Elspeth Covington

An NPC for Trail of Cthulhu

Socialite, arts patron and oracle Elspeth Covington (1896-1955) cut a swath through occult circles in the 1930s and beyond, amassing a surprising circle of intimates in London, Paris, and Los Angeles.

Born Elisabeth Doyle in Provincetown, she adopted the stopgap moniker Eliza Dunnock during a stint in New York City. There she leveraged a talent for cold reading and/or true prophecy to propel her from the Bowery to Park Avenue. Already a favorite of the city’s sophisticates by 1929, she cemented her position in life on October 14th of that year, when she warned coal magnate Gilbert Olney to divest himself of his entire portfolio of margin-held stocks. Shielded from the worst of the Depression by this advice, Uncle Gilby, as she called him, rewarded her the revenues of two of his cutest little coal mines for as long as she lived.

Income secured, she moved to Paris and into the name Elspeth Covington, picking up a hint of faux British accent on the voyage over. She immediately struck up a deep friendship with rich bohemians Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles. Through them she met the central figures of the surrealist movement, including André Breton, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, and eventually Salvador Dalí. Considering Breton’s metaphorical interest in the occult as that of a dilettante, Covington declined to take part in any of their pseudo-seances. However there is some indication that she was able to enter the Dreamlands under the tutelage of cartomancer Gala Éluard, later and better known as Gala Dalí.

It is at the de Noailles’ that she is first reported as constantly accompanied with beloved pet and familiar, Midas the Goose. This irrepressible anatide appears in many a diary entry for his human-like behavior and sure instinct for pecking the ankles of phonies and killjoys. Midas and Elspeth were also fixtures of the English literary scene in and around Bloomsbury, where he accepted head scratches from such figures as Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes. Notoriously he directed a vicious wing-snap at the arm of skeevy publisher Amery Greville during a 1936 encounter that nearly broke the literary conniver’s ulna.

A picture of Covington, Midas, and Professor Henry Armitage, bearing a 1937 date, exists, without further context, in the Miskatonic University archive.

Near the end of the decade she purchased a ranch-style home in Los Angeles, befriending striking occult author Manly P. Hall and Capitol Studios honcho Ted Poster. In at least one instance, she hired the services of smart-mouthed private detective Dex Raymond. That she engaged him to recover a goose from kidnappers is the pure invention of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who featured fictionalized versions of them in the script for forgettable B-quickie The Golden Bill.

Covington publicly debunked rumors of a cult worshiping a cephalopod deity or a thousand-faced deity stalking the world of men. But then, she did once claim that Midas could spot someone with the stink of Azathoth on him from a range of a hundred yards.

In short, Covington is a character who can bridge any disparate Trail of Cthulhu campaigns or adventures you care to drop her into, from Bookhounds of London and Dreamhounds of Paris to Shadows Over Filmland. With her wealth, connections, and range of interests, she can know anyone or show up anywhere—perhaps when the investigators need a nudge toward a core clue they keep forgetting to chase down.

Midas disappears from the historical record in 1940, after Covington’s full-time relocation to the US. She died of throat cancer in a Santa Barbara hospital fifteen years later.

Trail of Cthulhu is an award-winning 1930s horror roleplaying game by Kenneth Hite, produced under license from Chaosium. Whether you’re playing in two-fisted Pulp mode or sanity-shredding Purist mode, its GUMSHOE system enables taut, thrilling investigative adventures where the challenge is in interpreting clues, not finding them. Purchase Trail of Cthulhu and its many supplements and adventures in the Pelgrane Shop.

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