Archive for June, 2018

My thoughts on Varla Ventura’s Paranormal Parlor: Ghosts, Seances, & Tales of True Hauntings

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on June 18, 2018 by Occult Detective
I am, as you’re most likely well aware, a seasoned paranormal investigator. I have always had an interest, and prowled graveyards and abandoned houses when I still measured my years in single digits. I devoured what few books on the subject my local library offered. I co-founded a “ghost hunting group” called the Monster Club we put together in 1974 when I was eight years old. We held seances with candles, read fortunes with playing cards, and tempted fate with the occasional Ouija board session. We tracked UFO and Bigfoot sightings on a huge map of the continental United States. We clipped articles from the National Enquirer and Weekly World News. It was one helluva lot of fun.
In ’83 I formed the Nightstalkers, putting a more “grown-up” spin on our childhood endeavors. Off to college, I majored in anthropology with a focus on witchcraft, magic, and religion. My occult pursuits intensified, but I never lost the sense of wonder or excitement for investigating the strange and unusual occurrences that were brought to me from people of all walks of life.
I do not investigate as regularly as I used to. Para-Entertainment Television saw to that. Ghost Hunters and shows of that ilk brought in a new style of investigation, a pseudo-scientific approach that was quickly mirrored and imitated. Suddenly there were dozens upon dozens of thrill seekers, all calling themselves professionals. These would-be “paranormal experts” flooded the field and sparked an explosion of “haunted” locations brokering outlandish fees to “hunt” their properties.

varlaIt’s all gotten to be a bit much, but I have never lost my passion for things that go bump in the proverbial night which is why I found Varla Ventura’s Paranormal Parlor: Ghosts, Seances, and Tales of True Hauntings such a treat.

I have read and enjoyed several other books by Varla Ventura, including Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires & Other Creatures of the Night and Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm.
Paranormal Parlor is a perfect companion to her previous works.
I just love the way the publisher puts these books together.
Paranormal Parlor boasts a gorgeous, heavy stock cover with newsprint interiors (no glare making for unpleasant reading ). You’ll find it lavishly illustrated with woodcut reproductions and clip-art as well. Weiser Books has done a wonderful job with it.
That said, a pretty package is wasted without content to back it up, and Varla Ventura has delivered a fun and entertaining book that focuses on the sensational and spine-tingling. It really takes me back to the sort of books I read and coveted as a child, capturing that thrilling aspect of the paranormal that fueled the fire so long ago.
Ventura has a terrific, conversational writing voice in her retelling of these paranormal encounters. She states, “I have never met a ghost story I didn’t like.” I have to agree with the sentiment. Human beings have been sharing otherworldly tales since the invention of language. It is part and parcel of who we are as a species. Our complex brains churn over the complexities of what transpires once we shuffle off this mortal coil. The ghost story preys on those insecurities and fears. Sometimes this is done with menace and dread, and sometimes with tongue-in-cheek.
We are fascinated by the paranormal, with the here-after, with haints and haunts and all manner of spookiness. If you’re one who likes to embrace these sort of ghastly chills and thrills, then I assure you, Varla Ventura’s Paranormal Parlor scratches that itch quite nicely.
You can purchase Paranormal Parlor wherever books are sold.


Robert E Howard

Posted in Archive on June 11, 2018 by Occult Detective

Oak Hill RPG Club

“All fled, all done, so lift me on the pyre;
The feast is over and the lamps expire.”

Robert E Howard passed away 82 years ago today on June 11, 1936. He has been my inspiration for more than 40 years. He built living, breathing worlds with his words. He was more than just a master of action & adventure. He imbued every story with atmosphere & presence.


The enduring legacy of Howard’s characters are a testament to the wondrous talent he possessed — Conan of Cimmeria, Solomon Kane, Kull of Atlantis, Dark Agnes de Chastillon, and so many more.

For having only lived 30 years, only twelve of those as a professional author, his literary output was nothing short of prolific. He, arguably, created the sword and sorcery genre, made brilliant contributions to Lovecraft’s Mythos, and churned out an incredible array of heroic fiction in an even more incredible…

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My Review of the Little Book of Saturn

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error with tags , , on June 8, 2018 by Occult Detective

saturnI am, admittedly, not an expert on astrology. Oh, I’ve studied the subject, to be sure, and I’ve constructed charts for myself, loved ones, and friends over the years. I have been deeply interested in the subject, but view astrology as a complex science that requires the sort of dedication that I am, unfortunately, unable to give.

I do read quite a bit on the subject, as you can imagine. I have a deep respect for Liz Greene’s Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil. Visiting the latest Weiser Books release, The Little Book of Saturn by Aliza Einhorn, brought back fond memories of devouring Greene’s work, but I believe Ms. Einhorn has delivered a worthy successor.

What you’ll find in The Little Book of Saturn is a whimsical examination of Saturn’s role in our astrological make-up. I adore the author’s voice. She is warm, exuberant, and knowledgeable.

einhornMagicians all need a wee bit astrology in their bag of tricks and Einhorn’s examination of Saturn’s place in our charts offers a deeper understanding that strips away some of the fear and anxiety so often associated with its celestial appearance.

This is, I feel, a great book to broaden your knowledge of Saturn in your life, especially for novices, but for the more advanced astrologer, there’s something here for you too. Aliza Einhorn has delivered a passionate examination of this taskmaster of the heavens.

I recommend the book, wholeheartedly.

The Little Book of Saturn: Astrological Gifts, Challenges, and Returns by Aliza Einhorn is available wherever books are sold.

Author Brian Keene could use a little help from his friends

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives on June 6, 2018 by Occult Detective

brianBrian Keene needs your help. An accident has left him with first, second, and third degree burns on his face and arm and, being a popular mid-list author, unfortunately, does come with the perk of health insurance. To take some of the sting out of mounting medical bills, author Stephen Kozeniewski has set up a gofundme to benefit Brian in his time of need.

On June 5, 2018, author, podcaster, philanthropist, and father Brian Keene was badly burned in an accident. At this time he is conscious and in good spirits but has first degree burns on his face and second degree burns on his body.

As a freelance author, Brian does not have health insurance. We’re not sure at this time how long he’ll be in treatment, or how much the bill will be, but any visit to the hospital is expensive, and will only be compounded by lost wages from not being able to work.

We’re asking the community of writers, horror fans, and just decent human beings in general to chip in a few dollars to help get Brian back on his feet and spending time with his loving girlfriend and sons. We’d be very grateful for anything you can afford to contribute.


I’ve known Brian for something like fifteen years. The first time I sat down with him and had a chat (at Maurice Broaddus’ house in Indy) I felt an instant kinship, bonding over our mutual love of Manly Wade Wellman and folk magic.

levi_smBrian’s Dark Hollow series (Dark Hollow, Ghost Walk, A Gathering of Crows, Last of the Albatwitches) is a brilliant take on the occult detective genre. I assure you, any fan of the genre will be enthralled by the adventures of ex-Amish magus Levi Stoltzfus.

Of course, I’m a little biased. The dedication page of Last of the Albatwitches, in part, reads:

The second half of this book — Last of the Albatwitches — is dedicated to Bob Freeman, my favorite real-life occult detective.

Needless to say, my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. He has always been a good friend to me and I have seen firsthand what he has given back to this community of fans and fellow authors. It’s well past time we give a little something back.


If you can’t donate to the gofundme campaign, maybe instead you could pick up one of his books. Every little bit helps.

My Top Ten Essential Occult Detective Tales

Posted in Occult Detectives on June 4, 2018 by Occult Detective

On twitter yesterday, author Peter Bebergal ( Too Much to Dream, Season of the Witch) asked “What are your top ten essential stories/novels of the (occult detective) genre?”

This was in response to two tweets:

Occult detective fiction has always struck that perfect balance for me. There’s nothing quite like a metaphysical whodunit. Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin stories are a great place to start. Not my favorite, but a fine representation of the genre.

Another great example would be Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris’ The Adept series. Adam Sinclair is the quintessential occult detective. These five books, six if you count Lammas Night, are among my most treasured.

Compiling a list of my Top Ten Essential Occult Detective Tales is no mean feat. It’s like being asked to choose a favorite child. At least in this instance you get to pick ten of your favorite kids. So let’s to it then, in alphabetical order…

The Adept
Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
Sir Adam Sinclair

Ancient Sorceries
Algernon Blackwood
Dr. John Silence

Brood of the Witch-Queen
Sax Rohmer
Robert Cairn

The Devil Rides Out
Dennis Wheatley
Duc de Richleau

Falling Angel
William Hjortsberg
Harry Angel

Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits
Garth Ennis and Will Simpson
John Constantine

The Last Illusion
Clive Barker
Harry D’Amour

Aleister Crowley
Simon Iff

The School of Darkness
Manly Wade Wellman
John Thunstone

Robert Weverka
William Sebastian

Book - SpectreAdmittedly, Spectre, a novelization of the failed Gene Roddenberry tv pilot, is difficult to track down. It’s listed on amazon for over $1000, just under $100 used. I add it to this list because it’s near perfect as an occult detective novel and superior to the source material  Considering my fondness for Robert Culp’s performance in the show, that’s saying a lot.

I had wanted the book for years, being a huge fan of the pilot from the moment I received the Lincoln Enterprises newsletter announcing its May 21, 1977 airdate.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the book, but a couple of years ago, my lovely wife Kim snagged me a secondhand copy (paying way too much for it, some $40 I believe), but it was everything I wanted it to be and more.


If you happen upon it at a reasonable price, do not hesitate to buy it. It’s well written and a loads of fun. It’s not worth three or more digits, mind you, unless money is no object to you.

Of the list I compiled above, if I were to choose a single short story that best represented what an occult detective is, or should be, I might lead you to The Last Illusion by Clive Barker, originally published in Volume Six of The Books of Blood. It has that hard-boiled feel, and early Barker was magically delicious. If you just can’t wait, another Harry D’Amour tale is available online for free at the following link: LOST SOULS.

If I were going to direct someone to a single anthology, the Weiser Book of Occult Detectives, edited by Judika Illes is a no-brainer.

The best occult detective collection is Manly Wade Wellman’s Complete John Thunstone.

As for the best occult detective series, I would argue that The Adept series by Kurtz and Harris would surely be the books to turn to.


All are easy enough to track down on amazon. Katherine Kurtz is certainly one of my favorite authors and I reread Lammas Night frequently. Prolific comic scribe Cullen Bunn tweeted, in response to my Adept post, “It’s been so long since I read them. I should probably revisit them.” I couldn’t agree more.


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