Archive for the Magick by Trial & Error Category

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.



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.

Happy #NationalParanormalDay

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, Occult Detectives with tags , on May 3, 2018 by Occult Detective

In honour of National Paranormal Day, I thought I’d share a pic of my favorite familiar, Boo. Boo was named after a friend of mine who passed back in 2007, Bruce “Boo” Smith. Just before he shuffled off, he sent me a “going away” present — an officially licensed Hellraiser cube. The least I could do was pay homage to him in some way, hence Landon Connors’ lifelong companion.

We later named a stray cat that was hovering around the house, one of many black cats that seem to take an interest in our country home, after Connors’ familiar. He was a special cat and we really took a shine to him and he to us. Boo hung about for several years and he is sorely missed.


Another black cat has taken up residence of late, a young lady we call Tiny, but we recently learned our neighbors call her Magic, so now, Tiny Magic it is. I like to imagine she is one of Boo’s offspring.

Anyway, rather than wax poetic about a litany of paranormal cases I’ve experienced or a list of paranormal books or movies I adore, I bring up Boo, because he was a good guy, a good cat, and, fictionally speaking, a spectacular familiar.

Happy Paranormal Day.


My review of Italian Folk Magic by Mary-Grace Fahrun

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on May 2, 2018 by Occult Detective

fahrunNot exactly my cup of tea, or aperitivo if you will, but I found Italian Folk Magic a fun and insightful read just the same. Mary-Grace Fahrun has a terrific authorial voice — deadpan serious when she needs to be, but mostly energetic and humorous, perfectly capturing the essence of what one would expect from someone completely immersed in the kitchen witchery of her ancestors.

You’ll find recipes and rituals, spells and meditations that encapsulates the folk experience. This is “the craft” in its most simplistic and sublime. What you have is a fine and glowing example of “real magic”, that is, everyday magic, the magic of the folk, looking to make their lives more manageable, more productive, and, overall, safe and protected from outside forces.

The author has a gift for weaving the story around each bit of magic, making it personal and evocative, which is the heart of the country craft. I believe you’ll find Italian Folk Magic a wonderful journey, filled with Old World charm mixed with modern sensibilities…

Italian Folk Magic: Rue’s Kitchen Witchery by Mary-Grace Fahrun is well worth the price of admission and readily available wherever books are sold. I leave you now with this obligatory link to amazon, but challenge you to instead purchase from Red Wheel/Weiser if you can. While the price might be slightly askew, supporting the publisher direct is an altogether different kind of magic…

Variation on a Theme, #OccultNine

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on April 28, 2018 by Occult Detective

We’ve covered the books. Eighteen years worth. But something else that kept creeping up on my as I revisited my magical mystery tour through my early days delving into the mystic, that music was always there, and still is. So, rather than address a time period, I thought, why not compile an #OccultNine of the music that has and does inspire me, then and now and for always.


Very hard to limit it to just nine, as I’m sure you’ll find. So, who made the cut?

They’re in no order, so from left to right, the top row features Pentangle, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Ronnie James Dio (Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio); the middle row contains Stevie Nicks (Buckingham Nicks, Fleetwood Mac), Jimmy Page (The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin), Loreena McKennitt; the bottom row spotlights Ian Gillan (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gillan), Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention), Wardruna.

So, can you pick nine musical acts that have influenced and enhanced your spiritual journey?

What were your #NextOccultNine?

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on April 27, 2018 by Occult Detective

Yesterday I invited you to share your #OccultNine. The idea was to take the first nine years of your interest and study in the magical arts and pick nine books that were a heady influence. That time period for me was 1974 -1983.

Today, I’m asking for your #NextOccultNine. For me, the next nine years of my studies, from 1984 – 1993, were a whirlwind, to say the least. I worked part time in a “New Age” bookstore on campus, read tarot cards for drug money, and generally had a brilliant, mind-expanding time that, admittedly, descended into dependency issues. But I came out the other side of that the better for it.

Anyway, here are the books, for better or worse, that were a major influence during that chapter of my life.



Posted in Archive, Magick by Trial & Error on April 26, 2018 by Occult Detective

Was thinking about those early books that influenced my journey into the strange and unusual corners I now often find myself in. These were there in the beginning. Not necessarily the best, but each was an important stepping stone just the same.

What were yours?


So how does #OccultNine work? Take the first nine years of your interest and study in the magical arts and pick nine books that were a heady influence. That time period for me was 1974 -1983.

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