Recently my local pizzeria – a place I buy far too many dinners from – underwent a major renovation. As part of this they got rid of the plastic outdoor furniture that was doing service as a place to wait for one’s order and installed a couple of luxurious dining booths, upholstered in funky vinyl decorated with a pattern of reproduced newspaper articles and Cuban postage stamps (yes, you read that right – Cuban postage stamps).
One of these articles has been catching my eye each time I’ve visited, and I here reproduce what parts of it are visible beneath other articles and stamps commemorating Columbus’s voyage to the new world…
MYSTERIOUS DISPARITION [sic]
Randolph Peterson, citizen of Boston that was living at the 138 Lane Street, is said disapeared [sic] since November 18. Randolph Peterson lived in Boston during his young times. At the age of 12 he contracted a strange and very severe illness that grag [sic] him in the coma for one full year. At the age of 13 he waked [sic] up from his coma, the illness was miraculously gone but he suffered of amnesia and had difficulty to readapt [sic] himself to a normal life. This ilness [sic] also left […] Some years ago he went to Africa to pursue some studies on pagan cults and living habits in some Afri- […]of still […] he […]u ive[…] an inspect […] up soon to atr[…] him by the local authorities. If you have any information about where Randol-
What initially attracted my notice to this rather fragmentary account was the combination of extremely Lovecraftian elements, to wit a strange disappearance, New England, the name ‘Randolph’, a mysterious illness, amnesia and pagan cults. It almost read like a retread of The Shadow Out of Time! So I hurried home (once I had my pizza and garlic bread) and started Googling, confident that I would soon uncover whatever piece of sub-Derleth fan fiction the article derived from…
I have been entirely unable to find any instance of Randolph Peterson and his mysterious vanishing anywhere online.
So, where did it come from?
Assuming that it wasn’t thrown together by some graphic designer on a Cthulhu binge I rather suspect that it may be a genuine article collected from an African newspaper. The rest of the articles used on the pattern appear genuine, and although I’m no linguist the slightly eccentric English has – to me – a distinctly African feeling to it, constructions such as “readapt himself” and “suffered of amnesia” . Randolph Peterson does not appear to exist anywhere on the internet, so I imagine it’s a fairly old article, even though some of the others appear quite recent (one concerns online music teaching).
So there the mystery must rest. Was Randolph Peterson ever real, and if so, what happened to him?
We may never know.