The Altar in the Hills and Other Weird Tales by Brandon Barrows


From the title story, which pays homage to the work of New England writer of weird tales Howard Phillips Lovecraft

Theodore Wallace
c/o Drummer Hotel
9 Church Str.
Drummer, New Hampshire

August 3rd, 1921

Master Bertram Kincaid
44 Cottonwood Lane
Montville, Connecticut

My dear Bert –

It’s been some time since I’ve written, though I did receive your letter this past Christmas and have simply not found the time to respond; churlish, I know, but I hope you won’t hold it against me. Life has been hectic with studies at the University and especially with work progressing apace on my master’s thesis. Professor Wilmarth has taken me a bit under his wing and helped direct my researches to the proper areas of study. As you know, I’m working on a paper analyzing the integration of the old native pagan beliefs, still found in pockets around our own good old New England, with the formalized belief systems of the various Christian denominations settlers brought with them from Europe. It’s really fascinating stuff, trying to determine what tidbit came from where and Wilmarth’s extensive (though amateur, according to his own assessment) knowledge of New England folklore has been invaluable in focusing my work.

I’ve spent the last four months traveling to corners of Maine and New Hampshire, visiting villages scarcely changed from their founding, interviewing people who barely know it’s the twentieth century, much less have entered it. There’s a treasure trove of untapped history in these places, Bert. This is the real New England – raw and rough, with people who not only survive, but thrive away from the modern comforts we’ve grown so used to. And the things they tell me, why they’re positively arcane. Some of the stories, tales they believe as firmly as they know the sky is blue, seem so utterly naïve you’d think this was Europe in the Dark Ages, rather than the Industrial Age of the United States. Well, I suppose you’ll read all about it when my thesis is published, as I’m sure it will be.

But I’m digressing a bit from the real reason I’m writing. As you probably saw, I’m writing this from a little hamlet in the north of New Hampshire called Drummer. It’s not terribly far, as the crow flies, from Lancaster, where I’ll have to head to mail this tomorrow or the next day and maybe soak up a bit of civilization before moving on. If I recall correctly from our school days together, your own people hail from this general neck of the woods a few generations back.

I came here chasing a story about some sort of heathen altar built up in the hills that old Cotton Mather makes passing reference to in his Magnalia Christi Americana, though basically just to say good Christians should keep their distance. I couldn’t find any other mention of it in Miskatonic’s library and when I mentioned it to Wilmarth, the fact that even he knew very little about it piqued my interest a good deal. Well, the folks here are quaint, to say the least, and mostly friendly though it took more than a bit of coaxing to get any information at all about this hunk of stone.

They don’t get many visitors and mentioning the thing just shut everyone down at first – fearing the thing is regarded as the healthiest attitude towards it. Once they warmed up to me, with the introduction of a sympathetic local, I at least found out its location and took a little visit up there myself, though I couldn’t see what the big to do was. It’s certainly man-made, but it’s not covered in Satanic script or anything and the area it’s in is really quite pleasant. Supposedly it’s a different story under the light of a full moon; they tell me it becomes a demon-haunted place where the foulest of rituals are practiced. Nobody who’d talk to me has seen anything for themselves, of course – it’s just one of those things they take as a given. I’ve been here over a week now and I haven’t decided if I’ll stay to find out the truth for myself, though the full moon is coming up in a few days or so.

Well, Bert, old boy, I should be wrapping this up. I’m sorry if I bored you with my scribblings, but I did owe you a letter and being so close to your homeland made me feel even guiltier.

I hope this letter finds you well and busy enough that my lack of writing didn’t sour you on your old chum Ted. I plan to spend a couple weeks traveling down through Vermont, on Wilmarth’s advice, and on my way home to Arkham, I’ll take the long way around and circle down to you for a visit. If all goes to plan, I’ll be seeing you sometime in mid-September and I’ll be sure to bring along a jug of that hard cider I know you love.

With warmest regards,

Theodore Wallace

– Brandon Barrows, “The Altar in the Hills”, Raven Warren


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