On the outskirts of Raccoon City lay the rural region known as the Arklay Mountains; mile upon mile of beautiful craggy countryside blanketed by the rich tapestry of Raccoon Forest. This locale was very popular with hikers, ramblers and joggers, and was responsible for a significant slice of Raccoon’s tourism industry. As well as the forest, Arklay also contained a dam and reservoir for the town’s water supply as well as several major lakes and rivers, many of which ran directly through or underneath the city. The green, blue and red herbs were native to the region and the geography was so vast that one could easily get lost on any one of the dozens of mountain trails.
Whilst stationed at Arklay Labs, Albert Wesker would often take long walks through the forest, cataloguing the wildlife and pondering on-going developments at Umbrella. He wondered if Spencer had purposefully constructed the mansion and labs in this location for it was the perfect thriving ground for the t-Virus should it ever be exposed to the outside. The rich haven of flora and fauna local to the region were all susceptible to infection, making the whole area a dangerous location to house primary viral research. The mansion estate was located deep into the forest, well away from the city as Spencer had at least considered that significant distance from the local population centre was important. The woods were vast and there were no other houses in the area. Numerous pathways, tracks and trails spider-webbed their way across the region and the only way in and out of the very deepest recesses was via helicopter.
Roughly three miles away from the mansion was Umbrella’s Management Training Facility run by Dr. Marcus, and to transport key personnel between these facilities and Raccoon City was a set of privately owned rail tracks by Umbrella. Their special transport train, the Ecliptic Express, made daily trips into Raccoon Forest and beyond. In addition to these two facilities, Umbrella also had dealings with a little-known hospital situated inside the forest. Unlike Raccoon General Hospital which was built in downtown Raccoon City in 1992, this small medical centre was decades old and the original point of call for treatment by Raccoon’s citizens.
However, when the General Hospital was eventually constructed as part of Mayor Michael Warren’s ‘Bright 21st Century Raccoon Plan’, the old Arklay hospital fell into decline. Most patients relocated to the brand new, state-of-the-art hospital in the centre of town rather than travelling outside of the city and into the forest. This downfall resulted in financial troubles and was a key reason why Umbrella were able to step in and bribe the staff with financial incentive in order to conduct illegal medical experiments on the patients. They operated under a dummy corporation and passed themselves off as a small and insignificant medical firm. The hospital’s chief administrator, Albert Lester, was treating his wife Dorothy for cancer at the time and the illegal products Umbrella were offering, including experimental strains of the t-Virus, promised to aid to aid her recovery.
Initially the tests went well and several patients including Dorothy responded well to treatment. But eventually the virus took its toll on the subjects and all human comprehension was lost. The experiments were covered up and friends and relatives were told that their loved ones had either died through illness or complications to treatment. But too many patients had died, and the citizens suspected that something was amiss and began protesting at the hospital gates. Eventually the local media got involved and a reporter named Kurt, a colleague of Alyssa Ashcroft, came to investigate. But Kurt was denied access to the hospital and no staff members were willing to comment or give interviews. His background checks failed to turn up anything significant about the medical corporation supplying the experimental treatments or its products.
Simultaneously, the R.P.D. had also begun a discreet investigation following several complaints and was looking into the importing of drugs into the hospital. But Police Chief Brian Irons, whom Umbrella had only recently acquired onto their payroll, ensured there was no way to trace anything back to the corporation.
Following weeks of frustration, Kurt travelled to the hospital in the middle of the night in an attempt to break inside and obtain proof of any wrongdoings. Alyssa knew he was going to do this and agreed to cover up for him. However, soon after infiltrating the facility, he was attacked and killed by Al Lester’s infected wife Dorothy. Kurt’s death forced the R.P.D investigation teams into action but Brian Irons was able to stall the police long enough for Umbrella to withdraw themselves from the entire episode. He ensured Kurt’s death and the illegal drug imports were quietly forgotten and eventually the investigation was suspended due to lack of evidence. The hospital closed down shortly afterwards and the building fell into disrepair.
In the following years, reports of missing persons and accidents in the Arklay Mountains began to increase. Recurring high altitude fog meant that many of the paths were closed during the winter seasons and on Halloween night 1996, a gruesome discovery was made when the decomposed corpse of a man was found washed up on the shores of the Aimes River. Powerful steroids and other drugs were found inside the body but the authorities were not surprised for the river had long been used as an illegal dumping ground by local pharmaceutical companies.
In 1998, Albert Lester returned to Raccoon City five years after the death of his wife. He visited the site of the old hospital and found a curious plant growing in the basement. The plant had become infected with the t-Virus from the remnants of the 1993 experiments and Al became fascinated by the plant he began to see as a reincarnation of Dorothy. He would go hunting in the woods and bring back birds, dogs and other captured game to feed her with. As he became more and more delusional, he began to don a mask and murder local hikers as a food source for the plant. Not long afterwards rumours began to circulate in the local press that a ghost was haunting the mountains. Amongst his victims were two botanists on a camping trip to study local plant life.
But the most significant event in the Arklay Mountains was the t-Virus leak at the Spencer Mansion on May 11th. In the following weeks reports began to come in concerning strange dog-like creatures roaming the woods and increasing numbers of people venturing into the forest for a walk or a run were not coming back. But the ensuring media circus only attracted more people to the region eager to catch a glimpse for themselves what all the fuss was about.
On May 20th, a man walked the banks of the Marble River and found the mutilated remains of a female hiker washed up on the shoreline. This was the first of several serious incidents which resulted in the road leading to the foothills being blocked off by police and a cordon put in place. On July 9th the S.T.A.R.S. taskforce began their investigation into the incidents but expected great difficulty due to the vast size of the Arklay Mountains and primeval forest area. Their efforts to contain the area were hampered by an excited local press urging people to break the cordon and photograph the elusive strange creatures that had been sighted in the area.
Following the mansion incident, the resulting fire from the estate’s destruction spread to the neighbouring trees and a large area of about 750 acres, equalling to 300 hectares, had been burned by the time the fire was contained and extinguished. The environment and ecological balance of the entire forest was made unstable by this devastation and city officials demanded prompt field surveys by experts who quickly concluded ecological restoration work and afforestation were urgently required. The resulting impact on Raccoon’s tourism industry was devastating.
Umbrella conducted a discreet investigation into the remnants of the Arklay estate and surrounding forest area. One of the lead supervisors in the investigation was Nikolai Ginoveaf and in the week and a half following the explosion, Umbrella’s forensic teams and viral specialists combed every small area of the vast forest region around the mansion. By August 5th they concluded that there were no signs of viral leakage in the surrounding area, though the forest was to be continuously monitored with extreme caution. The body of their secret operative, Albert Wesker, was also not recovered, despite the reports of surviving S.T.A.R.S. members having witnessed him being killed at the scene. With no remains were located, this was the first subtle clue to those high up within Umbrella that Wesker was still alive.
As the summer months rolled on, strange creatures were again sighted in the woods as the t-Virus slowly seeped into the city following leaks at the Dead Factory on the outskirts of town. In early September the hooded figure of Albert Lester was witnessed by local hikers and more reports of ghostly sightings were made to the local press, with residents believing it to be the spirit of a patient from the old hospital. A week later campers reported witnessing an enormous insect-like creature in the forest and this generated great debate in the city with a leading professor at Raccoon University debunking the claims, citing that no such creature could possibly exist.
During the t-Virus disaster at Raccoon City,a group of survivors made it out into the woods where they met Albert Lester in his cabin. He led them down to the remnants of the old hospital and stalked them with his axe, hoping to feed them to the Dorothy Plant. A large portion of the Arklay Mountain region was decimated following the nuclear strike upon Raccoon City on October 1st 1998, but over time the area began to regrow and nature once again laid claim to the region.
RACCOON DAM: – Provided the water supply to Raccoon City and was located near to the Management Training Facility. The dam connected to both Victory Lake and Circular River and Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen sought refuge here during the viral outbreak in the Arklay Mountains on July 23rd, 1998.
CIRCULAR RIVER: – Circular River was the main water flow and ran right through the heart of Raccoon City covering both the northern and southern regions. To the north, Circular River branched off towards the Lynn Valley. Aside from the river’s geography, very little else was known in regards to its background and history.
VICTORY LAKE: – Victory Lake wasa popular tourist destination and holiday hotspot for Raccoon City’s nature-loving citizens. During the t-Virus outbreak of summer 1998, two corpses were discovered on the lake shoreline. The attackers were described only as mysterious monsters that had been witnessed in the area several days earlier.
MANAGEMENT TRAINING FACILITY: – Opened by Umbrella in the late sixties and ran for ten years under Dr. James Marcus. More information here.
MENDEZ RIVER: – The Mendez River flowed from the western Arklay Mountains region, connecting to the outskirts of Raccoon City via its shipping docks. Not long before the outbreak, a 39-year old man was found dead on the banks of the Mendez, having been attacked and severely mutilated not long before his discovery. An unidentified man was found wandering the vicinity close to the body, covered in blood and unresponsive. The R.P.D. arrested the man and transferred him back to the precinct for questioning.
THE ARKLAY ESTATE: – Also referred to as the Spencer Mansion, it was constructed in 1962 by George Trevor and completed in 1967. More information here.
AIMES RIVER: – The Aimes River was located near to several major hiking and camping paths surrounding the Arklay Mountains. Various small streams broke away from the Aimes, leading those planning on staying in close proximity to its banks getting sometimes lost much deeper within Raccoon Forest. Many distress calls made by hikers and campers new to the region were a result of the Aimes River’s complex structure. Because the Aimes was so difficult to supervise, it had long been the favoured dumping ground for illegal chemical and drug companies operating within its vicinity. On October 31st, 1996, the body of a man was discovered floating in the river by campers. The coroner determined that the man had been dead for at least six months prior to his discovery and the corpse was so badly decayed that identification was impossible. A high level of various illegal and unidentified drugs was found in the man’s body, leading the R.P.D. to suspect he had been drugged and murdered, but with no apparent motive. The subsequent police investigation that followed was later dropped after it failed to yield any results.
ABANDONED HOSPITAL: – Fell into decline after the construction of Raccoon General Hospital in 1992. It was used for undercover experiments by Umbrella and was eventually shut down in 1993 after the disappearance of a local journalist and a demonstration following mistreatment of patients. It remained a crumbling ruin for the next five years and was supported by the thick root system of an infected plant growing in the basement. The remains of the building were later destroyed in 1998.
MARBLE RIVER: – Flowed from the Arklay Forest region and ran through Raccoon City’s Cedar District. In May 1998, a deceased woman in her early 20’s was discovered close to the Marble River. It is believed that this was the first victim to spark the public’s concern regarding a vicious cult operating in the Arklay Mountains and the ensuring investigation by the S.T.A.R.S. unit.