In an interview with paranormal investigator Linda Zimmerman on EERIE Radio, the conversation touched on a bit of history that caught my attention: the American flag that cushioned Abraham Lincoln‘s head after his assassination, stained with his blood, is held by The Columns, a museum in Milford, Pennsylvania. There are several possible adventures to spin out of this that immediately spring to mind.
Blood of the Father
A radical political movement, embarking on a long game of political and societal manipulation, steals the flag to extract DNA from the century and a half old blood stains using state of the art handwaving techniques. The group intends to grow a clone of Lincoln, educating him in not only the best approximations of his genetic donor’s mannerisms and oratory style, but also their own political views and agendas. Once young Abe comes of age, he’ll be unleashed on the public, playing on the nation’s mythology and longing for a brighter past to sweep into the White House. That’s when the fun starts. It’s a little bit Clone High, it’s a little bit 7th Son.
Alternately, this could be the origin for a player character — who ultimately broke free of the movement’s influence, or doesn’t realize how deep the conditioning goes — maybe in a gonzo game of post-modern self-referentiality, or a loose League of Extraordinary Gentlemen homage.
In Living Memory
The assassination of a leader, particularly in times of high stress, like a civil war, can do unpleasant things to the psychic gestalt of a nation. Lincoln’s pillow, as the flag came to be called, spent only a short time cushioning the head of the dying president. After Lincoln was moved from Ford’s Theatre, Thomas Gourlay, part-time manager and actor, took the flag as a souvenir and it slipped out of sight. Gourlay’s daughter kept the flag in turn, bringing it to her new home in Milford, Pennsylvanie. Eventually the flag became the property of The Columns museum. And all that time, Lincoln’s pillow served as a psychic waste receptacle, soaking up the grief, anger and self-recrimination of an entire nation.
Now the flag would serve as a potent focal point for any occult ritual working with similar emotions or intent. It’s only a matter of time before some clever historian cum ritual magician — they’re not as infrequent as you might think — realizes the potential inherent in such a mystically charged artifact. Lincoln’s pillow would be a fine McGuffin, something for the player characters to race to acquire first or take away from the antagonist of the moment. They might be even be charged with protecting the flag and other similar objects. The Columns could be a holding facility for psychically toxic materials; the eponymous architectural features serving as part of a feng shui manipulating mechanism that lessens the deleterious impact of dangerous items like Lincoln’s pillow.
Blood Ties the Spirit
Abraham Lincoln was neither that particular spirit’s first nor last physical incarnation to be tied so intimately to the fate of the nation. A few astute mortal scholars guess at the truth: that there are one or more entities who contrive to repeatedly enter the unfolding story of the United States of America. Some work for good, others for ruination. The struggle persists, even today. Normal people get swept up in the struggle and are changed forever by their experiences.
Now, however, one of the dark side’s soldiers has hit on a plan that could shift the balance of the spirit war. The spirit that was Lincoln has, in its latest identity, again become enmeshed in a consuming struggle over the fate of the nation. The leader’s disappearance would shake their faction to the core, leaving a prime opportunity for the dark to move in. The soldier, a necromancer by self-education, plans to use the flag at The Columns as the sympathetic link to the spirit that was Lincoln. Tapping into the spiritual resonance, he can pull the spirit right out of its current vessel and to his summoning circle, holding it there just long enough for the body to die for lack of its motivating essence.
As warriors of the light, it’s up to the player characters to not only protect the flag from this dark willworker, but identify and close off any other possible avenues of vulnerability until the leader achieves their goals.