1931 The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Weird Tales 1942.01, Hannes Bok
Written 1931.11-12, never submitted for publication by HPL, it was later published in "The Shadow over Innsmouth", 1936, and then reprinted in Weird Tales 1942.01 (posthumously).

Opening Statement:
     During the winter of 1927–28 officials of the Federal government made a strange and secret investigation of certain conditions in the ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. The public first learned of it in February, when a vast series of raids and arrests occurred, followed by the deliberate burning and dynamiting—under suitable precautions—of an enormous number of crumbling, worm-eaten, and supposedly empty houses along the abandoned waterfront. Uninquiring souls let this occurrence pass as one of the major clashes in a spasmodic war on liquor.
What in Brown Jenkin's Name..?
     When a curious tourist decides to make a visit to the creepy coastal town of Innsmouth, he finds himself hunted by the goggle-eyed, shambling locals. Later, he learns an awful truth about the "Deep Ones".
  1. On the way to Arkham to visit relatives, the narrator decides to research the notorious nearby seaport town of Innsmouth. He learns that the Innsmouth people look strange (somewhat simian-aquatic, with a shambling walk) and that they dislike strangers. Strange figures are seen on nearby Devil Reef, fish are easily caught off Innsmouth, and the residents are known for their strange inhuman jewelry. An Innsmouth tiara seen at the museum looks portentous and alien, and portrays frog-fishmen. The museum guide describes the main Innsmouth cult, the Esoteric Order of Dagon. 
  2. The narrator boards a bus, driven by a strange degenerated man with large feet, and arrives in Innsmouth. He sees few people, but spies a disturbing-looking pastor wearing a head-piece similar to the museum tiara. He learns that the goggle-eyed “Innsmouth look” becomes more pronounced among older residents. As he explores the town he sees many boarded up, decrepit neighborhoods and half-demolished wharves, as well as "deformed" fishermen. He eventually runs into Zadok Allen, an old drunk known to tell strange stories.
  3. Zadok tells an old story about Devil Reef and the town’s legendary merchant benefactor, Captain Obed Marsh, who had traded in strange, foreign ports. One locale, populated by the Kanakys, was an island with stone ruins and carvings of monsters. The natives wore jewelry with images of human fish-frogs. Captain Obed learns that the islanders sacrifice their young to the frog-fishmen (later named as the Deep Ones) in return for good fishing. The Deep Ones interbred with the Kanakys so that their children would be born human and then grow into immortal Deep Ones and live underwater (although they would visit their land-based descendants from time to time). Intrigued, Obed was gifted with a Deep Ones “call” and traded with the natives for the strange gold jewelry. Eventually the Kanakys were wiped out by frightened neighbors. Obed decides to carry out his own transactions with the Deep Ones living in the abyss below Devil Reef, in order to help Innsmouth survive lean economic times. At one point, Obed and his colleagues are jailed, which results in the decimation of half the town’s population by angry Deep Ones (later passed off as a plague). Afterwards, Obed decrees an interbreeding policy, and the Order of Dagon is established. Zadok implies that one day all will go back to Father Dagon (“what we all come from once”) and mentions Cthulhu and R’lyeh. Finally, he reveals his biggest secret, that the Deep Ones have been slowly infiltrating the town with shoggoths. After Zadok sees an invisible horror out to sea he runs off in a seizure.
  4. While trying to leave Innsmouth, the narrator’s departure bus suspiciously breaks down, so he is forced to spend the night in the Innsmouth hotel (the “Gilman”). When someone tries (and fails) to get into his room, the narrator decides to escape. With inhuman pursuers attempting to break in, the narrator reaches the street through a window. After lighted signals are exchanged between Devil Reef and the Gilman hotel, he sees a horde of inhuman swimmers approaching the town from the sea. While hiding along an abandoned railway line, he sees a pursuing horde of Deep Ones and faints.
  5. The next day the narrator makes his way to a friendly town and reports his experiences to the police (which ultimately results in mass police raids on Innsmouth and a torpedo attack on the abyss below Devil Reef). He does additional genealogical research and learns that an uncle of his had also previously done ancestral research there and then subsequently taken his own life. The narrator learns that his ancestry included a Marsh family member, and a Deep Ones tiara turns up among his heirlooms. Years pass and the narrator has dreams of being one of the Deep Ones, and his body begins to change. In another dream, he learns that his great-great-grandmother Pth’thya-l’yi had lived in Y’ha-nthlei (the abyss by Devil Reef) and returned there after Obed Marsh had died. Despite the torpedo attack on the city, the Deep Ones continue to thrive, and await Cthulhu’s return, bringing up shoggoths for a future purpose. The narrator claims to look forward to joining the Deep Ones below the Devil Reef.    

Essential Saltes:
     There certainly is a strange kind of streak in the Innsmouth folks today—I don’t know how to explain it, but it sort of makes you crawl. You’ll notice a little in Sargent if you take his bus. Some of ’em have queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, stary eyes that never seem to shut, and their skin ain’t quite right. Rough and scabby, and the sides of their necks are all shrivelled or creased up. Get bald, too, very young. The older fellows look the worst—fact is, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a very old chap of that kind. Guess they must die of looking in the glass! 
* * * * * 
     “Yew want to know what the reel horror is, hey? Wal, it’s this—it ain’t what them fish devils hez done, but what they’re a-goin’ to do! They’re a-bringin’ things up aout o’ whar they come from into the taown—ben doin’ it fer years, an’ slackenin’ up lately. Them haouses north o’ the river betwixt Water an’ Main Streets is full of ’em—them devils an’ what they brung—an’ when they git ready… I say, when they git ready… ever hear tell of a shoggoth?
     “Hey, d’ye hear me? I tell ye I know what them things be—I seen ’em one night when… EH—AHHHH—AH! E’YAAHHHH…”
* * * * * 
     It was the end, for whatever remains to me of life on the surface of this earth, of every vestige of mental peace and confidence in the integrity of Nature and of the human mind. Nothing that I could have imagined—nothing, even, that I could have gathered had I credited old Zadok’s crazy tale in the most literal way—would be in any way comparable to the daemoniac, blasphemous reality that I saw—or believe I saw. I have tried to hint what it was in order to postpone the horror of writing it down baldly. Can it be possible that this planet has actually spawned such things; that human eyes have truly seen, as objective flesh, what man has hitherto known only in febrile phantasy and tenuous legend?
     And yet I saw them in a limitless stream—flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating—surging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. And some of them had tall tiaras of that nameless whitish-gold metal… and some were strangely robed… and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishly humped black coat and striped trousers, and had a man’s felt hat perched on the shapeless thing that answered for a head…
     I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.
 * * * * * 
     I met also that which had been her grandmother. For eighty thousand years Pth’thya-l’yi had lived in Y’ha-nthlei, and thither she had gone back after Obed Marsh was dead. Y’ha-nthlei was not destroyed when the upper-earth men shot death into the sea. It was hurt, but not destroyed. The Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even though the palaeogean magic of the forgotten Old Ones might sometimes check them. For the present they would rest; but some day, if they remembered, they would rise again for the tribute Great Cthulhu craved. It would be a city greater than Innsmouth next time. They had planned to spread, and had brought up that which would help them, but now they must wait once more. For bringing the upper-earth men’s death I must do a penance, but that would not be heavy. This was the dream in which I saw a shoggoth for the first time, and the sight set me awake in a frenzy of screaming. That morning the mirror definitely told me I had acquired the Innsmouth look.
From Dr. Armitage's Notes:
  • 1st Deep Ones.
  • New England backwoods dialect
  • Hints at house from “Strange High House”, Old Ones, shoggoths
  • Genealogy horror

The Horrible Conclusion:
     I shall plan my cousin’s escape from that Canton madhouse, and together we shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.
Read it here.

Follow'd by "The Dreams in the Witch House"
Weird Tales 1942.01