Archive for the Occult Detectives Category

Occult Detective Countdown Finale 20/20: John Constantine / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 29, 2020 by Occult Detective

We’ve reached the end of our journey through our Occult Detective Countdown. There was no order, rhyme, or reason to the list. It was never a “best of” sort of thing, but I did save the best for last.

I came to the world of John Constantine a bit later than most, I suppose. I knew of him, of course, but it wasn’t until Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic that I got my first real dose of the character. I was immediately smitten. Constantine was a real  nasty piece of work. He’s been called a “working-class magician” and “con-man”. Yep, that sums it up rather nicely. He’s bitter, road-worn, and a chain smoking ne’er-do-well and I love him for it.

I read the Constantine monthly, Hellblazer, pretty consistently starting in the late 90s. I’ve read all the specials and crossovers and gone back and tracked the character’s progress from his first appearance in Moore’s Swamp Thing.

I watched the Keanu Reeves movie, the Matt Ryan series, and I’ve seen sporadic episodes of Legends of Tomorrow. I sat through the animated films and yes, I still pick up the comics…

I guess you’d call me a fan.

Hellblazer’s barking right up my proverbial tree, John being an occult detective through and through. Constantine and my own occult detective, Landon Connors (originally named Solomon Killingbeck), were born about the same time in the late 80s and I guess Moore and I were tapping into similar influences. Constantine is far more bitter than my guy, mind you. He’s far more jaded and had a tougher go of it. But they’re cut from a not dissimilar mold.

Where they’re different, I think, is that John’s real, or was made so. Chaos magick’s like that, you know. He’s has a rough go of it. DC’s not always been overly kind to him, saddling him with too many capes of late.

Constantine works best in his own little corner of the multiverse. Oh sure, Zatanna or Madame Xandadu are fine on occasion, even some of the other mystical blokes. But I cringe whenever I see the front and center DC proper about.

John doesn’t need to be rubbing shoulders with Batman. It makes him less… real.

Of course, as I type this, DC has cancelled John once again. His latest run, from Simon Spurrier and Aaron Campbell has been nothing short of brilliant, so of course it’s been axed. Comics are a dying medium. We can’t keep anything nice…

But that’s okay. John’s still out there, doing what we occult detectives do — stirring up trouble and getting by on a wing and a prayer, and through it all, giving the devil his due.

We’ll see you around, Constantine, in one form or another.

Occult Detective Countdown 19/20: Mulder & Scully / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 28, 2020 by Occult Detective

I did not watch the The X-Files on a regular basis until Season 4 when it moved to Sunday nights. Originally airing in 1993 on Fridays, I was working as security for a night club at the time so only rarely caught an episode, though I knew it was right up my alley.

In time, thanks to video, I was able to catch up on the series and, though the narrative was strained over its 11 seasons, due in large part to the uneven leadership of its showrunners, X-Files captured the essence of what it meant to be a modern occult detective by exploring every conspiracy and urban legend imaginable. The X-Files had it all and then some, and Special Agents Mulder and Scully were the perfect expressions of the two types of investigators that dominate the field — the believer and the skeptic.

Fox Mulder, a celebrated criminal profiler, never met a conspiracy theory he wasn’t willing to purchase hook, line, and sinker. No rabbit hole was too deep. Relegated to the X-Files, Mulder was convinced of a mass government conspiracy to hide the truth about extraterrestrials, psychic phenomena, and all manner of oddities.

Dana Scully was a brilliant medical doctor and scientist brought in to be a skeptical observer to debunk Mulder’s wild theories. Over the course of the series, she becomes more open to the possibilities that these paranormal occurrences have some validity to them.

Over the course of 11 seasons there were some amazing episodes, highlighted by terrific acting, writing, and production values… and a willingness to go all in a genre that is near and dear to my heart.

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.

Occult Detective Countdown 18/20: Robert E. Howard’s Kirowan, Conrad, & O’Donnell / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 27, 2020 by Occult Detective

Let me state this once more, with feeling, Robert E. Howard is my favorite author, bar none. Of course, it’s his Conan stories that are first in my heart, but his occult detectives are nipping at the Cimmerian’s heels, to be sure.

Edging ahead of Steve Harrison are three occult adventurers — John Kirowan, John Conrad, and John O’Donnell — whom find themselves in Howard’s Lovecraft Mythos yarns, and some of my favorite horror stories ever penned.

And yes, it is not lost on me that these three friends are all named John, though I don’t find it all that peculiar. Growing up, I often found myself in the company of two of my closest friends — Robert Brent Smith and Robert Dennison.

But I digress.

Kirowan was a reluctant occultist, shying away from the vast knowledge he had earned at a terrible price. Conrad was the more eager aspirant, and who tended draw Kirowan into his misadventures, while O’Donnell was closer akin to Conrad.

Of course, Howard scholars hotly debate these figures, sometimes declaring them different individuals, but I prefer to ere on the side of them all being part of a collective universe, with continuity errors being just that.

These tales have long fascinated me, as have the behind the scenes drama. Regardless of intent, I see these three companions as the very epitome of occult detectives and choose to accept them as being bound together as a cohesive series.

Stories include The Haunter of the Ring, The Children of the Night, The Dwellers Under the Tombs, and several others.

Occult Detective Countdown 17/20: Frank Black

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 26, 2020 by Occult Detective

Millennium was ahead of its time and deserved a much bigger audience than it generated in its three seasons of FOX. Season One was certainly the strongest, with the final two seasons being rather uneven, largely due to showrunner musical chairs, but despite this, Lance Henriksen’s Frank Black is a brilliant character and a quintessential occult detective.

Black, a former FBI Agent and criminal profiler, has minor psychic abilities, being able to see through the eyes of the criminals he pursues. Henriksen is the perfect actor for the role, bringing an intensity and vulnerability to the character.

While the series finale ended on a cliffhanger, closure was attempted in an episode of the X-Files and there was also a comic a few years back. Still, the creators, cast, and fans have clamored for a true endcap to the Millennium story and a movie would certainly be welcome.

In recent days, the series star, Lance Henriksen, has voiced interest, via twitter, in revisiting the character. With any luck we’ll see Frank Black return in a limited series or film on one of the many streaming services out there.

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 16/20 — Robert E. Howard’s Steve Harrison

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 22, 2020 by Occult Detective

“Three unsolved murders in a week are not so unusual—for River Street,” grunted Steve Harrison, shifting his muscular bulk restlessly in his chair.

Thus read the first Steve Harrison story I stumbled upon — “Names in the Black Book” — a Robert E. Howard Occult Detective yarn that helped cement my love for the genre.

Other Harrison tales included “Fangs of Gold”, “The Tomb’s Secret” , “Graveyard Rats”, “The House of Suspicion”, “Lord of the Dead”, “The Black Moon”, “The Silver Heel”, “The Voice of Death”, and “The Mystery of Tannerhoe Lodge”.

Howard was not a fan of Detective Fiction and I think that’s why the Harrison stories appeal to me so much — because Howard’s instincts fight against the genre and we get a far different sort of tale.

Yes, they tend toward the “Yellow Menace” yarns prevalent in the pulps of the time, but Steve Harrison is the prototypical private eye, of the sort that guys like Spillane would churn out later, and Howard brings this square jawed tough to life as few others can. But what really makes these stories sing is that underlying supernatural threat that makes them solid occult detective tales, and the frightening figure of Erlik Khan, one of the great pulp villains.

I always wanted to see more about Steve Harrison. He was the sort of character that could have been picked up and ran with by any number of writers. Hell, it’s a task I would have been more than willing to undertake myself. Unfortunately, Howard left us early, so we never got to see where he might have taken Harrison. I suspect, based on pulp trends, Steve Harrison would have become a star in his own right…

But the thing is, there was another set of occult detectives, I found even more compelling from Howard’s well-worn Underwood. Maybe we’ll take a peek at them in a future installment.

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.

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