"[T]he ancient, mouldering, and subtly fearsome town... witch-cursed, legend-haunted Arkham, whose huddled, sagging gambrel roofs and crumbling Georgian balustrades brood out the centuries beside the darkly muttering Miskatonic."
—HP Lovecraft,
"The Thing on the Doorstep"

It's a shame your layover is so short, Howard. There's not much time to look around. Not enough time to see Miskatonic University across the river, though I'm sure you're familiar with what ivy-covered halls look like. You're planning on going to Brown someday yourself, aren't you, young man? Well, at any rate— you'll have to stick around with me downtown, close to the station, and see what you may. Arkham is an... interesting place, even though it might not be apparent to the casual traveler.

We might be known for them, but you won't find many gambrel roofs or decaying Georgian mansions downtown. Arkham is a prosperous modern city. Well... that is... it's a once-prosperous city that still cherishes dreams of a bright future. Let's just leave it at that.

And... oh yes, about all that stuff you've heard. You know... the things they say about Arkham. Strange cults, witches' curses, child sacrifice... odd things. Well, remember it's the year nineteen-hundred-and-seven Anno Domini. Those kinds of things just don't happen any more. Arkham is a normal, quiet place. Very typical for eastern Massachusetts. Really.

So you came down from Boston on the railroad, and the train was only an hour and fifteen minutes late after the whole 45-minute trip? Well, this is typical service on our Miskatonic RR. We are rather proud of our little railroad, one of the oldest in Massachusetts. It's the only line that runs between Boston and Arkham. Ten trains a day, on their way north to New Hampshire or west towards New York state. You got a good view of the backside of our ugly station as you came into town.
The old Gothic-Norman train station was built in the 1840s by an architect who had read too many novels by Sir Walter Scott. You know that covered trainsheds like this were common on America's early railroads. The drafty, pigeon-infested old pile of granite has been the pride of Arkham for half a century.
Arkham's streets and sidewalks are likewise granite cobblestones with granite curbs— same as most other eastern Massachusetts towns.

When the railroad was built in 1838, High Lane was just another muddy track. Now it's a paved square in the center of busy Arkham, where trains, trolleys, wagons, buggies, and horseless carriages uneasily share the right-of-way.

The broad plaza of Station Square reaches east from the depot toward Downtown Crossing. The railroad has been fenced off from the rest of the traffic to reduce accidents. Departing trains puff down the street at a walking pace, attended by a small army of blue-coated flagmen.
Across the street from the station is the gambrel-roofed Hingam House, once an eighteenth-century tavern and now sheltering a small store where thirsty travelers can get ice cream and sodas. If anyone wonders why the windows are open when it's forty degrees outside... well, there's a cigar factory on the upper floors.

Next door is the Pabodie Museum. There, a traveler can while away an hour examining the strange relief carvings excavated from the tomb of Nephren-Ka, the accursed sorcerer-pharaoh of ancient Egypt. The Miskatonic University expedition to the Valley of Hadoth managed to return with the bare minimum of mummy's curses.

"Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile."
—HP Lovecraft,
"The Outsider"

Walk up Garrison Street a ways and you can turn around and see what a monstrous old edifice the station is. They say there are strange lights and monstrous shadows in the near tower on moonless nights... but nobody who goes up the winding staircase reports finding anything but bats and pigeons. Of course, those who go up there are never quite the same after they come back down.
The firemen at engine company #2 are enthralled by their new horseless carriage fire engine. Next door, the butcher has a good reason for his bloody apron... but why does the girl in the Hingam House bay window have bright red bloody hands? Oh... that's right. There's the cigar factory on the second floor. Tobacco stains, you think?
Manton the undertaker is having a heated discussion with his assistant... something about an empty casket. And something that happened after the visit from that young doctor from the University... Herbert West.

"'Good god, Manton, but what was it?'... '[T]he ultimate abomination. Carter, it was the unnamable!'"
HP Lovecraft, "The Unnamable"

Strolling up the street past the dilapidated Second Baptist Church, you'll pass the Shadow Cafe— a decent place to eat if you can ignore the waiter with the "Innsmouth Look." The Esoteric Order Of Dagon hall is upstairs. No matter what you've heard, the E.O.O.D. is just a simple service organization these days. Yes, I think they still have that odd stone statue of an Old One. I'm sure they hang onto it for old times' sake. Heritage, you know. Nice place to drape the coats. Behind the E.O.O.D. lodge sits the ancient house of Goody Fowler, hung for witchcraft in 1704. There are several other houses in the area that also make that claim— it's all legend, anyway.
Downtown Crossing, where the steam dummy line to Bolton encounters the Miskatonic RR and city trolley tracks, is the true beating heart of Arkham and the city traffic department's worst nightmare. The Arkham Savings Bank occupies the corner of High Lane and Cloyd Street, with the Alchemical Supply building the next address up Cloyd.
The Arkham suffragette chapter has just gotten off the train from Boston where they went to see Elizabeth Cady Stanton at Faneuil Hall. A few male hecklers follow in attendance.
The Alchemical Supply has been providing scientific apparatus to several generations of alchemists and scientists of the... um, "mad" variety. Their questionable endeavors usually fail, but certainly not for lack of quality in the materials they obtain here. Across the street is Arkham's post office. In the background is the Frank Belknap Bridge, also called the "Long" bridge.
The Sarnath Theater sits on the opposite corner of Downtown Crossing. It's a small venue, just 200 seats, mostly given over to vaudeville acts, traveling mind-readers, and itinerant magic shows. Posters out front advertise the coming attractions, including Harry Houdini and the great Alexander. The center poster reads: "'The DOOM' Comes To The Sarnath, Sept. 24-30." Buy your tickets in advance.
Moving back up the opposite side of Station Square... the visitor passes establishments like Lapham's Arcana Shop, the Dee Cab Co., the Lemuria Chop House & Oyster Parlor, Schuler's Tobacco Shop, and the offices of our newspaper, the Arkham Advertiser, with its gold-leaf cherub on the tower.

"Tucked obscurely away in a corner of the Arkham Advertiser was a facetious little item from the Associated Press, telling what a record-breaking monster the bootleg whiskey of Dunwich had raised up."
—HP Lovecraft,
"The Dunwich Horror"

The old mansion of the railroad's founder, Pecunius Beebe, sits on the corner of High Lane and Garrison, cattycorner from the station. Now it's the railroad's main offices. The venerable old building has seen better days and better managers... the railroad has fallen upon hard times. There's talk of selling out to the Boston & Maine. (Do you want to read a short history of the Miskatonic Railroad...? Click here.)
The ironfront Atlantis Fire & Marine Insurance Building is one of the newest in Arkham... built in 1887, twenty years ago. The steam dummy line to Bolton has a stop out front. It's been said that the heavily-draped room on the 4th floor holds a shrine to one of the Great Old Ones... and that a naked priestess regularly performs sacrifices there. In truth, at night when the angle is right, you can sometimes see a monstrous bronze statue and a nude figure. Few Arkhamites think this is remarkable. Everyone knows all insurance companies use some sort of black magic to generate their actuarial tables.
Across Garrison Street and beside the station, L.L. Derby's Fine Fashion and Furnishings anchors the corner. The rest of the workaday shops include the Olympia Fruit Market, the Danforth Bakery, and the Crescent Laundry.
Kemal "Charlie" Alhazred is a simple rug merchant from Aleppo. He's the portly man in the red fez, trying sell the elderly woman a new throw for her parlor. Not being a literary man, he doesn't understand why certain members of the Miskatonic University faculty give an involuntary shudder when they walk past and see his name above the door.
The Church of the Starry Wisdom has been a venerable and controversial Arkham landmark for many decades. It's said there are underground chapels and bone-filled catacombs beneath... and that mothers warn their children to stay away... well, who's to say. Not much is known about the church's modern-day rites, though most assuredly they're nothing like what happened several years ago at the congregation's sister church in Providence.
Behind the Starry Wisdom Church, in the shadow of the Peabody Avenue Bridge, is another Arkham landmark— the Old Squid Market. Arkham's once-thriving squid fishery at the mouth of the Miskatonic has declined, but there are still some squid fishers over in Innsmouth. Nowadays, the narrow alley is mostly a fish market for the local housewives, though fresh squid, pickled squid, barrels of squid oil, and casks of ink can still be readily found.

At the end of the alley, the Red Lantern is a drinking establishment best avoided by decent people— at least, the ones who want to keep their skulls and wallets intact.

These days, the neighborhood is called Crayken Square, and there's a pigeon-anointed statue of George Crayken, who was signer of the Declaration or some such. People have forgotten.

There's still a squid auction at the Obed Marsh warehouse every Thursday, and occasionally one can still see a big squid like in the old days, like this prize 27-foot Architeuthis just hauled up from Innsmouth. After the auction, it will be cut up and rendered in the trypots for squid oil.
The Obed Marsh warehouse still has broken windows and a general air of negelect ever since the riots a few years back. Some of Marsh's dockmen, Innsmouth folk all, were caught with a young... well, never mind.

"Some of the stories would make you laugh— about old Captain Marsh driving bargains with the devil and bringing imps out of hell to live in Innsmouth... that kind of story don't go down with me."
—HP Lovecraft,
"The Shadow Over Innsmouth"

"Don't scare the horses, kid!"

The new Peabody Avenue Bridge is a main route across the Miskatonic River from the University and residential districts on the other side. A horsecar takes the housewives to and from downtown.

Now we're on Water Street, the riverfront. From right to left sit the Gillman & Marsh Tea Co., the occult bookstore that offers "grimoires, incanti, esoterica, and hermetic texts," the Miskatonic Penny Savings Bank, and Blackwood's Clothing & Furnishings. There's street trackage down the middle of Water Street to connect with the steam dummy line and the dockside warehouses.
Blackwood's is a high-fashion enterprise, but more interesting is that they rent out their top floor to the young Dr. Herbert West. He's obviously a physician with a future... doing some fascinating experiments with re-animating dead tissue. Who knows where that will lead?
Next door to Blackwood's is the Canoptic Drug Store and Hanger's Artificial Limbs which is, interestingly, housed on the second floor. Lillibridge's Books is on the top floor... another supposedly haunted establishment with odd things to be seen in the windows at night. The founder supposedly disappeared in Providence in 1893, investigating the Starry Wisdom cult. Mrs. Stevens, the clairvoyant physician, is on the corner. Out in front, her maid is bargaining with the local rag-picker.
Garrison Street is Arkham's busiest north-south thoroughfare, and also the one most likely to be held up by switching moves, as Miskatonic RR engines jockey their cars to and from the warehouses.
Across Garrison, the Bensalem Building hosts a variety of enterprises. The mesmerists, Drs. Nikola and Mabuse, have set up shop selling questionable cures and "rubber goods." One of the shady mesmerists can be seen with a female patient in the bay window, doubtlessly trying to convince the young woman how theraputic it would be to reveal the combination to her husband's wall safe.

Next door, Messrs. Maskull and Nightspore offer astral travel for the adept, with tours of Tormance, Leng, and Barsoom a specialty. One would think they wouldn't have many clients, but some prominent Arkhamites, namely the Carter family— Randolph, John, and Nick— rely upon them heavily. Dr. Caligari's Cabinet, a curio shop, occupies the last address. Is that a shining trapezohedron in the window?

Up on the roof, Professor Pickering has his private observatory. Prof. Pickering is famous for having confirmed the sighting of those flashes on Mars a few years back. These days, he's searching for a ninth, trans-Neptunian, planet— which he calls Yuggoth, for some reason— which he's sure is there.

"I knew this strange, grey world was not my own,
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids..."
—HP Lovecraft,
"Fungi From Yuggoth"

Pickman's Art Gallery is next. Pickman himself, a well-known academician and master of the visual arts, can usually be seen on the upper floor, working on his decidedly odd and horrific creations.

"Morbid art doesn't shock me, and when a man has the genius Pickman had I feel it an honor to know him, no matter what direction his work takes."
—HP Lovecraft,
"Pickman's Model"

Past the horseless carriage dealer, one comes to the last business on Water Street before the train yards— the Bicycle Exchange. Here, the adventurous can rent bicycles and maps for a tour of the Miskatonic Valley. Don't ask them for recommendations about places to stop and eat, though. They might send you to a time-battered little house with an odd man and an odd book... with odd pictures...

"'As ye love the Almighty, young man, don't tell nobody, but I swar ter Gawd thet picter begun ta make me hungry for victuals I couldn't raise nor buy—here, set still, what's ailin' ye?—I didn't do nothin', only I wondered haow 'twud be ef I did—'"
—HP Lovecraft,
"The Picture in the House"

Oh, that's the 11:30 chime— time to get you back to the station.

Well, if you ever get the notion, Howard, come on back. I know there's not much to see here... Arkham is just a normal eastern Massachusetts town. Yeah, I know some things in our history seem a little strange, but it's not like we're haunted by them. I hear you're interested in writing. Well, you might find one or two good stories here. Give it some thought. Safe travels. See you next time...
A tour of H.P. Lovecraft's shadowy city...
Click on the pictures for larger images
The city of Arkham occupies one tip of my U-shaped HO layout, at the end of a peninsula that sticks into the room. The model is 4' x 4-1/2', about 18 square feet. It consists of close to 50 structures, 15 feet of track, 70 grain-of-wheat or grain-of-rice bulbs, 30 vehicles (give or take), and 200 figures.

The base is foam-core atop insulation foam, built up where necessary with Strathmore board. The cobblestone streets are laserprinted on 11" x 17" paper, cut out and mounted with spray glue. All the buildings are moveable for dusting— or in case I decide to swap them out for something better.

The city sits in the middle of the room, surrounded by decidedly out-of-scale and un-railroady things. This isn't much of a problem when examining the model in person, but it makes photography look like hell. So, for these shots, I used white foam-core backing boards...

All the structures close to the edge of the layout have interior detailing— some that aren't close have interiors too. All the major structures have interior lighting. It's going to take me years to wire everything together. For a feature on the lighting and interior detailing, click here.
The theater and the depot store/cigar factory are both paper models, built using printed siding over strathmore board and wood framing. Both structures had their inspiration in Salem, too.
The Arkham station is inspired by the grand old depot in Salem, Massachusetts. Sadly, it was torn down sixty years ago. Click here for a feature about building the model: "Deconstructing Arkham Station."
There are plenty of plastic kits in my city. The big problem was making them look aged enough to be believable as turn-of-the-century businesses. The Bensalem Building started out as a second-hand Walthers kit off of eBay. Got it because I needed something that size to fill the streetcorner.
Few architectural details scream "19th century!" louder than bay windows. I built a set using Evergreen styrene plastic and Tichy windows.
The signage, advertising quack cures, "rubber goods," and "Damaroids for Weak Men" was scanned from a real turn-of-the-century photograph. Gives the structure a nice, unwholesome character.
The Arkham Savings Bank also got a bay window treatment to age it. The building is an old Design Preservation Miniatures plastic kit recycled from my previous layout.
Here's another DPM kit. The cornice was "spooked up" using costume jewelry gewgaws from the craft store. The awnings and signs are all laserprinted.
The Arkham Advertiser occupies an old IHC plastic kit. Once more, jewelry craft store leftovers give the cornice some added interest.
Look through the glass doors of the Pabodie Museum and you can see those reliefs from the tomb of Nephren-Ka. They and the cornice decorations are made from more cheap craft store bracelet charms, beads and such. The building is another recycled piece from a former layout. It started life as a wood-and-cardboard kit from Classic Minatures.
The Alchemical Supply building is one of those wonderful old Magnuson resin kits. There's a Cthulhu shrine on the top floor, and a skylight above it to keep it visible even when the interior lighting is off.
Obed Marsh's decrepid warehouse is a building flat that helps "box in" the corners of the layout. I used three old Design Preservation Miniatures modular building walls, with the addition of home-made decals, broken glass and boards in the windows, and laserprinted posters.
The Auto Vehicle Co. and the Bicycle Exchange are two more paper-printed structures. I sampled the boards from a textures website and added the lettering with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The walls were then laserprinted and spray-glued on strathmore board. Windows and doors were castings from a variety of suppliers. The Auto vehicle Co. is inspired by a building in a photo of pre-WWI Los Angeles. It and the Bicycle Exchange are rebuilds of structures used on my old San Diego layout.
As a model, Arkham records my impressions of an old, grimy eastern Massachusetts city. Everything's dirty with coal smoke and weathered by harsh winters. There are plenty of pinnacles, spires, finials, towers, and steeples poking up into the grungy sky. I wanted everything to be brick and granite, old and sober, slightly creepy and slightly menacing.

Keeping with my Lovecraft theme, I tried to not let more than one or two buildings go by without at least some reference to the Lovecraft canon— or, if not Lovecraft, the classic fantasy and horror fiction from his era.

"The rats! The rats! The rats in the walls!"

I'll now retreat back within my wall and let you finish looking at the models. Thanks for looking in—

Click here for a legendary history of the Miskatonic Railroad.

Here's Arkham at the mercy of a Great Old One... setting up backing boards.

A little Photoshopping adds the Massachusetts grey sky and completes the fun. Eventually, I'll get around to painting backdrops.

First of all, are you lost? Need a map? Here's one. Click on it for a larger image.
Like one of the whole area? Click for a larger image.
There are plenty of other Lovecraft touches— Sometimes the references are subtle; sometimes less so.
Above: Dr. West's laboratory.
Left: Pickman's studio. Click here to see more interiors.
There are five shrines of the Old Ones scattered among the building interiors. With enough patience looking through tiny windows, an observer can find them all. Here's a closeup of the one on the top floor of the Alchemical Supply building.

Business names in Arkham are mostly taken from characters in Cthulhu mythos stories. Peering inside the buildings, you can see Lovecraft's characters at work— like the "Reanimator" Dr. Herbert West and the strange artist who makes horrific portraits, Richard Upton Pickman.