|The||Creeper in the Crypt|
By ROBERT BLOCK
A tale of stark horror in a gangster's hide-out in the dread cellar of an evil house in legend-haunted Arkham
In Arkham, where ancient gables point like wizard's fingers to the sky, strange tales are told. But then, strange tales are always current in Arkham. There is a tale for every rotting ruin, a story for every little corpse-eye window that stares out at the sea when the fog comes up.
Here, fantastic fancy seems to flourish, nourished at the shriveled witch-paps of the town itself, sucking the graveyards dry of legend, and draining at the dark dugs of superstition.
For Arkham was a queer place, once; abode of witch and warlock, familiar and fiend. In olden days the King's men cleared the town of wizardry. Again, in 1818, the new Government stepped in to destroy some particularly atrocious burrows in and about some of the more ancient houses and, incidentally, to dig up a graveyard better left untouched. Then, in 1869, came the great immigrant panic in Old Town Street, when the moldering mansion of Cyrus Hook was burned to the ground by fear-crazed foreigners.
Even since then there have been scares. The affair of the "witch-house" and the peculiar episodes attendant upon the fate of certain missing children at All-Hallows time have caused their share of talk. But that isn't why the "G-men" stepped in. The Federal Government is usually uninterested in supernatural stories. That is, they were, up to the time I told the authorities about the death of Joe Regetti. That's how they happened to come; I brought them.
Because, you see, I was with Joe Regetti just before he died, and shortly after. I didn't see him die, and I'm thankful for that. I don't think I could have stood watching if what I suspect is true.
It's because of what I suspect that I went to the Government for help. They've sent men down here now, to investigate, and I hope they find enough to convince them that what I have told them is actual fact. If they don't find the tunnels, or I was mistaken about the trap-door, at least I can show them Joe Regetti's body. That ought to convince anybody, I guess.
I can't blame them for being skeptical, though. I was skeptical myself, once, and so were Joe Regetti and his mob, I suppose. But since then I have learned that it is wiser not to scoff at what one does not understand. There are more things on earth than those who walk about upon its surface—there are others that creep and crawl below.
I had never heard of Joe Regetti until I was kidnapped. That isn't so hard to understand. Regetti was a gangster, and a stranger in the town. I am descended from Sir Ambrose Abbott, one of the original settlers.
At the time of which I speak, I was living alone in the family place on Bascom Street. The life of a painter demands solitude. My immediate family was dead, and although socially promi-