Contents     Previous: Essex Coast     Next: Gloucester

Cape Ann

The next morning I got off to an early start. My plan was to circle all of Cape Ann in a clockwise direction, looking for cliffs and headlands of dizzying height, reminiscent of the cliffs Lovecraft describes on the coastline around Innsmouth.

In the event, the whole cliff idea kind of fell through. Although Cape Ann is rather hilly in places, and the shoreline is sometimes rocky, in my observation the hills all shelved off fairly gradually to the ocean. Actually, much of the California coast matches Lovecraft's description more closely than anything I've seen in Massachusetts. One can't help wondering where he really saw such cliffs; perhaps somewhere else in New England?

Halibut Point St. Park
None of this changed the fact that Cape Ann has some very pleasant scenery and many charming seaside communities. After taking in the west coast, I stopped in the north at Halibut Point State Park. I took a hike there that amply repaid my efforts.

First you enter a pathway so densely surrounded by trees and bushes as to be a virtual tunnel. 

Old Quarry

Shortly thereafter, the path leads to an old stone quarry. Its proximity is announced by signs that warn of hazardous drops. The quarry is a rectangle hewn out of the solid rock, with vertical rock walls on all sides, filled to an unknown depth by a steel-blue lake. What compelled these people to quarry for rocks underwater? Surely it can't have been very convenient. Not a ripple stirs the surface, aside from those created by some sea birds. Another sign is posted to warn you to not even think about swimming in there. (There is no indication of what happened to the people who tried.)

Although reason tells you that this lake is an artifact of recent human origin, the impression it gives is of trans-Saturnian antiquity. I thought of Sarnath the Doomed and shuddered.

"Strange High House"
I proceeded past the cursed tarn down to the shore. The footing is very uneven and rocky, but generally not too difficult. I was intrigued to spot a lone cottage in the distance perched among the rocks. Could it be . . . the Strange High House? The "Keep Away - Private Property" signs were certainly menacing. I circled around it, keeping a low profile and listening carefully for spectral music. Only the mournful sighing of the breeze caressed my ears.

(This house and the surrounding area later provided material for my digital collage of the Strange High House.)


Halibut Point

After I turned back, I started noticing small rock structures piled here and there. Some of them formed miniature, foot-tall towers. Another resembled a segment of Stonehenge. I could only surmise that local people, perhaps children, had erected these structures to assist in their pagan nature worship.

It began to seem to me that I had gone too far, and should have regained the upward path by now. At length I realized that I was, indeed, far astray, with a steep rock wall, forming evidently the seaward side of the quarry, to my left, and the surging ocean booming to my right. Was the tide rising? I began to feel anxious. Out of the corner of my eye, I repeatedly glimpsed what seemed to be persons, standing nearby, but on turning to face them, all I would see was another rock. Perhaps there were entities here that would not allow me to leave . . .

Somehow I slogged my way up a very difficult part of the slope and regained the path by the quarry.

The east coast of Cape Ann was much the same as what had gone before, except that Rockport was the first town I visited that had parking meters posted everywhere. The predominance of free parking on New England towns had been a great pleasure up to that point.

Before long, I was in East Gloucester. I was hoping to find a headland called Mother Ann, because Donovan Loucks quotes one of HPL's letters as stating that he had this in mind when writing of Kingsport Head, site of the Strange High House in the Mist. Loucks states that Mother Ann is "a rocky cliff at the far south end of Eastern Point, near the lighthouse, which was the outline of a buxom woman."

I didn't make it far enough to see Mother Ann. In any case, as you proceed on the road into Eastern Point, there are more and more signs posted saying "Private Road-Keep Out." From the way things are posted, it appears that the only way to the breakwater and lighthouse is through a private yacht club, which bears still more of these unwelcoming signs. I decided to beat a hasty retreat before some billionaire's lackey came out to shoot me. (Donovan Loucks has written to say that you can safely follow Eastern Point road all the way to the light house. He confirmed that he saw Mother Ann there, and that it's not very tall. )


While in East Gloucester, I chanced upon "Beauport," also known as the Sleeper-McCann House; another S.P.N.E.A. site with, of course, no photography allowed inside. As I was standing out in the parking lot, some fellow inside yelled to ask whether I was taking the tour. Making a spur of the moment decision, I answered in the affirmative; at which point he yelled at me to hurry up because they were already leaving. I hastened to pay my dues, and on joining the others was instructed to don hospital-blue booties over my shoes, as everyone else had already done.

The Sleeper-McCann house was erected back in the 20's or 30's by a collector with inherited wealth, who later turned professional interior decorator to support his habit. Apparently he used to drive around the countryside buying up parts of old houses that were about to be demolished. He would bring back these things-fancy windows or mantelpieces or paneling-and build a new room to make use of them. He actually kept adding new rooms every summer for a couple of decades. His neighbors to the north were so thrilled with this activity that they erected a huge "spite wall" to block his view in their direction. Anyway, Mr. Sleeper was pals with many of the wealthy, upper crusty types in New England. He would ring a huge bell to invite the rich family across the harbor to come over and eat, and they'd sound a huge fog horn to accept. It must have been quite a life.

Contents     Previous: Essex Coast     Next: Gloucester

Return to Cthulhu Mythos home page

Send comments to

Copyright 1997, 2004 by Joseph Morales