suspect being Hanson Bartlet, Bidwell’s butler who at that time was missing. The police asked him and then later each of the other investigators that had attended the seance a barrage of questions, their names having been give to the police by Masters the photographer. The investigators were told by Cleveland to not leave London in case he had any more questions for them.

After being questioned, the investigators made contact with Inspector Harrison Craddock who arranged for them to be able to view the Bidwell house, where they managed to ascertain that the crystal cube that Bidwell was using during the seance was missing, presumably having been taken by Bartlet. It was noted however, that Bartlet had left without taking a coat which would be unusual for the time of year as well as for the time of night in which he would have disappeared, leading them to think that the butler may have been possessed by something. Whilst investigating the house they found Bidwell’s masonic ring along with his journals and a photograph showing him with a youth, who was small, thin and pale, while Bidwell was tanned and healthy looking. All around them was desert and Bidwell was holding the cube from the seance, on the back was scrawled ‘with Mortimer – Cuncudgerie, 30th October 1887’. At this point they heard footsteps heading up the stairs and so hid as a man walked into the room and took the photograph away with him. They never got a clear view of the man, but as he was exiting the house they could tell from his bearing that he was a probably a policeman, though not one in uniform.

After leaving the house, the investigators visited the other participants of the seance to discuss what they knew, some were more helpful than others. Dr. William Wynn Westcott of the Golden Dawn offered them membership of the Golden Dawn, about which he would discuss with them in greater detail after the whole Bidwell matter had been cleared up. Westcott also promised to hold a seance to try and contact Bidwell’s spirit.

When visiting Simon Masters, the dilettante showed them a photograph that he had taken during the seance, where it could be seen that all of the participants had their eyes closed, but that the cube was glowing. Masters claimed that he had not seen the cube glow when he had taken the photograph.

The psychic Godfrey Williamson informed them that he had been having visions ever since the seance and that the name ‘Duncan’ or ‘Duggan’ had something to do with it.

Other members of the seance either had little to add or refused to see the investigators, and so consequently after having read Bidwell’s journal decided to meet up with Nigel Stander, who was one of Bidwell’s business associates and although he had not been part of the seance, he had in fact been at Bidwell’s party.

Stander was quite open with the investigators who realised that he was a Mason. He informed them Bidwell had been placed in the care of Dr. John R. Campbell, a fellow Mason, at Albrooke Asylum, located in the small Gloucestershire county community of Mercy Hill, about 110 miles northwest of London. They asked Stander if he would be so kind as to give them a letter of introduction to Campbell and it was decided that a group consisting of Jonathan, Alastar Maloney, Penelope Hancock and Takeshi Takemori would make the trip to Gloucestershire to visit Campbell and to see if they could find out any more information regarding Bidwell’s stay in the asylum.

During the journey to Gloucestershire, Jonathan read Bidwell’s journal, which told of Bidwell’s business in Australia and of how he was accompanied by the youth Mortimer Wycroft from Cuncudgerie. The journal also told of how Bidwell had forcefully taken the cube from an Aboriginal tribesman, killing several of the natives in the process and the increasing strain upon his relationship with Mortimer. It appeared from his journal that Bidwell had spent most of 1888 in London and that in November he had unpacked the cube. There was then a gap until just a few weeks before the party where he noted that he was intending to use the seance as a means to help him to return to Yekub.

Perched at the highest point of Mercy Hill, Albrooke Asylum was an oppressive structure of red brick. The small private institution held only a handful of patients, under the watchful eye of Dr. John R. Campbell. Those demented souls came from wealthy or influential families as Albrooke was not accessible to the poor or lower class. Despite the small size of the facility and the high cost of commital, many patients still suffered from the poor health and muscle atrophy typically associated with a lengthy incarceration in an asylum. For all its reputation, Albrooke wasn’t much better than most institutions for the mentally ill: it was a dark, hellish place haunted by the screams and moans of the mad.

Campbell informed the investigators that John Bidwell was admitted to Albrooke Asylum at approximately 4:00 AM on the morning of 14th November, 1888. Bidwell was heavily sedated when he arrived at Albrooke in the company of Sir William Withey Gull, another mason, who was the physician-in-ordinary to Her Majesty Queen Victoria until his death in 1890.

When admitted Bidwell exhibited signs of total insanity: he was acting like a savage beast and would not speak more than gutteral growls. Because of his wild state, Bidwell was kept sedated for the protection of himself and the Albrooke staff. For months he did not speak, although he occasionally produced queer clicking noises. On 17th April, 1889, Bidwell fell into a coma. To the surprise of Campbell and his staff, he was awake and totally calm and lucid by the following morning. He displayed no lingering symptoms of mental instability and bestial behaviour, but he seemed genuinely confused as to his whereabouts and the date. From then until his recent release from Albrooke, Bidwell was perfectly behaved and exhibited no more signs of insanity, although he did obsessively speak of vivid dreams of an alien world. Dr. Campbell insisted that Bidwell remain at Albrooke until his release earlier in 1893 to be sure that he was indeed cured. Dr. Campbell was admittedly at a loss to explain John Bidwell’s overnight recovery. There was not much more that Campbell could add other than from observation he had worked out that Bidwell was a misogynist who had a pathological distrust of women. This combined with the dates that Bidwell was in London as well as the date of incarceration and the fact that it was Gull himself that had overseen the incarceration of Bidwell suggested to the investigators that Bidwell just may have been Jack the Ripper himself.

During the interview with Campbell, Takeshi was quite insulting towards him and the Masons and despite Jonathan’s protestations refused to quieten down, this would indeed prove to have ramifications later.

The following day, the investigators were contacted by Craddock, who informed them that the butler’s body had been found in a warehouse in the Limehouse district and that both Cleveland and Craig were already there on the scene.

The warehouse proved to be called Dunnigan’s Warehouse, which it was noted was very close to both ‘Duncan or Duggan’ that had been provided by Williamson. Inside the warehouse, the body of Hanson Bartlet lay crumpled on the dusty floor. Bruises around his throat suggested strangulation as the cause of death. Several books were piled on a nearby crate. The books in the main dealt with world history, industrial and scientific history as well as astronomy. Also in the pile was a copy of The Pnakotic Manuscripts, which was taken by Penelope.

As the investigators left the warehouse, they heard the sounds of a scuffle on a street corner – followed by the unmistakable sound of a police whistle. A Cockney police constable was seen struggling with a Chinese woman, who lay writhing and growling savagely on the floor at his feet. A crowd of Chinese passersby were looking on, shouting and gesticulating. The constable tried to restrain the woman, then staggered backwards almost drunkenly. Then shockingly from out of the mouth of the Chinese woman came a voice crying for help in Cockneyed English. He claimed to be Constable Bill Baker, and that the woman had stolen his body. They learnt from ‘Baker’ that he had seen the Chinese woman watching the warehouse and when she saw him she started to run but fell to the ground convulsing. That’s when the investigators had arrived.

The rest of the day was spent looking for clues, however, in the Pnakotic Manuscripts, Penelope found the following passage that had been bookmarked:

‘There are legends that the primordial cone-beings had encountered a race which, like themselves was capable of psychically hurling itself through time and space; that this race used strange hypnotic devices, crystal cubes of immeasurable age, to cross the gulfs of space; that this alien race was bent upon conquering all the worlds it came in contact with; that even the cone-beings feared the incursions of this race, and thus hid away the crystal device they had found…’

That evening, Jonathan received a visit from Godfrey Williamson telling him that he had had a vision and that they should head over to Bidwell’s house immediately. After picking up Charles, Edith, Penelope and Yumi they made their way to Bidwell’s house, where they could see a light in the upstairs window of the library where the seance had originally been held. Making their way inside to the library they discovered that all of the other attendees of the seance were there, except for Bidwell. The other guests confessed that they had been drawn there by visions or dreams. At this point the doors to the den opened and a robed figure stepped into the library.

‘Welcome. I’m glad you all could come,’ the figure uttered in a familiar voice. Throwing back the hood, the robed figure showed himself to be John Bidwell. ‘There are forces greater than life and death,’ he laughed as his guests stared at him in disbelief. ‘I have summoned you all here to show you the fruits of your labour. The seance you see, was indeed a success.’ He produced the crystal cube from a pocket. The smoke from the candles swirled and thickened, forming a funnel-shaped cloud. Blue flashes sparked through the alien crystal and the smokey funnel twisted, the narrow end pressing against and then through the library wall. The funnel formed an impossibly long, black tunnel that stretched through the wall into infinity.

Bidwell stepped to the wide mouth of the tunnel that had grown to over ten feet across, and displayed the cube in the palm of his hand. ‘This’ he said, ‘this is the key’. At this point it was observed that strange shapes could be seen travelling down through the tunnel, growing larger as they got closer, revealing large multi-legged worm-like creatures. ‘May I present your new masters,’ Bidwell chuckled. Behind him, several of the worm-things crawled out of the smokey tunnel. One of them held a glowing sphere that appeared to be made of metal or energy, yet seemingly sentient. At this point the investigators and other seance members were engaged in a desperate battle against the worm-like Yekubians. The majority were quickly overcome, although it was noticed that both Westcott and Farr had used some type of magical protection to aid them in the battle. Charles was squashed by one Yekubian as others attacked Bidwell, who changed in form to that of Bartlet and then to a Chinese woman and finally to that of Constable Baker. Meanwhile Penelope had tried to get the cube, but her head was torn off by another Yekubian. Yumi tried to destroy the cube but could not and fled the room following both Edith and Jonathan. Outside the library, Edith was chased down by a Yekubian and killed as was Jonathan, but Yumi fled outside the house where she saw hundreds of Yekubians coming down through more funnels, it was a full-scale invasion. Heading back insidce she was quickly killed by the Yekubian that had earlier killed Edith.

At this point all of the investigators woke to find that it had been a dream. All of them except Penelope, as she was not an original member of the seance, could remember what had occurred.

Just after he had woken, there was another knock on Jonathan’s door, it was Godfrey Williamson again. The psychic was pale and unsteady as he recounted to Jonathan the dream of the night before and was shocked to learn that Jonathan had also experienced the dream and he nearly fainted. A glass of brandy later, Williamson offered more. He had had numerous visions of a great yellow dragon, snorting fire, bathed in blinding smoke, and there were also faceless men again watching him. One of the men had blood on his hands, but the others constantly moved to shield him. Jonathan suspected that this may mean the Freemasons and Jack the Ripper. As he was leaving, Williamson was run down and killed by a cab, Jonathan was unable to help the man and could not identify the driver of the cab.

As the investigators got together to discuss the previous night’s dream and Williamson’s vision and subsequent death, they were informed by Craddock that Constable Baker’s body had been fished out of the Thames that morning, the cause of death was drowning.

After another brief, but fruitless, search of Bidwell’s house, they went to speak to Cleveland and from discussing with him, they theorised that Williamson’s vision could have been pointing to a Chinese restaurant in Limehouse called The House of the Yellow Dragon. As well as a restaurant it was known to be an opium den and was suspected of having links to the mysterious Chinese underworld gang known as the Si-Fan.

It was decided that the investigators would scope out the House of the Yellow Dragon, going in initially for a meal, where they were met by Lee Ho Fuk the manager of the restaurant. During the course of the meal it was observed that several of the patrons would disappear off into a certain booth and not return. Yumi was sent to investigate and she discovered that there was a secret panel in the booth that led into a corridor and up some stairs. At the top of the stairs she discovered a huge hulking Chinese man who was clearly on guard. It was correctly suspected that this was the way into the opium den itself. After the meal, it was decided that Jonathan and Charles should attempt to gain access to the opium den whilst the others left and sent word for Bob Shire and Reginald Black to come with a carriage for them.

Access was granted to Jonathan and Charles who were led up to the opium den and given an area to sit and to smoke. Jonathan made sure that he was not getting too stoned, only pretending to smoke, Charles however was as high as a kite. During their stay, Jonathan noticed Chinese men enter and leave the room behind a Buddha statue that moved and crawling over he could see that there was a secret room behind the statue with several Chinese men and a strange machine inside. After this they decided to leave and to plan their next course of action.

The investigators were summoned by Nigel Stander who introduced them to Detective Sergeant James Mulverhill, who had been investigating the matter and had learnt about the House of the Yellow Dragon. It was determined that Mulverhill would become part of Cleveland’s task force along with the investigators and that a raid would be launched upon the House of the Yellow Dragon. The investigators were to wait until Mulverhill summoned them.

The following day the investigators were summoned by Mulverhill to Scotland Yard, where they encountered Cleveland and Craig getting ready to lead a raid on the House of the Yellow Dragon. Also in attendance was Lee Ho Fook who had informed the police that there was something going on at the restaurant that his master would not approve of. A deal had been struck, the police would stop the activity and arrest those involved, but would not look too deeply into the affairs of the restaurant, with Lee Ho Fook and those that were still loyal to the Si-Fan being left alone in exchange for easy passage into the opium den.

The raid went according to plan in the main, however, in the secret room there were several Si-Fan thugs as well as the strange machine that held the cube at its heart and was emitting a strange buzzing and crackling noise. Also in the room a Chinese man named Rathe who seemed to be leading some kind of ceremony as well as a floating sphere of metal or energy that seemed to have some degree of sentience , which was recognisable from the dream. A fight ensued, with the police along with the investigators making relatively light work of the gang members, however, both Mulverhill and Jonathan were struck by some mental attack from the sphere, which they learnt was in actual fact a Great Old One named Juk-Shabb – Great Old One. The touch of Juk-Shabb was not pleasant and those touched are seldomly not affected, with Jonathan being left in a stupefied state for four days. Eventually the machine was destroyed and Juk-Shabb was banished back to Yekub.

Searching the secret room, the investigators found two vials that were later revealed to contain cobra venom, a Chinese puzzle box that when opened was shown to contain another vial, this time of a blue liquid, a series of scrolls that were written in Chinese Mandarin, the title of which was later translated to reveal that they were the Seven Cryptical Books Of Hsan, but none of the investigators could read Chinese Mandarin, and a letter that was also written in Chinese Mandarin.

The investigators took the letter to a contact of Lilith Harrington in The British Museum who translated the following information to them:

‘My most loyal servants I entreat to your care this vial and these scrolls. Protect them with your lives and keep them hidden until I return to England and then give them to no one but me. Failure to do this shall result in the pain of a thousand slow deaths.
- your Master Dr. Fu Manchu.’

After the successful resolution of the case, Jonathan was summoned to Nigel Stander’s office. Stander presented him with the details of how the society and the Freemasons would work together, as can be seen in the letter below:

From: Grand Master
To: Fellow Brother, Nigel Stander

Re: Persons of interest

I have it on very good authority that some of the persons that were forwarded on to Dr. John R. Campbell as requested are indeed the very persons that were involved in an arson attack upon the Black Lion Hotel in Truro, Cornwall. These perpetrators have been positively identified as Mr. Jonathan Asbatch, Mr. Reginald Black, Miss Edith ______ and a Japanese national named Takeshi Tokemori. The police have witness statements placing the four individuals previously named at the said hotel on the night of the attack. They are also wanted with regards to the murder of the owner of the hotel, a certain Mr. Miles Graystone, whose remains were discovered in the basement furnace of the ruins of the building.
We are at present keeping the information that we have on these individuals very quiet for reasons of great importance that I will not divulge in this letter, but please be assured that these reasons come from the highest of authorities and do in fact involve matters of national importance.
We request that both yourself and Mulverhill act in the capacity of contacts to these individuals, we also suggest that you limit your contacts primarily to Asbatch, as a true Englishman he would be more amenable to our requests and less prone to excitement.
Campbell’s communications to me regarding the tone of voice of Tokemori do concern me, please inform Asbatch that he should do all that he can to keep his dog muzzled and kept on a tight leash. Inform him that it would be rather unfortunate if matters in Cornwall were to be made public and it is due to my own actions as well as those of greater importance in the scheme of things that they are not at this time facing the hangman’s rope.
The belief that we have that Bidwell was indeed Jack the Ripper is very well known amongst us all, and strongly suspected by certain non brothers. We are not overly concerned that the public suspect as much, there is no proof that would stand up to anything like close scrutiny and we are content in our knowledge that we have done as much as possible to protect all British subjects, even those who hold low station. As you know from your correspondence with Dr. Campbell the whole Jack the Ripper business has not been adequately explained and it is hoped that the murders of both Bidwell and his butler will finally put the matter to some rest. Of course certain questions do still remain, least of all, the identities and motives of the murderers themselves and so therefore vigilance is required.

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