Archive for the Occult Detectives Category

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.

Occult Detective Countdown 2/20: Duke de Richleau / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Occult Detectives on September 24, 2020 by Occult Detective

“The Duke was a slim, delicate-looking man, somewhat above middle height, with slender fragile hands. … His hair was dark and slightly wavy, his forehead broad, his face oval with a rather thin but well moulded mouth, and a pointed chin that showed great determination. His nose was aquiline, his eyes grey, flecked with tiny spots of yellow; at times they could flash with piercing brilliance, and above them a pair of ‘devil’s eyebrows’ tapered up towards his temples.” — Strange Conflict (1941), Dennis Wheatley

I met the Duke in 1976 through Dennis Wheatley’s novel, The Devil Rides Out, which I pilfered from the Converse Public Library, only because the Librarian would not allow me to check it out. They discouraged ten year old boys from reading such literature back in those days. Who knows, perhaps they still do? I did return the book once I had finished it, though years later purchased it in a Library Sale for .25¢

Duke de Richleau appeared in 11 novels, three of which — The Devil Rides Out (1934), Strange Conflict (1941), and Gateway to Hell (1970) — were occult tales. Additionally, the character was masterfully portrayed by Christopher Lee in Hammer Films’ adaptation of The Devil Rides Out, called The Devil’s Bride in America.

I vividly recall the first time watching the film, which I find to be a brilliant adaptation. It was the early days of video rentals and the shop we frequented offered pirated materials and The Devil Rides Out was one of them — a plain black vcr cassette with a crooked sticker and the handwritten title, Devil’s Bride, scrawled in blue ball-point.

It’s a movie I watch every year during the Hallowe’en season, most often on TCM, though I do own a copy. As for the book, I revisit it from time to time. It is a product of the era it was written, but a delightful read, and the Crowley avatar — Damien Mocata — is a great villain.

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 1/20: Carl Kolchak

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

If I’m going to countdown my 20 favorite Occult Detectives, I’d best start with the guy who started it all for me — Carl Kolchak.

The tv movie, The Night Stalker, aired in January of 1972, two months shy of my sixth birthday. I was enthralled, to say the least, and while I didn’t know it at the time, the adventures of the intrepid reporter sparked a love for the occult detective genre that still has me in its clutches almost 50 years later.

When I started my paranormal investigation group in 1983, it was this to which I looked for inspiration for the group’s moniker.

I owe a lot to Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson, and to Darren McGavin of course. They took Jeff Rice’s unpublished novel and made something truly remarkable, something that improved upon the source, and sparked the imagination of a child living in the rural Midwest, promising that those things that go bump in the night were worth pursuing.

Raising a horn to the memory of Dr. Hans Holzer on the 100th anniversary of his birth

Posted in Investigations, Occult Detectives, Paranormal on January 26, 2020 by Occult Detective

holzerOn of my most cherished childhood heroes was Dr. Hans Holzer, whom I discovered in the 1977 In Search of…Ghosts episode of the popular docu-series hosted by Leonard Nimoy. I would go on to read dozens of books written by the famed parapsychologist and his imprint on me in my own paranormal adventures has stayed with me the past 40+ years.

For my generation, he defined what a paranormal investigator was. He opened up a multiverse of possibilities.

He was one of the defining figures in my life. Today, we raise a horn to his memory, on this, the 100th anniversary of his birth in Vienna, Austria, January 26, 1920.

The paranormal community owes him a tremendous debt.

Dreams of Winter: A Tale of the Liber Monstrorum

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing on December 23, 2019 by Occult Detective

Yuletide is full upon us and though we’ve no snow here in the haunted Hoosier heartland, our spirits are still awash in the seasonal glow of Winter.

Being in a giving mood, I offer you, my friends, a short story of mine that you may have missed — Dreams of Winter — featuring some familiar faces, such as Dr. Landon Connors, Sarah Jones, and Detective Ellis DeTripp.

Originally published in the anthology Vampires Don’t Sparkle, edited by Michael West, Dreams of Winter is a favorite of mine. I hope you enjoy.

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Click on the link below to download the pdf

Dreams of Winter

A bit of art for your Tuesday afternoon

Posted in Occult Detectives on November 12, 2019 by Occult Detective

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Just a quick bit of art I was messing around with — Landon Connors, as it were.

Watch this space tomorrow for an announcement concerning next week’s blog tour.

Constantine’s Back… Finally.

Posted in Occult Detectives on November 4, 2019 by Occult Detective

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Well, I’ve been busy, so I’ve just now got round to sinking my teeth into Sandman Universe Presents: Hellblazer and bloody hell but it was good. He’ll be popping up in the next Books of Magic and his new ongoing on the 27th. The day before Thanksgiving here in the ol’ US of A.

Finally…something to be thankful for.

That is IF (big if) they can bloody well manage to keep going what they’ve got going, which is a nice return to form.

This was, plain and simple, the best Constantine comic since the original series folded with issue 300 back in, what, 2013? It seems like they’re wiping the slate and setting things back to its proper place in the (super)natural order of things.

Gods, bless you, you sorry bastard. You’ve been missed.

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