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October-ganza 9 : What do we know about Bolton?

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October 9, 2014 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

One of the towns in Lovecraft Country that has not yet been covered for the Call of Cthulhu RPG is Bolton, so I thought I might summarize what we do know, both from the fiction as well as from the game.

Bolton is first mentioned by Lovecraft in “Herbert West: Reanimator“.  In it we learn several details:

  • “a factory town near Arkham… The Bolton Worsted Mills are the largest in the Miskatonic Valley, and their polyglot employees are never popular as patients with the local physicians.”
  • There’s a Potter’s Field (near to which Herbert West takes up residence)
  • There are Italian, Polish, and African-American communities
  • “Bolton had a surprisingly good police force for so small a town” and the sport of boxing was banned but secret bouts still occurred frequently

There is a passing mention of Bolton in “The Rats in the Walls“, when Delapore, our narrator, mentions originally coming to Great Britain from that Massachusetts town, though no other details of the town are learned (save perhaps that one might grow wealthy enough living there to be able to buy and refurbish a ruin priory).

Finally in “The Colour Out of Space” we find a mention of “a timid windmill salesman from Bolton”.

Turning to RPG sources, most of our information on Bolton come from the scenario “Freak Show” (by Kevin Ross and Todd Woods) from Tales of the Miskatonic Valley.  In that scenario the Nichols Carnival (possibly inspired by a mention of a circus passing through Bolton in “Herbert West: Reanimator”) makes a stop in that town.  The scenario tells us that Bolton has a population of around 15,000, was founded on the banks of the James River (a tributary of the Miskatonic) around 1650 and incorporated in 1714.  A few locations within Bolton are referenced – such as a diner – but no further details are given.  The population and founding dates are repeated in the Lovecraft Country Gazetteer that was included in several subsequent Lovecraft Country products, adding to later versions that the town specializes in “shoes, leather goods, and textiles.”

(There is an actual Bolton in Massachusetts, but it is clear that Lovecraft’s rough factory town is not the small farming community in Worcester County.  Lovecraft mentions the passing through the real Bolton in a letter from 1934, but it is unclear when he learned of its existence.)

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