Archive for the Occult Detectives Category

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.

Occult Detective Countdown 6/20 — John Thunstone / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on October 3, 2020 by Occult Detective

I remember being in elementary school, reading my way through Howard and Lovecraft, and looking for that next thing. An older kid on my school bus recommended Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories. And while I enjoyed John the Balladeer, those stories leading me to Wellman’s John Thunstone was where the magic really happened for me.

Manly Wade Wellman was a giant. Few authors have influenced me in the way Wellman has. He epitomized the pulp sensibilities I gravitated toward and near everything he touched was Appalachian gold.

For me, John Thunstone was the culmination of all Wellman’s considerable talents given life on the page. Big and strong, Thunstone was a scholar and playboy who battled supernatural menaces with a silvered cane sword inscribed with the latin phrase — Sic pereant omnes inimici tu — which translates as “thus perish all your enemies”.

In the tradition of Wheatley’s Mocata and Maugham’s Haddo, in the Thunstone tales Wellman gave us another terrific Aleister Crowley-inspired villain in Rowley Thorne.

As evidenced by the image below, Wellman was well versed in his Crowleyana…

Occult Detective Countdown 5/20: Adam Sinclair / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on September 30, 2020 by Occult Detective

Forgive me. I’m running on very little sleep, but the Countdown must go on…

On my 25th birthday, the 1st of March, 1991, we were celebrating by a dozen or so of my friends and I attending the premiere of Oliver Stone’s new film, The Doors, starring Val Kilmer and Kyle MacLachlan, but earlier in the day I treated myself to a little shopping at the Muncie Mall’s B. Dalton.

That’s when I discovered Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris’ The Adept, which was released on that same day…

There was definitely something in the air and it was certainly a day etched for all-time into the mythic annals. I vividly recall a hangover of epic proportions being all but nullified the day after thanks largely to being consumed by the first chapter in the Adam Sinclair series.

I had long been a Kartherine Kurtz fan, particularly of her novel Lammas Night which I had purchased my senior year in high school. The Adept was in the same vein, and, I would later learn as the series progressed, set in the same universe.

Adam Sinclair was cut from the same occult detective mold as Dion Fortune’s Dr. Taverner and Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence. Sinclair was a psychologist, knighted nobleman, scholar — and skilled occultist.

I loved all of the books in the series, including the short stories found in Kurtz’ Templar Knights anthologies, and regard them as high water marks in the occult detective genre. The stories are certainly “of their time”, actually more at home in the early-mid twentieth century than even when they were published in the nineties. But that really worked for me, because those are the stories I’ve always gravitated toward.

If you’ve not given yourself over to this series, you really need to make a point of it.

Occult Detective Countdown 4/20: Dale Cooper / #40DaysofHalloween

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

If I were backed into a corner and compelled to advise someone as to what tv series to watch to satisfy their occult detective itch, I would suggest Twin Peaks with little hesitation.

How to describe Twin Peaks? There is this — An idiosyncratic FBI Agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Of course, Twin Peaks shines brightest when David Lynch is at the helm. The first season is an amazingly compelling narrative and season two, despite disparate voices involved, works if you’re binge watching.

Season three, while a welcome (and brilliant) reprise is Lynch at his most strange, but it works on a guttural level, even if I would have preferred a different route that involved Agent Cooper throughout.

It is Special Agent Dale Cooper who is the heart of the series, ultimately, as the erstwhile occult detective (the Bookhouse Boys serve in this role as well) and I can’t help but think there are more stories to tell within that universe.

Lynch’s occult world building is surreal and dream-like, a perfect milieu for the strange and unusual. It can be difficult to navigate, especially once we’ve entered season three territory, when his cinematic universe collides with the chimeric Northwest of he and Mark Frost’s fertile imaginations.

I was drawn to Twin Peaks by its dark themes and its quirky and unusual storytelling, but in the end, it’s the characters the breathe life into the tale and the wonderfully acted performances by nearly everyone involved.

There are uncomfortable truths to discover in the world Lynch and Frost created and as much as I loved Season Three, a Fourth Season really needs to happen to give us a proper conclusion to Cooper’s journey.

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 3/20: William Sebastian / #40DaysofHalloween

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

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In March, 1977, not long after my 11th birthday, I received a newsletter from Lincoln Enterprises announcing the pilot premiere of Spectre, an occult-themed thriller starring Robert Culp and created by Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry.

I was instantly obsessed.

Debuting on Saturday, May 21, Spectre aired from 9-11pm to low numbers. It was not picked up by NBC and the pilot was cast into the morass of late night horror movie rotation.

I caught it every now and then,even managed to video tape three-fourths of it so I could watch at my leisure, which I did until the tape wore out sometime in the early 90s.

Spectre admittedly suffered from shoddy production values, and some of the lore is a bit wonky, but I dare say you’d be hard pressed to find a better occult detective film in spirit.

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Culp’s William Sebastian is everything you could want from a paranormal investigator. He is a world famous criminologist for starters, but he is also a tortured soul. A confrontation with Asmodeus himself left Sebastian physically and spiritually scarred, forcing him to dedicate his life to occult research and to battling the forces of evil wherever they might arise.

Robert Culp was always a solid actor and his approach toward portraying William Sebastian gave the character both an air of intellectualism and a vulnerability that is hard to pull off.

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The pilot had a terrific cast that included Gig Young as Sebastian’s best friend and colleague, Dr. Hamilton, Majel Barret as his housekeeper Lilith, and a young John Hurt as Mitri Cyon.

There are a number of reason’s the pilot failed to find an audience. I suspect most of America was busy watching Starsky & Hutch or All in the Family instead, but ultimately, I don’t think the numbers were bad enough for NBC to pass on Spectre.

I suspect it had more to do with fear.

While Spectre is rather tame by today’s standards, in 1977, the pilot was more than a little titillating, with sexual roleplay on display and a couple of mass orgies filling Middle America’s TV screens.

Spectre had more than a passing resemblance to Eyes Wide Shut at times and that was probably a bit much for network executives.

Whatever the reason, Spectre didn’t make the cut and more’s the pity. If any show deserved revisiting, with modern sensibilities and production values, it’s this one.

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I tried to contact the Roddenberry Estate regarding the franchise’s availability, but alas, their lawyers ignored my pleas. And so, Spectre remains relegated to a distant memory, late night movie fodder, and youtube viewings.

Even the novelization, which is a cracking good read by Robert Weverka, is long out of print and hard to find.

William Sebastian deserves better. I still hold out hope that one day the Roddenberry Estate will allow new life to be breathed into Spectre, no matter the medium.

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.

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