Books

Happy Halloween!

Well, I had intended to follow up yesterday’s entry about the WKCR radio broadcast hijack with some new information I found about the names uttered in the chant in the audio clip.  I have, predictably, fallen down a rabbit hole.  Like I think maybe I’ve solved the link between the names but need some more time, or I’ve hit the bottom of an empty rabbit warren and need to dig my way out, probably filled with shame at my hubris.  We’ll see.  Once I know which way it’s going, I’ll post about it.

And that’s kind of a lame way to end Oddtober 2019.  But hey, I’ve written about a lot of weird crap over the years and I seldom do revisiting compilations so I feel like maybe I’ll just link to some of my lesser seen odd/creepy/horrific entries and get back to listening to a weird audio recording that reminds me I have tinnitus every time that bell rings.

But anyway, read away and enjoy your day!

Murder/Serial Killers

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths

Thirteen Girls

The Postcard Killer: The True Story of J. Frank Hickey

The Paranormal

Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us

How People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It

Aliens

Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens

The Cryptoterrestrials

Horror or Unsettling Fiction

House of Leaves

Drujika, Contessa of Blood

The Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living

Ruthless: An Extreme Shock Horror Collection

Necrophilia Variations

Dust

Horror Films

Only Lovers Left Alive

The Bunny Game

Places and Personal Stories

Ben Thompson’s Grave

Slave Cemeteries

The Liberty Hill Witch Grave

Baby Head Cemetery

The Mom Ghost

The Abductors, #1 in the Sinful Cinema Series by Doug Brunell

Book: The Abductors: Sinful Series 1

Author: Doug Brunell

Type of Book: Non-fiction, cinema review, film history

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because the film is a huge, steaming pile of horse shit but Brunell’s love and enthusiasm for this type of grindhouse/sexploitation genre actually made me second guess my initial reaction.

Availability: Published by Chaotic Words in 2016, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Jesus Allah fuck, this is a terrible film.  I’m not going to say you in particular would hate this film because a lot of you have weird tastes or you wouldn’t be reading here in the first place. Also, if you mute it so that you are not subjected to appalling dialogue delivered by people who probably would have been better used in outright porn, there are some interesting things going on. For example:

–If you are tired of seeing buoyant, surgically enhanced breasts, the natural boobs in this film may be just what the doctor ordered.  Additionally, people tired of the PAWG trope will delight in the mostly flat, often saggy butts found on the women (and men) in The Abductors.

–How do you feel about pubic hair?  Fans of the bush will love this movie.

–Do you have strong opinions about hairy chests on men lacking even the 1970s Burt Reynolds version of muscles, who look hilarious when they get handcuffed to trees?  You are in luck.

–Do you harbor unresolved and unsettling feelings about helicopters, especially when you see them flying low over trees or landing on lakes so small you sense that they received a fine for even trying to land, let alone trying in the dead of night? Take this film to your therapist.  It could be key in your recovery.

–Have people told you that if the Olympics had a “cringe” category, your grimaces could bring home a gold medal?  Do you need practice covering up second-hand embarrassment so that you can endure your Uncle Jack’s casual sexism as he gets drunk at Christmas dinner?  Consider this film your training camp.

So it’s clear that this is a bad, bad film.  And that’s okay.  Without bad films we wouldn’t have had Mystery Science Theater 3000. The bad film has its charms, and Doug Brunell has such a keen eye and sympathetic take on the genres that bring us terrible films that if you read his books after you watch the films he discusses, you can genuinely find yourself wondering if maybe you got it all completely wrong.  To be completely frank, you probably won’t find much in Brunell’s writing that redeems this film, nor does he serve as an apologist for bad cinema (he refers to this film as being part of a “sleaze saga”). Rather, he accepts films as they are, discusses the times that spawn such films and the career arcs of the people involved. He recognizes the film’s many (many, many) flaws, but he also has such a great knowledge of genre, the specific cinematic tropes at work when older schlock was released, and the various ways filmmakers attempted to subvert those tropes, that the background he gives as he discusses the movies is the price of admission for the Sinful Cinema series.

And to be blunt, there is charm to schlock. For interior designers, it’s the Memphis Group.  For bibliophiles, it’s the “so bad it’s good” that writers like Richard Laymon and VC Andrews bring to the table. What would bad music discussions be without The Shaggs and Jandek?  When you read Brunell’s take on schlock films, you see the charm.  Whether or not the charm works on you is subjective.  But when you read Brunell’s work, objectively you see how one bad movie’s reach can extend into cinema you’d never expect from a sexploitation film.  Brunell sees how it is that the worst can be a link to the best, or maybe just a link to something that isn’t quite as bad. His knowledge and love of the topic are infectious, so much so that I actually sat through the whole of The Abductors so I would be assured I could follow his book about the film.

Quick synopsis: This film is the second in the “Ginger” trilogy but if Doug Brunell doesn’t write a book about the other two films I’ll be damned if I watch them.  So the plot is simple: White slavers are kidnapping women to sell to men who can blow $100k in 1970s money on cheerleaders taken hostage and “trained” to be excellent companions for really old men who wear Sansabelt slacks and live in a split-level home with orange shag carpet. After a convertible with three witless cheerleaders is run off the road, the three women kidnapped, a private investigator calls in Ginger, a woman who may be a spy, may be a detective, but never wears a bra, to help him.

(Honest to god, the first time we see her in street clothes, she is wearing a cropped denim vest with no buttons or zipper and no top underneath.  Later when she tries to seduce a bad man who unties her bizarre top that looks like the old Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders’ tie uniform but as imagined by Fredrick’s of Hollywood and made by a hippie who learned to crochet in rehab, she takes forever to retie it and when she does, she ties it with her boobs outside of the fabric.  She spends a lot of time topless or naked. Oh, and I remember this most clearly: the credits say “Chantilly Place” provided Cheri Caffaro, the lady who played Ginger, with all her “knits.”)

Together Jason, the private eye, and Ginger manage to track down the slavers by recruiting a pretty private eye and having her swallow a pill of some sort that allows them to track her for up to 25 miles. But before this happens, Ginger gets involved with a pudgy dude who looks like Steve Majors but isn’t (the scene where he dances with Ginger in what appears to be the courtyard of a rest home for geriatric hotel band members is cringe-gold – she’s actually got maracas). Pretty private eye gets kidnapped by slavers, Ginger watches her be relocated on a helicopter on pontoons, and is so upset she befouls a white shag carpet with like-Steve-Majors-but-isn’t and dun-dun-DUN, afterward he takes her hostage because SPOILER ALERT: he’s the head slaver.

Predictable stuff happens – all the men involved are dumb and will spill any number of beans if you show them boobs or grab their dick. Sex is had atop a pool table. An enormous henchman who “trains” the girls gets kicked in the crotch by a girl and then kicks her in the crotch in response (his name is weird and I cannot recall it now but Mr. OTC and I called him “Jablowme”). A woman gets gut punched, sexual torture is implied, but it all ends well when Ginger escapes and gets all the information she needs out of like-Steve-Majors-but-isn’t by, and I shit you not, restraining him in a shower, spraying him with water from the shower head and soaping him up.  He is utterly undone by the water spray, begging her not to spray his chest anymore.  Brunel actually manages to discuss this scene in a thoughtful manner that never would have occurred to me.

The three kidnapped girls end up really liking the men who bought them and stay with them. Ginger and Jason are nearly shot by a banker’s desk guns, but good prevails, the end.

The biggest problem with the film is that no one can act. Ginger speaks only in double entendres and they are delivered with a flat, smirking dullness. The men are all dumb or speak in gangster-ese. Every man seems like he’s dressed like a leisure-suit Harlequin, all the women have their nipples exposed at all times, and what is represented as the height of luxurious domestic decadence would need to be fumigated to qualify as a modern Motel 6.  The abducted girls only speak when they are introduced to the used car salesmen who purchased them, asking them innocent questions over dinner, wondering how they will be able to explain to the neighbors that they are sex slaves.  But the plot, oh the stupid plot, and the acting, tend to make all the excellent cheese turn into something that is merely cheesy.

Most notable is how difficult it will be for modern audiences to stomach this film.

This 90 minute film is sometimes a chore to watch. Bad acting, inexplicable costume and hair changes in the middle of a driving scene, and the idea that all women need is either a skilled lover or to be raped in order to “break” them all work to erode the average viewer’s patience, tolerance and sanity. Watching young women’s breasts be groped and twisted as they are told they are about to be tested for their sexual skills is something rarely seen in current non-pornographic, semi-mainstream or mainstream films, though it was a bit more common place in the daring ’70s.

But applying current mores to an old film should only be done when one is comparing the changes, not condemning that which is outdated for being outdated.  Brunell doesn’t do that and his refusal to condemn these films for their lack of PC content is refreshing.  He actually reproduces a couple of lines from an Amazon review that remarks that this film is an affront to all that is politically correct.  But placing the film in the context of the time when it was made, Brunell points out that while the film is sexist, even as it tries to make Ginger into a badass investigator/spy who can kick ass and suck cock and always solve the case, it is notably lacking in the casual racism that was part and parcel of the sexploitation and grindhouse film industry.

And because he has watched all three Ginger films, Brunell can sincerely explain how this film is an improvement upon the first, that Ginger has a character arc that was as important to the filmmaker as showing her boobs in every scene.  I think that’s important to know, that underneath it all, goals were set and achieved and that some people may have actually improved their acting chops. This was someone’s artistic vision – they were trying very hard to make a good movie.

The best part of Brunell’s examinations of these films is his look at the people in the films and where they ended up.  He has an interview with Jeramie Rain, who played “Jane,” one of the three abducted cheerleaders (she’s the one with the short dark hair, which naturally means she’s the one who was best suited to be a dominatrix, hilariously beating the bed next to her new owner with a double-coiled black whip). Rain is very notable for her role in The Last House on the Left, the Wes Craven film that fucked me up so badly that I will never forget Mari’s near-pre-Raphaelite death scene, her hair spreading out into the water as she dies.  Rain plays Sadie, the psychopathic moll who delights in the violence her male friends inflict on the girls they abduct.  Rain has some interesting stories about the film.

Brunell also notes that future porn actor Harry Reems, from Deep Throat, has a role in this film of the “blink and you’ll miss it variety.” Best of all, he shows the direct line from the director of this sleazy and unintentionally hilarious film to a lucrative Disney franchise. The cast info at the end of Brunell’s books never fail to surface some WTF details that show how small the entertainment world really is.

So what I am trying to say here is that this is a terrible film and you should only watch it in conjunction with Brunell’s Sinful Cinema series.  The worst film has to offer is often swallowed easier when you have someone who is knowledgeable in the genre, both sympathetic to and willing to discuss with humor the film’s many flaws, and able to write about it all in books that inevitably are better than the films that Brunell examines.  I highly recommend you check out Brunell’s work.

And yeah, this is more Odd than October, but maybe if you watch The Abductors, you’ll find the perfect Halloween costume.  Seventies banker, hot pants cheerleader, plaid-suited sex lord, or maybe you can just walk around naked like Ginger did. All you’ll need is a platinum wig!

The Devil Called Collect by J. Stephen Conn

Book: The Devil Called Collect: The Exorcism of Jessica Leek

Author: J. Stephen Conn

Type of Book: Non-fiction

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because it’s the sweetest, sincerest book about exorcism ever written.

Availability: Self-published in 2008 using iUniverse, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I bought this book off Amazon knowing nothing about it other than the title.  You have to admit this is an excellent title.  Isn’t that just like the Devil to call collect? And after that he leaves the toilet seat up and drinks milk straight from the carton. Of course I thought this strangely anti-climactic title masked a turgid and purple story of a young priest and an old priest milking pea soup out of some beleaguered victim of demonic possession. But that isn’t the case.  This is the least melodramatic, matter-of-fact, strangely sweet exorcism tale I’ve encountered, and I’ve encountered quite a few.  And because this book presents such a benign and relatively uneventful exorcism, I actually believe these events occurred as Rev. Conn presents them.

I mean, I think most of us understand that these sorts of cases are embellished, and if you are a heathen non-believer like me, you think such cases are embellished because there is no Satan or various demons to possess us.  There’s just mental illness and hucksters and between the two we get some amazing stories. I love those amazing stories, too.  Give me a book in the vein of the many cases Ed and Lorraine Warren pimped over the years and I’ll probably consume it in one sitting.  I love the late Warrens, but they never met a haunting or possession that they couldn’t tart up in some manner. Horror writer Ray Garton talked about what it was like to write the book, A Dark Place, about the Snedeker family’s haunting.  The story he wrote was later adapted into the film A Haunting in Connecticut, and he doesn’t mince words explaining that the Snedeker adults and the Warrens engaged in a long-con fraud.

But we know that, don’t we? I mean, some of us do.  And that most stories of hauntings and possessions are false doesn’t really deter my enjoyment of such stories unless I know that something extraordinarily awful occurred in the commission of the fraud, or if a family that was enduring something they genuinely could not explain were manipulated by exorcists or paranormal investigators.  While the Warrens were definitely manipulators to a degree, their roles in cases were generally that of conspirators or comforting shoulders to cry upon. You either made some money with them or you gave them the wretched doll you insist was trying to kill you and they kept it behind glass, relieving you psychologically until they launched a tiresome movie franchise around that evil toy.

That is not what is happening in this book.  I know nothing about J. Stephen Conn, but that he writes such a plain and earnest story about an exorcism of a young woman scores some serious points in his favor, where truth is concerned.  I believe that Rev. Conn believed everything “Jessica Leek” told him, and that he believes he helped save her from spiritual torture.  That the story doesn’t hold much water doesn’t really matter where my opinion of him stands because even if I don’t believe Jessica Leek and can poke holes in her story from miles and decades away, he did believe her.  He did his best to help and he never once reverted to movie cliches or deeply Catholic exorcism tropes.

Even though there was a backbone of cinematic exorcist movies and books at the time this story occurred, there is a refreshing innocence and a genuine desire to help found in all the religious folk in this book.  The story begins in Georgia in 1980, and the clergy involved are Methodists. It was easier for these clergy to imbue fewer “liar liar pants on fire” motives to Jessica than I would have, had I been an adult at the time. I hope I don’t sound like I am patronizing Rev. Conn and his associates.  To the contrary, honest people believe other people are honest, and good people tend to expect good behavior from others.  Feel free to do the moral math on why I am such a skeptic.  Even though this book was written 27 years after the events took place, Rev. Conn used notes he and his wife took at the time and even with decades of distance, the book he wrote was still informed by the young family man who just wanted to deliver a young woman from evil.

Not so short summary: In March, 1980, a young woman whom Rev. Conn calls “Jessica Leek” makes a collect call to him at around 2:00 a.m., early on Wednesday morning.  He accepts the charges and Jessica, in a soft voice, asks if he can help her.  She tells him she is in Atlanta, that she’d been hitch-hiking but had been left on the side of the road, and someone had given her his number as someone who could help.  But Rev. Conn was in Augusta, 145 miles away.  He advises her to call a church in Atlanta. But she can’t do that, she says, because she is:

…a witch of the fifth degree.  I’m about to be initiated into the sixth degree of our Order and all of a sudden I’m scared. Strange things are going on and I’m afraid something bad might happen to me.

Rev. Conn actually apologizes to the reader for seeming like he was trying to foist this hitch-hiking witch off on the church in Atlanta, then tells Jessica again she needed to contact the church closer to her.  She plaintively asks him if he will help her, why can’t he help her?  He explains that he’s not sure if he can, that the only person who can is Jesus Christ.  Upon hearing that name, Jessica begins to speak in a demonic voice, that says:

No, no, you can’t have her.  Just hang up the phone.  You can’t have her.  She is mine.

Of course, he doesn’t think she could possibly have produced the demonic voice, and that proves, in a way, that she’s really far more troubled than he expected, that this isn’t just a drunk girl worried about being stuck on the road for the rest of the night.  Rev. Conn asks who is speaking, wondering if she has a boyfriend there with her, but the demon in Jessica says, to effect, that they are legion.

Uh oh.

Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy by Doris Sanford

Book: Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse

Author: Doris Sanford, illustrated by Graci Evans.

Type of Book: Children’s book, illustrated, utter fiction

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, it’s no My Friend, The Enemy: Surviving Prison Camp, but it has its moments.  Also, discussing the background of this book takes up much more intellectual space than the book itself.

Availability: Published in 1990 by A Corner of the Heart, it’s out of print, but if you have money to burn and enjoy that sickening feeling you get when you realize you have a relic of an entirely different form of child abuse than the book professes to tackle, you can still get a used copy on Amazon.  However, the book is so reviled that Amazon will not permit me to link to it directly.

Comments: The late 1980s and early 1990s were a weird time. All over rural and suburban America, white people became very afraid of Satan, and sometimes even “real” Satanists participated in the freak show of Satanic Panic.  Some of us listened as Bob Larson, huckster and self-taught exorcist, attempted to exorcise demons out of Trey Azagthoth, bassist from the death metal band, Morbid Angel.  Glen Benton, front man of Deicide, spent a lot of time taunting Bob, and frankly that time could have been better spent injecting heroin straight into his balls, but, like I said, it was a weird time.  Geraldo, Sally Jesse Raphael and Oprah had the pre-cursors of soccer moms convinced that Satanist wolves infiltrated every corner of the planet – but mostly white, middle-class pre-schools, it seems – in order to pass as sheep, ready to savage their children.

It was a very dark time, my sarcasm aside. Families were destroyed because poorly trained and dogma-afflicted therapists and hysterical, mostly fundamentalist Christian, parents believed children could not be led into making up salacious details about abuse that never happened.  They believed children when those children, after hours and hours and sometimes days and days of leading and suggestive comments, told impossible stories about abuse that they claimed was heaped upon them at day care centers. The McMartin pre-school case is one of the best examples of the Satanic Panic run amok.

A mother, whom members of the community later admitted was utterly unstable and had a history of making false accusations, was convinced that Raymond Buckey, son of the owner of the McMartin day care center, had sodomized her son.  She went to the police during a time when law enforcement was willing to believe such claims without much in the way of evidence, and during the investigation letters were sent to parents of children who attended the day care, asking them to check with their children to make sure Raymond hadn’t, you know, raped them repeatedly.  Predictably, parents became hysterical and some of the most poorly trained therapists ever to worry about men in hoods in the woods pressured McMartin attendees until they remembered any number of absolutely impossible situations, involving every McMartin employee, as well as random strangers unlucky enough to be lumped into the group of suspects.

McMartin kids, under the questioning of a therapist who really needed there to be a terrible scandal and shaped one that fit neatly with her bizarre beliefs, insisted that sometimes they were flushed down toilets into tunnels under the school and used in Satanic orgies.  They claimed they saw lions and horses killed, as well as rabbits being frequently killed in front of them to make them compliant.  They claimed they watched as babies were sacrificed at the local Episcopal church. They claimed Raymond Buckey could fly, that they were filmed naked and their abuse was taped as a game the adults called “naked movie star.” Nary a photo or film clip was ever found. It never really seemed to register with the therapists involved that something was wrong with all these weird stories, not even when kids could not identify Raymond, their supposed rapist who flew and killed rabbits, but did identify Chuck Norris as one of the men who harmed them. No one felt a bit unsettled when the kids spoke of being taken from abuse locations in hot air balloons, or that the kids were taken to cemeteries during the day and forced to dig up corpses, which their day care instructors began to stab repeatedly, hacking the bodies up before forcing the kids to rebury them. Even more bizarre physical evidence was used to prove the accusations of kids who had no physical signs that they had been abused, let alone repeatedly raped, cut, or beaten.  The now utterly debunked “wink” anus test was used on little kids, and as a result those little kids ended up being sexually abused by the people set on saving them from abuse.

That’s a problem that comes up a lot in Satanic Panic cases – if the kids weren’t victimized by those accused of abuse, the accusers put the kids through such nightmarish questioning and physical examinations that they were definitely victimized.  Some of the McMartin kids have grown into adults who believe the system failed them, permitting the people who sacrificed endless numbers of babies to Satan while raping them and their friends to eventually go free.  They feel traumatized and victimized and their lives have been ruined.  While a lot of people look at this kiddie book as a real life example of Liartown’s fine book parodies…

The world is a terrible place and we know this because only two of these books are fake.

…it’s only funny if you don’t know the truth behind it.

As I type this, I know people who really are into Dave McGowan’s Programmed to Kill, the belief that Bush the Elder led a pedophile cult that preyed on kids involved in the Franklin Scandal, and every minute detail from the whole of the recent Pizzagate weirdness are going to come call me a black propagandist, insinuate I get paid by the Podesta brothers to write such articles or accuse me of being a pedophile.  Same as it ever was.  Every such commenter reads a refutation of their hobby horse and feels it is an apologia for child abuse as a whole when it’s really just other people questioning their intellectual fitness. It makes me glad this book is out of print. Perhaps it’s best they waste their time leaving me silly comments because otherwise they might actually engage in real life advocacy and no one, especially children, needs that.

Now to the book.

Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy is a direct response to the McMartin pre-school case. It even brings up the game “naked movie star.” (The key, or should I say “Kee,” therapist involved with the McMartin case, took a slightly bawdy rope skipping chant and turned it into a tacit admission of kiddie porn involvement – “What you say is what you are, you’re a naked movie star!” Our weird chant when I was a kid was a vulgar variation of the song “Tah rah rah boom dee-ay.” We all had them but, again, it shows a lot about the mentality of the professional adult who immediately believes such silly rhymes mean kids are being gang raped.)

The story is pretty basic – little girl gets Satanically abused at her day care, she tells her parents, who work hard to help her recover, and assure her that God was really sad she was abused.

The illustrations in the book are drawn by Graci Evans and they do a decent job of revealing some McMartin realness.

Pay close attention. Note the pregnant woman with the tiny cups on a tray. She’s probably gonna sacrifice her baby to The One with Horns and those cups held sedatives for the kids. Also note Allison’s drawing – a rabbit with bloody ears.
Okay, so some of the children are naked and that noose is really small. Children whose parents bought this book unironically deserve reparations.

I’m unsure what to think about Doris Sanford.  I can’t really find much information about her, aside from basic obituary-level information – she appears to have died in 2018.  She began her foray into self-help books for kids by discussing the impact of parental depression on kids, and how hard it is for kids to process death, both helpful and useful books.  Even her books about sexual abuse at home seem charmingly helpful in comparison to Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy. But over time her titles became more… upsetting.  How many kids were out there who survived death camps and also had access to American book stores?  The kids in Rwanda weren’t gonna see Doris’ book about death camps, nor were kids who suffered in the Balkans. But she wrote a book about it. And she wrote this book, and no matter what alarmists tell you, Satanic Ritual Abuse is rare and hardly has an audience large enough to support a book helping the children who survive it.

Was Doris a True Believer in Satanic Panic?  Was she jadedly making a buck off the backs of people who were clearly already willing to torture their kids?  I have no idea. Worse, her book may well have been the lesser of several other evils.  I remember a woman on my street when I was a kid who would give out Jack Chick tracts and a dime to each kid on Halloween.  My mom made me go to her door each year that I trick-or-treated because she wanted to see what lunacy I’d walk back with. I lack the will to look up the exact title, but I remember one year I got a tract about how some kid died and when he went to heaven God showed him every terrible thing he’d done on some sort of celestial slide show projector, and I began to worry if my mom was trying to tell me God had a rap sheet on me a mile long and I needed to get my shit together.  Really, she just wanted to see what crazy crap the woman was giving out that year. But I remember being very upset that God had basically set up surveillance on me and was collecting evidence of every sass back, every lie, every thing a child does because she’s a child, in order to shame me when I died.  At least Doris’ books had decent production values.

So I guess what I am saying is that people love witch hunts and that will never not be true, and every generation has their own unique way of terrifying kids with images of Satan.

But this book, all kidding aside, is an excellent relic of the time that spawned it.  And for all I know it was a legitimate and sincere attempt to address what at the time seemed like a terrible societal ill.  But the utter perversity of the accusations, the beliefs people had about well-organized cabals preying upon the most privileged and well-protected children in human history, shows a sort of sickness within that even now people don’t like to address. What do you do if your mother is certain you were sodomized in a tunnel by an American icon like Chuck Norris, who most definitely did not have large chunks of time he could be away from film and TV sets to hang around in subterranean lairs to rape toddlers?  How do you cope with the rectal exams you were forced to endure because adults really believed you were taken away in hot air balloons to be raped in the Episcopal church? What does that say about the secret fantasies and moral bruises of those who believed such unbelievable, foul, bloody and sexually perverse things?

I have an answer of sorts in a film I will discuss tomorrow, an animated film inspired by this specific book. See you then.

Leaves from the Smorgasbord by Hank Kirton

Book: Leaves from the Smorgasbord

Author: Hank Kirton

Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection, flash fiction

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because the collection begins with this disclaimer:

Most of these stories were written while I was either going through chemotherapy or locked in rehab. That might help explain things. Or not.

Availability: Published by Crumbling Asphalt in 2017, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Oh god, that disclaimer tore my heart into several pieces. And filtering these stories through that disclaimer ground those pieces up into a sort of heart hamburger. I don’t know Hank Kirton very well. I know him in that vague way many of us know each other – he read my site, I read his books, sometimes I see him on Twitter, I wouldn’t recognize him in real life though he might recognize me if I haven’t changed my hair in a while. But even though I don’t know him, I still know him because there are too many times his words have stepped off the page and recognized me and I waved back. Those words know me because Kirton and I share similarly strange cultural references. They know me because Hank Kirton writes in a way that gives shape to some of my thoughts, creating cultural links between unlikely ideas. There is a confluence of ideas, concepts, and milestones that happens when I read Kirton’s short fiction.

I still think of his story “Jelly” every time I hear Ulver’s “Nowhere Catastrophe.” Had Kirton heard that song before writing “Jelly”? Did it somehow influence him? It makes me wonder because the two pieces merge so seamlessly, a story and a song about human transformation into music, the written and musical notes at the end of a transfiguration.  Because he is able to tap veins so similar to my own, I think of Hank Kirton, the Writer, several times a month. Which is awful because as I consider him in his role as the Writer, I had no idea he was suffering as Hank Kirton, the Human Being. I know now. I have the physical representation of his time in hell right here in front of me, waiting for me to finally discuss it. I keep putting it off because this year is the decade anniversary of my own time in hell, a different sort of hell than Kirton’s but similar enough to show me that, again, I know Kirton, in the most miraculous and miserable ways possible.

Leaves from the Smorgasbord is a collection of 32 stories but is only 181 pages long. Kirton is a master of flash fiction, but routinely nails longer stories, too. This collection begins with “Hello,” a story about a desperate fifteen-year-old girl reaching out for help as she experiences a bad acid trip. She randomly dials a number in the middle of the night, and reaches Don, a 47-year-old Asian man who is sufficiently alarmed and kind enough to stay on the line with the frightened teen until she feels settled and safe. Then the rug gets abruptly pulled out from under the reader with a nasty slap in the face. When I finished this piece I recalled Johnny Truant’s story of salvation in House of Leaves that turned out to be a lie that any astute reader understood was a lie. I missed the lie and had a warm feeling of relief, that Johnny, strung out and without tether, was finally going to be okay. At the end of that lie and “Hello,” I felt the same sense of “how the fuck can I, an adult in Current Year, still buy into and feel comforted by treacly examples of human beings at their best?” But I do. And it still feels bad when my faith in mankind is tested and mankind fails. But this story is also pretty much a fantastic way to begin a short story collection written by a man who was undergoing chemo or detox as he wrote it. Goddamn it.

This story was strange for me because it was short, consisted solely of dialogue, yet I felt like I knew Don at the end.  I had the sense that even though there was no way I could really make such an assertion, Don was the sort of man who, even after being set up for cruelty, would not hang up the phone should another person call in the middle of the night, needing someone to talk to. I don’t think Don was ultimately bothered much – he was probably just relieved to learn no one was really in any sort of trouble. Don is sort of a placid lake onto which tiresome stones were skipped but ultimately his surface would smooth out once more. Don is a stable mooring to which the other stories are secured, keeping the reader from drifting out into a miserable sea of bad, baffling and surreal behavior.

Hank hits way too close to home for me with “Blimpo Saves.” It’s 1971 and Neal, a stoner up way too early on a Sunday morning, eating a bowl of Frankenberry cereal, is watching a Christian cartoon wherein a blobby clicking atrocity brings the love of Jesus to the children unlucky enough to be awake and watching television before the sun comes up on the Sabbath. Neal becomes increasingly disturbed by Blimpo. The kids in the cartoon translate Blimpo’s weird clicks but Neal senses that there is some sort of unholy Morse code behind the clicks, and Blimpy triggers a paranoia I’m so completely familiar with.

Blimpo says, “Click-click clickety click.  Click click click!” and Neal shivers as if he’s just heard his own epitaph.  The kids translate: “You don’t have to be scared of God’s love. It will protect you.” They say this to a frightened cartoon puffin named Paul.

Then Neal wonders if the kids translating Blimpo are actually Satanic minions, a reasonable conclusion to reach.

Neal begins to resent Blimpo for giving him The Fear. He decides Blimpo is a misguided messenger for Christian deliverance.  Those clicks of his are jive, he tells himself, mere jive, but this notion offers no consolation. He wants to change the channel but is afraid to move. He feels hypnotized by Blimpo’s clicks, his swollen ping-pong eyes.

Neal’s feelings about Blimpo closely mirror my own about Jon Konrath’s fine lunacy. But I also know what he means about Blimpo, a gross Christian pablum panderer that I sense may be based on the eerie and unwholesome JOT.

Did you ever see a JOT cartoon before you had the vocabulary and life experience to explain why watching it felt so very, very wrong? God, that thing was absolutely horrible, but at least Jot could speak.  And actually, now that I think about it, clicking would have been better than that chirping voice that shows that the Uncanny Valley can have an audio component.

When I was a kid, there was a locally-produced show in Dallas that came on before church called The Children’s Hour. The host, a well-intentioned man, I am sure, entertained children in a Christian manner, showing Christian cartoons and offering commentary. Puppets were involved. I am unsure what the goals of that show were but I suspect that they didn’t mean to plant seeds that bloomed into atheism. But what sort of lessons did they hope to convey, showing JOT, this minimalist biblical burden on children who don’t need to ponder the moral relativity of not getting dirty when they can’t even really speak properly yet? JOT was twitchy, man, with those hands (dirty or clean) that disappeared when he wasn’t moving.  Where was his nose?  Why didn’t his mother notice her small son had hands caked in mud, spit in a tissue and wipe him down before sending him off to Sunday school? Better yet, why didn’t the dumb creature just go back inside and wash his hands quickly before it was time for church?  If he could open the door and get out into the yard, he could have gone back in and quickly washed his hands. But then they’d have had to teach us how dawdling made Jesus cry so there was really no way out of being taught a largely irrelevant moral lesson about how being a small child capable only of the thoughts of a small child was probably an affront to God. The only truth I could find was that devout children as portrayed in cheaply-made cartoons were very stupid.

The Birdman of Leavenworth, a Death Row Proto-Kevorkian

I’m currently working on a new book (new, as in I have an OLD book and you should probably go buy a copy because my publisher deserves money for enduring my head-casery) and as I research I keep finding interesting alleys off the main street of my reading.  So many little snippets that likely won’t have a place in the larger story but are entertaining enough that I want to share them.

My upcoming book will be a look at personal manifestos and their role in shaping particular parts of contemporary culture as well as serving as at times unintentional autobiographies of the people who wrote them.  Less Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and more Elliot Rodger’s My Twisted World.  Some of the manifestos I am analyzing are quasi-political, like Valerie Solanas’ The SCUM Manifesto or Anders Behring Breivik’s 2083, but most of them are  analyses of the self that also stand as a statement or declaration of social or political aims.  One such manifesto is Carl Panzram’s autobiography, wherein he discusses how he came to be shaped into a multipurpose psychopath and why he felt entitled to engage in the mayhem that saw him imprisoned multiple times and ultimately executed.  As I researched Carl Panzram, I came across Panzram: A Journal of Murder by Thomas E. Gaddis and James O. Long, editors, and an unexpected look at how the politics of the death penalty played out among the condemned.

Before he was The Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud was The Birdman of Leavenworth (which actually makes more sense as a moniker since he was never permitted to keep birds at Alcatraz).

Seriously, if there’s a bird with Stroud, he was at Leavenworth. Don’t challenge me on this, I’m ready.

The movie about him, starring Burt Lancaster, was before my time and I probably should watch it in due time, but from what I can tell it portrays Stroud in a very sympathetic manner (as does a more recent film about Panzram that stars James Woods).

Yep, that’s the wiener sidekick from House M.D. standing behind Woods/Panzram in the film Killer: A Journal of Murder.

But bear in mind, if Carl Panzram, dream date of late-child murderer Ian Brady, was a one-man-mayhem-machine, Robert Stroud, had he stayed out of prison longer, would have been his peer.  Though he spent decades nursing birds and researching cures for avian diseases at Leavenworth, Stroud was also a pimp and a murderer, and once imprisoned he was the instigator of many fights and eventually killed a prison guard.  That murder landed him on death row at Leavenworth, but his sentence was commuted and he spent 1918 through 1942 in solitary confinement at Leavenworth (which sounds much different than what prisoners experience in solitary in the USA today).  It was in solitary confinement in Leavenworth that Stroud “met” Carl Panzram.

Oh, and in case you were wondering how Stroud ended up in Alcatraz, the Birdman was caught using the equipment a benevolent prison warden gave him for his birds to make alcohol and sell within the prison.  Upon discovery of this side hustle, he was transferred to Alcatraz.

There are so many mug shots of Carl Panzram, under varying names, that it was hard to pick just one. I selected this one because I like that little curl of hair sticking up over his forehead. It’s easy to imagine him as a kid with hair like this, which is sort of awful now that I think about it.

Carl Panzram was a life-long criminal and an utter psychopath whose crimes ranged from audacious financial exploits on oil rigs in Africa to child rape to murder.  A victim of the harsh practices in reform schools and even harsher practices in prison, all attempts to rehabilitate him made him even worse.  He’d been in several prisons before ending up in Leavenworth, often under false names.  Panzram in prison was a man who just wanted to be left alone.  It’s hard to be left alone in prison and Panzram, in Leavenworth, became a pot waiting to boil over.  He reached his limit and started a prison riot when he killed the foreman in the prison laundry.  That earned him the death penalty and he was kept in solitary during his trial and the time during which he was awaiting execution, in the same solitary block as Robert Stroud.

(There’s a funny story about the end of the riot, too.  Or at least it was funny to me.  Panzram beat the prison laundry foreman to death with a pipe and rampaged through the prison with it in his hand.  When he reached a wing that a guard, Red Ballard, locked down anticipating his arrival, Panzram shouted at him to open the door. Ballard, terrified and shaken, said, “I will never let you in with that in your hand.” As if he forgot he was holding it, Panzram tossed the iron bar away and declared that this must be his lucky day.  Ballard called for assistance and, presumably, opened the door.)

During the trial, Panzram was clear that he wanted to be executed.  Many anti-death penalty groups tried to intervene on his behalf and in response Panzram essentially told them to take their do-gooder notions and go fuck themselves.  He was set on execution, not only because he was tired of the misery of prison life, but also in the spirit of telling the state and the penal system that since they created this monster, they needed to kill it.  A sort of slow-motion suicide by cop.

This attitude alarmed Robert Stroud to the point that he intervened. Or at least he tried.  Despite both men being in solitary confinement, there is ample evidence that Stroud and Panzram managed to effect some sort of communication, and that communication focused on one aim: Stroud wanted Panzram to kill himself.

Unsure if that is the actual gallows where Panzram was executed but I found this pic on a site called The Temple of Ghoul and with a name like that I have to think that if anyone has the actual photo, that site does. (http://templeofghoul.blogspot.com/2013/02/carl-panzram-spirit-of-hatred-and.html)

Stroud found himself on Leavenworth’s death row for the same offense as Panzram, for killing a prison employee, but his sentence was commuted to life.  Stroud to the end felt that Panzram’s yearning for execution was a bluff, that he would, like any reasonable man, want to cheat the executioner, even if it meant dying by his own hand.  But Stroud also felt very strongly that the death penalty – either through the state of Kansas or through the federal government – should never be performed on Leavenworth soil.  He even went so far as to give money to a campaign to prevent another solitary inmate from facing the death penalty for murdering a fellow Leavenworth prisoner.  There had been no executions at Leavenworth and Stroud, as well as many other death penalty abolitionists, did not want a death penalty precedent set.  From his isolation cell, Stroud could see the gallows being constructed and it fired his resolve that Panzram should be encouraged to kill himself to avoid being the man who brought the death penalty to Leavenworth.

Interestingly, Stroud managed to get information to Panzram regarding ways to end his life, and Panzram, afraid his death sentence might not be carried out, made a genuine suicide attempt.  From Panzram, A Journal of Murder (228):

Stroud began long disquisitions to the guard Red Ballard, to the orderlies and to Ono Manuel [another inmate] in a clear, loud voice, hoping that the information would reach Panzram.  He talked about how simple and painless it would be to end it all: press two fingers into the groin until the throb of the femoral artery can be felt, work the fingers back and forth until the artery is brought against the skin, and cut it with a long thumbnail or a chip of a razor blade.  Death would come in minutes.  This artery, Stroud explained in loud tones, is the only one which can be easily reached, yet cannot be tied off.  He also spoke of making a paper quill, opening a large vein anywhere, inserting the quill and blowing a bubble or two into the vein.  Or, he added, simple tap water would do it.

Ballard said nothing.  He closed the wooden door to Panzram’s cell and cautioned Stroud to lower his voice.

Red Ballard kept a very close watch on Panzram but he could not prevent the suicide attempt Panzram made on June 20, 1929 (the one year anniversary of beating the laundry foreman to death).  He had hidden a plate of beans he let go bad, making them poisonous.  He ate those beans and then opened a six-inch gash in his leg using a sharpened button.  Had he just slashed his leg he might have succeeded because it was the sound of him vomiting up the tainted beans that alerted the night guard that there was a problem in his cell.

Once the execution date was firmly set and no appeals were made, Stroud was still convinced that Panzram was bluffing, that he really did not want to die at the hands of the state and that he had simply been too incompetent to carry out his prior suicide attempt.  Since Panzram feared that the state might consider him too mentally unwell to execute, which was the impetus behind the attempt, there may have been some truth to the notion that he was inept with fear. Stroud may have been correct on that front because if there had ever been a man who knew how to kill, it was Panzram.  Still, a failed suicide involving bad beans and a button might help the case that Panzram was too mentally ill to execute and surely Panzram knew this.  It seems very likely that Panzram engaged in overkill with his methods of choice rather than failing due to incompetence. As the execution drew closer, Stroud upped his game and Panzram, in the end, showed his genuine intent.

Two weeks before the execution, Stroud saw his opportunity.  He wrote his earlier instructions on a slip of paper, broke a new Gillette blade in two and wrapped the paper around the top halves of the broken blade. Having found an old tube of watercolor gray, he painted the package the same color as the concrete floor.  He then persuaded a new short-term prisoner, who had been made an orderly in the isolation section, to throw the tiny packet into Panzram’s cell the first time the guard, Red Ballard, turned his head.  The orderly agreed […].

The packet was dropped into Panzram’s cell without incident […]. 238-239)

Stroud had some hope that Panzram would use the blades and take his own life because Panzram held onto the blades until two days before his execution, and then turned them over to guard Red Ballard (who really needed to be paid far more than he was for dealing with all he endured during his tenure at Leavenworth).

“Where did you get these?” Ballard demanded.

“None of your damned business,” said Panzram. (239)

Stroud may have been onto something because why else would Panzram have held onto the blades for around ten days, turning them in so close to the execution.  Was he wavering until the end, perhaps mulling over how he wanted to die?  Did the packet with the blades sit unseen on his prison floor for a while, so well camouflaged by Stroud’s watercolor? More likely he wanted insurance in the event the state decided on a last minute pardon and commuted his sentence, one that carried a better chance at success than rotten beans and a shaved-down button. It’s hard to say why Panzram kept the blades for so long, but in the end the state did execute him. He had the option of slashing his wrists or neck or groin but went to the gallows instead.

And of course, the statement Panzram is most famous for occurred on the gallows.  He sneered at his executioner, saying, “Hurry it up, you Hoosier bastard.  I could kill a dozen men while you’re screwing around.”

He probably could have, too.  But he didn’t.  Nor did he kill himself.

I admittedly knew very little about Robert Stroud, Birdman of Alcatraz, before I read about Panzram, and what I knew was very fluffy, redemption-oriented sort of quasi-knowledge.  While I could have guessed a man like him would be anti-death penalty, I certainly didn’t anticipate him being so keen on enabling a suicide he considered more ethical in the macro and having more dignity in the micro, nor did I expect him to be so knowledgeable on methods of suicide.  Child of the media that I am, I now have visions of Burt Lancaster encouraging James Woods to commit suicide.

The things you learn when learning about other things…

Crypt of the Living Dead by Doug Brunell

Book: Crypt of the Living Dead, Sinful Cinema Series #2

Author: Doug Brunell

Type of Book: Non-fiction, film criticism

Why Do You Consider This Book Odd: It shows the charm and marginal merit of a film that I initially felt had neither but could see once I read Brunell’s take on the film.

Availability: Published by Chaotic Words in 2017, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I’ve begun to despair of the horror genre as of late, and it may be because I’ve reached the age to where there is very little that’s new under the sun.  It’s not helped by the fact that so often genre films are endeavors where those with marginal talents do the bare minimum necessary to get a film together, as evidenced by many of the anemic offerings on NetFlix.  For every Babadook or It Follows, there are a dozen miserable titles that one shouldn’t bother to remember because they all tell the same story, poorly acted, with little spark.

But perhaps I’m being an old crank.  Well, actually, I am being an old crank, at least where the horror genre is concerned and I needed to be reminded that sometimes the desire to see only that which is wholly new, unconventional or somehow rarified can cause us to overlook films that might be interesting if only paid attention.

Enter Doug Brunell’s look at little-known films.

I came across Doug’s work after he read my compendium TL;DR and introduced himself on Twitter. I looked up his work and was delighted to see that he was a fellow traveler in the bizarre and fringe and had written analyses of the cinematic corollaries to some of the books I discuss here.  I saw the title Crypt of the Living Dead, and thought it had something to do with zombies.  Nope, this is a vampire film. (Matt Kaplan’s The Science of Monsters links zombies, werewolves and vampires together as monsters conjured by mass fears of overpopulated cities, disease, especially diseases caused by bodily rot, and though that is certainly not relevant to this discussion it was interesting to see all three monsters represented in this film, as it features a vampire who turns into a wolf and the title leads modern audiences raised on George Romero films to think of zombies.)  I decided it would be interesting to watch the film first and then read what Brunell had to say about it.

Though Mr OTC and I agreed that the film might have gone down better had we been watching it with a space janitor and two wise-cracking robots, it wasn’t wholly bad.  In fact, I found myself uttering Yogi Berra-worthy statements as I watched it, like, “This film would be pretty good if it wasn’t so bad.”  Because there were moments in it that were entertaining, and most of those moments were entertaining because they were so weird.

A quick synopsis, and here be spoilers but I don’t think anyone will be watching this film with an eye toward creative storytelling or unexpected plot twists (but I will try to minimize them): An older man, who came to a small, almost inbred European island to study their customs, is crushed under the crypt topper of a woman called Hannah, who died in 1269.  He is crushed because a wild man (a literal wild man who resembles a cave man with an eye patch) and a robed man knock him over, shove him under the crypt, and knock the supports out from under it, crushing him, effectively decapitating him.  The man’s son, Chris, comes to the island and is greeted by the man in robes, Peter, who lives on the island with his sister, Mary.  We don’t know what Peter’s game is but he seems very helpful to Chris, helping him navigate the stand-offish islanders who are slow to welcome newcomers.  Mary is a schoolteacher and the kids are suitably creepy, as are the islanders, especially the fishermen who won’t even speak to Chris.  We find Chris has come to the island to get his dad out from under the crypt – the islanders were just going to leave him there, minus his head, because the tomb was too heavy to lift, evidently.  So Chris, with Peter’s help, organizes the fishermen on the island to try to go underground and lift the tomb and though they are divided on whether or not they should be messing around with Hannah’s tomb because, as you probably know, she was interred as a vampire and to mess with the tomb risks letting her out, they ultimately try to help. Mary and Chris “bond” and Peter seems excited at the prospect that his sister may leave the island with Chris. But nothing goes easily because Hannah has gotten out, she preys on the islanders and everything ends rather poorly for many of the islanders and, of course Peter, who was in thrall to the undead Hannah.  And it all seems okay at the end, once Hannah has been dealt with in a rather pyrotechnic manner, but alas, peace will be short-lived because evil now infests this little island.

As I watched the film, the deficits, which were funny rather than infuriating, were what I noticed first.  Here are the best of the “WTF” moments:

–When Chris’s dad was exploring the catacomb area, he walks under a sacrificed goat that has been strung up high and is bleeding out.  He feels the blood drip on his face and looks up and stands there staring at the bleeding goat as it spills blood all over his face.  When he finally starts walking again, he doesn’t bother to wipe the blood off, but instead wanders the catacombs with goat’s blood all over his face and head.

–Chris is such a dead ringer for notable porn actor John Holmes that it was distracting.

–Inexplicably, the only person who saw Hannah in her wolf form was, I am not kidding, completely blind.

–Mary, who taught in a one-room school house, forced one kid to stand in the corner ALL DAY because she found him playing in the cemetery because that is a totally reasonable thing for a grade school teacher to do.  The entire classroom is filled with children who would need a bath and a complete set of chromosomes to qualify as extras in Children of the Corn.

–Hannah, the person for whom the film is named and who ostensibly should have at least been a peripheral character, never says one word in the film.  Instead she writhes about in her tomb, wanders about in a filmy white dress, and generally looks kind of pretty but is basically just a piece of animated scenery.

–Chris and Mary hook up and Peter, who I may remind you is Mary’s brother, watches from outside.  Okay, sort of gross, right.  Then the next day when he sees them he is super pleased and overly enthusiastic about Chris nailing his sister and immediately demands that Mary leave the island with Chris because nothing says emotional security and trust like a stranger having sex with your sister within days of meeting her even though he’s supposed to be trying to haul his dad’s carcass out from a vampire’s tomb.

There are other moments that left me wondering what on earth was at play but mostly I focused on the silly plot points because the movie seemed very simple and the details of the film seemed secondary to the gentle mockery that made up most of my reaction.  But then I followed it up by reading Brunell’s analysis of the film and it changed the film for me.  Of course, the film isn’t suddenly rendered amazing after seeing it through Brunell’s filter – and Brunell himself points out the movie’s many flaws – but the efforts the filmmakers put into the film, as well as details that went completely over my head, combined with the themes that Brunell saw in the movie, certainly rescued it from the mental file where I had placed it alongside Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Vampires or Gods? by William Meyers

Book: Vampire or Gods: The True Stories of the Ancient Immortals

Author: William Meyers

Type of Book: Non-fiction (sort of), supernatural, paranormal, alternative history

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: If you were to substitute vampires for aliens in some of the more accessible “alien intervention” conspiracy theories, you’d end up with something like this book.  Also the dude on the cover who is eating grape is… unsettling.

Availability: Published by III Publishing in 1993, it’s out of print but you can still get a copy from second-hand sellers on Amazon:

Comments: Halloween looms so what better time to dig out and discuss this relic. It’s strange at times to consider the enormity of weird information available to us and how normalized such weirdness has become. That’s been a boon for people like me, and presumably anyone reading this, but it’s fun to revisit books that predate the rise of the Internet. This book is a hoot and there’s a reasonably good chance that even ardent readers of this site may not have heard of this title. As time permits, hopefully I can discuss more hidden, somewhat Halloween-ie media that may appeal to those looking for creepy stuff with a nice fringe. We’ll see, I can’t even believe Halloween is this week. I don’t even have pumpkins yet. Time is not so much slipping into the future, to paraphrase Steve Miller, as it is hurtling into some quantum physical state wherein time speeds up and keeps speeding up. Someone tried to explain “Schuman Resonance” to me once and it was like trying to teach a dog stoic philosophy so enough about that. Let’s discuss some vampiric high weirdness.

This is a book that is easy to summarize but very hard to discuss in depth. The concept is easy: William Meyers believes that the old gods, and the new, were actually real people who once lived very long lives, thousands of years in some cases, and they were so long-lived because they were/are vampires. He thinks the historical record, as well as common themes that run through world religions, points to vampirism being a part of our world since human beings organized enough to need or appreciate governments and spiritually dogmatic beliefs.

I walk a fine line when it comes to conspiracy theory. It’s very subjective as to whether or not something like this is harmful. Martin Gardner would think so and we can all agree he was way smarter than me. But I am not bothered by this as much as I am the recent “false flag” trends that cause cretins to harass the families of dead children and deny the existence of bomb victims. This is not as horrible to me as shady purveyors of “non-Western medicine” who convince hopeless cancer victims that medical science is evil, driven only by profits and making them sicker via chemo, and then sell those cancer sufferers very expensive crystals or pyramids or instructions for miserable regimens of coffee enemas out of the goodness of their hearts.

This book is entertaining conspiracy, a form of alternate history that shows how creatively human beings can weave together disparate ideas into a larger tapestry that tries to tell the story of humanity. And it seems to do little harm. I don’t see holy wars or anti-vaccination screeds or weird instructions on how to mutilate the genitals of children springing forth from this theory. And that’s not just because this theory requires both a belief that mythological gods were once living beings AND that vampires are real, something that will require a huge leap of faith in the average reader. Rather, this attempt to explain interesting correlations in religious stories and how they all point to a world shaped and ruled by vampires is not a dogmatic belief system.

It’s the dogma that gets you. It’s always the dogma. And without dogma we’ve got ourselves a fun, sometimes bizarre, interpretation of recorded human history. (And to be perfectly honest, I review this book with the mindset and influence of Mac Tonnies, a brilliant examiner of alien-oriented theories for whom the conversation was as important as the “truth.” I may not believe much but I still find myself examining theories like this with Tonnies in mind, willing to muse about the idea as much as its validity. Well, I do that when it doesn’t seem too harmful, but even so I still cut conspiracy theorists a lot of slack. That I let them leave comments here at all is a testament to the legacy of the importance of discussion that the late Tonnies fostered.)

Just in case anyone thinks that Meyers is just positing and not endorsing the notion that vampires are real and that Set and Cybele and Dionysus and many others were all vampires who actually walked the earth once as humans or humanoids, let me disabuse you of that notion:

…there is the possibility that we are not dealing, in the case of vampire-gods, with humans at all. Perhaps they are a distinct species, related to man as man is related to gorillas. Or the gods were a result of a mating between immortal beings and ordinary humans, as is claimed in the stories of Dionysus, Hercules, Jesus Christ and others. Perhaps the rash of women claiming to have been abducted by UFO’s in the past two decades will find that their children are immortal or have unusual abilities.

One informant who claims to know real “vampires,” humans who do not age or age only slowly, says that while they are not sure what causes their condition, a common theory is that it is simply a rare and recessive gene or set of genes. This could explain why most immortals chronicled in this book were the result of some sort of sexual liaison that today is considered incest.

Yep, Meyers believes gods were living beings and even goes so far as to try to explain their origins. What makes this so awesome for me is that as he tries to offer explanations for these gods, he invokes mainstream science in the form of evolution and recessive genetics AND marries his theory with other stories of external beings manipulating mankind. Alien intervention, alien abduction and possibly even the biblical stories of Nephilim and giants mating with humans can stand alongside Meyers’ vampire-god theories.  I love this sort of synthesis, a combination of all the ways of interpreting and explaining the world around us.

God Speed, Adam Parfrey

Adam Parfrey died on May 10, 2018, and his death has been a mild devastation to me.  I never met him in the flesh but had some online interactions with him wherein he was both very professional and very kind to me.  I keep wanting to discuss his commitment to freedom of speech and to the dissemination of ideas that were guaranteed to make some readers uncomfortable – given recent societal determination to ban and censor all thought that makes anyone feel uneasy, losing Parfrey seems all the greater a loss.

But if you know who Parfrey was, you already know this.  And if you don’t know who he was, the best way to explain why Adam Parfrey was so important is to just to let you see, quite literally see, why he matters so much to me and to other people dedicated to experiencing strange and frightening ideas, to supporting freedom of speech in public and private realms, to shining light on that which is hidden. I said on social media that creating I Read Odd Books, which eventually morphed into this current site, was in no small part influenced by Adam’s works: his own writing, his work with Amok books, Feral House and Process Media are present throughout OTC.

My site and my own life’s works are a small leaf growing on a twig growing from a branch on the tree Parfrey planted and cultivated.  Almost every non-fiction shelf in my home has at least one title that is in some way associated with Adam Parfrey.  This is just a sample of what I found in five minutes or so, glancing at my shelves.

In this shelf sampling, left to right, top to bottom: The Covert War Against Rock by Alex Constantine, Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan, Pure Filth by Peter Sotos and Jamie Gillis, Strange Creations by Donna Kossy, The Gates of Janus, first and second editions, by Ian Brady, Rants by Adam Parfrey and Bob Black, The Carnivals of Life and Death by James Shelby Downard, The Source by Isis Aquarian, American Hardcore by Steven Blush, Shit Magnet by Jim Goad, Technological Slavery by Ted Kazcynski, Psychic Dictatorship in the USA by Alex Constantine, Apocalypse Culture/ Apocalypse Culture II / Cult Rapture, all three edited by Parfrey, and Demons in the Age of Light by Whitney Robinson.

This really is just a sample.  There are likely a dozen more, at least, that I didn’t hone in on in my quick survey of my books.

Despite the clear influence Parfrey has had on my book purchasing habits, it seems a bit mawkish to me to be so upset about the death of a man I never met in the flesh.  But, as I think of it, it becomes clearer why I am so sad.  When I look at various elements of my tastes, I can see Adam Parfrey’s influence, even if it is a circuitous route to get from A to B.  For example, I listened to black metal before Lords of Chaos was published, but the book encouraged me to seek out a few musicians mentioned because I wanted to include them in a book I was working on at the time, a book that became hard to work on after 9/11 and was ultimately abandoned.  Reading that Feral House title led me to an interesting, decade-long correspondence with one of the musicians in the book.  That has happened with other Feral House titles, strange friendships forming after the authors saw my discussions of their work.

Parfrey also indirectly led me to Ulver.  My favorite album of all time is Ulver’s Perdition City.  I only listened to Ulver after reading about them in LoC.  I may have eventually given them a try but Parfrey’s willingness to publish such a book certainly got me there quicker.

I don’t know if I would have a book published were it not for Adam Parfrey.  Of course my book discusses titles from Feral House and Process Media, but my discussions of such works brought me to the attention of my publisher, Nine-Banded Books, in a particularly bizarre and even more circuitous way.  My site attracted an unstable young woman who tried to file false DMCA claims against my original content.  When that was quickly decided in my favor, she also tried to get me in trouble with my then host by claiming I was publishing obscene content, including child pornography.  She flagged my discussions of some books discussing sex, including Jim Goad’s Big Book of Sex, published by Feral House.  One of the authors whose book she mentioned spoke to Chip Smith about what had happened to me and Chip contacted me about it.  That led to a friendship and a decision to publish a brick of a book containing some of the more interesting discussions I wrote.  My book contains several Feral House and Process Media titles: The Covert War Against Rock by Alex Constantine, Strange Creations by Donna Kossy, two passes over The Gates of Janus by Ian Brady (the second reaction clocked in at around 20,000 words), The Carnivals of Life and Death by James Shelby Downard, and Demons in the Age of Light by Whitney Robinson.

Parfrey delivered complex, interesting, creepy, inspiring and fascinating voices to those of us willing to explore roads not familiar to us. He published content he thought needed discussion, knowing full well that doing so would ensure labels that did not describe him accurately would be foisted upon him.  I will always appreciate his courage to publish that which the purveying moral arbiters consider evil in some manner, raising the ire of bluenose prigs and puritans on the left and the right.  I owe him a lot. God speed, Adam.

Hi! Buy my book!

So my book, TL;DR is out and you can get it in a number of places.

If you love Amazon, you can get a copy there.

If you really dig ordering books online from Nine-Banded Books, the publisher of my brick-like compendium, you should head over there right now!

Are you in Baltimore?  Because Atomic Books is selling TL;DR. I feel a strange thrill knowing that the store that receives fan mail for John Waters is selling my book, and by strange thrill I mean I will likely be mentioning this fact for years to come.

If you are in the Chicago area, Quimby’s Bookstore is carrying TL;DR.  No direct link to the book yet but go ahead and shop there now.  If I’m not on the shelves, get a few ‘zines and go back later, because that’s what I’d do.

Want a signed copy? You can buy one from me here.

I can’t believe I have a book out.  What a time to be alive.