WhatsUp Interview: CJ Opperthauser of “Tour de Tentacle”

Photo: Jen Bonin

In the spirit of all things Halloween, I sat down with CJ Opperthauser, co-organizer of the upcoming Tour de Tentacle, a city-wide event on Sunday, October 27th, loosely inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

This will be the fifth installment of Tour de Tentacle but for those of us still catching up, what is it?

We (myself and my co-organizer, Niels Hobbs) like to label Tour de Tentacle as a weird bike odyssey around Providence. The nuts and bolts of it is this: you’ve been summoned to save Providence from some evil, weird forces, along with 59 other folks. On bikes and in small teams, you receive clues and tasks and make your way through this plot, trying to save the city (or destroy it) and possibly destroying it (which maybe to you is perfectly fine, which I sort of love but cannot support). Then we have a big ceremony at the end where we reveal Providence’s fate, and either way we party!

 Partying is something everyone can get on board with! That being said, I think the bicycling piece may intimidate some. Do you have to be an experienced bicyclist to participate?

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Not at all! We carefully try our best to site our stops so that it’s not immensely boring if you’re an experienced cyclist but also not too challenging if you almost never ride. Plus riding in small groups in Sunday traffic seems to help. Lastly, we have a bike mechanic on-site to fix any little things that your bike might decide to do that day.

Photo: Jen Bonin

Is it important to be familiar with H.P. Lovecraft to complete the adventure?

Nope! I think it would help you appreciate the whole thing a little more, but definitely not that important. It’s much less based directly on Lovecraft’s life or stories and much more derived from his brand of weird.

Speaking of Lovecraft’s life, I think it’s fair to say that many of his fans can appreciate his “brand of weird” and influence on horror and dark fantasy while also recognizing the extremely problematic aspects of his personal life (Lovecraft was overtly and profoundly racist). Can you speak a little bit about this idea of censuring the artist but not the art?

We feel that the growing global literary legacy of Lovecraft is something that all of Providence can embrace and make our own — and still reject the more odious personal aspects of a man long dead. In other words, we’re here to have fun with a genre he dreamt up, not celebrate him or his beliefs. It’s not an easy or perfectly comfortable balance, though, I’ll grant you that.

Photo: Jen Bonin

Providence has a great way of making things their own — what can participants expect to get out of the day?

That’s a great question. I’d say participants (including volunteers — we always need more! They get free beer and shirts! Easy plug!) get to be part of an engaging, unique game that takes them to all sorts of places in Providence — including, hopefully, some they’ve driven or ridden or walked past a million times and never noticed. We actually get a few folks who do this almost every year (this is our fifth one!) so we make sure it’s different every time. It’s a lot of fun with friends and it’s a cool challenge to keep solving these weird clues and bounce from place to place. Plus, at the end of the day, you ride around town doing something unique and enjoying how weird the whole thing is before coming back downtown, having a beer, and celebrating Providence’s salvation — or destruction. Whichever.

Tour de Tentacle falls on Sunday, October 27th from 2pm-5pm. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.