Archive for the Occult Detectives Category

Occult Detective Countdown 15/20: Harry D’Amour / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 20, 2020 by Occult Detective

Harry D’Amour is a hard-boiled private dick who’d been around the block a few times in his two decades of making a hard living on the streets of New York. He was just a run-of-the-mill gumshoe, until a misadventure with the paranormal introduced him to the world of the occult and demonic possession. This is where we meet Harry in “The Last Illusion”, a short story found in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, released in 1985.

The short story was adapted for the big screen as Lord of Illusions in 1995. Written and directed by Barker, the movie starred Scott Bakula as D’Amour, and while the story was a dramatic departure from the source material, despite some rather sketchy special effects, this was a great occult detective film and Bakula was brilliant in the role.

I’ve traveled a long way with Harry D’Amour,” Barker wrote in the DVD’s liner notes. “He first appeared in a story I wrote almost a decade ago now, ‘The Last Illusion.’ Since then, I’ve recounted his life and troubled times in two novels and some short fiction. I’ve not made the road very easy for him. His destiny, it seems, is to be in constant struggle with what might be loosely called ‘the forces of darkness’, though he claims he’d be quite content investigating insurance fraud. His reluctance is, I trust, part of his charm. He’s not a Van Helsing, defiantly facing off against some implacable evil with faith and holy water. His antecedents are the troubled, weary and often lovelorn heroes of film noir – private detectives with an eye for a beautiful widow and an aversion to razors.

After “The Last Illusion”, D’Amour appeared in the short story”Lost Souls”, the incomplete Book of the Art trilogy: The Great and Secret Show and Everville, and The Scarlet Gospels.

He also made appearances in the Hellraiser comics by BOOM! Studios.

While the character has been mishandled at times, Harry D’Amour remains a solid entry in the genre and I hold out hope for some sort of redemption for him.

A Note on the Occult Detective Countdown: As I make my way through a list of some of my favorite occult detectives, bear in mind, I am not recording them in any particular order. I thought it would be more fun to release them organically, narratively rather than in a simple “best to worse” format. I’ll let you decide for yourselves their pecking order.

I will be posting to the countdown roughly every other day throughout our 40 Days of Hallowe’en adventure.

Occult Detective Countdown 14/20: Lucifer Morningstar / #40DaysofHallween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 18, 2020 by Occult Detective

This weekend I started watching Helstrom on Hulu, a Marvel Comics property based on one of my favorite comics as a child, The Son of Satan. What does that have to do with Lucifer? Quite a lot actually.

Lucifer sprang from the Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe for DC Comics and, much as I’ve discovered on Helstrom, when the show was adapted for television by FOX, they took certain liberties that caused it to stray from the source material.

Usually I am adamantly opposed to such shenanigans, but in both cases, by leaning heavily into the Occult Detective genre, they won me over. In regard to Lucifer, it became one of my favorites, and Lucifer Morningstar himself, high on my list of paranormal detectives.

The premise finds Lucifer bored with being the Lord of Hell, so the devil relocates to Los Angeles, where he opens a nightclub called Lux, eventually forming a connection with a homicide detective who has the ability to make him vulnerable…more human.

Tom Hollis is perfect in the title role, though far removed from the Lucifer of the comics. It is better, much like the Constantine feature film, to view it as its own independent entity.

As an occult detective dramedy, it’s just what this paranormal adventurer ordered. With storylines that have brought forth Cain, Lilith, Eve, and Lucifer’s Mom, Lucifer navigates the complicated biblical hierarchy and mythology with charm.

And being eligible for binge-watching on Netflix is a devilish twist that is worthy of the Fallen One himself.

Now I’m just hoping Helstrom holds up. We can never have enough occult detective fare on the small screen…

Occult Detective Countdown 13/20: Lt. William Kinderman / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 16, 2020 by Occult Detective

I can’t get The Exorcist out of my head, so who better for the next Occult Detective on my list than Lt. William F. Kinderman. Surprised he’d make the cut? Well don’t be. Kinderman, especially in Legion, William Peter Blatty’s sequel to The Exorcist, has all the great hallmarks of a quintessential occult detective.

In The Exorcist novel and film, Kinderman (played brilliantly by Lee J. Cobb) is an unknowing occult detective, in that he is working the homicide of Burke Dennings, whom was murdered by a demonically possessed twelve year old girl, Regan McNeil.

In Legion, and its film adaptation, The Exorcist III, Kinderman (this time portrayed by the legendary George C. Scott due to Cobb having passed away in 1976) is on the trail of a serial killer who is, in fact, the deceased “Gemini Killer” who is occupying the body of Father Damien Karras inside a mental institution under the name Tommy Sunlight. The Gemini Killer is able to leave Karras’ body and possess the bodies of patients suffering from dementia and he uses them to continue his murder spree.

William Kindermen is a kind, good-hearted soul, a meticulous investigator, and a fan of film (It’s a Wonderful Life) and literature (The Brothers Karamazov). His insights, particularly as espoused in the epilogue of Legion, are interesting. He believes that the Big Bang was Lucifer’s fall from Heaven and that humanity represents the fragments of Lucifer’s shattered body and that mankind’s evolution is the Fallen One’s process of putting himself back together again into an Angel.

Heady stuff. A brilliant character on page and screen and one of my favorite occult detectives.

A Note on the Occult Detective Countdown: As I make my way through a list of some of my favorite occult detectives, bear in mind, I am not recording them in any particular order. I thought it would be more fun to release them organically, narratively rather than in a simple “best to worse” format. I’ll let you decide for yourselves their pecking order.

I will be posting to the countdown roughly every other day throughout our 40 Days of Hallowe’en adventure.

Occult Detective Countdown 12/20: Fathers Merrin & Karras / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 14, 2020 by Occult Detective

Warning: If you’ve not seen The Exorcist, spoilers abound.

I saw The Exorcist in the Summer of 1974. I was 8 years old. It left an indelible mark on me, to say the least. It was a truly terrifying experience, especially for an eight year old, and I vividly recalling watching it from the backseat of the family station wagon, peaking over the headrest. Man, I miss the Hi-Way Drive-In.

Lots of films have given me jump scares, but only the Exorcist has ever truly frightened me. And it still does, 46 years later.

One of the standout characters, in both book (which I read in 1977) and film, was Father Lankester Merrin. And yes, the priest and exorcist is most certainly an occult detective.

The film was a faithful adaptation, particularly in regard to Merrin, whom we meet in the opening scene as an elderly archaeologist working a dig in Iraq where a statue of the demon Pazuzu is discovered.

Merrin has a history with this particular demon, having battled him many years before, in Africa, leaving him with a heart condition. This discovery, and other subsequent paranormal events, ends with a premonition that they will face again…

Enter the possession of Regan McNeil, daughter of a famous actress, and Father Damien Karras, our second occult detective in book and film.

Karras is a Jesuit psychologist suffering from a crisis of faith. It is he who investigates and attempts to diagnose what ails young Regan, believing it to be mental illness. Eventually convinced a demonic presence might be involved, he is tasked with assisting Father Merrin, brought in to perform the Rite.

What follows is a harrowing ordeal that sees the exorcists triumphant over the forces of evil, but at the expense of their lives — Merrin’s heart gives out and Karras heroically takes the demonic spirits inside himself then commits suicide in order to save the girl.

It’s a great story, with compelling characters, but it is definitely not meant for the faint of heart. The follow-up novel, Legion, is well worth the price of admission, as is the film adaptation, The Exorcist III.

A Note on the Occult Detective Countdown: As I make my way through my list of favorite occult detectives, bear in mind, I am not recording them in any particular order. I thought it would be more fun to release them organically, narratively rather than in a simple “best to worse” format. I’ll let you decide for yourselves their pecking order.

I will be posting to the countdown roughly every other day throughout our 40 Days of Hallowe’en adventure.

Occult Detective Countdown 11/20: Aleister Crowley’s Simon Iff

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 12, 2020 by Occult Detective

Today we celebrate Crowleymas, the 145th reckoning of the Nativity of the Beast.

Aleister Crowley (October 12, 1875 – December 1, 1947) is a man who should need no introduction. An infamous occultist, whose name has been spoken of in hushed whispers since he first stepped onto the world stage, has been both heralded and reviled. Dubbed the “wickedest man in the world” by the British Press, Crowley was a man ahead of his time. A magician of renown, to be sure, but Crowley was also a philosopher, a poet, an accomplished mountaineer, a painter, a masterful chess player, and much more.

Crowley is best known for his esoteric writings, with the body of his work viewed as the definitive examinations of modern magic, beautifully bridging the ancient mystery traditions with the brave new world of  scientific methodology.

But there is one key aspect to this man that has been unfairly overlooked, in my opinion — that of the occult detective storyteller. Crowley’s Simon Iff tales are wondrous explorations of human psychology, served by the protagonists sharp wit, keen observational skills, and expert knowledge of the mystic arts. Having been the subject of one exceptional novel, Moonchild, and more than a dozen shorter works, Crowley’s Simon Iff deserves a place of reverence held for him by the connoisseurs of weird fiction.

From The Confessions of Aleister Crowley (Chapter 78)

“My principal invention was the detective “Simon Iff” whose method of discovering the solution of a problem was calculation of the mental and moral energies of the people concerned.

I wrote a series of six stories about his exploits and followed it by The Butterfly Net or the Net, a novel in which he is a secondary character. In this novel I have given an elaborate description of modern magical theories and practices. Most of the characters are real people whom I have known and many of the incidents taken from experience.”

Not read any of Aleister Crowley’s Simon Iff tales? You should really rectify that at your earliest convenience.  To help you along in this endeavor, might I offer you the following portal through which one might journey forth into cyberspace and submerge oneself in these intriguing occult detective tales.

Wyrdtails: A Landon Connors Supernatural Thriller

Posted in All Hallows Read, Occult Detectives, Writing on October 11, 2020 by Occult Detective

Wyrdtails, for you reading pleasure. This one fits the season and is one of my favorites.

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.:.

I was dressed, after a fashion, as how I thought the deceased would best recognize me — black t-shirt and blue jeans, scruffy jogging shoes, and a red bandana sticking out of my back pocket. I hadn’t really planned it, though it made sense to me after the fact. I just couldn’t be bothered with climbing into a suit. It felt unnatural and pretentious. The day was difficult enough without putting on the accepted uniform of grief. I was confident most of the people in the chapel considered my attire disrespectful, but I was pretty damn sure the deceased didn’t mind.

There was that word again. I mulled it over and rolled it on my tongue. Deceased. As in no longer with us. It had an improper finality to it, I thought. An improper word for an improper occurrence. An improper, and improbable occurrence of a finality. As these…

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Occult Detective Countdown 10/20: Levi Stoltzfus / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 10, 2020 by Occult Detective


Brian Keene’s Levi Stoltzfus is an ex-Amish occult detective skilled in the ways of powwow folk magic… accentuated by a command of various other magical disciplines.

A servant of God, Levi wields this impressive array of occult knowledge in a never-ending battle against the forces of darkness. He’s starred in the novels Ghost Walk and A Gathering of Crows, and appeared in Clickers vs Zombies (co-written with the late, great Jesus Gonzalez), plus he was the focus of the novellas The Witching Tree and The Last of the Albatwitches.

Of course, I am somewhat biased.

Keene has move Levi in the works and I am more than eager to get my hands on them. Brian has given us a character that is an extension of the Appalachian Folk Fiction of Manly Wade Wellman.

And that’s a good thing. A good thing indeed.

Occult Detective Countdown 9/20: Thomas Carnacki / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 8, 2020 by Occult Detective

I didn’t give Thomas Carnacki enough credit as a kid and wrote him off as a Shelock Holmes knock-off, in the same vein as other paranormal investigators that came to light in that era, such as Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence and Seabury Quinn’s Jules de Grandin.

I really missed the boat on this one.

My appreciation for William Hope Hodgson’s occult detective came later, in college, when I stumbled upon him anew.

I had snatched up a copy of Carnacki, the Ghost Finder, along with some Marilyn Ross Dark Shadows paperbacks, at the White Rabbit, a used bookstore in the Village, just off campus at Ball State. That would have been around 1986 or so. I was enthralled… and amazed that I hadn’t found them so when I first read them nearly a decade before.

Regardless, I had become an avowed fan and champion of Hodgson’s writings, and my interest swelled again when my friend, William Meikle took on the character in several anthology appearances, and for a series of collections — Heaven and Hell, The Watcher at the Gate, and The Edinburgh Townhouse — all brilliantly illustrated by M. Wayne Miller.

Carnacki is everything one could want in an occult detective, and while they were originally published from 1910-1912, the stories are amazingly modern in concept. The investigator’s use of science in concert with the occult made Carnacki unique in the genre and makes him highly adaptable to contemporary audiences.

A Note on the Occult Detective Countdown: As I make my way through my list of favorite occult detectives, bear in mind, I am not recording them in any particular order. I thought it would be more fun to release them organically, narratively rather than in a simple “best to worse” format. I’ll let you decide for yourselves their pecking order.

I will be posting to the countdown roughly every other day throughout our 40 Days of Hallowe’en adventure.

Occult Detective Countdown 8/20: The Hardy Boys / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 6, 2020 by Occult Detective

I grew up on the edge of my grandparent’s farm in rural Indiana, roaming the sparse woods and wading in the shallow waters of the creek that wound its way through our backyard. At night I’d slip out to prowl the local boneyard and explore the isolated wonders that surrounded me. It was the 70s and in the Midwest it might as well have been twenty years earlier. It was a simpler place and time.

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We didn’t have much in the way of television back then, catching four, sometimes five channels with our towering tv antenna. Channel 40 was one of them, and it played reruns of everything from the Lone Ranger to the Cisco Kid, Roy Rogers, the Beverly Hillbillies, and a host of other shows long past. My favorite was the Mickey Mouse Club, but only because of the Hardy Boys serials.

The Hardy Boys captured my imagination and opened up to me the world of books. The public library in nearby Converse had a few dozen of the original tales, and every Christmas and birthday my family would buy me the blue spined editions. Whether reading the revised texts or the unaltered texts didn’t matter. I was invested in the world of the Hardy Boys and after I’d plowed through every copy of the series I could get my hands on I tackled Nancy Drew and Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators to fill the void.

I’d read them all by the time I was ten years old.

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And then, in 1977, ABC introduced The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries and I was smitten all over again. What intrigued me the most was the addition of a supernatural element to the stories, especially in episodes like The House on Possessed Hill which guest starred a young Melanie Griffith. The Hardy Boys as occult detective was a perfect match and the CW’s Supernatural was a natural extension of that formula, and the more recent re-imagining of Nancy Drew followed suit.

The Hardy Boys, and other teen detective series of my youth, were such a huge influence on me as a child, it’s hard to imagine anything more defining, especially from ages 6-10. When I went sneaking out of the house at night to prowl abandoned barns and old boneyards, it was because of the influence of those books more than anything.

They still mean a lot to me…

A Note on the Occult Detective Countdown: As I make my way through my list of favorite occult detectives, bear in mind, I am not recording them in any particular order. I thought it would be more fun to release them organically, narratively rather than in a simple “best to worse” format. I’ll let you decide for yourselves their pecking order.

I will be posting to the countdown roughly every other day throughout our 40 Days of Hallowe’en adventure.

Occult Detective Countdown 7/20: The Scooby Gang

Posted in Archive, Occult Detectives on October 5, 2020 by Occult Detective

No, not these guys, but they certainly fit the bill.

I’m talking about the originals —
Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby

Wait, does that make Buffy Summers an analog for Scooby Doo, because clearly Giles is Fred, Cordelia is Daphne, Willow is Velma, and Xander is Shaggy. Weird. But I digress…

I knew at some point I would be adding Scooby Doo to the countdown, but a strange synchronicity sort of cemented it for me when I saw the following parked in front of the building that was the subject of this past weekend’s paranormal investigation.

As it turned out, the van did not belong to any of the erstwhile ghost-breakers I was meeting with, but rather the dishwasher in a local restaurant. Strange, but most certainly true.

Scooby Doo came on the scene back in 1969, September 13th to be exact. I was three and a half years old then, so I can’t say I was watching from its debut, but by the time I hit kindergarten it was most certainly my favorite cartoon, and, in retrospect, a huge influence on my life, shaping my extracurricular activities for more than fifty years.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You? was certainly an innovative show, combining compelling paranormal mysteries with skeptical deductive reasoning. As a kid, I was always disappointed when the mask came off and the monster was revealed to be a person, not yet realizing that the lesson was the worst monsters are always the people hiding behind masks…

Scooby Doo evolved over the years, and yes, there were many mistakes along the way. Like most, I hated Scrappy Doo, though it was a great set-up for the gag in the live action movies that I actually quite enjoyed.

My favorite iteration was Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated which debuted in April, 2010, when my son was six years old. I supposed it shaped him as much as the original shaped me, and I enjoyed sharing it with him.

Mystery Inc was a great homage to the original while deep diving into X-Files territory, with nods to HP Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Twin Peaks, and so much more.

Without realizing it at the time, Scooby Doo was my first real introduction into the world of the occult detective. They taught me everything I really ever needed to know about the field: remain skeptical; gather clues; solve the mystery.

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