Sandy Petersen (creator of “Call of Cthulhu”) relates his true ghost story

Sandy Petersen

Sandy Petersen

Sandy Petersen is a legend in tabletop gaming — he’s the creator of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game.  Sandy will be a special guest at the upcoming H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, where he will host a Call of Cthulhu session.

Sandy sent me this a few weeks ago, and I felt that now was a good time to post it.  If you’re a fan of Call of Cthulhu, here’s a little insight into its creator, in his own words. — Mike Davis


Some people know that Sandy Petersen (me!) once saw a ghost, and I have been asked before to tell about it. This is a true story folks. It really happened to me as described below. So if what I describe doesn’t fit your reality … then I guess your reality needs to change. (The latter, after all, is one of Lovecraft’s themes.)

THE YEAR: 1966. Sandy is 11 years old.

THE PLACE: a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Provo, Utah.

BACKSTORY: Across the street from my home was an abandoned house. It had large holes in the walls, broken windows, parts of the roof were caved-in. All us kids were certain the joint was haunted. Naturally, we built a clubhouse in the upper story of the haunted house’s separate garage. The house itself didn’t have anywhere secluded enough, what with the huge open windows & absence of doors.

The house did have a basement, but that was too creepy even for us. We knew the basement had Bad Things. I once made it a third of the way downstairs before I chickened out and fled back to the light. One kid claimed to have gone all the way down, and reported having seen a dark hooded figure. We were all very impressed.

In our heart of hearts, of course, we knew the house wasn’t really haunted and there could not have been any dark hooded figure. It was just fun to pretend. But it did get me thinking about ghosts. A lot. I assume that this helped lead to my actual ghost sighting.

THE EVENT: it was night-time. No cars were in the street. No people either, except me. A light mist was in the air (unusual, for Utah). I looked down the road, and saw, to my amazement and terror, the enormous misty figure of a woman bearing down on me.

She must have been ten feet tall, wearing a big full skirt from the last century. Her body seemed to be entirely composed of mist. I could not make out facial contours or details on her clothing. Her hair faded off into the night air. She was next to a streetlight, flowing towards me at an appallingly fast rate. But after my initial shock (I actually ran away a short distance), I noticed that she did not get any closer. Her misty body flowed as if progressing towards me, but she remained fixed in place, having only the appearance of movement. She had quite a narrow waist. I do not recall seeing arms or not (definitely saw no feet). I was able to stand and watch her for several minutes.

She was between me and the way home. I remember being reluctant to get any closer to her. The fear that this apparition created in me was overpowering, though coupled with the fascination I felt. I actually do not recall how I got home. But the image of her looming there, “rushing forward” in place, will never leave me.

WHAT WAS SHE? Well I don’t know if she was a “spirit of the dead”. But whatever she represented, she was obviously a fine example of something we’d normally term a “ghost”.

COULD SHE HAVE BEEN AN EFFECT OF THE STREETLIGHTS ON THE MIST? Maybe. Would non-symmetrical streetlight placement make such a perfectly symmetrical image? Also, there was no wind, so why would the mist seem to move?

COULD SHE HAVE BEEN A HALLUCINATION? I do not think this is likely. I have had hallucinations (don’t ask), and the “feel” was different.

WHY ARE YOU SURE SHE WAS SUPERNATURAL? Hey, I don’t say her image can’t be explained by natural means. I just say that I can’t explain it. I saw it and I’ve never seen anything like it since.

Sandy Petersen is a well-known game designer and horror personality. He got his start in gaming in 1981, when he wrote the cult roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu, which has been translated into many languages and is still played world-wide.

You can buy the 6th edition of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game at Amazon.

(By the way — we play Call of Cthulhu here at Lovecraft eZine every weekend!  Click here for details on how you can join us.)

One response to “Sandy Petersen (creator of “Call of Cthulhu”) relates his true ghost story

  1. Wonderful story, thanks for sharing, Sandy! I’m glad that you mentioned that just because you couldn’t mean it doesn’t mean it can’t be explained at all. I think that’s a mistake a lot of people make when dealing with this kind of thing.


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