The ink has begun to fade from the sea,
The coffee is starting to sour;
But the question that troubles all business in town is
Who Could That Be at This Hour?
— attn VFD: stanza 1/7

Stain'd-by-the-Sea is the main setting for the book series All the Wrong Questions and first appears in Who Could That Be at This Hour? as the setting for which Lemony Snicket's first mission as a neophyte for V.F.D. takes place.


It is about a half day's drive from the city.

It once was by the sea, but all the water was pumped away into Killdeer Fields,[3] to save the town. The town is "fading", and its major export, ink, is quickly running out, thus vastly slowing the local economy. The Clusterous Forest was formed on the edge of the town, next to the lighthouse.


The town was once populated by the Yamgraz people, but after colonists discovered ink in the water, they populated the town, and the indigenous people eventually faded away.[4] According to legend, Lady Mallahan slew the Bombinating Beast at the town's edge. There was also another legend about the Stain'd Witches, who had ink instead of blood in their veins.[1]

Ingrid Knight built up Ink Inc. in the town, making the Knight family rich and bringing business to the town. As it was near the sea, the town used to have a fishing business,[5], a theater,[4] and a City Hall.[1] In front of city hall, a statue was built to honor Colonel Colophon's victories in a recent war, but the statue was blown up, injuring the Colonel. The explosion was blamed on the Inhumane Society, who had been making trouble due to the statue's planning. The remains of the statue still stand.[2]

After the explosion and death of Ingrid, her son Ignatius Knight took over Ink Inc. When ink started to run out from the octopi, he ordered the draining of the sea in order to find more inkwells. This was opposed by environmentalists[3] and businesses in town that relied on the water to operate,[5], but the sea was drained, to disastrous consequences; all businesses in town halted, and the finding of more octopi only delayed the inevitable collapse of Ink Inc.

Stain'd once had a prolific newspaper, The Stain'd Lighthouse, but ever since the ink began to run out it has been unable to be published. Much of Stain'd is unpeopled, but some places still run, including The Lost Arms, Mallahan Lighthouse, the Public Library and Police Station, Handkerchief Heights, the Sallis Mansion, and Black Cat Coffee, among others. It is located on what used to be an island, and the buildings were once elegant, but now are broken and battered. There also used to be a sports team, the Stain'd-by-the-Sea Sea Stains.

Most citizens left either due to the economy crash or from fear of the Inhumane Society.[3] Cleo Knight hopes to save the town by finishing a formula for invisible ink to bring Ink Inc. back to prominence and restore the economy.


Three pages
Near the outskirts of the town are sloping hills covered in trees. Most of the buildings are uninhabited. The sidewalks are cracked, and most businesses are abandoned. Whole neighborhoods are vacant, the most vacant being Blotted Boulevard; some have been knocked down completelt. The buildings are boarded up on most streets. Old bottles and cans litter the streets, and the Sallis Mansion is smack in the middle of the town. There is also a huge giant pen-shaped headquarters for Ink Inc. at the far edge of the town, where the Knight Family lived and operated the inking industry. There is only one open restaurant, a small diner called Hungry's, which is operated by Hungry Hix and her nephew Jake Hix.

What used to be city hall now doubles as a police station, run by Harvey and Mimi Mitchum, and a library, run by sub-librarian Dashiell Qwerty, as the town cannot afford a permanent librarian.[1] There used to be a number of schools near the town that are now closed; Stain'd Secondary School was the last remaining one before it was burnt down.[5]

The oldest neighborhood in town holds the stores Boards, owned by Bob Old, Swords, owned by Muriel Distinguished, Cords, Gourds, and Chrysanthemums, owned by Delphinium Smith. There is also a veterinary office belonging to the Sobol family, a car garage operated by Jackie, and a rocking chair store called Cozy's, owned by Thomasina Cozy.

Empty piers still remain over where the sea used to be. Though there is no water, the town still fogs up.[4]

Stain'd Station operates the only train that goes in and out of town, which arrives once a month.

Offshore Island

Offshore Island is just a little ways from Stain'd-by-the-Sea, near Handkerchief Heights, and it holds Wade Academy. It used to be an island, but since the draining of the sea, it is "now just a mountain of stones rising out of the drained valley."[1] A rickety platform, which serves as an unexpected train stop, and an "eerie" bridge hang over the missing water. It has an uneven surface.[5]

The island holds several ingredients that are useful to Cleo Knight's invisible ink experiments.[2] It also served as a headquarters for the Inhumane Society after they took over Wade Academy.[5]

There is known to be a Coast Guard and Octopus Council.[1]


Ink is Stain'd-by-the-Sea's most famous export. Needles took it out of wells and into barrels. The ink is made by octopi, distributed when they are frightened. The ink industry is not as relevant anymore, with the octopi diminishing in numbers. There are still barrels of ink and ink producing machines lining the edge of the town. And although there isn't much ink left, few workers still produce ink. The ink produced by Stain'd-by-the-Sea was said to make the darkest, most permanent stains.

The town also used to produce roe at the Roe House[5] and gold from the Gracq family mine.[4]


Former residents are noted with italics.


Known Streets and Neighborhoods

  • Anchovy District (out of business)[4]
  • Ballpoint Avenue[5]
  • Blotted Boulevard[1]
  • Business District[4]
  • Caravan - connected to Parfait via Black Cat Coffee; described as being a wide, empty street that "wandered its way around town like it didn't know where it was going either."[1]
  • Flounder Ponds, which includes Yamgraz Drive[4]
  • Homily Hill[4]
  • Nib Court[4]
  • Parfait - connected to Caravan via Black Cat Coffee; described as a narrow lane with a cold wind[1]
  • Wayward Way[5]

Stalls and Shops

Services and Council Buildings





Official Site


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