From: "Delta Green" Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 06:15:00 PST

I'm planning on involving the whole Great Britian/Shan thing in my campaign, just to terrify my players even more… "What do you mean, the whole COUNTRY's off limits?" … but I'm confused.

The Shans prefer to hang out in people's heads, eating brains and stuff, and trepanation has been used by a few individuals to free themselves from such insidious influence. Trepanation supposedly allows sunlight to enter the cranium and hit the Shan, killing it, hurting it, or pissing it off really baaad. Right?

Alrighty then… p.188 of Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, 1st ed. …

"… The shan are entirely photosynthetic, deriving their nourishment from the sun's rays…"

So, what's the deal-ee-o? Are the beings in the heads of influential Englishpersons NOT the Shan? Sorry if this is a piddling little point, or if it has been discussed before… I've been lurking for about 2 months now, read EVERY digest, read EVERY Ice Cave file, etc. and I still can't get no relief.

So… ?

Until I get some answers, I'm just gonna leave my drill in the drawer.

From: PaganArt
Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 10:38:39 EST

This is misleading. Since the Shans originate from a different star, their needs for photosynthesis would be quite different than plants found on Earth. In fact, the sun may not be nourishing at all, and, given an alien metabolism, could be quite damaging or incapacitating. Certain reports of odd alien technology recovered from infected individuals imply that the Shan prefer blue/green light and can move freely in small quarentene zones modified by their science to eliminate the harmful and damaging Electromagnetic field of the Earth.

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998 18:09:14 -0500
From: Daniel Harms

This is misleading. Since the Shans originate from a different

Last time, we left action hero and Mythos info compiler Dan Harms standing at the edge of a cliff, about to be caught in a terrible error over the shan. Will he survive?

He reaches for his bookshelf, and…

Actually, the entry is in near-perfect accordance with Campbell's story, even if I didn't include the material from the scenario in _Strange Aeons_ in which the traditional shan cure appeared. Here's a couple of passages from the Tor edition of _Cold Print_:

"None [of the insects] needed to eat - they lived by photo-synthesis of the green rays of the double star - and so they visited other planets…"

(p. 94)

This would suggest Mr. Detwiller's thesis - but I should note that it doesn't say that they can't get the same nourishment from some other star. Now when they're on earth…

"During daylight the insects worshipped the tenant of the secret portion of the fane, but after dark they went forth to carry on an insidious campaign to hypnotize selected subjects and lure them to the clearing." (p. 100)

"They therefore declined, using the beings from Xiclotl - which, because of their guarding the clearing in daylight while the insects worshipped, they called the equivalent in their language of the 'Daytime Guardians' - to drive unwary wanderers in the woods to the glade." (p. 101)

These suggest to me that the insects didn't leave the temple in the day because they were worshipping Azathoth, not because they were afraid of the sun.

So the author of the scenario misread or re-interpreted Campbell's story, and I didn't take it into account when I omitted mentioning trepanation in my Shan entry for second edition (hey, I believe in learning things the hard way). However, Dennis's response sounds good, and is backed up by the following transcript of a conversation taken by my agents in our ongoing attempts at the blackmail and subversion of MIB:

(Transcript begins)

(mib) Back in England again?

(Bzzzt) Bzzzt bzzzt bzzzt. (mauve indigo chartreuse)

(mib) Well, if Squick's shopping in Paris, I guess that's fine. ALL RIGHT, YOU STINKING BUGS, COME OUT OF THAT PARTY HAT!

(shan) No, human. We do not bow to your feeble demands.

(mib) You guys are scared of the sunlight, aren't you?

(shan) Of course not. We just don't feel like coming out right now.

(mib) C'mon. Sunlight turns you guys into Crispy Critters.

(shan) No, you're thinking of vampires.

(mib) No, I'm thinking of you guys. Give it up.

(shan) We have better things to do.

(mib) Like what? Worshipping Azathoth. He's not that great; I've met him.

(shan) Sorry, but we're too busy. Come back after dark. You can demonstrate your brightly-lit vacuum cleaner with wings then.

(Bzzzt) Bzzzt! (red blue green)

(Huge explosion. Transcript ends.)

I think that's all that needs to be said.

From: "Jesper Jühne"
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 08:20:52 +0100
If Dennis was right wouldn't it be more correct to write "from their star's rays…" instead?

I don't have English as my native language, but isn't THE sun, our sun, (sol)?

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 01:27:37 -0600 (CST)
From: Tenebrous Technologies

Whole point of trepanation…..exposure to sun's rays, they have photosynthesis to the rays of the sun that shines over a city like Carcosa.

That's fine, your Aklo is perfectly understood.

Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 13:09:19 -0500
From: Graeme Price
I'm in a little late on this one (bloody E-mail Servitor playing up…. yet again!), but I have a few thoughts that you might like to try on for size.

First off, the "photosynthesis" thing. I tend to side with Dennis on this one (who, naturally, is going to give us all the real deal in COUNTDOWN… making what I am about to say redundant! Sigh.), but with a slight twist. Rather than "photosynthesis", which by definition implies dependency on the visible wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum (ie. light of some kind), I would go for "deriving nourishment from radiant solar energy". This could be electromagnetic radiation of any one of a dozen kinds originating from the sun (or any given star): microwave, low intensity gamma rays, X-rays, the "cosmic rays" so beloved of Marvel script writers, radio even. Stars put out all this and more besides.

This tweak is actually necessary for the somewhat obvious reason that if the Shans are living inside your head, they would die pretty quickly if they needed to "photosynthesize" using visible spectrum radiation (which doesn't penetrate bone very well to say the least). Of course, this has some interesting implications. First off, what would be the effect of blocking (or focussing) this energy that the Shans feed off (perhaps by putting a steel helmet on, or being in an underground bunker, or even having a steel plate in your head [the latter reminding me of an old science fiction movie - not Quatermass, but something like that- where the hero was immune from Alien mind control because he had a steel plate in his skull which blkoke the mind control rays. Can't remember the title though]). Would this make the Shan very unhappy (causing it to make the host do something violent), make it leave the host, or kill it outright (or a combination of the above?). The time frame could be important here. If Shans are sensitive to certain EM wavelengths (or frequencies? - my physics is nowhere near as good as my biology, so forgive any basic errors) What would be the effect of things like X-rays, or CAT scans, or microwaves? Would they show up to hospital diagnostic methods - or could such probes kill them, or even provide excess nourishment? If they don't show up, is this simply due to being transparent to X-rays (or whatever) or because they exist in an alternative dimension (only partially "in phase" with the host)?

The alternative is that they are actually photosynthetic in the scientific sense (rather than feeding off EM radiation as described above), _except_ when within a host. In this case the host would provide an alternative nutrient source for the Shan (perhaps via neurochemicals, or electrical impulses - as generated by the brain [this could easily be worked in via the Shan's tendency to make the host do lots of nasty abhorrent things ("No! No! Don't make me listen to Val Doonican's greatest hits again you fiend! Get out of my head! The horror! The horror !" etc.) which results in increased electrical and/or chemical activity in certain areas of the brain]). A third alternative is that both mechanisms of nutrition could apply simultaneously.

Now, assuming that the Shans are dependent on the (by which I really mean "a") Sun for energy, why would exposure to sunlight kill them? Put simply, there could be a component of the Sun's rays that they cannot metabolize and kills them (UV light possibly… but I don't think so [see some speculations below, and also, as a keeper, I know that this would be the first thing that investigators would experiment with as an anti-Shan weapon: why make life easy for them?]. Alternatively (gee, I like this word a lot don't I?!) there is just too much energy in "unfiltered" sunlight for them to safely deal with. Think of it like this. Potted plants need to be watered, but only a little (a fine misting daily does nicely for most plants). For a Shan, exposure to full sunlight might be like over-watering a plant… by putting it underneath the Niagara Falls. (This could also partially explain why they are described as being more active at night).

So, to summarize, I suspect that the orginal description of Shans in the CoC rules ["… The shan are entirely photosynthetic, deriving their nourishment from the sun's rays…"] is a gross oversimplification and takes some liberties with the scientific vernacular. The word "Photosynthesis" is used as this is a concept which is taught in high school and most people can understand. In this case, it doesn't literally mean "photosynthesis" as we understand it (same as "Insects from Shaggai" and "Fungi from Yuggoth": they aren't really "Insects" or "Fungi" as terrestrial biology understands the words. Rather they are described as such because these are the closest descriptive terms available to make us understand a concept).

Now, why are they trapped on Earth? Typical reports suggest that there is something in Earth's atmosphere which prevents them from leaving. Perhaps it could be the Van Allen radiation belts (which are well outside the atmosphere, but creative freedom applies here…) or let's be obvious and say the Ozone Layer (as this gives lots of plot opportunities and the chance to twist basic science and history to our own nefarious purposes!). Ozone (a molecule containing 3 oxygen atoms) is found in the upper atmosphere in the "Ozone layer". This layer is responsible for locking a lot of UV light entering the atmosphere. We all know (I hope!) about global warming and chemical damage to the Ozone layer (chemical damage caused, in part, by chloro-fluoro-carbon [CFC] molecules from aerosol propellants and refrigerators: these CFCs get up to the Ozone layer and react with the ozone [which is a highly reactive molecule: ozone at ground level is remarkably toxic… it is also the "smell" made by electrical discharges - by photocopiers and the London Underground for example], degrading it and causing a drop in high altitude ozone concentrations). Now, various atmospheric gasses (ozone is one) have various capacities to absorb and reflect radiation (ozone refects UV very well for example) of various spectra (the scientific basis of spectroscopy). If there is an atmospheric gas absorbing the radiant energy from the Sun which the Shans need to power their craft and leave earth, how would the Shans go about getting around the problem?

Which goes to questions like: why did the Industrial revolution start in Britain? [Shans interfering with human development to create pollution and facilitate their own escape]. Why were British explorers so keen to get to the South Pole? [apart from territorial reasons, the ozone layer has always been thinnest there] Why has the British Antartic Survey been kept very well funded, even when most basic science in the UK was being massively cut? [BAS maintains two bases in Antartica and at least one survey vessel (HMS Endurance - possibly the only red and white painted naval icebreaker in the world!), they employ scientists of all disciplines (biologists, biochemists, geologists, physicists, chemists etc.). Much of the work on the Antarctic ozone hole has been done by BAS scientists… obviously someone (or something…) wants to keep an eye on the hole: Plus, a few scientists going mad or disappearing in the antarctic - easily blamed on isolation, stress, accidents, inclement weather etc. No one would suspect alien infestation driving lonely scientists nuts, would they?]. Why on earth would the UK fight to keep a lonely little colony of 200 people (and a quarter of a million sheep) of little strategic importance and no material value whatsoever (at the time: now looks like there could be oil reserves out there in the South Atlantic) as a UK territory - to the extent of putting several thousand troops there to fight off despicable, moustachioed, greasy dago invaders? National pride (Thatcher's re-election campaingn?!)? I think not! [I am, of course, referring to the Falklands. Operation CORPORATE (the operation to take back the Falklands) cost millions - way out of proportion to the actual value of the resources down there. So, the question is, what is down there, in the closest inhabited UK territory to the South Pole, that _they_ don't want anyone else to know about? A secret Shan base, producing ozone destroying chemicals perhaps?]. Campaign hook anyone?

I've gone on enough I guess. Any comments (like "Shut up Graeme, and stop wasting bandwidth with your final parting comments!!")?

Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 20:04:14 -0500 (EST)
From: The Man in Black

biochemists, geologists, physicists, chemists etc.). Much of the work on
the Antarctic ozone hole has been done by BAS scientists… obviously
someone (or something…) wants to keep an eye on the hole:

No discussion of the White Unpleasant Land can go without mentioning Elder Things and Shoggoths. They undoubtedly have something to do with the Ozone Hole. Perhaps the Shan are inserting themselves into the Shoggoth equation. This sets up a massive mythos war in Antarctica involving the remnants of the Elder Things, Ubbo-Sathla, Shoggoths, Shan, Mi-Go, the Karotechia, and if you've been following my Protomatter-Filled Oil Tanker threads - New World Industries. This dovetails nicely with hints and allegations dropped in my Children of the Dark Sun adventure.

I'm curious as to when Chaosium plans to unleash Mountains of Madness, which would seem necessary for a modern day fiasco like that described above.

Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 00:21:08
From: Davide Mana

That should be "The Tommyknockers", from King's novel. I find heart-warming the fact that you made clear that it was _not_ Quatermass. A lot of us, former students under Dr. Quatermass, have always considered that book by King an ugly rip-off of the classic "Quatermass and the Pit".

On to the Shans, now.
I'll offer a few ramblings.
Please tolerate them as it's very late and I'm very tired.

Now, of course, "photosynthesis" does not mean they "feed on light" (or other EM waves). The EM waves are simply used to turn one molucule (CO2 in the case of plant Ps) into another (O2 in the case of plants), stocking C along the way (and growing). The EM wave is therefore simply the energy input necessary for the transformation, and so we can imagine an organism using any wavelenght for this process (algae, btw, use different wavelenghts in the visible spectrum depending on the environment - basically depth - in which they live).

To "derive nourishment from radiant solar energy" (wow!!) would mean some kind of direct (or maybe not) energy-matter conversion. Pretty advanced.

Depends on the subject. I know a pair of guys… but I'm wandering off topic.
From the above I take you postulate that the Shans "photosinthesize" (use EM radiation to turn a molucule into another) simply using another wavelenght instead of the visible. Fine by me.
A shorter wave, probably, higher frequency, much more penetrating.

Also consider that different kinds of waves do overlap.Visible is sort of a separator. This side, at higher wavelenghts, we have infrared and then radio waves; that side, at lower wavelenghts (higher frequencies) we have ultraviolet and then X Rays and Gamma Rays. A critter feeding on the high frequency of the ultraviolet (around 10^16 Hertz) would also get the lowest frequency of the X rays. A thing growing on the longest infrared (10^12 Hertz) would also get the shortest short waves.

But we still have a problem: where do they get the stuff to photosynthesize?
But a few paragraphs below, you yourself give the answer.


My theory, that I proposa as an alternate line of investigation: shans do photosynthesize in the traditional sense, transforming the complex brain neurochemicals into simpler products by using some as yet unidentified EM wavelenght.

This is probably not their original feeding manner, and being sort of an emergency resource is probably not as efficent as the original. Maybe a few passages are required to produce the raw stuff that makes the shans grow and prosper.

The consumption of certain neurochemicals by the resident shan could also explain how the little buggers influence their host: they simply screw his brain chemistry, and the guy acts as if he were under the effects of a strong psichotrope substance.

At this point, should the shan's meddling prove pleasurable (or painful) for the unknowing human, the critter would be able to easily "educate" its host by rewarding some of his actions and punishing some others. Pavlov at work.

This of course does not explain why sunlight is supposed to kill the insects, but I'm starting to toy with a rather sinister idea: it does not. The Army of the 3rd Eye got it wrong.

If my line of thinking is sound, the best way to fight the things would be to get at them through the human biochemistry. Is there a doctor in the house?

Then please tell me: what happens to my body chemistry as I drill a hole in my head?

Is something new pumped in the bloodstream? Adrenalin? Some kind of pain-supressing substance like endorphines? What if the buggers are simply killed by the human antibodies concentrating on the freshly dug out hole?

Opinions, anybody?
Can we get a shan host and try a few experiments?

Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 20:13:53 -0500
From: Graeme Price

Nope. Not the Tommyknockers (never read it, nor seen the film BTW). This was a 1960's jobbie - I'm almost sure it was a Hammer movie (certainly set in Britain), and IIRC the lead actor was someone like Brian Dounleavy (spelling?) or Ray Milland. Hmm. Sounding more like Quatermass isn't it?

No problem. I'm just at the tail end of a 16 hour stint in the lab myself… people just don't appreciate how hard I work to destroy the world.

Exactly right! What I meant to imply by "photo-synthesis" is use of visible spectra. Algae (brown) use a molecule called Rhodopsin (and relatives thereof) instead of chlorophyll. Blue-Green algae (actually closer to bacteria) use something different - but I can't recall what offhand (Gimme a break! It's been 10 years since I studied - and failed - bacterial and algal biosynthetic pathways! How do you think I ended up as a virologist?! Sorry, kidding).

This was what I was aiming at… except you can't call it photosynthesis (electromagnetosynthesis?! Try saying that after a few pints!).

[nice stuff on waves snipped]

Either derived from the host, or from the Shan itself - this only actually matters when considering the nature of the host-parasite interaction. Are human hosts essential for the Shan (clearly not as they can survive in their cone thingy in the forest), or just a useful tool (protecting from sunlight, extending the range of the "hive's" influence, manipulating other humans etc.)

Nice thought: would help explain why we are not overrun with lots of little baby Shans.

Yeah. This is why I tagged on the idea of using brain chemistry/impulses in the first place. Gives both cause and effect for Shan mind control (and the detrimental effects thereof).

Hmm. Tell us more.

Adrenaline, a whole host of stress induced proteins, cytokines, growth factors, interferons, acute phase proteins, prostaglandins, leukotrienes, hormones… lots of things! All of which cause wierd and wonderful physiological effects. Messing with host biochemistry is a nice idea. A little bit too "Dark Skies" for me though ("Here, drink this milkshake….").

Won't be antibodies (or T-cells) - these guys are too specific. Maybe the other inflammatory cells (granulocytes, macrophages etc.) - question is why didn't they respond to Shan invasion in the first place (and how did the thing get inside the skull without needing to break a hole in the first place)… which is why I guessed at alternate dimensions. Fever might be non-specific enough to break a hold on the host though. That would almost certainly result from excessive cytokine release near the brain due to inflammation (or infection following the operation)… maybe sunlight raising the brain temperature of the host? But how long would it take to have the desired effect ("Drilled… hole… in… head… must… keep… staring… at… the… lightbulb…")

You got 'em bud!

No, but I can drill a hole in someone's head and see what happens to their Th1/Th2 cytokine profile if you like (I have the reagents in the fridge not 10 feet from where I am sitting). Now, where did I put my corkscrew?

Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 20:27:09 -0500 (EST)
From: The Man in Black

>The alternative is that they are actually photosynthetic in the scientific
>sense (rather than feeding off EM radiation as described above), _except_
>when within a host. In this case the host would provide an alternative
>nutrient source for the Shan (perhaps via neurochemicals, or electrical
>impulses - as generated by the brain

We're assuming that the "canon" is correct and that rays that emanated from whatever trans-dimensional star the Shan first spawned beneath fit into our conventional EMF theory. These are dangerous assumptions. Our current understanding of Physics is clearly not up to the task.

It may be that their unique requirements for Photosynthesis involves some sort of transcendant connection to Azathoth. Maybe this lack of emanation is one of the factors preventing the GOO from awakening?

Opinions, anybody?
Can we get a shan host and try a few experiments?

I like the way you think…

Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 01:39:16 -0600 (CST)
From: Don Juneau

I'm curious as to when Chaosium plans to unleash Mountains of Madness,
which would seem necessary for a modern day fiasco like that described

MoM has been on the burner for longer than DG, IIRC. <G> At one time, a distributor/store had it listed in their ad in WHITE WOLF magazine… it's devoured at least three editors, from what I've heard.

The only Antarctic adventure (that I can recall) which I snagged was the fabled tournament scenario TALES FROM THE WHITE HEART, by Phil and Marian Anderson down in the polyp-haunted ruins of Oz. I can't really reveal a lot about it, but if I recall correctly Marian had something going into MoM…

Haven't heard from her in quite a while, and I still owe her for the scenarios she sent. Did MoM reach out of the black-litten editorial stacks of Chaosium and engulf yet another writer/editor?

Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 12:12:51
From: Davide Mana


I'll investigate the thing. All in all it makes King an even worse offender (yes, I don't like King).

Electromagnetosynthesis being quite a mouthful, but accurate in its generic way, I'll use "elmasynthesis" from now on. We are therefore discussing elmasynthesizing organisms. Wow!


Another question: can and do the shans infest other organisms? If the answer is yes, you can imagine what kind of problem we're facing ("My god, they' taken the sheeps too! Aaargh!"). If the answer is no, why are they limiting their action to us? Is it because we are the dominant species on this world (and therefore there's a political reason), or is it because we are the only ones to have what they need (and this one's a phisiological reason)? We might learn something important from this.

It's been postulated during this discussion that the "sunlight kills them" story might well be apocriphal. And I've always found the idea of drilling a hole in your head to "let the sun shine in" rather silly (think about it…), more a psicothic reaction to the infestation ("It's inside me head! I'll take it out! The drill… the drill…") than a coolly considered attack on the invader. And yet, all in all it seems to work (the guys in the Army of the Third Eye are weird but free of control, apparently). So maybe they get the right effect from an excessive action based on wrong assumption. Which is nicely ironic, I guess. I'm still for the biochemical option.

The milkshake thinghy in "Dark Skies" _was_ silly.
But I'd concentrate on one of those accessory chemicals that get released in very minor quantities but might shot the shans metabolism and force them to leave or kick the bucket.

And yet we can kill them in a traditional way when they are exposed, IIRC. So they are here phisically, but are not here too. Damn bugs!
I have to think about this some more.

And possibly oh, so slightly alterate the chemicals?

Please do.
Meanwhile, I'll get out my old quantum-mechanics books and take a look at them.
I've got an idea while I was wtiting this, that maybe there's actually something in the sun rays.
More on this later.

Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 13:36:25 -0500
From: Graeme Price

Hmm. Nice thought… which gives me an excuse to use Pink Floyd's "Animals" album as background music!

Either/or I guess. "Higher" brain functions being essential (or pleasurable?) for the Shan parasite? Perhaps the horror a human would feel (stemming from comprehension, which animals arguably woundn't have) at killing someone close to them results in the release of certain neurotransmitters which the Shan can utilise. Which in turn would make animal models practically useless for studying Shan (unless you want to stick one into a great ape… not a good idea, as you would now have an immensely strong 300lb killing machine with a Shan inside it).

I think the "apparently" might be more important than it seems here. What if the Shan has only been crippled rather than killed. What happens when it regains it's strength? Schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder when the host comes under pressure (and the "right" chemical or electrical environment is created for the Shan to take over again)? The problem with "letting sunlight in to kill them" is that sunlight won't actually penetrate very far into the brain (maybe a few millimetres) because of the protective membranes (meninges) between the skull and the brain surface itself. Which again points towards a harmful non-visible wavelength component to sunlight being harmful. I'm thinking EM pulse weapons could prove handy here - and perhaps selective: only those under Shan control would start flopping around on the floor like a headless Byakee. Of course you would need to find out what type of EM the Shan are susceptible to.

Perhaps the component in sunlight "fixes" them in this dimension (preventing shifting to another phase) long enough for the host to mount an immunological or physiological attack on them in some way?

Yep. I'm beginning to like this.

Looking forward to it.

From: "Ricardo J. Méndez"
Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 11:59:27 -0600

It is quite possible that infesting sheep isn't practical, since it wouldn't accomplish anything besides a mean of transportation. It is also possible that the shan absorb something from the people they infestate (like the ghouls eating you and absorbing your memories), so infestating other animals would just pollute them.

Date: Tue, 03 Nov 1998 00:34:44
From: Davide Mana

The problem with

My reasoning exactly. You cant let the sun shine in at all.
Not in the visible spectrum.
And higher energy waves would get in without the need for a hole.

That's exactly the angle I tried to investigate this afternoon with the help of Richard P. Feynman and a pair of tactical sandwiches. I'll ramble a bit on my thought processes and speculations while under the influence of some superior peppered ham. It's going to be long.

The shan etherealness, for want of a better word, is clearly a matter/energy thing. So I tried a quantum approach.

Light (any kind of EM radiation, really) acts both as a particle and a wave, which might be confusing but seems to work. The shans can modulate its waveform so that it can achieve variable degrees of materiality depending on the situation?
They can in other words manipulate the particle/wave rate according to their needs. Who knows, maybe comes from worshipping Azathot (who has some pretty strong nuclear, matter into energy connotations). [Please also take note that the shans are never described as completely immaterial in the available accounts of their activity. This detail will turn out handy later.]

This we need to explains the fact that they can get thrugh the skull bones without causing visible damage, and yet have a material life of their own, as can be deduced by the existence of Shan temple-ships and such.

And they can be killed by mundane weapons. They of course would avoid this if they could.
What it takes after all? You phase off as the bullet reaches you, turning all your particles into waves. But they don't do it.
They can't?
So we must postulate that they have not full control on the material/ethereal state transition.
Not on Earth.
Not by day or under a certain tipe of light.
Something in the spectrum of our sun really messes with the controls.
By day.

IIRC, the shans are more willing to get around at night.
So the reflected wavelenghts are not as bad as the direct ones.
Harmless, or almost so. At least bearable.

This does not help us identificate the killer waves (not yet), but tells us that the range of frequencies that the shans can't take is pretty tight. Any loss of energy due to reflection (from the moon, the clouds, other athmospheric gasses, the ground and sea surface) causes the rays to lose their power.

On to the next step.
Why the need to drill a hole in your head?
As we said, visible light does not penetrate deep enough.
And any other EM radiation energetic enough to penetrate the meninges and the grey matter, could also go through the skull bone. BUT…

As it penetrates a medium, any kind of EM wave loses part of its energy, due to internal reflection caused by the atomic network.

What if the thickness of the bone removed by trepanation is enough to reduce dispersion and keep the entering waves in the tight range needed to really screw the shan?

Should this be the case, we'd have a real reason for drilling craniums; the alternative attack strategy would be infact to build a ray-gun kind of thing (cool!) that projects a wavelenght designed taking into account all the energy losses caused by bone-penetration dispersion, so that, firing it at a shan host, the right frequency is delivered directly on the critter. Not easy at all.

As for what frequency/wavelenght we are talking about, I'd say the 10^16 Hertz limit already mentioned in an earlier post is close to the mark. I'd place the killer wave just above it, right in the transition zone between Ultraviolet and X rays.

Higher frequencies (X rays proper) are energetic enough not to be significantly affected by bone dispersion. Lower frequencies are low Ultraviolet bordering the visible and have all the problems already discussed.

So we are probably talking about something in the Ultraviolet/Xray border spectrum, in an incredibly tight range of frequencies. 10^16 Hertz + X.

[We need some sound experimentation on this. Find me half a dozen infested Brits, fast!]

So far, so good.
Now we face a real problem.

Let's talk dimensions.
A shan (described as "as big as a pidgeon") can't materially fit inside a skull together with an average brain. It's simply too big. A much smaller organism might get away with it by either compressing the brain-tissue or chewing away a few morsels (or both), but a shan can't. So the shan can't be phisically solid. And can't be made solid by a wavelenght entering the skull through a trepanation. Should this be the case, the bugger would all of a sudden find itself sharing the same space of another object (the host's brain… ooops!) and plain old phisics would do the rest: crunch! One dead shan, one dead host with brains leaking from his nostrils. The Army of the Third Eye would be out of business pretty fast.

Unless of course, as soon as the shan hears (feels, perceives) the whining of the trepin ("Oh, no! Not again!"), it packs its suitcases and leaves in all haste. And yet, trepanation is supposed to _kill_ the bastards, not evict them.

So we are back to square one: how the heck does it work?

But maybe we have been barking up the wrong tree, after all. Here's the final speculation.

Maybe the killer wavelenght _does not_ make the shans material.
It simply messes their control on the balancing act between particle and wave form, between material and ethereal state. Maybe pushing the shans to the 100% ethereal state that's never been documented.

Now, a shan enplaced inside the skull of its host has to be pretty much ethereal to survive, as we have said. He'll probably mantain a small degree of materiality to suck the juices in thehost's brain and pull the strings, but otherwise he is chiefly immaterial. As the killer wavelenght hits it, the shan loses control and slides into a 100% ethereal state, joining Azathot in its nuclear nirvana.

A shan caught in the open by the daylinght, on the other hand, being conscious of the effect that the killer wave has on it, shifts the balance on the side of the material state, not to run the risk of accidentally phasing out forever. This automatically makes it easier to hit by mundane weapons, but it's probably worth the risk from its point of view.

And here I rest my case. All this is speculation, much of it preposterous, but might be worth following up a bit.

From: "David Farnell"
Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998 18:09:36 +0900

While the idea of Shan-infested cows makes me grin (maybe there's a size limit on brains, though), I've got one word: DREAMLANDS!

Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 10:41:07 -0500
From: "Randall L. Orndorff"

It is quite possible that infesting sheep isn't practical, since it wouldn't
accomplish anything besides a mean of transportation. It is also possible
that the shan absorb something from the people they infestate (like the
ghouls eating you and absorbing your memories), so infestating other animals
would just pollute them.

OK, so a Shan gets stuck in a serious bad place, its host has been killed, and they need a new one. They enter a sheep and settle down to rest. The sheep is ground up and fed to cows. The cows get a strange illness relating to their brain stem. The cows are ground up and fed to humans. Maybe Mad-Cow disease is simply Shans desparately attempting to reconstitute themselves from ground up particles. Prions, heh….

We know the truth.

Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 10:47:11 -0500
From: William Timmins

Ok, weirdness time… bear with me. ;)

In my campaign, the K cell eventually made contact with a resussicated group of Elder Race, from their high point in technology. Elder Race then was brought to teach humans potentially valuable technology and physics for upcoming troubles, particularly to kack Deep Ones, whom the Elder Race wasn't fond of, either.

Physicists promptly lost SAN when they learned about the ten domains (worlds) the universe was divided into, which resembled the qabbalistic tree of life with Keter (Azathoth) at the center/top of things, and our physical universe (Malkut) at the bottom.

Neutrinos, as it turned out, were actually particles in another domain that had very weak interactions with the physical domain. One of the Elder Race's weapons was a 'heat raygun' which would cause neutrinos to coalesce at a given position into 'fully physical' particles. This would allow you to, essentially, heat the inside of your target. No armor mattered, and the weapon required almost no energy. Though it had a limit based on neutrino density.

Where do Shan come in?

Weeell… see, the Shan DO require nourishment from the Sun, but in strange particles from the Sun that are in another domain. In this other domain, interaction is one way. Physical objects and events in the physical domain translate to the other domain, but the nature of this other domain prevents direct physical influence.

So, Shan feed on other-Sunlight. During the day, this other-Light is way too intense, so the Shan need to shift much more material. Hiding in people's heads, the skull acts as a screen, screening some (but not all) of other-Light. Also, if this other domain is like most Lovecraftian dimensions, it has a mental/psychological component. In the other domain, the close proximity to human thoughts and emotions may emit another, pleasing, other-radiation that the Shan can feed on. And, being shifted into the other domain, the Shan cannot make physical changes, but can influence thoughts and feelings, which do strongly interact.

Trepanation, then, simply removes a portion of the skull-screen, as well as setting off a shitstorm of emotional energy. The combination may prove too much for a Shan, who pops/vaporizes/is lost in the other Domain.

Candidates for other Domain:

Pro: Very psychological/relative space, already source of beings that feed on humans in an ephemeral way
Con: No prior explanations of the Sun having any influence on Astral space, the relative space raises difficulty with the idea of propogation of energies, no specific reflection of physical objects in astral space (unless the Shan is required to keep a 'window' open to the human's head)


Pro: Humans definately have dual existance in physical and Dreamlands domains (this would imply that humans whose Dream-selves have died cannot be 'possessed' by Shan, an interesting experiment), Dreamlands is definately a psychological domain

Con: No other Dreamlands aspects of Shan behavior and abilities (as far as I know), no reports of Shan possessed Dreamlands persons (which would presumably be the situation if the physical self is possessed), no clear indication that the Dream-self actually exists in the Dreamlands when the waking self isn't 'there', dual existance in Waking and Dreamlands isn't completely clear

Anyhow, some bizarre speculations. ;)

Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 11:34:54 -0500
From: detwiler

While I was searching for info on military transport aircraft circa 1939 to use with the intriguing post from the Berlitz book (can somebody tell me what kind of plane it would likely have been?), I discovered that the Dept. of Defense has a Pest Management Board. Interesting. The website contains info on the Board's history, mission (quoted below) and entomology programs in three branches of the military.

With all this talk about Shan lately I thought it might be appropriate. So who wants to work up a character template for US Army Medical Service Corps Medical Entomolgy Officer? Likely occupational skills might include BIOLOGY, BOTANY, CHEMISTRY, MEDICINE, NATURAL HISTORY and PHARMACY. Seems like they provide good opportunities to move DG ops overseas since "Geographical areas in which one could be assigned include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington DC, Washington State, Bosnia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Italy, Panama and Thailand." (Notice they mention Italy twice…hmmmm, heads up Davide).

Anyway, the website provides good info on what experience candidates must have, at which ranks they are commissioned, and what they might actually be required to do. Look it up.


Mission: The mission of the Armed Forces Pest Management Board (AFPMB) is to coordinate and develop policy for pest management and vector control activities throughout the Department of Defense, to ensure effective support of the operating forces in prevention of vector-borne diseases, and to prevent losses from pest attack on subsistence, supplies, and facilities.

The AFPMB also functions as the scientific/research advisory body and coordination/liaison activity of the Department of Defense for pest management, and it operates the Defense Pest Management Information Analysis Center (DPMIAC).


Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998 17:17:50 -0500 (EST)
From: The Man in Black

Now a little refreshed, I can go back to shans with a clearer mind.
Another question: can and do the shans infest other organisms?
If the answer is yes, you can imagine what kind of problem we're facing

Yes, just ask the Xiclotls. (Hint: time to buy the Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, which will do until a *real* guide comes along ;)

Humans are the only easily accessible technological species on Earth, and thus are the best means of building a GOO escape pod. The Shans have low numbers according to published materials. Their small population is also confirmed by the evidence that we haven't been completely overrun by the Shans. This means that the Shan must concentrate their efforts onto only those beings useful to their escape plan.

This brings to mind the question; can Shans invade the Mi-Go or other Mythos beings? I think the Mi-Go are immune due to their shifting cellular biology, ie Mr. Shan goes into what he thinks is Ms. Mi-Go's brain, but Ms. Mi-Go changes her brain fungi into digestive fungi - BUURRP! Thank you for playing Call of Cthulhu Mr. Shan…

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