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The Milltrap Stone

Categories: Items of Mutual Interest

Introduction

The Milltrap Stone is a minor tourist attraction near the village of Black Brook, New York.  Discovered in 1821 by Taylor Milltrap, this monumental Stone bears the faded inscriptions celebrating the victories of Serpent Men empires long dead and forgotten.  His descendants continue to display the strange rock to the curious for a small fee.

 

Using the Stone in your game

The Milltrap Stone is intended serve as a bit of research color or possible side-investigation for Agents seeking more information on Aklo (such as during the scenario “Future Perfect, Part 1”.  It may also serve to fill-out a session when only a portion of your gaming group is available.  In that case, simply have A Cell assign one or more Agents the task of investigating the Stone, asses any connection to the Mythos, then report their findings.

 

A History of the Stone

The Milltrap Stone is a minor fragment of a long-lost Serpent Man city that once existed in what is now the St Laurence Valley.  Aeons of geologic change and several cycles of glaciations deposited it on the slopes of  Alder Hill west northwest of the village of Black Brook  It lay uncovered for millennia until former soldier Taylor Milltrap unearthed it while clearing farmland in 1821.  Recognizing its strange inscriptions and faded carving as unnatural, he displayed it as a curiosity to friends and neighbors.  Its remoteness and lack of publicity kept knowledge of it out of a wider circulation until 1869.

In that year a supposed petrified ‘giant’ was unearthed in nearby Syracuse, New York.  While eventually proved to be a hoax, the so-called ‘Cardiff Giant’ inspired Milltrap’s grandson Alexander to join in the frenzy generated by the ‘giant’ by inviting several reporters from the region to examine the Stone.  The Stone was moved from the side of Alder Hill and placed upright near one of the Milltrap’s barns.  Alexander Milltrap attempted to show that the Stone was proof that the colossal human figure found near Cardiff had been part of a wider civilization.  Unfortunately for the younger Milltrap, the Stone’s inscriptions were very faint and it lacked the drawing power of the ‘giant’.  An offer was made to sell the Stone to P.T. Barnum, but it was refused.

The Milltrap Stone remained a minor local tourist attraction for the next two decades, drawing in visitors from nearby Lake Champlain.  The Milltrap family supplemented their income with fees charged to pose with the Stone for a photograph as well as the sale of postcards, pies, and other baked goods.  This status quo ended with the death of Alexander Milltrap in 1895.  His eldest son Templeton found the Stone to be an unwholesome embarrassment to the family and had the Stone toppled and buried.

Suffering greatly in the Depression, Earl and Martha Chaplin, son-in-law and daughter of Templeton Milltrap uncovered the Stone, re-erected it, and set out to draw out public interest.  This time, instead of linking the Stone to the long-debunked ‘Cardiff Giant’, Earl and Martha claimed that the Stone was evidence of Viking explorers in the New World.  Ernest Hanson, a local proponent of a pre-Columbian discovery of America and enthusiastic crank, published several stories in regional newspapers papers giving a supposed translation of the Stone’s carvings, which he claimed were written in ‘Nordic Runes’.  These stories were picked up by a few national newspapers and after a few years the Chaplins were doing a brisk trade in pies, souvenirs, and Viking bric-a-brac.

By the 1950s the Stone had become a bona fide, if minor, tourist draw.  The Chaplins steadily added to the ephemera for sale by the Stone, and added increasingly elaborate legends about the Stone’s discovery, mystical properties, and importance.  The Stone also attracted the interest of fringe archaeologists and Fortean authors.  One of these researchers, Dr. Geno Yendris, published his theories about the Stone (along with a number of other rock carvings in the Northeast) in 1949 in the magazine X: Journal of the Uncanny.  Yendris claimed that the carvings were Phoenician, most likely Carthaginian, and further, had been carved by refugees of the Second Punic War.  A further upswing in interest in the Stone ensued.

Earl Chaplin Jr., seeking to further capitalize on the Stone’s draw (and hoping to expand the rather limited nature of their roadside attraction) began digging on Alder hill near where family tradition indicated the original had been found.  He unearthed several other boulders that, while being totally unrelated to the Stone, were of similar composition.  The fact that he created the “eerily smooth surfaces” was of no great concern to the unscrupulous huckster.

By the early 1960s the Stone had been joined by a small cluster of other glacial debris culled by the Chaplins.  A steel and concrete enclosure was erected overtop the Stone, along with a concessions stand and a visitors’ center (fully stocked with pamphlets and souvenirs).  Earl Jr. also converted part of a barn into a display center for “artifacts” discovered in the area.

In 1976, UFOlogist Francis Undwyn made reference to the Stone in his book Ancient Empires: The Extra-Terrestrial Roots of Human Society, proposing that the Stone is the remnant of some pre-human civilization erected by benevolent aliens who are soon to return to earth.  The Chaplins added his book and a number of alien junk to the gift shop and permitted him to conduct some wholly inconclusive excavations on Alder Hill

Today, the Milltrap Stone is counted as a minor oddity among cryptoarchaeologists, pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact theorists, UFOlogists, and other crackpots.  It has never been the subject of any serious archeological review or scientific examination (in no small part due to the Chaplin family’s refusal to allow it).  The Stone has been mentioned in a range of specialty books on related subjects and even has a poorly made and rarely updated webpage.

 

Investigating the Milltrap Stone

Agents seeking information on the Milltrap Stone will find a host of potential sources and an equal amount of frustration.  While many fringe sources discuss the Stone (several are uncovered at any medium-size library with a Library Use roll), they are almost all based on the publicity information produced by the Chaplins.  An Idea roll made after examining a few of these works give the reader the understanding that much of what is available is a regurgitation of the tourist pamphlet.  Any material covering topics beyond the basic facts (such as Undwyn’s book) is wholly speculative and of little use.  Most photographs accompanying these works do little to shed light on the supposed inscriptions and carving and instead show Earl Jr.’s interpretations of them.

Anyone making an Occult, halved Idea, or halved Computer Use roll can find a brief appearance of the Stones in a 1981 episode of the sensationalist paranormal documentary series Destination: Unknown.  Entitled “Destination: Ancient Explorers in America”, the episode shows footage of the show’s leisure-suit clad host discussing the Milltrap Stone and other discoveries like it while standing next to the Stone itself.  The segment lasts under one minute and the quality of the footage is murky at best; it provides no clear image of the inscription and reiterates the Viking theories of Ernest Hanson and Yendris’ Carthaginian proposal.   Copies of the episode exist on YouTube and for sale online.

Agents seeking further information on the Stone and succeeding in a Luck roll will find references to Dr. Yendris’s article in X magazine.  Unlike other sources, Yendris’ article contains a number of clear photographs of the Stone.  Unfortunately, surviving copies of X magazine are quite rare and are held only by a scant few collectors or a handful of circulating libraries; interlibrary loans are unavailable and any photocopies would be of such poor quality as to be unusable.  Diligence will pay off in 20-POW days when a source is uncovered from commercial sources; via either eBay or some other online source a copy can be purchased for $40.

While Dr. Yendris’ theories regarding the Carthaginian origins of the Stone are wildly off the mark, anyone examining an original copy of the article will be rewarded.  Those with the appropriate language skills can, with a successful roll, dismiss the notion that the faint inscription is in any known human tongue.  A Cthulhu Mythos skill roll will positively identify the language as Aklo.  The few surviving artistic figures (mostly sinuous humanoids) can as be positively identified with an Knowledge (Art History) roll as not conforming to any known prehistoric or ancient civilization, either in the Americas or world-wide.  The Stone’s inscriptions are too faint for a full translation, even by someone familiar with Aklo, but individual characters can be identified and a partial alphabet can be constructed; this may be of use to Agents attempting their own decipherment of the language.  Fragmentary mentions of Yig, military victories, and mass sacrifice can be definitely found.

The history of the Stone’s discovery and beyond (as outlined above) can also be uncovered by a careful search of libraries in the region, including the initial linkage of the Stone with the Cardiff Giant, the burial of the Stone, and the addition of other stones in the 1950s.

 

The Chaplin Farm

The Stone may be visited year-round on the Chaplin farm, dawn to dusk on every day but Sunday and major holidays.  The Chaplins have made sure that brochures for the Stone can be found at every motel and tourist destination within at least fifty miles of their farm and numerous signs point the way at every intersection within a roughly five-mile radius.

Those arriving at the entrance gate see a large sign saying “See the Milltrap Stone, Ancient Mystery for the Ages.  $5 per car dawn to dusk”.  A well-kept gravel road leads visitors a quarter mile to the Chaplin farm and the ‘visitors’ center’.  Up the road, the Chaplin farm consists of eight buildings, including three dedicated to the Stone.  The Chaplin farmhouse, two barns, a chicken coop, and tool shed are of no interest.  The other three buildings are the visitors’ center, the Stone’s enclosure, and a gift shop.

The visitors’ center is a converted garage.  A small display gives the ‘history’ of the Stone, from its discovery to the present day.  It is followed by a series of posters outlining the major theories of the Stone’s origins (Viking, Carthaginian, and alien) as well as some more obscure ideas (Mesoamerican, Mormon, Irish, Chinese, Egyptian, Hebrew, and Cuneiform).  A final display chronicles accounts of the Stone in the media and includes a copy of nearly every reference to the Stone that exists (including the X magazine article but not the Destination: Unknown episode).  All of the material presented was created or edited by the Chaplin family and it reflects their own biases and conceals or obscures certain facts, such as the “discovery” of the other Stones.

The Stone itself is secured beneath its 20’ high enclosure.  The stones form a obtuse angle, with the Stone itself in the center.  Plaques present each of the Stones and provide Earl Chaplin Jr.’s transcription of the inscriptions on the Stones.  The Stones are encircled by posts and chains that are intended to keep visitors out of arms’ reach.  Visitors are permitted to take photographs but not to take rubbings.  A trail leading from the enclosure leads visitors to the site (as best can be determined) on Alder Hill where the Stone was uncovered.  Aside from a weathered wooden sign giving the story of Taylor Milltrap’s discovery of the Stone, there is nothing of interest here.  A Geology or Natural History roll reveals that the location is part of a glacial moraine and that the Stone was almost certainly deposited here after the last period of glaciation.  (For more information about the Stone itself, see the section “The Stone” below.)

The gift shop (and concession stand) was built for its current purpose.  It sells souvenirs and snacks year-round, including post-cards, magnets, t-shirts, ceramic models of the Stones, booklets, and decorative spoons, not to mention hot dogs, pop corn, ice cream, fudge and (seasonally) pies hand-made by the Chaplin family.  To one side of the building are cut-outs that allow visitors to place their heads atop a Viking, a toga-clad ‘Phonecian’, and an alien.  Around the back is a public restroom.

Security on the Chaplin farm is light, intended against curious teens or anyone hoping to rob the gift shop.  The Stone is illuminated until midnight; a motion sensor will reactive the light after that point.  A commercial burglar alarm protects both the Chaplin farmhouse and the gift shop.  Lastly the Chaplin’s three dogs also provide some security.  Most Agents won’t have a problem overcoming such obstacles; the Chaplins are prone to calling the country sheriff is the suspect there is any trouble on the farm and the sheriff’s office is always quick to respond.

 

The Stone

The Stone is carved of a reddish-black anorthosite (a type of feldspar).  It is roughly trapezoidal in shape, with serious erosion marring one of the four sides.  It is eleven feet tall; its horizontal dimensions are 41” by 17” by 15” by 20”.  The largest side is almost perfectly smooth (aside from some cracking) and bears the majority of the extant inscriptions; the two wider sides being smooth but with an undulating appearance; the back side is irregular.  The other Stones (unearthed by Earl Jr.) are not nearly so regular and anyone making an Idea roll (or Geology x2 roll) can easily determine that they were cut recently.

A geologist looking at the Stone can identify its Stone of composition and can estimate that the surfaces have been subject (probably) to centuries of exposure… or a harsh chemical bath.  A Geology roll reminds the inspector that this variety of anorthosite is not naturally occurring in this portion of New York State and was most likely transported to this site by some natural or human actor.  An analysis of the Stone (something the Chaplins will definitely not allow) will confirm that the erosion was natural and that the Stone itself is at least 25 million years old; dating the inscription is impossible but the weathering suggests many centuries of exposure.  Agents who somehow conduct scientific testing of the Stone will come to the realization that it is far more ancient that human civilization must succeed an Idea roll or otherwise lose 1 point of Sanity.  As previously mentioned, while the inscription is fragmentary, an Aklo roll allows individual words and short phrases (mostly in praise of Yig or for some unknown Serpent Man leader) to be detected.

WinstonP (aka Bret Kramer) is a Call of Cthulhu author and Delta Green fan. He live in Lovecraft Country with his family, most of which are furred and four-legged, though he insists he unrelated to the Martenses.
  1. THE MAN IN BLACK
    This article could really use some scenario seeds. Maybe an Awakened Serpent Man needs the stone for some ritual to Yig that could locate or awaken a lot of Sperpent Folk? Maybe there is a Gate component hidden inside the stone that links to the Future Perfect scenario? Maybe someone who collects mythos artifacts just outright steals the stone without realizing it's true purpose of creating a gateway into the Dreamlands for Yig to pass through.
    • winstonp
      Please be my guest to come up with some scenario seeds and we'll add them to the entry. This has been an orphan on my hard drive for several years now, so I'm happy to make some changes.

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