The Esoterrorists are not a conspiracy, per se. There’s no head of Esoterrorism, no command structure. It’s not that each cell is completely independent – you can make connections, follow the money, tap the phones, build up the webs and hierarchies used by counterterrorist researchers and investigators, but it’s not a conspiracy. Don’t think cell as in conspiracy, think cell as in cancer. Esoterrorism is a movement, or a disease of the mind. It can sprout almost anywhere.
There are warning signs. Genetic predispositions towards Esoterrorism. Ego, a lust for power, a fascination with the bizarre and the transgressive, a feeling of superiority towards those you see as ‘lesser’, and a willingness to inflict suffering – they all contribute towards potential Esoterrorism. Sometimes, all it takes is a tiny spark, a glimpse of the Outer Dark or even just the intuition that all this can be torn down and remade, and that’s the start of a new cell.
This series of articles presents four different ready-to-play Esoterrorist cells. Each cell’s described in the same format.
Ideology: The group’s animating philosophy, organisational purpose, or interpretation of Esoterrorism. Some cells are clueless – they’ve stumbled across the supernatural, but don’t understand it. Some are deluded, puppets of an Esoterrorist mastermind. And some are committed to the destruction of the Membrane.
Threat Assessment: The Ordo Veritas’ assessment of the degree of danger currently posed by the cell, and how likely it is to grow and spread.
History: A brief history of the cell.
Key Members: The leaders and important members of the cell.
Structure & Assets: How the group functions and what it has easy access to in terms of weapons, shelter, funding, or other notable assets.
Supernatural Threats: Any summoned Outer Dark Entities, magical devices or rituals associated with the group.
Independent Psychical Studies Society (IPSS)
Nature of cell: Parapsychology club
Leader: Freddie Patroch IV
Leader Psychographic Profile: Attention-seeker
Originally, the quasi-scientific study of the supernatural, applying rational methods to accounts of ghosts, monsters and other supernatural phenomena. Now, the belief that the world would be stranger and more wonderful if thronged with ghosts, monsters and other supernatural phenomena, and victory in a long-running petty rivalry. (CLUELESS).
The history of the Independent Psychical Studies Society is inextricably intertwined with that of its progenitor and rival, the Society for the Scientific Study of the Supernatural, more commonly known as the 4S Club. The 4S Club was founded in 1922; it was a society for ghost hunters, spiritualist debunkers, and skeptics of the paranormal. Two of the most notable members of the club were its founder and chairman, Aloysius Leman, and his young protégé and student Frederick Patroch. In the 1950s, the two quarrelled, leading Patroch to quit the 4S club and start his own rival society in a neighbouring town, the Independent Psychical Studies Society. IPSS history insists that the division was over Patroch’s conviction that a particular ghost, the ‘Shoreline Phantom’, was real; a study of SSSS minutes and accounts suggests that the root cause of the argument was Patroch’s misappropriation of club funds.
Over the next half-century, the two groups remained entangled. The 4S club maintained its sceptical bent; the IPSS attracted more true believers, but members often drifted between the two societies, and their rivalry was a (mostly) friendly one. They competed in the hunt for ghostly encounters, tore down each other’s pet theories, and engaged in the sort of petty political bickering typical of small clubs and societies.
In the 1970s, two prankster members of the IPSS successfully hoaxed a member of the rival 4S, convincing him that a local ruin was haunted. That kicked off a long-running tit-for-tat contest between the two clubs, involving more and more elaborate hoaxes. The Haunting of Vale Manor, the Chicago Face-Eater, the Blasphemous Book of Yeb – all well-known paranormal cases, all faked by either the IPSS to fool the 4S or vice versa. Some of these cases even drew other investigators (see Ordo Veritas casefiles ORANGE FOXTROT, ROOT YEARNING and AMATEUR HOUR).
The tipping point came sometime in the early 2000s, when an IPSS member attempted to add veracity to a ‘demon summoning’ by using the site of an infamous murder, the Skarton Woods Murder, and drawing runes that she found in an old diary in the IPSS archive. The combination of these elements, coupled with the faked videos and news reports circulated by IPSS hoaxers, was sufficient to degrade the local Membrane and permit the manifestation of an Outer Dark Entity when the 4S ghost hunters arrived.
The hunters’ deaths were recorded on hidden cameras placed by the IPSS hoaxers.
In the wake of this incident, the IPSS members panicked and covered up their involvement. The hunters’ remains were put back in their car which was driven into Skarton Lake, and the deaths were eventually attributed to drunk-driving. Since then, the hoaxers have opened as an Esoterrorist sub-cell within the IPSS, using the club’s hoaxes and ghost-hunting as cover for their experiments in ritual magic.
The 4S club mostly disbanded after the tragedy, apart from a small few members who bear a grudge against their rivals and still suspect IPSS involvement in the deaths, although they have no idea there was a supernatural component.
Currently, the OV’s only contact with the IPSS was when the society was a bunch of harmless hoaxers. The OV does monitor the society for use as a potential Veil-Out, and this monitoring protocol may pick up on Purbrew’s Esoterrorist videos.
- IPSS club president Frederick Patroch III, grandson of the founder. A genial city councillor who sees the club as a quirky family tradition to be upheld, but also as a tourist attraction that benefits the town. He knows nothing about Esoterror or the club’s connections to murders – but would use his political and legal influence to help his club and son escape scrutiny.
- Freddie Patroch IV, a throwback to his occult-obsessed great-grandfather and member of the Esoterrorist sub-cell. Patroch believes that he’s going to usher in a magical renaissance.
- Laura Trasten, who was responsible for the hoax-gone-wrong that attracted the first ODE. Shaken by her experiences, Trasten’s convinced that she was marked by the entity and must continue to feed it victims. She’s also obsessed with the Skarton Woods incident, believing it to be connected to the monster.
- Zach Purbrew, would-be special effects artist, hoaxer and ascendant YouTube influencer. Drawn to the club for its history of hoaxes, Purbrew’s now a close friend and acolyte of Freddie Patroch, and has started dropping Esoterrorist hints into his videos.
Structure & Assets
The IPSS has a membership of about 300, although only fifty or so regularly attend meetings; the associate membership list (with access to the club newsletter and case reports) numbers more than 500,000, thanks mainly to Purbrew’s plugs on his YouTube channel. The growth in associate membership, coupled with Patroch family money, has put the club on a sound financial footing. Active members form working groups to carry out research into supernatural cases. Another working group handles the club’s annual hoax; now that the 4S club is mostly gone, the hoax targets members of the public, and is debunked afterwards on video. (Or, when the Esoterrorist cell handles the ‘hoaxes’, they’re genuine supernatural incidents that are then covered up through faked videos – a rare example of a cult carrying out its own Veil-Outs, although those faked videos have themselves been debunked by trolls targeting Zach Purbrew, leading to an ouroboros of deceit and uncertainty that is itself a potent Esoterrorist sigil).
In addition to the club lodge (now highly desirable real estate in the city centre), the IPSS also owns a storage facility containing the club archives. There’s also the ‘hoaxer’s workshop’, which moves between several locations – cabins in the woods, rented storage lockers, private homes. Ostensibly, this is to avoid hoaxes being spoiled by spies, but it also works as cover for Esoterrorist rituals.
The Esoterrorist cell can reliably summon two entities – a Shatterer (Book of Unremitting Horror, p. 100 – the creature that killed the 4S ghost hunters in 2002) – and an Organ Grinder (p. 66) built by Purbrew as a prop for a movie. Purbrew’s unaware of it, but Sisterites (p. 105) infest the comment sections under his videos.
In addition, Freddie owns a ritual dagger inherited from his great-grandfather that he believes holds magical power.