Shadow Over Kingsmouth

Screen Shot of Banner on Kingsmouth Official Website

Last week, the clever members of The Secret World community were busily deciphering cryptic clues posted on the @thedarkplaces Twitter account. One of the notable clues was this telling post on 21st January:

From a king, in the king’s version, about a king. The signs are converging. The future holds only darkness for them.

And then the next day, this clue:

Daniel 4:31. Listen. They will depend on you all.

Which led players to the King James version of the Bible, book of Daniel, chapter 4, verse 31, which reads:

While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

After that, a few searches turned up the official website of the (fictional) town of Kingsmouth, located on the coast of Maine, and otherwise known as a viral website for The Secret World.

The Kingsmouth website is charmingly and almost convincingly amateurish, as if it was truly made by someone at Kingsmouth who just happened to have the best web skills in the small town of 1 547 people. Although the website is built on WordPress, it is crafted to appear as if each page was built by hand-coded HTML, as were most amateur websites back in the ye olde days of the information superhighway.

Screen Shot of the Main Page of the Kingsmouth Home Page


The writing style on the website presents Kingsmouth as a quaint, peaceful, welcoming place to spend a holiday. A place where everyone is very neighbourly and knows each other well. But looking deeper, there’s a sinister undercurrent to the town’s history…:

The 2000 census noted 1,547 citizens, a very stable number since the population tally before that. We are proud to remain a typical New England small town.

Kingsmouth was founded under its current name in 1667 by Solomon Priest, an English pilgrim. The population quickly rose to over a thousand people, a number that hasn’t changed much since!

…To the interesting factoids:

Did you know…?

  • Kingsmouth has the tallest lighthouse in the entire north-eastern United States!
  • There are rumours of secret tunnels linking important buildings in town with other sites on Solomon Island!
  • Some people claim Kingsmouth was founded by a secret order originating in Europe!
  • Solomon Island is home to Innsmouth Academy, an exclusive private school for students with very special and unique talents!
  • Local legends have it that the mountains are cursed by a dark and mysterious force!
  • There have been numerous sightings of Bigfoot just outside of town!! ;-)

…And to some of their recommended activities:

7. Step into the beautiful Kingsmouth Congregational church on Main Street and have a chat with the Reverend Henry Hawthorne about the history of town – Pastor Hawthorne knows more than most, and he might even let you in on a little conspiracy theory or two

8. Stop by the Franklin Foundation Mining Museum and learn more about the strange and often dark history of the Blue Ridge Mine

14. Visit Ash Forest and Black Goat Woods where rumors have it that strange magical rituals were once performed, and feel the mystery of the New England forest

Could these and other activities point to locations and quests? The most obvious information is located in the gallery, where you can view screen shots of The Secret World.

Anyone familiar with previous Secret World viral campaigns or ARGs will see a nod here and there. For example, in this screen shot, we see a banner image advertising a local establishment, the Old Harbor Shrimp Shack. Look closely at its location. Belmont Street. This could be a reference to Aveline Belmont, one of the protagonists for a previous ARG:

Screen Shot of The Old Harbor Shrimp Shack Advert

Those familiar with H.P. Lovecraft’s work, of which I’m a fan, will see many references to the horror writer’s body of work. Indeed, the town’s name itself combines the names of two fictional towns referenced in Lovecraft’s stories: Kingsport and Innsmouth. Innsmouth Academy, also located in Kingsport, is a definite reference to Lovecraft’s story, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. Drummer Hills might be a nod to several H.P. Lovecraft stories, in which drums are heard late at night throughout hills in the countryside, as a prelude to sinister supernatural or demonic events. The Miskatonic River in Kingsmouth shares its name with the Miskatonic River, which appears in Lovecraft’s stories. The Miskatonic River has a university named after it in Lovecraft’s stories, Miskatonic University, a fictional university set in Massachusetts.

There are several clues that may hint to Kingsmouth being a stronghold for the Illuminati (one of the in-game factions of The Secret World) or at least a place where the Illuminati have a strong interest. For example, the town motto is the Latin phrase “Lux Omnia Vincit” or “Light conquers all, and “Illuminati” means “enlighted” in Latin. On the Activities page, one of the suggested fun things to do in Kingsmouth is “19. Build a sandcastle on Pharaoh Beach – perhaps a pyramid?” The symbol of the Illuminati is a triangle or pyramid. One of Kingsmouth’s signature features is its lighthouse, boasted as the tallest lighthouse in New England.

This quote from the About page may indicate strong Illuminati ties, because the Illuminati are strongly associated with business and industry within The Secret World lore:

We are a Town built on tradition, a strong community and a great will to come together. An example of the spirit is how the citizens pulled together when a fire devastated the town in 1712. Almost all the homesteads and several of the principal buildings were lost, among them the church and the town hall. The townspeople rebuilt everything with the financial aid of the prosperous businessmen and organizations with interests in Kingsmouth.

For the most part, the site conveys a very genuine atmosphere of a small New England town wishing to stake their claim on the internet, and promote it to tourists. There are a couple of small cultural details, however, that point to the fact that this site was made by Europeans (though, any people from New England, please correct me).

On the Activities page, the phrase “packed lunch” is a phrase I’ve never commonly heard Americans use, but which is exceedingly common in Britain and in Europe:

10. Hike up to the Blue Ridge Mine. Although the mine is closed for visitors, it’s a beautiful and scenic area of Solomon Island – bring a packed lunch!

And the term “take away” as seen in this advertisement for the Sunshine Deli, is another commonly used British phrase. Americans say “take-out” rather than “take away”:

Screen Shot of a Banner Advert for the Sunshine Deli in Kingsmouth

Apart from those details, I didn’t spot anything that appeared off in terms of the site’s “authenticity” which speaks highly of Funcom’s research skills. Indeed, several New Englanders on The Secret World forums have remarked how authentic the website and accompanying assets feel.

To top it all off, some people apparently received postcards from Kingsmouth through the mail, which was first discovered in November 2009. This means that the Kingsmouth reveal has been months in the making. How cool!

I really have to hand it to Funcom. The Kingsmouth campaign is a really clever and engaging way to reveal lore information. I am so super stoked about this game, and I’m looking forward to more viral campaigns in the future.

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