Check out our episode here! The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
After a few pages of old texts describing the science of monstrumology and then a terrible headless cannibalistic monster called an anthropophagus, we see Rick Yancey himself receiving a bundle of folios written by a recently deceased man named William James Henry who claimed to have been born in 1876. Rick has taken the folios and transcribed them. The first three folios are included in this summary. Will Henry is 12 and living with and working for Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a monstrumologist. Will Henry's parents died in a fire and the only thing he has left of them now that he lives with Dr. Warthrop is a tiny hat that is too small for his head, but he wears it anyway. In the middle of the night, a grave robber comes to the doctor with a terrible find. This is not the first time a frightening delivery has come in the middle of the night, but this one might be the worst.
The doctor pays the man for the delivery, they carry it down to the basement, and then the man takes his leave. In his basement, Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry examine the burden. It is the body of a teenage girl with a 25-30 year old anthropophagus wrapped around her small frame. It seems to have choked to death on a strand of pearls while eating her corpse. The anthropophagus has a shark-like mouth in his stomach, large, black eyes on his shoulders and, of course, no head. This is not the worst discovery though. Inside the girl's corpse is a baby anthropophagus and it's alive. Anthropophagi can mate, but females can't carry their children for obvious mouth belly reasons, so the males place the offspring in a safe place to grow until they eat their way out. This one is removed, put in a jar and euthanized.
Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry work for hours dissecting the anthropophagus, all throughout the night and into the next day. The doctor can work tirelessly like this for extended periods, then will fall into a depression for weeks only to be jolted out by some other terrible thing and start all over again. Will Henry though cannot, despite being told over and over again to Snap to, Will Henry! by Dr. Warthrop. When they finish their gruesome work, he falls asleep and the doctor carries him to his room and removes his little hat. This causes Will Henry to wake up and burst into tears, thinking of his parents and how his father loved the doctor so much and how he would fight with his mother about him. He was always off with the doctor and would not, could not tell his wife or son where he went. But they died in a fire and are gone and now Will Henry and the Doctor only have each other.
After a short sleep, Will Henry is awakened by the Doctor (Snap to, Will Henry!) and tasked with gathering supplies. It seems they are going to the graveyard. Dr. Warthrop has determined that, while normally anthropophagi are pack creatures with one alpha male and twenty or so breeding females and offspring, that can't possibly be the case here because they are not native to the area and there haven't been other attacks. This has to be a new group that got here... somehow... and now they must hunt the others. The grave robber, Erasmus Gray, arrives, they load up the supplies and the corpse in his cart and head for the cemetery. They go to the girl's grave, Dr. Warthrop searching all around the ground for disturbed earth but finding none. Will Henry and Erasmus Gray begin to dig up the grave again when they hear a hissing. They look all around but see no monsters. Then, from below, in the grave, Erasmus is pulled down, into the open maw of an anthropophagus. Will Henry and the Doctor escape, just barely, without Will Henry's little hat, after the doctor shoots Erasmus in the head. They take the man's horse, having lost the cart and tossing the girl's corpse as a distraction for the hungry beasts that are chasing them. There were many more than the doctor imagined.
Will Henry is shaken. He asks the doctor if he should contact the constable, thinking they should get a mob with pitchforks to go back out and fight the monsters, but no. Instead of doing any of that, Dr. Warthrop is studying books and maps, trying to figure out where the anthropophagi came from. Is that really important right now?! Apparently so. Dr. Warthrop is convinced that they won't come back to feed for a week or so anyway, according to all the books he's read, and that's a lot. Will Henry is still upset, mostly by the death of Erasmus Gray, and the doctor is flummoxed as to why he should care so much about the death of the old man. After all, if he hadn't shot him in the head, Will Henry would also be dead, and he is indispensable to the doctor. Will Henry's father wouldn't be questioning him so much! Now, snap to, Will Henry! There's much work to be done!
Dr. Warthrop dictates a letter to the Monstrumology Society which Will Henry takes down about the discovery of the anthropophagi. Another letter is written soon after to John "Jack" Kearns, asking for him to come to New Jerusalem at once to help with this new, angrier species of anthropophagi. Then he continues poring over his maps and newspapers until he finds what he was looking for. Dedham. He sends Will Henry down to the basement for his father's trunk. In it is a shrunken head, some human bone runestones, books and papers and one journal. The journal mentions Dedham and someone called V who apparently was imprisoned for something involving Dr. Warthrop's father. All of this means something significant about the anthropophagi to Dr. Warthrop, so they plan to set off that evening for the small town.
Will Henry goes to mail the letters and when he returns, he cannot find the doctor. He does find an article about the mysterious V, which the doctor had also found. The article says that Captain Varner was sailing from Africa back to America for the confederacy when he was attacked on his ship by unearthly creatures. He abandoned ship, was lost at sea for a while, and everyone on his ship died. He was convicted of dereliction of duty and deemed to be not of sound mind and confined to a private asylum in Dedham. Dr. Warthrop returns, he was at the cemetery, and tasks Will Henry with putting away the trunk and burning Erasmus Gray's hat, a scrap of dress he brought back from the grave and his father's journal. He clearly wants to destroy all evidence of his involvement with this whole event. Snap to, Will Henry! Will Henry snaps to and does those things but finds many letters a young Pellinore wrote to his father that were never opened. So he reads one. Young Pellinore was in London for school and sad and lonely. This is probably why he treats Will Henry the way he does. It's what he learned from his own father. Tossing the rest of the items back into the truck, he dislodges a key that was shoved into the tiny shrunken head and puts it in his pocket.
They arrive at the sanatorium late at night. After some gold coins are given to Dr. Starr, the elderly physician who must be atrocious as he requires bribes to see his patients, they are allowed to see Captain Varner. His room smells strongly of bleach-covered rot. He tells the gruesome tale of bringing the anthropophagi from Africa to Pellinore's father. He requested four, an adult male and female and two offspring, but Varner was only gifted three from the king. The largest and most aggressive female, one male and one offspring. He also offered slaves to feed them on the journey back across the sea, but the senior Warthrop insisted they eat only livestock instead. The crew reinforced the area where the monsters would be held and tortured them. They would not eat the livestock, but they did eat their young. A member of the crew thought it a good idea to dangle cut up carcass into their cage which allowed the female to jump and reach the man's arm, ripping it off, breaking through the cage and pulling him in to be feasted upon. And now they are free. Everyone on the ship died apart from the Captain who managed to escape the female's maw when she bit down on his boot. He stabbed her in the eye with a knife and took off for the lifeboats. Somehow it seems that the two anthropophagi survived and now, 23 years later, there are at least 30 of them.
Will Henry was relieved at the end of the tale for surely this means they can leave the foul room filled with buzzing flies. But no. The doctor also noticed the flies. Where could they be coming from? He goes to Varner's side and lifts the man's blankets. His naked obese body is covered in rotting, maggoty bedsores. The staff had tried to cover up their neglect with fresh bandages and sheets, but as Dr. Warthrop continues his examination and pulls back the bedclothes, he uncovers the Captain's feet, clad in the boots that once saved his life. Hoping to examine his feet, he struggles to pull off a boot. The Captain shouts for him to stop, but the doctor continues. As the boot finally pulls free, the Captain's foot comes off as well. The infection from his bedsores has wormed its way into his bones. Dr. Warthrop decides he has only hours to live. He asks what he can do to help the man. His reply? To kill him. Dr. Warthrop sends Will Henry out into the hallway to wait. There he is repeatedly harassed by another prisoner of the sanatorium, calling for him to let him out, saying that he knows he is there, he can smell him. Dr. Warthrop doesn't end up killing the captain, but he does stay with him until he dies. They leave, Dr. Warthrop threatening the nurse with the constable, saying that he's going to have the place shut down and he hopes that she will be treated with the same kindness she showed her patients.
The next day, Will Henry goes to the market. He talks to the shop's owners, which Dr. Warthrop always told him not to do, and they think the doctor's father worked with the Pinkertons and was a traitor to the United States. Will Henry shares this information with the doctor when he returns, and suggests that maybe his dad brought the anthropophagi to New England for the Pinkertons to build an army. Warthrop, of course, thinks this is preposterous. He yells at Will Henry and says his father would never have questioned him in such a way. Will Henry yells back that he hates Dr. Warthrop and never wanted any of this life and it's all his fault that his parents are dead. After their fight, Will Henry storms off to his room. Later, because his services are indispensable to him, he takes Warthrop a scone when he's in bed. Dr. Warthrop pretends nothing happened between them and wants Will Henry to stay by his bedside but not really but really he does. Will Henry asks about his little hat, but the doctor didn't even know about his little hat nor did he find any little hats at the cemetery. Will Henry is sad, that's the only thing he had left from his parents. He also gets a bad feeling about what is to come.
His bad feeling was accurate. A pack of 8-10 anthropophagi slaughtered a family overnight. The constable arrived with the bad news and they traveled to the rectory near the cemetery. The reverend's entire family, except for one son, Malachi, who was able to escape, were devoured. Their blood and viscera and body parts were strewn all over the house. Dr. Warthrop, Will Henry and the constable go to the church to talk to Malachi, but he feels exceptional survivor's guilt and doesn't say much. Except to Will Henry. They talk of losing their families and how they both had to run and finally Malachi is able to describe what happened. It was awful and it turns out, the matriarch anthropophagus, the one Varner stabbed in the eye, led the attack. The Constable takes Malachi in and gathers the mob with the pitchforks. The doctor claims this is unnecessary and will have nothing to do with it. The constable is inciting panic! Afterward, Dr. Warthrop, talking to Will Henry, explains that this is not his responsibility. He has no blood on his hands. Clearly he does, but he made the most scientific decisions he could so should not be held responsible for these deaths and the many that will come from the pitchfork mob.
The next day, the constable comes back. With Will Henry's little hat. He has now deduced that Dr. Warthrop has known about the creatures all along and, thus, is responsible for them being there in the first place. Malachi is also there and one of the Constable's men. Malachi takes a revolver from that officer and threatens to kill the doctor. Will Henry to the rescue again! He is able to talk Malachi down and takes him to a spare room to rest. Dr. Warthrop shows the constable the anthropophagus corpse in the basement. While they're down there, there is a knock at the door. Jack Kearns has arrived with several boxes of supplies, and gives the constable a false name when they are introduced, which leads to a silly bit where he is called by approximately 30 different names. He accuses Dr. Warthrop's father of bringing the anthropophagi there, which obviously he did, and now they have to take care of the situation. Earlier, around the Pinkerton mention, Dr. Warthrop had said, yes, his father probably did bring the monsters to New Jerusalem, but surely it was to study them and to breed out their rage. Whatever he was going to do, this can't have been what was supposed to happen. They make a plan to gather the best sharpshooters and hunt the beasts.
At the cemetery later, Kearns sets up what he calls The Slaughter Ring. With the help of several able-bodied men, the constable, the doctor, Will Henry and Malachi, they set the trap. But of course a trap needs bait. From one of his many supply boxes, Kearns pulls the body of a prostitute. He ties her to a tree with a long rope so she has plenty of room to run around. Because yes, she's alive. Kearns stabs her and runs off to a platform they've constructed and, as the anthropophagi come out seeking their meal, he and the men get the beasts' attention, draw them to the platform, surround them in a ring of fire and begin to shoot them down. Dr. Warthrop runs to the woman with Will Henry and Malachi and they are able to save her. While the two boys are with the woman, a straggler anthropophagus attacks them, but Will Henry, knowing the best ways to defeat the beasts, kills him.
After the slaughter of nearly all the estimated number of anthropophagi, they pile them up and burn them. While looking into the flames, Will Henry remembers his parents' death. James Henry had gone out on an expedition with Dr. Warthrop and returned with an illness that appeared to be shingles. It was not shingles. There were worms inside the sores on his body. He was full of them. Every time a sore would burst, including the ones on his tongue, worms would come out. They were even in his tears. He went mad with the worms and reached into their fiery oven to stop the pain of them. Shortly thereafter, he was engulfed in flames. Will Henry opened the door to let the smoke out, which fueled the flames with fresh oxygen. Will Henry's mother tried to put out her husband, but he grabbed her and held her close. She screamed for Will Henry to run and he did, just as he told Malachi.
So what to do about the rest of the anthropophagi? The one-eyed female and the handful of young that remain? Why, go to them, of course! Kearns believes there is an entrance to their underground lair in the Warthrop mausoleum. And he's right. Inside behind a few puzzles is a trapdoor, but it is locked. But oh ho ho! Will Henry has the key! It's the one he found inside the shrunken head that is still in his pocket! The trapdoor leads down a tunnel and at the bottom... bones. Lots of bones. They surmise that the anthropophagi toss their prey down the hole and go down later to eat them. Dr. Warthrop, Kearns and Malachi drop down into the hole but cannot go far into the tunnel below because they are too big. So down comes Will Henry. He slides through a tiny claustrophobic passage that collapses under him and falls into the anthropophagi's nest. In the nest is one severely injured anthropophagus. It's missing an arm and its wound is infected. Does he kill it or leave it alone?
Neither, for it attacks! Just as he was about to shoot, pulling back the hammer of the revolver, it awakens. They tussle and tumble down another path. Will Henry does his best to hold the beast's uninjured arm with its huge claws away but in the fall, he accidentally lets go. That's all the anthropophagus needs. It attacks and bites Will Henry's arm. To get it to let go, he does the same thing and bites down on the anthropophagus's infected stump of an arm. Pus squirts into his mouth and he wants to vomit. The anthropophagus lets go and then Will Henry bashes it to death with a rock. Two kills in one night! He slowly makes his way back up through the tunnel they tumbled down and up another. Just as he is about to give up thinking he'll be lost forever, he encounters Jack Kearns. Kearns sends him on, showing him a path to follow. He's left a phosphorus trail and tells Will Henry the exact way to go. Not to get out, as Will Henry was led to believe, but straight into the den of the mother anthropophagus. Kearns follows behind Will Henry and pushes him out of a hole and down into the depths of the pit.
Two anthropophagi attack almost immediately. Kearns didn't really push Will Henry down there to die but to use as bait. He shoots from above, killing one of the beasts and Malachi kills the other. Yes! Malachi and Dr. Warthrop are also in the den! Dr. Warthrop comes to Will Henry's side, chastising him, but really it's done with love. Don't you know you are indispensable to me?! If that's not a fatherly concern, nothing is. Kearns elegantly leaps from above and he and Dr. Warthrop follow footprints down a tunnel near an underground river, while Malachi and Will Henry stay behind. They hear a gunshot and then Malachi is sucked through the river soaked floor by the mother beast herself. It's just like with Erasmus Gray, but Malachi doesn't want to be saved. He takes a grenade from a pack made for him by Kearns, holds it tightly, and pulls the pin as he is dragged down to the monster by the handle she made from his spinal column.
After the explosion, the anthropophagus leaps from the hole, charging for Will Henry. He only has one bullet left in his revolver so makes a desperate attempt to stop her attack. He grabs one of the corpses from a few moments ago and holds the gun to it. She stops, makes a warbling call and when it is not returned, she attacks. Will Henry knows he only has one shot, so he waits. She gets closer. Still he waits. Closer. Closer. He pulls the trigger.
A month later, Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop are back in their house, having a relatively normal day. Dr. Warthrop asks if there has been any news. No. News of what, though? Shortly after the events of the Anthropophagi Affair as they came to call it, Dr. Warthrop, Will Henry and John "Jack" Kearns, though this time he calls himself Dr. John J. J. Schmidt, go back to the sanatorium. They talk to Dr. Starr about what has happened, about Dr. Warthrop's father, the Pinkertons, and finally get the truth. The elder Warthrop was assisting the Pinkerton men with a eugenics experiment to equal Nietzsche's Übermensch. They wanted to breed the anthropophagi with humans to create beings with the power of the Anthropophagi and the brains of homo sapiens. That did not go as planned, for every person supplied by Dr. Starr from the sanatorium for mating was devoured. So then the elder Warthrop decided to keep them alive and keep feeding them with donations from Dr. Starr, sure that he could tame them. Warthrop paid for the deliveries even after his death, but when the payments finally stopped, Dr. Starr stopped sending deliveries. And that's when they started erupting from the graveyard and eating corpses. Kearns breaks Dr. Starr's neck after this revelation and they leave. Kearns leaves the doctor's house later that night and disappears for awhile, presumably to avoid being arrested for murder. However, something did come up in one newspaper, a mention of Jack the Ripper. Coincidentally, Jack Kearns mentioned being from Whitehall, the same town as the Ripper, and we can only conclude that he is Jack the Ripper.
Before leaving for the sanatorium, the doctor had checked on Will Henry's wounds, which appear to glow in the dark. Now he's examining him fully, drawing his blood and running tests. Tests that will have to be performed for the rest of his life. It seems that Will Henry is infected with the same worms his father had, but his are not painfully taking over his body. His are, in fact, giving him a long life. The worms, called b. arawakus are also sometimes referred to as the Fountain of Youth Contagion. So this is why, at the very beginning, we learned that Will Henry was at least 120 when he died. They sit together by a fire, Dr. Warthrop burning the things left in his father's trunk. Will Henry has his little hat, and another he found on his bedpost that morning with his initials embroidered inside, nonchalantly given to him by the doctor. He tosses his little hat into the fire and puts the new one on his head.
In the epilogue, Rick Yancey returns to visit the facility where Will Henry was when he finally died. He explains that the folios are clearly fictional, but does he really believe that? Honestly? He asks about the autopsy to see if there was anything unusual in Will Henry's blood, but nothing was brought to anyone's attention, so there must not have been. Rick visits Will Henry's grave and sees a tiny worm, no bigger than a strand of hair, very similar to the worms the doctor described when examining Will Henry and Will Henry described when talking about his father. Yeesh! Perhaps the whole story is true and monsters are real after all.