An Oral History Of Our Magazine’s Decision To Print The “Message From The Elder Gods” Advertorial

Sonia Greene, Editor in Chief: I want everyone to know that we didn’t solicit the advertorial. Nobody from this magazine went to the Lovecraft Institute and asked them if they wanted to do an advertorial. They came to us first.

Whipple Van Buren, Vice President for Business Management: We’re hemorrhaging money, just like every other publication. It’s not a secret. Advertorials are a no-brainer, as far as I’m concerned.

Sarah Phillips, General Manager: When we got the offer from the Lovecraft Institute, I wanted to turn it down. But they offered us three times our going rate. We’re skating on the verge of bankruptcy as it is, and we had the printer’s union breathing down our necks for concessions in collective bargaining. We didn’t really have a choice.

Dexter Ward, Shop Steward, Allied Printing Union, Local #1890: Oh, sure, they’re blaming all of this on the union. Typical. Did you ask them about their bonus structure? Anyway, this was management’s decision. We just print what they give us to print. We don’t ask questions. Well, maybe this time we should have asked some questions.

Arthur Jermyn, Account Manager: The guy from the Lovecraft Institute comes in the office, and he hands me this silver key. Very ornate, very elaborate. It’s carved with these words in this foreign language that I don’t even begin to understand. So I say, “This is nice, but where’s the content for the advertorial?” He breaks the end of the key open, and there’s a USB connector. “Just plug this in,” he says. That was good enough for me. He handed me the suitcase with the money inside, and he was gone.

Herbert West, Accounts Receivable: The suitcase turns out to be full of these gold coins with this weird image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or something. I took them over to this cash-for-gold place, and they said they were for-real, and I was able to sell them for just about the amount that the Institute had agreed to pay. I didn’t think anything of it until later, when the blood started oozing out of the walls.

Erica Zann, Senior Art Director: I was very careful with the silver key. It just looked so odd. Beautiful, mind you, Compelling in its way. But it could have all sorts of weird viruses or Trojans or I don’t even know what. I plugged it in to an old computer that didn’t have any network connections. And then I looked at the advertorial. Sixteen pages, beautifully formatted, I looked over it, because when you get stuff like this from advertisers, there’s usually some sort of problem – spelling errors, margins out of place, stuff copied from who-knows-where. This was flawless. Unhinged, a little bit, I’ll grant you, but the design was incredibly well-done. Everyone who looked at it thought so–well, the ones who are still alive, that is.

Henry Armitage, former Associate Art Director, current resident, Arkham State Psychiatric Hospital: When I looked at the advertorial, THE SPIRIT OF YOG-SOTHOTH AWAKENED DEEP WITHIN ME, AND I BECAME COMPELLED TO DO HIS UNHOLY BIDDING.

Greene: We had the money in the bank, and the art department had signed off on the advertorial. So I approved it. You could tell it was a little odd, sure. To the extent that I thought anything about it, I figured it was some experimental fiction of some sort. People have spent money on weirder things, you know.

Phillips: I had the file with the advertorial, and I e-mailed it down to the print shop. It’s a routine thing, something I’ve done thousands of times. I had no idea that anything bad could happen.

Juan Romero, Senior Information Technology Manager: The first person to complain, if I remember right, was one of the receptionists. Some kind of weird virus. I kind of put it on the back burner until I got five different e-mails from people all over the office, complaining that there was some kind of unholy ten-armed octopus horror on their monitors. I told them to reboot, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

Ward: For whatever reason, the network problems were isolated to the upper floors. There wasn’t anything that kept us from printing out the advertorial. We started the run, and didn’t have any problems–in fact, we got it printed out and inserted in about half our usual time. That was weird, now that I come to think about it. It was though someone. or something, wanted us to get as many magazines with that advertorial printed and out in the world.

Van Buren: I was just sitting at my desk when my secretary walks by and says, “Zoth-Ommog! Zoth-Ommog! Prepare for the coming of Zoth-Ommog!” I thought it was a practical joke, so I asked her whether Zoth-Ommog had an appointment. Then she burst into flame. I knew then we had a problem on our hands.

Jermyn: Everyone was panicking. The break room was covered in this green goo. There were tentacles coming out of the air vents. I didn’t know what was going on, but I thought the Lovecraft Institute people had something to do with it. I called and got their voice mail. It said, “Press one to summon the dark spirit of Xalafu The Dread One. Press two to be devoured by a sightless white worm.” I hung up and ran like hell.


Romero: The problem was that nobody had ever taken a good look at the advertorial file. It had been originally designed in Microsoft XML. That should have told anyone who was looking at it that it was capable of great, great evil. Of course, nobody ever calls IT until there’s a problem.

Zann: I can’t tell you how it happened, not really, but all of a sudden I found myself, stark naked, sitting on the grass in the middle of Bryant Park, chanting “Janai’ngo, Janai’ngo, bring forth the Lobster of the Deep.” I’m just glad I wasn’t the only one, that’s all.

West: We ended up only having a third of our staff reporting permanent demonic possession. Everyone else either escaped in time or managed to throw off their psychic enthrallment to the various beings and demi-gods that inhabit the dread Cthullu Mythos. The building was a total loss, but insurance covered most of our losses and we got to write off a lot of old computer equipment. We probably broke even, although I hate to think of what our long-term disability liability is going to be.

Greene: I knew we had to get out an apology as soon as we could. In retrospect, I wish I had said something other than “On behalf of Gol-goroth the Malevolent, we deeply apologize for loosing the eldritch terrors of the Night-World on your fair city,” because I think that made things worse. You just don’t understand the reality of being possessed by the Old Ones until it happens to you personally.

Phillips: We’ve conducted a comprehensive review of our advertorial policy to ensure that nothing like that happens again. The last thing we, as a magazine, want to do is to injure our brand by putting out advertorials that cause mass panic and demon-possession, because that’s not good business.

Jermyn: Sure, we lost a lot of really big accounts over this. But you know, there’s a silver lining. All of a sudden, we’re starting to see new revenue sectors come in, catering to the newly-possessed. It’s kind of a niche market, but we’re taking advantage of it as best we can.

Zann: I still have the key. I keep it in a locked box at home. Every so often, it calls to me in a strange language, and I feel a strange compulsion to plug it in and see what happens. All that is keeping me from resurrecting the horror is fear, fear of the unknown, fear of the power of the Unnamed Ones that still haunt our world and our dreams. And because, let’s face it, it’s probably not a good idea.


Leave a Reply