The Stockrooms

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The Stockrooms (AKA "Back Rooms") originated as an urban legend surrounding an eerie photograph distributed on the internet in 2019; adapted for Call of Cthulhu gaming by YSDC contributors.

Description, Geography, History, Landmarks

The Stockrooms

The stockrooms embody the concept of kenopsia - "the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that's usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet."
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

The Stockrooms are a strange borderland on the edge of reality, sparsely populated by Shadow People and other, stranger beings, and occasionally entered accidentally by unwilling explorers who fall through the "thin places" in the walls of reality.

The location of the Stockrooms is uncertain, but some speculation by experienced mystics and other investigators suggest that they are located on the Astral Plane in a way similar to the Dreamlands, in an unusually "real" region of those worlds which can be physically entered and explored by material beings; if so, they would appear to have been Dreamed into reality by an unusually powerful Dreamer from Earth or some other, alien world.

The Stockrooms are located just beyond the boundaries of the natural world, accessible through hidden doors at the "thin spots" between that world and this; the doors are difficult to find, and entrances in the natural world are often hidden behind wall paneling, deep within neglected closets or forgotten rooms, or in other disused or unexpected places; the doorways and the Stockrooms beyond them are extra-dimensional, and would be impossible actually fit into a normal space - for example, a door to the Stockrooms may be located behind an unlikely wall of a disused attic, discovered only by hearing the hum of the lights behind a false wall, and the door will open upon miles of twisting corridors and cubicles that could not possibly fit in the attic space.


Geography and Features

The Stockrooms take the form of a labyrinth of bland, seemingly random partial rooms and corridors, covered in damp, molding yellow carpeting, yellowing walls covered in stained, leprous, yellow wallpaper of generic design, and simple, doors painted in old, flaking cream paint, perpetually lit to varying degrees from overhead by humming and flickering light panels of strange design set into damp-stained cork ceiling tiles; the Stockrooms are mostly eerily silent, the humming of the lights are generally the only sounds encountered in the Stockrooms, except in the rare occasions that other living beings are encountered; the lights resemble modern fluorescent lighting (an invention that would not see widespread commercial application until after the 1930s), but actually operate by unknown means, with the "bulbs" remaining lit after removal from their fixtures, growing dimmer as they are moved more than a couple feet from a fixture, and being extinguished and going inert when removed from the Stockrooms, analysis suggesting they are only solid, milky white glass tubes.

Inside the Stockrooms, exits are difficult to locate; when doors are encountered, they lead to more of the same, bland corridors, or sometimes stairwells to other, darker, stranger levels, storage rooms with mysterious contents, and sometimes dimly-lit rooms.

The Stockrooms appear to be virtually endless, and almost "randomly-generated" or "procedurally-generated": the corridors, rooms, and chambers meander aimlessly for miles and miles with no end in sight. Sometimes "zones" or "areas" appear which are different in appearance from the yellow areas: different walls and flooring, for example; there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the changes in decor and architecture, though, and these areas would be mistaken for exits from the Stockrooms if not for the way they seem to be connected directly to the yellow areas, or for their consistently aimlessness and lack of comprehensible design, and their disquieting emptiness.

Explorers who have reported discovering stairwells into deeper (or sometimes higher) levels typically report more of the same sorts of corridors, usually increasingly more dimly-lit, and sometimes described with larger rooms and chambers of potentially cavernous scale and size.

Some explorers have reported descending into the "Furnace Rooms", dark, damp areas apparently of utility purpose multiple levels below the entrance level, which are assumed to be the areas which circulate damply-conditioned air into the levels above, power for the mysterious lighting panels, or other, less easily-identified utilities; enclosed storage rooms are more likely to be found in the Furnace Rooms, usually containing puzzling contents such as boxes of folders full of papers printed in unknown languages, disassembled mannequins of human or sometimes inhuman form, miscellaneous debris, odd furniture, heaps of moldering clothing in random outdated fashions, equipment of unknown purpose, tools and instruments, large tanks of stagnant water with dispensers of paper cups bolted to the side, machinery and vehicles ranging from bicycle-like devices to large engines of unknown types, and other, less easily-identified objects and debris, often apparently stolen from the natural world by the Stockrooms' inhabitants and left there for storage for unknown reasons.


Lost in the Stockrooms

Explorers of the Stockrooms frequently disappear while inside this borderland, the doors to the Stockrooms vanishing with them, leaving behind little or no trace of their doom more substantial than, for example, the occasional diary entry describing the strange discovery, filled with confusing, contradictory, and impossible maps of the labyrinth the explorer discovered. Missing explorers may have simply gotten lost forever in the Stockrooms, though other, more sinister possibilities have been theorized by mystics and other investigators familiar with this land.

Explorers have on a few occasions reported finding traces of previous expeditions into the Stockrooms, including messages scrawled onto the walls, diaries, notes, and maps, and sometimes makeshift occult or scientific laboratories or shrines and temples. Occasionally, search parties have reported finding the remains of previous explorers, apparently lost or trapped in the Stockrooms, where they eventually died of thirst or starvation, or other, less identifiable causes of death likely due to exposure,or even suicide.

There are occasional unconfirmed rumors of identifiable remains being found, or even of living people being found in the Stockrooms, but some investigators of the Stockrooms have come to believe that some remains discovered in the Stockrooms do not necessarily belong to former inhabitants of the natural world, and speculate that the Stockrooms may be connected to alien worlds or other dimensions through hidden and undiscovered doors deeper in the labyrinth, and explorers sometimes report finding strange exits hidden in the Stockrooms which they claim or believe might lead to other worlds; there are even unconfirmed rumors of travelers from other worlds finding their way to Earth after losing their way and discovering the door into the natural world. The mystic, The Great Garibaldi, has suggested that the Stockrooms might thus act as a sort of "shortcut" for traveling between worlds, for those who can find a reliable, consistent path between doors, though if any such path has ever been found, that revelation has thus far been a well-kept secret....


The Stockroom Expedition (1970s)

There are persistent but unconfirmed rumors within metaphysical circles of a large expedition (simply called "The Stockroom Expedition") to explore the Stockrooms in the late 1970s, when as many as two dozen students of an unidentified mid-western US college were supposed to have accompanied two of their professors (usually specified as a physics professor and philosophy professor), through a door in their school's basement service tunnels into the Stockrooms, armed with movie cameras, rope and paint for marking their way through the rooms and corridors, a sledgehammer, pick, and other tools, surveying equipment, compasses, wireless radios, backpacks with food, water, and other supplies, stacks of notepads and graphing paper for taking notes and mapping the area, and more. Supposedly, a record describing the expedition's proposed methods described how the expedition would leave four students at the door to "anchor" the expedition to its exit - two students camped on each side of the door to be relieved in regular shifts by other students returning from deeper inside the Stockrooms.

According to this legend, the entire expedition - including the students on the natural side of the door, vanished without a trace, and none of the group's remains or their equipment or pathfinder marks have ever been discovered; the school was according to the legend supposed to have covered up all evidence of The Stockroom Expedition, with the missing students and professors improbably unreported to newspapers by authorities.

Some versions of The Stockroom Expedition legend refer to the door to this alternate world being located in the basement of a local department store, rather than the college basement, with the supposed assumed purpose of these rooms for the building being taken from this version of the legend: two of the students, working part-time at the department store to make ends meet, were supposed to have regularly taken breaks "in the stockrooms" to use illicit drugs, before realizing just how unnaturally large the area was, and then organizing short parties and tours of The Stockrooms to other students until the professors got involved.

By some accounts, no evidence of the expedition can be found in this world, because it was launched from another, parallel world connected to the Stockrooms, with sketchy details related by a handful of survivors who were able to escape to this world. There are good reasons to doubt all versions of the legend, but the story's link to the legend, with its mix of weirdly consistent and wildly inconsistent details marks it as a notable curiosity relating to this strange borderland.


The King in Yellow and Hastur Mythos

The leprous yellow wallpaper and carpeting, along with the feverish dimensions and eerie distortions in space and time associated with this eldritch location, may suggest a direct connection to the King in Yellow.


Inhabitants

The Stockrooms reportedly border on other Other Dimensions and Worlds, especially on the Astral Plane, Other Side, and Dreamlands. Other types of beings have been encountered in the Stockrooms besides Shadow People, including Dimensional Shamblers, Hounds of Tindalos, Zoogs, and other, stranger beings. Various Elementals, Spirits and Ghosts, "Demons", and other strange entities might also haunt some of the most desolate corners of the Stockrooms as well.

Some of the Stockrooms' dimly-lit storage closets contain Shadow People or other, even stranger beings. Shadow People often seem to be "stuck" in the rooms, until accidentally or deliberately freed by explorers, for example by leaving the door open, or sometimes by inviting the Shadow People to leave, or summoning them from the rooms, or other means - the rules for binding and releasing these Shadow People seem to be arbitrary and inconsistent, and it is uncertain whether the Shadow People are truly bound to their rooms, and if the rituals for freeing them actually work, or if the Shadow People choose to leave on their own, mysterious motives when some subjective criteria is met to catch their attention and motivate them to leave. Once "freed", the Shadow People may pursue human investigators, or follow them out of the Stockrooms out of curiosity, or simply wander free, leading the investigator deeper into the Stockrooms for mysterious purposes of their own. It may be that investigators lost to the Stockrooms have been taken by pursuing Shadow People, though no one has ever seen a lost investigator again to prove this or any other theory. Because Shadow People are among the more frequently-reported inhabitants of the Stockrooms, explorers of the realm speculate that Shadow People may originate from the Stockrooms, though there is little definite proof of this.

Most of the other alien entities and all of the human ones reportedly encountered in the stockrooms do not seem to have originated there, however, but instead may be travelers or pioneers there, or have found there way there by accident, slipping through the "thin spots" in reality to be trapped there just as surely as human visitors.


Created by Accident

Some investigators recount rumors that the Stockrooms were created accidentally, as a consequence of some sort of nameless metaphysical experiment performed by occultists at some earlier point in history, the date varying by account: it's not clear whether the experiment created the realm, or simply opened the door to it, and it's possible that the conflicting dates and details in these accounts represent multiple experiments with the same result of opening a door to an existing world. The rumors seem to agree, however, that the Stockrooms represent an aberration in space and time that represents some sort of mistake or accident of creation which was never supposed to have been seen or accessed by mortal eyes.


Gaslight Rumor

Several accounts also exist of one or more Victorian era expeditions by Spiritualists attempting to make contact with spirits on "The Other Side". These accounts describe the Stockrooms as a construct of the "Spirit World", perhaps a sort of afterlife, in a way that suggests that they were a darker, more orderly and limited place in that era, populated with "spirits" who resisted any attempts at meaningful communication. Some accounts in that era describe furniture in the rooms, such as couches, lamps, and dining tables, situated in otherwise empty "dim and doorless houses".


1920s Rumor

One account places the experiment in the 1920s, at a "Dreaming Party" conducted by the magician "The Great Garibaldi", in which a group seminar on Astral Projection and "Intentional Mutation" failed catastrophically, ripping the fabric of space-time and opening a door into the Stockrooms. The tear reportedly required the cooperation of a group of mystics working together to repair the wound in reality, with Garibaldi speculating afterward that the Stockrooms were "coterminous with reality", virtually endless, and possibly connected to other dimensions and worlds. The was the first reported report of "tears", "wounds" or "thin spots" in reality which would become a routine characteristic of accounts of contact with the strange dimension, suggesting the possibility that this experiment was the original cause of accidental entries into The Stockrooms. This was also the first account of hostile entities being encountered in that dimension.


Associated Mythos Elements


References

  • Inspired by the CreepyPasta/Urban Legend as detailed at Wikipedia: The Backrooms