by Jamie Anderson and Andrew Leman
played on November 20-22, 1992, in the Quad Cities, Illinois/Iowa

Four private investigators are hired by the only surviving son of Abraham Lincoln to uncover the truth about the fate of John Wilkes Booth. Their investigation leads them to incredible secrets of dark forces working at the highest levels of power, and hints at their own unimagined roles in one of history’s great tragedies.

Black Tentacles
This game won four BT awards: Best Plot, Best Artifact, Best Costume, and Best Keepers. The Artifact award went to The Lincoln Homonculus, made by Andrew Leman. The Costume Award went to the John Wilkes Booth ensemble, designed by Andrew Leman and worn by Vince Gatton.

The game earned a couple of honorary certificates as well. Gail Stern won the Carl Swithins “Excessive Force” Award for her precipitation of the hostage crisis which ended the game in so much bloodshed. Julie Anderson received the Esmerelda Hobbs “Grace Under Fire” Award for her self control and the manner in which she managed to hide the NPCs in her house while the Investigators were present.

Game Notes
The unlikely title of the game comes from a song of the same name by the group Alice in Chains, which Jamie suggested as the theme music of the game. It contains the lyrics:
“I want you to kill me...
I have never felt such frustration/
Or lack of self control.”
The title was fitting in other ways as well, as it suggested the “dirt” the Investigators uncovered surrounding the government plots behind two presidential assassinations, and a theme of decay throughout the game (Robert Lincoln’s disease, the sad state of Booth and Lincoln, not to mention the Investigators’ repeatedly humiliating and continually worsening encounters with the NPCs...).

Truth is stranger than fiction. Many of the story ideas in the game came from Keeper research into the many actual conspiracy theories surrounding the Lincoln assassination. The character of Bernie Babcock was based on (and named after) a real-live person, the author of Booth and the Spirit of Lincoln, a 1925 book which served as a major inspiration for a number of plot points. Other works highly influential in the plot development were The Lincoln Conspiracy, by David Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, Jr., and The Death of Lincoln by Leroy Hayman. In the course of doing research, the Keepers accumulated a small library of fascinating vintage Lincoln conspiracy literature, and learned a wealth of amazing facts; for example: Booth’s diary really is missing 18 pages, there really were reports that Booth survived under assumed names until the early 1900s, the Lincolns really did consult psychics, the other occupants of the Lincolns’ theatre box on the night of the assassination really did meet with mysterious deaths, Edwin Stanton’s death fetish of sorts, Lincoln’s purported ESP ability, etc.... There are also various real-life theories and suspicions about the death of President Warren G. Harding. There are many who believe that his sudden death in 1923 from “food poisoning” was really a covert assassination. His corrupt Attorney General, Harry Daugherty, has been suspected of involvement, and some have even implicated Harding’s wife.

The Keepers also learned a great deal about Civil War espionage, political machinations, and cryptography, and the foundation of the Secret Service. The codes used in the Davis & Brown files are well explained in the book Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Languages by Fred B. Wrixon.

Robert Lincoln, only surviving son of Abraham Lincoln, really was an old man afflicted with acute conjunctivitis in 1923. The Keepers intended to use a stage makeup product called “augenblut” to simulate the redness of Lincoln’s eyes, but could not obtain any of the stuff in the Quad Cities. So we had to settle for some heavy red eyeliner: not nearly the startling effect we were going for. C’est la jeu.

The Lincoln Mansion scenario was played in the beautiful and gigantic mansion of Keith Meyers in Davenport, Iowa. The bizarre decorating scheme and typewriter collection were all his. The seance scenario was played at the Jewel of Rock Island, a tea parlor owned by the extremely helpful Karla Kruckenberg, who also let us use her farm, complete with barn and horses, as the location of the finale. Keepers’ thanks to both of them.

Although the first few scenarios of the game are set in Chicago and its suburbs, with the Investigators supposedly traveling by train to the Quad Cities halfway through, in reality the entire game was played in the Quad Cities and the train journey was completely imaginary. Though it would have been nice to start in the real Chicago, the Keepers had no appropriate locations there.

The Davis & Brown scenarios were played in the offices of an insurance company where Katia Herbst worked. When the Investigators returned to “break in,” one of the Investigators was given a key to the door which served as a “lock picking kit.”

There was tremendous confusion setting up for the final scenario, when Karla and everyone else at the horse farm location went to bed, leaving the place completely dark and apparently deserted. In the end, Vince and Andrew, as Booth and the creature, ended up waiting for the players for what seemed like (and almost was) hours. Vince, wearing little more than a burlap sack, nearly froze, and Andrew's puppet hand was almost completely numb from being over his head for so long.

Gail Stern sort of took the game into her own hands at the end when she spontaneously decided, without Keeper approval, to take a hostage going into the final confrontation. She further complicated matters by only “pretending” to be dead after she was shot: a tenuous position at best, given the imaginary nature of the entire proceeding.

The Keepers wish to acknowledge Vince Gatton for the idea of the reincarnation subplot. Although it didn’t fully pan out as nicely as it should have, it was a great added dimension to the game.

The Keepers asked the players to fill out questionnaires about their characters prior to the game. This served two purposes: first it gave the players a chance to do a little character development, and second it gave the Keepers some handwriting samples so that they could try to mimic the styles in some of the handwritten prop letters that would be found later in the game.

After the game, Kevin O’Brien left the painstakingly forged Booth Diary pages in the pocket of his pants when they went through the laundry: the Keepers were not pleased.

The Keepers freely acknowledge that the amazing coincidence of Harry Wells working on a case directly tied to the Booth investigation is by far the lamest part of the plot. However, the time constraints imposed by the game required a certain amount of deus ex machina to keep things rolling along.

This game features New World Incorporated, a fictional company created by Keith Herber in the Call of Cthulhu adventure “The Fungi from Yuggoth.” NWI and its evil chairman, Edward Chandler, have made frequent appearances in Cthulhu Lives games. The implied ties between fictional NWI and the real Chaffey Company were a source of much amusement for the Keepers.