The Strange Case of Edgar Allan Poe and James Whitcomb Riley / #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in All Hallows Read on October 7, 2020 by Occult Detective

Edgar Allan Poe died October 7, 1849, the same day James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana. An odd connection, to be sure, the Hoosier Poet and the Tomahawk Man, but there is a stranger one still.

Believing that Midwestern authors were failing to find traction in the literary magazines and newspapers published on the East Coast, in 1877 James Whitcomb Riley concocted a poem in the style of Poe and submitted it as a long lost work of the famed author.

The poem, titled Leonainie, appeared in the Kokomo Democrat on August 2nd, 1877, and was subsequently reprinted many times before people caught on to the prank.

While the ruse traveled far beyond where Riley intended, the young poet took pleasure in the fact that many of the literary elite, the very ones he intended to prank, fell for it.

Granted, Riley was fired from his position at the Anderson Democrat and he was forced to move back home to Greenfield, but the backlash eventually subsided and Riley went on to become an acclaimed author in his own right.

While perhaps not as grim as Edgar Allan Poe, Riley did turn out a couple of devilish works, the most prominent being a staple here in the Hoosier State, Little Orphant Annie

An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;
An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,
She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about! An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef
you
Don’t
Watch
Out!

Review: Hasan-i-Sabah by James Wasserman

Posted in Book Review on October 6, 2020 by Occult Detective

As a companion to Wasserman’s The Templars and the Assassins, Hasan-i-Sabah: Assassin Master seeks to reveal the man behind the myth of one of the most influential and mysterious sects in the secret history of the world. Following up the brilliant work found in the preceding volume, Hasan-i-Sabah does not disappoint.

While the mysteries of the Assassins have long been thought to be lost, thanks in large part to the Mongol invasions, Wasserman has combed through what remains and painted for us a picture in which Hasan-i-Sabah played a crucial role in the development of European culture due to his influence over the Knights Templar.

Now, there lies some heady stuff, and the reader is asked to make some leaps of faith, but none too egregious. Wasserman backs up his conjecture with solid reasoning, and with compelling research and intuitive deductions, the evidence is overwhelming and voluminous.

The unfolding history is like a wave of misplaced knowledge finding its proper course, but more importantly, the author is able to illustrate the man himself, bringing Hasan-i-Sabah to life in a way in which the mythological figure has never been revealed before.

As always, Ibis has done a wonderful job with the physical product, with perfect binding and interior graphic design. The only souring point is the cover art itself, which I find out of character for a book from such a prestigious house. The resolution seems poor, and the contrast is flat. It just doesn’t pop, and that’s a shame. The dust jacket distracts from an otherwise masterful edition.

I came to this book with some foreknowledge, having been near obsessed by the Knights Templar since grade school. I leave it with a far deeper understanding and a sense of satisfaction that so many pieces of the puzzle have been assembled without weakening the deeper and more personal mysteries that exist.

This is an important work, and if you have the slightest interest in the history of the Middle East and of Europe, then this book is one that you should spend some considerable time with.

Hasan-i-Sabah: Assassin Master by James Wasserman is available wherever books are sold, and I encourage you to make it a part of your collection.

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.

hardy_disney

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.

hardy boys

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…

The Occult Detective’s Last Writes with… Bob Ford

Posted in Last Writes with... on October 2, 2020 by Occult Detective

TODAY’S DEPARTING:

I met author Robert Ford long before I read his fiction. Bob is one of those free-spirited guys — you know, quick with a smile and in possession of a heart of gold (I hear he keeps it in an old mayonnaise jar, buried under the black Pennsylvanian earth). He’s got wit and charm to spare, but it’s his words that will get you.

What I like about his writing is that it’s real. Real people with real problems. An ordinary Joe, you know, and then there’s a subtle twist of the dial, and suddenly you’re in the Twilight Zone. That’s Bob.

My favorite story by him is Samson and Denial, about a guy who runs a pawn shop and ends up on the wrong end of things when a junkie looks to pawn a mummified head.

If you’re looking to read something different this Hallowe’en, Bob’s your guy. But enough of the flattery, we’ve Last Writes to perform…

LAST MEAL

I thought long and hard about this one because I’ve been privileged to have some incredible meals in my life, and the first that came to mind was a dinner at a small café in New Orleans. It was blackened catfish with a side of seasoned crawfish that the memory itself makes my mouth water. But, if I had to pin it to a last meal, it would, without question, be a dinner in Texas at Killer Con 2019. I won’t mention his name, as I don’t want to embarrass him, but an amazing person in the horror community invited a group to Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse. This wasn’t a dinner so much as an experience. The server and his team handed out cards to everyone at the table and you could flip it up to show “yes, I’d like what food you’re bringing around the table” or flip it down to indicate “no thank you” and the servers would pass you by. Every single morsel wasn’t good. It wasn’t fantastic. It was an entirely new realm of culinary delight. Even the damned salad bar was filled with unique choices, including a spicy, candied bacon that still haunts my dreams. I had an after-dinner drink of an aged cognac that arrived with its own warming candle beneath the glass. Absolutely and completely otherworldly.

LAST BOOK

This question is like trying to answer which child you’d say goodbye to last. Lorenzo Carcaterra’s “Sleepers” comes to mind. King’s “The Stand” or Robert McCammon’s “Boy’s Life” were quick considerations as well. But after taking a moment to look over my bookshelves, it wouldn’t change my mind on the final choice I’d arrive at. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White would be my choice of last book. I grew up an only child on a 55-acre farm in Maryland and spent countless hours roaming the hills or playing in the massive haybarn. We had cows and a few ponies, two pigs and countless chickens. I’d go to the barn and breathe in the sweet smell of hay as I read comics or paperbacks. I’d watch the Barn Swallows fly in and out as they built their nests or fed their hatchlings. Sometimes I’d find a litter of kittens in the hay from a stray cat. It was a magical way of growing up and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. When I read “Charlotte’s Web” for the first time, the book couldn’t possibly have described farm life any better. I’ve read it many times since, and the core story of true friendship and what that means, along with the sweet nostalgia of my memories on the farm, has always made me smile.

LAST SONG

“Imperial March” maybe? No, no. Okay, serious thought here. My musical tastes vary widely from Nine Inch Nails and Tool, to Muddy Waters’ stellar “Electric Mud” release, Johnny Cash, Dave Brubeck, and The Cure, and I listen to music whenever I write. For me, it helps form a rhythm as I type, most definitely sets a tone for the work, and depending on what I’m working on, I adjust accordingly. But the one single song I’d choose as my last song would be Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”. The thing is, I don’t own a single classical music CD. Not one. The first time I ever heard Barber’s Adagio was at a concert in Baltimore to see The Cure. It was sunset, and the venue was open seating at an outdoor park. People were sitting on blankets and talking, laughing, drinking. The weather forecast had called for a chance of rain, but the threat had passed. The sky was painted in fireball red and orange, and as everyone waited for the show to begin, “Adagio for Strings” began to play. People continued to talk and laugh, but we all knew the music was an indication the show would start fairly soon. But as I listened, and the music grew and grew until the high-pitched crescendo near the end, everyone grew quiet. Everyone stopped and seemed to simply take in the music itself, to be lifted up and encompassed by it. More than a few people were moved to tears, myself included.

FIRST PERSON YOU’D LIKE TO MEET ON THE OTHER SIDE

My maternal grandmother, Essie. She could be tough on people at times, but had a unique sense of humor, and was a natural storyteller. So many times, as a young kid, I’d sit away from the grownups, watching and listening to the stories they exchanged. I heard about seances, though I didn’t truly grasp the meaning at the time. I’d hear about tough times they went through when they were younger, or funny stories as they grew up. I’d sit there like a gargoyle and take it all in—not only the story itself, but how the story was told, the rhythm and cadence of it all. The word choices and pauses. It’s one of the reasons I started writing. Pretty sure if I saw her on the other side, she’d smile and hold her hand out and say “Was wondering when I’d see you again. Now here… pull my finger.”

Happy October! #40DaysofHalloween

Posted in Magick on October 1, 2020 by Occult Detective

For those who don’t follow my twitter or facebook author page, here is where my mind was at this morning.

Yesterday, I read a 2014 interview with Jimmy Page, from GQ of all places, that was cracking good. My son has been discovering Zeppelin in recent months, and as I still place Page on a considerably high altar, that has been a thrill for me.

But I was reminded of all the “satanic panic” nonsense that surrounded Page and the band growing up, and around the untitled album, called 4 or Runes or Zoso or what have you. Play Stairway backwards and you’ll hear Plant opine about “my sweet Satan” and other oddities.

One of my favorites was that, if you placed the inner artwork up to a mirror, the face of the devil would be revealed. Well, quite clearly, as evidenced by the image I’ve recreated at the top of the page, it is not the Christian Devil that appears, but rather the Egyptian god of mummification, the afterlife, and, perhaps more importantly, of lost souls.

“You have the hermit, and you have the aspirant. And the aspirant is climbing toward the hermit, who is this beacon of light. The idea is that anyone can acquire truth at any point in his life.” — Jimmy Page

The idea of Anubis as the god of lost souls fits in well with Page’s explanation for the symbolism of the Hermit illustration, and Barrington Coleby’s artwork is stunning… mirrored or not.

As for now, I wish you all a Happy October! This is, as I’ve probably overstated, my favorite time of the year, without question. There is something positively magical about the season, on both a mundane and spiritual level, but this year’s Hallowe’en is a far different creature than in years past.

I hope everyone stays safe, has fun, and wears an appropriate mask.

Please help to continue to keep the Spirit of Hallowe’en alive in the hearts of the young and old alike, despite the current social, political, and medical climate.

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.

Coming in 2021 — The Invisible College / #40DaysofHallween

Posted in Occult Detective RPG on September 29, 2020 by Occult Detective

Here’s an exciting announcement for you — Bordermen Games and I are beginning work on the latest OSR Roleplaying Game from RPGPundit called The Invisible College, an “Authentic Magick” system that mirrors, in many ways, the Occult Detective RPG we’ve been developing over the past several years.

We will be handling the creative design and publication of the core product, penned by RPGPundit, creator of my favorite OSR game, the medieval authentic RPG, Lion & Dragon.

Based on our agreement with the creator, Bordermen Games will follow up the core rulebook with a number of supplements that will bring our Occult Detective material into the fold, further expanding the Invisible College brand.

But enough about all that, let’s hear from Pundit himself:

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.

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