The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… Dr. Richard Kaczynski

Posted in Last Writes with... on August 7, 2020 by Occult Detective

lastwrites

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

Richard Kaczynski

I first became aware of Richard Kaczynski from his foreword found in People of the Earth by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond back in the mid-nineties. His seminal work, Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley, published first by New Falcon Press, then later revised and published by North Atlantic Books, is the defining, quintessential biography of the most notorious occultist to ever peel back the layers between this reality and the great sea of possibilities beyond it.

As a metaphysical scholar and author, he is unparalleled, but Dr. Kaczynski is also a talented musician, an excellent writer of occult fiction, and a pop culture enthusiast whose insights are always on point. He is, without question, one of my favorite people on this spinning rock and if you’re not following him on twitter, then you are certainly missing out. I am honored to now share with you his Last Writes.

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LAST MEAL

Wow, this is tough! My first thought is this amazing dish called “palak chaat” at the Washington, DC, restaurant Rasika. It’s crispy flash-fried spinach topped with a tamarind/yogurt sauce. There are no words to express how great this dish is. It is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. My runner-up would be the vegetarian tasting menu at Restaurant Gordan Ramsay on Hospital Road in London. That was one of the most memorable meals of my life…though I’m concerned that a return visit wouldn’t wow me as much now that the bar has been set. If neither of those is possible, I’d take a nice malai kofta, which is my go-to dish at Indian restaurants because everybody makes it so differently. After five or six months of quarantine, being at *any* restaurant would be a luxury.

LAST BOOK

This is hard. I’ve never been one to re-read a book, as there are so many books I haven’t read yet. I wouldn’t want it to be one of my own books: last thing I want is for my final moments to be distracted with wanting to edit and revise myself! Crowley’s “Book of the Law” contains what to my mind is one of the most beautiful passages that can be taken about the end: “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.” But I can quote that from memory. Maybe I’d go back to my childhood love of comics, and reread something from that genre. Watchmen, Promethea, or maybe Elektra: Assassin.

LAST MOVIE

There are so many movies I love, it’s hard to pick just one. On the one hand, there are obvious choices suggesting that there’s more to this life than we think (2001, The Matrix). Logan’s Run or Soylent Green would be very ironic, but there are other films I’d rather watch at the very end of my life. Cloud Atlas has a great message that our actions endure far beyond our lifetimes, and I’d *almost* pick it for that optimistic note. But part of me would want to return to the simple pleasures of my youth and experience “Star Wars” one last time.

LAST SONG

Finally, an easy one! My friends in the Philadelphia-based progressive rock band Echolyn have a song, “Never the Same,” on their 1995 record “As the World.” It’s a meditation on death, and how to move on when we lose someone we love. The chorus–“After the song is over, the dance goes on, so dance away. When all has been said and done, remember what’s been given, not taken away. There’s never any endings, but I’ll never be the same”–to says it all to me.

FIRST PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO MEET ON THE OTHER SIDE

I’m not convinced that there is life after death, or–if there is–whether we meet people as they were in this life. But for the sake of argument, the first person I’d like to see in the afterlife is my sister Diahann. We shared so many interests–music, comics, playing piano–and she was always my biggest fan. I have a note from her, probably from my teens, where she wrote out the lyrics to The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to encourage me as a young writer. She was fun and wise beyond her years, and I learned to much from her. She died suddenly in her sleep 25 years ago, and I still miss her. With every hardship or heartbreak, I think “I wish I could talk to her.” And with every success as an author, I think “I wish Diahann was here to see this, she’d be so excited

The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… Anthony Boyd (@Runeslinger)

Posted in Last Writes with... on July 31, 2020 by Occult Detective

lastwrites

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

runeslinger

Anthony Boyd, perhaps better known by his online nom de guerre, Runeslinger, is a prolific blogger and youtuber whose insights into tabletop roleplaying games, particularly those which exist “outside of the flickering circle of light which is mainstream gaming”, are both erudite and purposeful. As a champion of the form, he’s an inimitable ambassador.

In recent years, he has helped to spearhead #RPGaDay, a month long celebration of roleplaying games that was the brainchild of David Chapman. Throughout August, tabletop fans are encouraged to make daily posts, typically from a pregenerated list of questions or word prompts, the shine a positive light on the hobby.

As #RPGaDay begins tomorrow, bringing Anthony in today seems apropos. So let’s lend our ear to the esteemed Mr. Boyd, and see where his Last Writes might take us.

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If I were to face a known date for death, much as I seem to be doing too often these days for others’, I am not sure that I would seek out any farewell experiences at all. If I did, I would definitely not indulge in a last moment with a favorite.

LAST MEAL

For my last meal, I would want to go light. I think something I cannot get here in Korea, and probably would not choose to eat were I in my home country. With that in mind, let’s say I might go for ravioli.

LAST BOOK

If I knew death were coming and could read while I waited, a book that would sit right in such circumstances would be James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen. I have read it twice, liking it the first time and disliking it the second. Third time seals the deal.

LAST FILM

For a last film, perhaps an activity to go out on, I would be torn between To Have and Have Not and Big Trouble in Little China. In the end, I suspect I would go with what Mr. Burton believes is his adventure to reclaim his stolen truck as there is a message there that helps give a person perspective.

LAST SONG

The last song I would want to listen to? That perhaps would be the hardest choice. One I might choose from a long and beloved list might be On the Wire by Sisters of Mercy – and then wait for life’s sound and fury to fade away~

The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… Charming Disaster

Posted in Last Writes with... on July 24, 2020 by Occult Detective

lastwrites

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

charming

Who better to initiate the resurrection of Last Writes than my favorite minstrels of the macabre, the morbidly delicious Charming Disaster.

I discovered Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris quite by accident, stumbling upon their song Ragnarok on youtube a few years back. Since then, I have become obsessed with their amazing performance art, murder ballads, and songs of the occult, mythology, and the paranormal.

I was a backer on their 2019 kickstarter, Spells + Rituals, and highlighted their music at the Converse Historical Society’s annual Haunted History event last year.

Based in Brooklyn, Ellia and Jeff’s music is haunting, wickedly charming, and devilishly playful. They harmonize beautifully together, and I just simply adore everything they do, so, without further adieu, I present Charming Disaster’s Last Writes.

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LAST MEAL

Just a cocktail to take the edge off, thanks. Preferably bottomless brunch menu Bloody Marys.

LAST BOOK

The final book in whatever series we’re reading. Hopefully Patrick Rothfuss will have finished the Kingkiller Chronicles by then, but if not, we’ll wait.

LAST MOVIE

We want the traditional “whole life flashing before your eyes,” but in slow motion, so it takes a really long time.

LAST SONG

One of the ones we haven’t written yet. Whatever we’re working on at the time (but not until we finish it).

FIRST PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO MEET ON THE OTHER SIDE

We assume we’ll go down together in a blaze of glory, so each other, obviously.

Announcing the Return of Last Writes

Posted in Last Writes with... on July 17, 2020 by Occult Detective

LastWritesCharmingDisaster

From the ashes — Last Writes

Posted in Last Writes with... on July 14, 2020 by Occult Detective

On All Hallow’s Eve, 2016, I launched a feature on this blog called Last Writes. The idea was simple enough: invite interesting people to imagine themselves facing their final rest. The caveat being that before Death claims them they are granted a few earthly pleasures, the memories of which travelling with them into the great unknown.

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The idea was not to find out what someone’s favorite meal or book or what have you is, but what they last wanted to experience. The two are seldom the same.

Last Writes ran for 9 episodes in 2016, 15 in 2017, and 3 in 2018. 27 in all. The series was well received. I was able to question authors, occultists, gamers, reviewers, publishers, and psychonauts in my quest to reveal a side to these fascinating people that we rarely get a glimpse of.

As we find ourselves immersed in a global pandemic, civil unrest, and political upheaval, I thought it high time we revisited these all important questions. In the coming weeks, I will be relaunching of Last Writes, but first, let’s have another look at those who came before.

10.31.2016  Bob Freeman

11.07.2016  William Meikle

11.14.2016  Alethea Kontis

11.21.2016  Joshua Reynolds

11.28.2016  Greg Mitchell

12.05.2016  Mary SanGiovanni

12.12.2016  Michael M. Hughes

12.19.2016  Kelli Owen

12.26.2016  Maurice Broaddus

01.02.2017  Brian Keene

01.09.2017  Gamerstable

01.16.2017  Tim Prasil

01.23.2017  John Linwood Grant

01.30.2017  Shanna Germain

02.06.2017  Cullen Bunn

02.13.2017  Charles R. Rutledge

02.20.2017  Tracy DeVore

02.27.2017  Stephen Shrewsbury

03.06.2017  Jim McLeod

03.20.2017  Michael West

03.27.2017  Amanda DeWees

04.03.2017  Sèphera Girón

04.10.2017  Julian Vayne

08.23.2017  Stephen Zimmer

01.31.2018  Fiona Horn

03.05.2018  Madame Pamita

03.19.2018  BethSheba Ashe

 

All Roads End at Rosslyn / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 30, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Thirty of #Occult30, bringing an end
to our month long celebration of the
Strange & Unusual

ALL ROADS END AT ROSSLYN

To celebrate the last day of  #Occult30, I want to share my trip to one of the most fascinating landmarks I’ve ever had the pleasure to explore. While I did not have a full-fledged paranormal encounter there, there was no denying the weight of the place and the sense of wonder and excitement that held me in thrall.

On the morning of the 26th of March, 19 years past, my wife and I got up early and walked through a light mist and boarded a bus that set out across the Scottish countryside.

When Kim and I first made plans to travel to Scotland there was one special destination that was at the very top of our “must see” list. We were excited and passed the time chatting with our fellow passengers, especially with a young Australian college student named Sophie who was backpacking across Europe.

As we rolled into the village of Roslin, I felt an electricity in the air. It was a feeling that would become amplified as we disembarked and walked up the gravel lane and laid eyes on one of the most magnificent pieces of architecture ever conceived.

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Rosslyn Chapel is well known today, thanks in large part to Dan Brown’s 2003 literary phenomenon The Da Vinci Code.  I understand that it has since been overrun with tourists, but when we arrived on that cold, early spring morning, it was a small handful of us that walked the hallowed grounds. In fact, Kim and I spent hours in the Chapel alone, without another soul around.

Interior of Rosslyn Chapel - both Master and Apprentice Pillars visible

The Chapel was enveloped by a network of scaffolding as renovations were underway, but that steel cage did nothing to diminish its awesome beauty. Intricately detailed with Masonic symbols, gargoyles, green men, historic figures, and Norse gods, Rosslyn Chapel was as much art as it was a place of worship. It was the single most impressive structure I’ve ever stood in, and it was all ours… We just didn’t want to leave and we lingered about, gazing in wide wonder and poring over every delicate inch of this monument to the esoteric mystery traditions.

rosslyn1The Apprentice Pillar, symbol of blessed Yggdrasil, was a marvel and the inscription there — “Wine is strong, a king is stronger, women are stronger still, but truth conquers all” — rang true for me.

Being alone, we jumped the velvet rope meant to dissuade entry and descended into the lower crypt and explored the cells. Here we certainly felt a presence. A broken headstone, leaning against the wall, was inscribed “Knights Templar”. The cells were cold and spartan and my mind swam with the thoughts of what secrets this place had held.

We walked the graveyard for a bit, then climbed the scaffolding to pore over the roof and the carvings there unseen from below. We capped the adventure with a tour of the on-site Museum of Freemasonry and had a lovely chat with the Chapel Staff, all eager to share their thoughts and stories on this marvelous piece of Scots and Templar history.

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the various tales I spread out over the month. I tried to keep them varied, and strayed away from some of the more elaborate and controversial yarns. I have a book planned that will cover many of these subjects, but thought a taste was in order.

As an experiment, it largely was positive. While there was little interaction of the blog itself, I did have people reach out over facebook and email to share their own stories. I think most would prefer to avoid the spotlight that a public confession invites.

So for now, beannachd leibh. It was fun. We’ll have to do it again sometime… I’ve always more stories to tell.

Alba Gu Brath!

 

The Magic of Merlin (Occult Detective, Part III) / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 29, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Twenty-Nine of #Occult30 —
a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

The Magic of Merlin
Occult Detective, Part III

Merlin

In the small town of Galveston, about 20 miles from my front door, you’ll find the Beckett-Lawrence Museum of Magic and Witchcraft run by the “Official Witch of Indiana”, as certified by then Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb, Lawrence Lawrence, also known as Merlin.

The Museum began in 1937, in a small log cabin, established by Merlin’s great-grandparents, Henry Beckett, a Universalist pastor, and his wife Lydia, who made Druidic amulets, read Tarot, and prepared herbal remedies. It was moved into the family home at a later date and eventually came under the stewardship of Merlin.

The museum, which mostly occupied the home’s detached garage, contained Aleister Crowley ‘s salt and water set, the authentic ritual tools of Gerald Gardner, magical and psychic artifacts from the ancient Aztec, and a plethora of tv and movie memorabilia signed by actors and directors whom had sought out Merlin’s services as a psychic.

He drove an old beat up white van held together seemingly with witch-themed bumper stickers, glued on doll parts, and duct tape.

In the backyard was a miniature Stonehenge where Merlin’s Coven held court, and the house itself was adorned with a crazy assortment of Hallowe’en decorations and antique oddities.

It was a teenagers’ playground, as you can well imagine. My friends and I made frequent drives over, and while I was dubious of many of Merlin’s claims, one of my friends in particular was quite taken with him and his supposed magical prowess.

He purchased from Merlin a beautiful antique perfume bottle filled with a pungent ink black oil that smelled of cinnamon. Merlin told him it was a powerful protection from all evil. He cherished that bottle.

A year later, our friend lost his life in a tragic car accident. He was just seventeen years old. At the wake, his mother passed around a box of his belongings, encouraging us each to take items to remember him by. I took a couple of D&D miniatures he had painted, an Army patch that he had pinned to one of his fatigue jackets, and the perfume bottle.

I placed it in one of my curio boxes and stored it away with my most treasured items.

Fast forward another year later. Summer, 1986. I covered some of this in the previous two entries, as I’m sure you recall.

The concerted attack against me was escalating. It felt like I was being buried under the weight of it. Rumors circulated that I was the ringleader of a nationwide cult, that I had harmed people in ways I care not to repeat. All grossly untrue. Despite a predilection for illicit substances and an interest in the paranormal and occult, I was a good kid. A tad immature and inexperienced perhaps, but I was a kind-hearted soul to a fault.

I was convinced, and still wholeheartedly believe, that dark forces were working against me. I was sitting with friends one evening, discussing my fears and how so far my attempts at shielding myself from what I was confident was a curse were in vain, when something strange happened before all of our eyes.

As I spoke, I felt something drip onto the forehead. I wiped it away. Then another plop fell from the sky. It was black, oily, dripping down my forehead and alongside my nose. I wiped it away again, then a third drop fell. I smelt my fingers and I was met by the scent of cinnamon.

My friends were stunned.

I had no doubt it was the protection from evil oil my friend had purchased from Merlin.

It was falling from the thin air, anointing me.

I dug out the bottle from its hiding place. It was still there as I had left it save for some of the oil was missing…

Soon after, the rumors began to die down. My luck had rebounded. And the house, where we believed the dark coven gathered, burned to the ground and we stopped seeing signs of their activity in and around the Mississinewa.

Later that fall, we went to visit our friend’s grave. It was Hallowe’en night. I dug a hole several feet down and returned that perfume bottle to him, thanking him for what he had done for me.

I had always been intrigued by the figure of Lawrence Lawrence, Magician and Psychic, known as Merlin among the witches of “In Diana”. Yes, I had my doubts, but I visited his museum one last time and I told him my story, thanking him for his part in it.

Merlin had considered himself something of an occult detective as well, claiming to have worked many cases for law enforcement, all centered around the Satanic Panic of late. He told me I had a bright future ahead of me. That there would be darkness, followed by light.

You know what — He was right.

For all the kitschiness of the Beckett-Lawrence Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, there was, in the end, something to it, be it the power of belief or something more, it’s impossible for me to say.

All I know is, when I was anointed by that oil, it materializing from out of the ether as it did, I chose to believe as my friend had.

And the darkness passed…

Crystal River / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 28, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Twenty-Eight of #Occult30 —
a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

Crystal River

By the early 90s I was struggling. As is all too often the case, I had become dependent on drugs and alcohol. Whatever gains I had made spiritually were being laid waste by addiction. After a magical time in the desert southwest, I had returned to the mundane world and my factory job and was slipping into a dark place emotionally.

In an attempt to right my course, I accepted an early retirement and received a sizable amount of money as a result.

I went back to university, moved in with old friends, and then began to spiral out of control.

I was drinking heavily and had developed a cocaine habit that ate through my finances.

I just couldn’t get my act together. I had been walking in Crowley’s shadow a bit too closely…

One afternoon, someone complained of being bored. I was high and reading, I think, an issue of Magical Blend. There was an article about the top 10 spiritual sites in North America. Number 10 was a 2000 year old mound complex located in Crystal River, Florida.

I suggested we hit the road and check it out. I was in need of a spiritual kickstart and thought this fit the bill.

I drove straight through— 18 hours, fueled by illegal substances and a desire to get my mind and spirit aligned right, not seeing just how far I had fallen.

Arriving on site, I consumed psychedelics, waited for them to kick in, then marched solemnly toward the mound structure.

I was filled with awe and reverence, convinced this was the life-affirming catalyst I needed.

I climbed the long stair, feeling transcendent. I could feel the power of that sacred place. Arms outstretched, I reached the top of the mound, eyes closed. I walked to the edge, prepared for gnosis. I opened my eyes and — found myself looking out over a trailer park.

I came  crashing back to earth. We left, dejected. We set up camp in a nearby woods, continued our party through the night, and then I drove straight through again, back to Indiana.

All with no sleep. More than 48 hours, and it would be another day and a half before I finally crashed.

Within a year I quit drinking and hard drugs cold turkey. I’ve been sober now for 28 years. Crystal River was not my rock bottom, but it was close and, I believe, the beginning of my recovery.

The dichotomy and juxtaposition of Crystal River mirrored the conflict I was mired in. On one hand, I had risen to unimaginable spiritual heights, but my soul was a trailer park of dependency and depression.

I was alone and lost, but Crystal River awakened in me a hunger to become better.

Yes, I had found myself in a very dark place, but I am thankful for it. I would not be the man I am today otherwise.

Lords & New Creatures / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 27, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Twenty-Seven of #Occult30 —
a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

Lords & New Creatures

Short discussion today. Storms are rolling in and I’m blogging from my phone.

The world has been turned upside down, no? Between the pandemic and civil unrest, life prior to March seems like a distant memory.

So much has changed for the majority of the world, but if I am being honest, life here in the Haunted Hoosier Heartland is largely the same, at least for me.

Which brings me to today’s topic.

In 1988 I was well into my experimentation with psychedelics. While many of my peers used drugs recreationally, I had always viewed them as a spiritual tool and utilized them in meditation and ritual.

32 years ago this very week, I was in the midst of one of those meditative experiences, having ingested a heroic dose of lysergic acid diethylamide.

A number of interesting and peculiar interactions had already taken place when dawn rolled around. As the sun first kissed the horizon I was struck by a sliver of light, like a shimmering silver thread, and My spirit was lifted up, slightly out of my body, as if I had one  foot in the world and one in the heavens.

Without words, an otherworldly intelligence was communicating with me. I instinctively knew its message. It was as crystal clear as a nursery rhyme.

The message? Something terrible was coming. Make your life here, for this land is sacred. Here you will be safe.

I took that message to heart and here I have built a life for me and my family.

For years I have wondered about the truth of that vision — that communication with something beyond myself.

Now I wonder no more…

Occult Detective, Part II / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 26, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Twenty-Six of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

OCCULT DETECTIVE, PART II

Late Summer. 1986. I won’t go into the details, but things were not going so well in my little corner of the world. There was definitely something… unnatural going on. I was having fractured, but prescient dreams. Stories kept coming back to me that made me realize I was under fire from all sides. It felt like someone had painted a target on my back. I have no doubt I was under psychic attack and forces were moving against me, both in the mundane world and the magical.

I had pissed someone off.

After being led into the woods to see the perverse altar, things had been a spiral. I was becoming paranoid and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And I’ll be honest with you — drugs and alcohol were becoming a bit of a problem.

Strange days, indeed.

One night, again at the Pearson’s Mill Shelter House, the CO returned. He called me over and asked if I was up to seeing something… peculiar, but not at night. He didn’t want to go there at night. He asked if we could meet in the morning and take a drive south of Converse. I readily agreed and we met at the Corner Store across from the Converse Public Library.

Driving out into the country we came to an abandoned farmhouse. The windows were all gone, the paint faded, the roof was little more than a sieve. We parked in the side yard and made our way around back, past the old milk house and in through the gutted kitchen.

It was a bloody mess.

I couldn’t help but think it had been a nice home once, but now it was a ruin, full of beer cans and refuse, with the walls all tagged up with spray paint, mostly juvenile stuff — swear words and crude depictions of male and female genitalia, with the occasional pentagram, swastika, inverted cross, band names, and of course, declarations of love, which I always found weird — I love Jenny scrawled beside an elongated penis, nazi symbols, and devil horns that frame Iron Maiden Rulz? How romantic.

Anyway, the CO led me to a dodgy staircase and we climbed to the second floor. I prepared myself for something akin to the first desecration he had led me to.

This was altogether different.

The walls were covered in intricate runes, sigils, and symbols, all painted in black on what plaster still clung to the lathe underneath. The sigils of the 72 demons of the Ars Goetia were present and accounted for, as well as signs I did not recognize. I recall the Vegvisir alongside bind-runes. There was an inverted Monas Hieroglyphica. Astrological symbols tucked in here and there. And more. Lots more. Names. Initials. All painstakingly hand-inscribed, and with a steady hand at that.

Spent candles were everywhere…

In the center of the room, painted in white, was a delicate circle of protection and a summoning triangle. It was based on Crowley’s variant, but there was no Hebrew. Instead the writing was in Theban.

This was obviously the work of someone who knew what they were doing, and knew enough to alter things with specific intent.

I fed the CO as much info as I could, but I had come ill-prepared. No notebook. No camera. I resolved to come back, to capture as much as I could so I could decipher what the magician was up to. Unfortunately, on my return, the stair and ceiling had collapsed. Not long after, the place was demolished.

Today, the property is producing crops, oblivious to whatever magic had been worked there.

I learned a valuable lesson from the experience, however — always be prepared. It still irks me to this day that I collected no evidence from the scene. It was really something else.

to be continued

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