Driven by a desire to learn the origin of a strange idol found on his property, Maine farmer Jonas Markham is joined by charismatic cult leader, Ivy Morgan, in the office of Columbia University professor, Rudolph Pearson.
Professor Pearson examines the idol (a repulsive clay sculpture of a creature with hoofed feet and protruding tentacles) and recounts an annotation he read in a rare text ( Unaussprechlichen Kulten) at Miskatonic University. Based on what he read, Pearson believes the idol Jonas found on his farm fits the description of the so-called “dark young” of a strange, alien deity called Shub-Niggurath. Pearson refers Jonas to Dr. Henry Armitage at Miskatonic University, and has his secretary write Jonas a letter of introduction.
As they are leaving, Jonas and Ivy are surprised to see Professor Alistair Sinclair, who has recently arrived for an appointment he had scheduled with Professor Pearson. Vague niceties are exchanged, and Professor Pearson offers to give all three a tour of the Columbia University campus.
Several hours later, as the group arrives back at Professor Pearson’s office, an older gentleman bursts in to the room, asking if the professor has seen a man named Effram. When Pearson answers in the negative, the older gentleman gets agitated (“It’s been two weeks, Rudolph!”). Pearson, concerned by the exchange with his colleague, asks Jonas, Ivy, and Alistair if they could do him a favor. His friend, Effram Harris, a professor of physics at the university, has not been heard from in two weeks. While it isn’t strange for Effram to go days without checking in (he’s prone to bouts of working, in which he becomes engulfed in his work and loses track of time), Pearson has become worried since he is unable to find Harris in his usual haunts (his home, his office, one of the unused labs in the Science Building). Pearson confides that Harris is a bit of an eccentric – Effram recently told Pearson that he’s working on a machine that would do for the universe what the telephone did for the world.
Before the head of the Physics Department files a missing-person report, Pearson would like Jonas, Ivy, and Alistair to try to locate the whereabouts of Professor Harris. Pearson gives the investigators the keys to Harris’ home at the Manhasset Apartments, and shows them to Harris’ office.
A thorough search of Effram Harris’ cluttered, disorganized office uncovers a few clues – two newspaper clippings (a story concerning power outages in the area – another concerning a Brooklyn woman who found a random baseball in a locked chest in her home), a journal which recounts power problems Harris was encountering with a device he was building, and a schematic of an unknown device. After several minutes of reviewing the schematic, both Jonas and Ivy determine that is merely a component of a much bigger device.
The investigators stop for dinner before making their way to the Manhasset Apartments. Effram Harris’ apartment appears little-used, except for a disorganized stack of papers atop a small desk. Jonas and Ivy begin sorting through the stacks of papers, while Alistair looks for a bottle of booze in the cabinets. Instead of booze, he finds a shoebox filled with baseballs signed and numbered by Effram, which Ivy quickly realizes matches the description of the baseball in the newspaper clipping found in Harris’ office. In the stack of disorganized papers, Jonas finds a rental agreement for a property in the Gashouse district. Fearful that Harris may be creating some sort of teleportation machine, Ivy, Alistair, and Jonas decide to visit the property.
Well armed and appropriately cautious, the investigators find the building. Noticing a group of ne’er do-wells on the corner, they drive around the block and down an alley to reach the back door of the building. Ivy notices a padlock and several deadbolts on the backdoor, and Jonas quickly goes to work using his locksmith tools to pick the locks. Even with his successful lock-picking, Jonas fails to open the door – it seems that something is barring entrance. Ivy Morgan begins knocking on the door while Alistair checks to make sure the coast is clear.
After a few moments of knocking, a voice answers from inside. The investigators confirm that it is Effram Harris, but he refuses to open the door – he states that he is very busy, and does not want any visitors. Alistair and Jonas try different approaches, but none are successful. Only when Ivy mentions the name of Professor Pearson, Effram Harris unbars the door and allows the investigators access to his makeshift laboratory.
Effram Harris has been busy – a large machine stands in the middle of the room. Large power cables lead to a twelve-foot tall ring of metal and wires. Around the room, blueprints, schematics, and tools are strewn across several tables. Harris leads the investigators to a front room, and apologizes for not checking in with his department head or Professor Pearson. When they reach the front room, the investigators notice something lying on a table – it is an oval stone with alien runes carved into it. Ivy and Alistair are repulsed by the stone and remove themselves to the back wall of the room. Jonas seems enthralled by the object. Effram picks up the stone and cradles it like a baby.
Harris informs the investigators that he has solved the power problems that was limiting the operation of the machine, and enlists the enthralled Jonas to help him turn it on. Intrigued by what the machine might do, Ivy and Alistair look on, prepared to act if something goes horribly wrong. Once engaged, the machine begins to pulse with power – the lights within the factory space begin to dim immediately. Electricity begins to arc through a device at the top of the ring, and after a few minutes the center of the ring begins to shimmer. Suddenly, a clear image can be discerned.
Harris and the investigators behold an alien landscape. Thin, cyclopean spires meet a deep purple sky and spread outward as far as the eye can see. An eerie light shines upon the landscape. Harris, driven mad by the scope of his success, immediately jumps through the ring and into another world. Once Harris has jumped through the ring, the hold that the oval stone had on the investigators is broken, and they suddenly realize their immediate danger.
Ivy attempts to call out to Effram Harris, who now looks to the skies with terror on his face, as shadows pass over him from above. Jonas grabs a cutting torch and tries to cut through the power cables. Alistair shoots at a machine component, and then begins to unlock the back door. Disabling the machine proves a difficult task – as he is trying to shoot the power cables with his .45, Alistair sees a winged figure emerge through the ring.
With six lobster-like claws, two of which carry a long, metal cylinder, the winged creature enters the room. Ivy continues to beat on the power coupling with a sledgehammer, and finally disables the machine. The alien landscape and Effram Harris blink out of existence, but the flying creature remains. Ivy attempts to shoot the creature, but her bullets do not seem to hurt it. Jonas, remembering the wise words of Truth Justice at the Slaughtered Lamb, attacks the creature with the cutting torch. Ivy, grabbing the sledgehammer, brings it down on the creature and does significant damage. The creature attempts to grab a hold of Jonas, but he nimbly escapes its grasp, and fatally injures the monster with the cutting torch.
Alistair goes in to the alley to start Jonas’ Packard while Jonas and Ivy pile the carcass of the creature among the tables and papers in the makeshift lab. Jonas piles the cutting torch’s gas tanks in the pile of debris, and he and Ivy exit the building. Aiming his .45 carefully, Alistair shoots the tanks and ignites the carcass, papers, and tables. The fire spreads quickly as the Packard speeds away.