God Entered the Body of Bob Hickman, As a Body. Same Size by Bob Hickman

Book: God Entered the Body of Bob Hickman, As a Body. Same Size: Worlds [sic] Only Holy Ghost Filled Man

Author: Bob Hickman

Type of Book: Non-fiction, possession, unusual theology

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, Bob thinks he is possessed by the Christian trinity, and he feels it is a very bad thing.  From his possession Bob has come to the conclusion that God treats mankind very poorly and he has tried to communicate this perspective the best he can.

Availability: You can get any number of books Bob Hickman wrote on Amazon.  Here’s the link to the one I purchased:

Bob has a bunch of books under his name on Amazon, many of them with names similar to this book.  I don’t recommend that you order any of them unless you have a special affinity for or find yourself absorbed by reading word salad.  Bob’s book is actually a bit worse than word salad because the print versions have html tags littered throughout.

I don’t know why, but reading difficult texts on e-readers doesn’t work for me.  Paper books make it easier, somehow, for me to take in extremely strange writing.  But a physical book was of no help here, especially since the writing and format degenerated as the page count increased.  I asked Mr. OTC to scan any two random pages to illustrate what I found when I opened the book.  Click on either to see what I mean.

It may be easier for those who want to know more about Bob Hickman to click some of the information links I will include at the end of this article.

Interestingly, I bought a second Bob Hickman title because it had higher ratings, seemed like it might be coherent enough to give me a better idea of what is happening to Bob, but hilariously, even though they are both self-published books on occult topics written by white men with a ballpark similarity in appearance, they are not the same person. I will set Messages from Rose by Bob Hickman, A Psychic on the Edge of the Etheric aside for another time I feel compelled to delve into occult messages from non-planetary entities.

Comments: Hopefully it is clear that I intended to read Bob’s book about being possessed by the Holy Spirit but there’s no sense in it because he’s very likely suffering from some form of mental illness that causes him to process and express reality in a manner one would need a trained mental health professional to understand.  I’ve said in the past that I often approach certain non-fiction books or manifestos from the perspective of someone who analyzes literary characters.  On a very basic level, if you’ve been trained to detect literary quirks and signs of mental illness in fictional characters, you can sometimes do the same with memoirs and similarly autobiographical writings. But such approaches only work when the non-fiction work is constructed by someone who, though possibly mentally ill or afflicted with some sort of strange personality, is no grounded to what the consensus labels reality.  Bob is not grounded to a reality I recognize and therefore I cannot dissect his words.

His book is over 100 pages of strangely punctuated stream-of-consciousness, margin to margin, in eight point font, with lots of html tags that push even the most dedicated observer of the unusual too far.  After five pages I gave up and all I can say from those five pages is that when he was a young man in Indianapolis, Bob was lonely, and in search of purpose he went to a church and was baptized. After that baptism Jesus began to appear to him to tell him to write down certain things and release them in books. The things Jesus asked Bob to do caused Bob to become isolated from his fellow man and he does his best to remain tethered to us while sincerely trying to do what the spirit in him wants him to do because he feels that doing so is the best way to alert mankind to the real horrors of what the Trinity are going to do to us.

Some think Bob is a scammer, but if he is, this is a long-term scam that has very little social or financial payoff.  Those more sympathetic to Bob think he is a paranoid schizophrenic, and they may be right. His wall of text, stream of consciousness writings don’t fall completely into what I have come to expect from unmedicated severe schizophrenics, but he comes close.  Had Bob started reaching out with his messages from Jesus in the 1980s, his missives and tracts would not have looked that different from paranoid musings I’ve received from people who had very unique ideas about the Kennedy assassination, the suppression of free energy and perpetual motion, and interesting theories about how the Bilderbergers were going to genetically mutate corn to turn us all into slaves.  Bob is able to make internal sense in what he is trying to convey, but his narrative skips from one idea to the next too quickly, so quickly even dedicated readers will not be able to keep up.  Worse, one has to have an extremely open world view to be able to give much credence to what Bob has to saw about being infested by the divine.

Being possessed by the Holy Spirit has been a decidedly negative experience for Bob.  On his Facebook group, he wrote the following:

if you didnt feel the spirit of god come into your body, you are still lost. dont feel bad. God attacks me. god is tearing my face and mouth corners all day, by moving my face in different directions, from inside me, ripping and tearing my face. god shoots into my mouth, disease. gum disease is gods best weapon against his people. take their teeth, god told me, and they will want to die. like needles being shot into mouth, coming in continuously. these needles stick in gums, and stick thru long ways, and spew out poison. filling my gums with disease. I put salt in mouth to kill this disease. God fondles me. yes thats right, God plays with, caresses, touches, squeezes, pulls on my dick, and sometimes it feels like a tube inside my dick, and electric tube, moving side to side. Jesus christ appears and laughs and tells me to go back out into the world and commit sin in front of those you witness to, to be abased. theres a warning in the bible, it promises God will betray you. it says God will make it rain on just and unjust. this means give god all and then he will throw you away like he did to satan. but this time, God has a problem. me. God attacked the wrong motherfucker this time. God wanted me to fall and look like a fool, but this time, God will be the one brought down, by a five foot tall man.

Okay, a long paragraph of this is remarkable.  An entire book with no paragraph indentation and font so small I needed reading glasses and a magnifying glass to read?  Yeah, curse these human eyes.

I felt like Bob and his possession by God Himself were in their sad way the perfect inversion of Friday’s look at the world’s sincerest and least dramatic demon exorcism. Placid, kind people drove a spirit out of a young woman I sense was a con-woman and it affirmed their faith in God.  Bob feels occupied by the Trinity and they torture him, revealing to him their nasty plans for mankind, sexually abusing him, making him sick, humiliating him and he hopes to take them down by documenting all they are doing to him and planning for us.

Interest in Bob waxes and wanes, depending on various online factors, and sometimes tricksters online make it hard to know when one is genuinely dealing with Bob, who may have a form of hypergraphia if he is indeed writing across all the platforms I’ve found. Bob is known for sending out texts to various people with the same message (which is a mantra he repeats often in speech):

God has entered into my body, like a body my same size, like me floating into you or you floating into me.

Generally people don’t respond but some have, one asking if Bob is okay.  Bob mostly does not respond to replies.  It was these messages that made people think this is a scam, that Bob is ending bizarre messages to verify if phone numbers are real and selling that data to marketers.  Those texts also caused some to think that Bob is a part of an ARG (alternate reality game).  The notion it is an ARG is also fueled by Bob’s unique van that has become a sort of game for people in his area to identify, but those who approached Bob in his truck, thinking he would give them the next clue in the game quickly realized that this is not a game. But mostly his messages disturb and freak out people and the internet is littered with people asking alarmed questions on Reddit or wondering if they being stalked.

The further you dig, the more you realize this possession really is something Bob believes in and that he really does not enjoy the experience.  He frequently does very self-destructive things, like rubbing sandpaper on his face in an attempt to alter his body so that God will no longer consider it a perfect size and leave.  He also claims God hits him and he keeps records of all of this on his YouTube channel.  By the way, if you search for Bob Hickman on YouTube, you’ll find the etheric psychic, too, so step lively.

The latest upsetting thing I’ve stumbled across is a Blogger account that leads to links of Bob’s work plastered across nation specific Blogspots. Posting as late as October of this year, across around 75 blogspots hosted in different countries, Bob is offering to sell himself for any sexual purpose because “god has the morals of an ally cat” and is a randy God, apparently. Please note that if you click on any of the language specific links, you will be taken to photos of Bob in the nude.  So don’t click at work unless your boss is cool with seeing what appears to be a naked Amish man posing seductively in an attic. In fact, just Googling his name brings up so many nudes. Surf safely, friends.

I hope no one tries to buy him.  I worry he’s trying to fuck God out of him but may be surprised that the God in his body isn’t run off that easily.  But it is undeniable that this whatever is happening to Bob has taken a disturbing left turn down an unsettling sexual road.  His YouTube account is a very mixed bag, with videos ranting about Nancy Pelosi, a short video on his stereo system, Q&A sessions with God, and descriptions about how God is essentially raping him.

Shit.  This is sort of awful beyond just being awful, you know? If you track Bob down online, be kind to him because regardless of what is genuinely happening to him, he is suffering.  I almost wish I could introduce him to the kind Rev. Conn from The Devil Called Collect.  Bob needs a decent man of the cloth in his corner.

Below are some links to a couple of interesting analysis videos about Bob. There are enough Reddit threads about Bob that you could spend many hours wading through his antics over the years. Bob is a rabbit hole so only begin to explore if you have hours of time to spend.

Oddtober 2019

I had decided not to do an odd take on October this year because at some point I need to finish the book I’ve been writing about manifestos written by people who have spilled blood. But my publisher and editor, the extremely accommodating and very patient Chip Smith at Nine-Banded Books, encouraged me to go ahead and try to wallow in the season for however many days we have left. So here we are.

I’m planning to discuss Rob Zombie’s latest film, a disturbing artifact from the Satanic Panic during the 1980s and a film that artifact inspired, a fairly disgusting yet compelling horror film about rot, another book from Doug Brunell’s Sinful Cinema series, a charmingly naive look at exorcising demons and the horror of Bob Hickman’s experiences being possessed by God Himself. There may be more, but the rest is up in the air.

I’ve been so lax on this site. I have no idea why because I have so many things I want to discuss. But mostly I try not to think about it because thinking about it may spawn an excuse. Better to just try to overcome it. So check back all the weekdays left in October, leave me comments and recommendations as the spirit moves you, and enjoy Oddtober 2019!

Weaponizing Bourgeois Squeamishness

This is another entry inspired by the research I am doing for my upcoming book about personal manifestos written by people who have spilled blood.  As I read about these manifestos, I am led down roads that don’t really belong in my book but are deeply interesting and need to be discussed.  I’ve wandered off course analyzing how The Birdman of Alcatraz tried to convince Carl Panzram to commit suicide before he could be executed, and how it is that it is almost impossible to feel sympathy for most of the men in the current incel subculture.

Now I need to share with you how I fell into a way of thinking that elites use to control how people like me (and possibly you) perceive people who may be right, who may be wrong, who may be extremists, but who pose some sort of threat to the established order.

One of the first books I read about Ted Kaczynski, the man who came to be called the Unabomber due to initially sending bombs to universities and airlines, was written by the FBI agents who played a primary role in investigating the Unabomber crimes and eventually arresting him.  UNABOMBER: How the FBI Broke Its Own Rules to Capture the Terrorist Ted Kaczynski by Jim Freeman, Terry D. Turchie, and Donald Max Noel, was an interesting book though it largely confirmed for me, their protestations notwithstanding, that had Ted Kaczynski’s brother not turned him in, they’d very likely still be searching for him today.

The book also triggered my disgust in a way I didn’t expect, and it colored how I looked at Kaczynski until a different way of looking at Ted called into question the validity of the information I was using to make my decisions.

When the FBI arrested Ted Kaczynski, he looked pretty rough.  In all the pictures of him just after his arrest, Kaczynski looks very thin and very dirty, clad in filthy clothes with holes in them, looking as if he had not bathed in months.  Living a sort of hermit’s existence in a shack lacking plumbing and electricity does that, one presumes (though the “Ted was a hermit” narrative is not correct – Ted had contact with a lot of people and had established friendships in the community in which he lived; he was hardly a hermit).  Plenty of people who make their way to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana in order to live in a rural area, off the grid, are not going to have the same attitudes toward personal bathing and what it is that makes a person clean or dirty as someone living in the suburbs with more bathrooms than people living in the house and washing machines and dryers in the garage.

So that wasn’t too upsetting to me. Mountain men do dirty work and bathe less, especially if they live off the grid, though his appearance did not strike a healthy chord with me.  But the way the book described the way Ted lived in his shack in Montana did upset me (shack versus cabin is also an important distinction – those who are disgusted by Ted call it a shack, those who are not call it a cabin, and it interests me how even now I go back and forth between the two). The book descriptions made my skin crawl.

When I quote passages from the book, the “I” in the passages is Jim Freeman speaking.  He goes into great detail describing the squalor of Ted Kaczynski’s shack, but before he does he makes sure we know that he considered Ted “disheveled” when he was arrested, and also attributed a “high-pitched” voice to him. He’s essentially conveying that Ted was gross and sort of feminine, which is a weird combination but oddly effective in the end. His disgust is muted in the beginning:

First to catch my eye was the small, dirty window on the left wall…

Yeah, windows get dirty during the winter when you have to use a stove to heat your living space, but it continues:

A low, wooden cot was along the right side and I could make out a prominent smear of black dirt on the wall apparently caused by Ted’s bare shoulders and hair rubbing against the wall.  It was impossible to get out of my head the picture of Kaczynski’s filthy body covered in black soot from the poorly vented stove.  Just seeing and smelling the carcinogenic ash led me to the conclusion that Kaczynski was a walking case of cancer from second hand smoke if my agents were exposed to him for too long.

Yeah, this is bad.  And of course Freeman was being hyperbolic about the second hand smoke leading to cancer bit, but he wasn’t kidding about how he wanted to convey the terrible squalor he felt Kaczynski lived in, encouraging the reader to consider Ted completely naked, covered in filth, begriming the very walls where he slept.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye by Ben Arzate

Book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye

Author: Ben Arzate

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

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Increasingly I wonder why I continue with this explanation for each book.  If I am discussing it here it’s odd, that’s a given.  But I think, for the time being, you should consider this book odd because one story features a landlord strapping thick books to his head and goading his tenants into punching him when rent is due.  Also a house gets cancer, and the cancer isn’t a horde of stray cats moving in and destroying everything the humans love.

This collection also contains the line: “Hank walks home with the neck of his guitar shoved up his ass.”  You need to buy the book to find out why this happened to Hank.

Availability: Published in 2018 by Nihilism Revisited, you can get a copy here:

Disclaimer: Ben Arzate is a frequent commenter on this site (and I should return the favor but I sort of suck lately, you know how it is), and I consider him an e-friend. We’ve never met in person but who does actually meet in person anymore since the Internet has come to ensure we can have friends without ever leaving the house?  At any rate, you run the risk of being called a shill if you don’t disclose such things so be aware that I e-know Ben and approve of him as a person.

Comments: Ben Arzate is a very good writer, but in addition to being favorably inclined towards him because he keeps my morale up over here in Hell’s Half-HyperSpace, I really like this collection because it is filled with the kind of strange little stories that have made me a fan of Hank Kirton, Jon Konrath, and Andersen Prunty.  These stories cover a lot of literary and psychological ground in very few words – 33 stories in 104 pages of text.  I find such stories remarkably detailed because their spare nature causes me to fill in any blanks with my own life, sort of modifying them to fit my experiences.  I do that with everything I read, to an extent, but it’s all the easier when writers like Arzate give me a perfect framework upon which to build my own literary reaction.

Most of these stories are flash fiction, more along the lines of vignettes. A few of the stories are longer form, like “Meth-Lab Nursery,” which sadly does exactly what is indicated in the title, and “The Arranged Marriage,” a strange story about a young couple forced to marry by their intrusive parents.  The couple eventually find a way out of their predicament when they meet the girl’s ex-boyfriend, who works for a side show because he has what sounds like a cinematic form of progeria.  We also get snippets of the miserable, post-apocalyptic, life of Alex, a protagonist who, in the course of three stories, gets coffee at a terrifying cafe located in an utter hellscape, is forced to fetch his mail from a locked cuckoo clock, and watches what appears to be the televised version of Best Gore punctuated by ballet performances. They’re unnerving stories, the Alex tales.

My favorite story in the collection is “The Rent is Due.”  A lunatic landlord wakes all his tenants on the day rent is due.  At 3:30 a.m., he lines them up, uses a belt to attach a large book to his head, and forces his tenants to punch him.  If they don’t punch hard enough, he makes them hit him again.  I don’t know why this story delighted me so much.  Another of the shorter pieces I appreciate features a man dying after eating literal doughnut holes – like he has regular doughnuts but does not eat them but eats instead the void in the center.  It kills him.

The above stories are all entertaining, but evoke less of my verbose need to fill in the blanks. Not the case with “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Saying Goodbye,” a story that spoke directly to my largely unexplored animism.  I am that person who is sure the pair of shoes she never wears feels slighted, or that her carpet is sad because the cats have been puking a lot lately.  The last time a story pinged this tendency to imbue the inanimate with spiritual and human traits happened during S.D. Foster’s bizarro story about a piece of fruit that never gets eaten.  In Arzate’s story, a house literally gets cancer.  It’s an old house, and the owners kick themselves for not getting it checked out sooner, making sure it was healthy before the lumps formed on the stairs and under the carpet.  Maybe they could have prevented the cancer, and they struggle in much the same way a person might when the dog they’ve had since they were a child becomes terminally ill.

There are things I don’t like about our house, and I hate saying any of it out loud because I know the house can hear me.  It’s not the house’s fault that the cats have wrecked the carpet and baseboards, that Sally (whom we have to nebulize in a weird crate Mr OTC made out of stuff he got at Home Depot) has coated every surface from the knees down with snot, that Boo Radley has scratched large chunks of frosted glass off the front and back doors as he tries to catch moths outside the house and on and on.  So when I criticize the house or complain about the amount of time I spend crawling around with a magic eraser in one hand and enzymatic cleaner in the other, I am certain to make it clear to the house that I don’t blame him for all this mess. I also worry that when we finally move or die the house will be bereft.  It has had a weird time in its short life and I sense it is sort of happy with us living here.  The dude who lived here before us sold DirectTV things, you know, those gray disks people install on their roofs?  Our garage was full of the boxes when we moved in, and all the boxes were empty except for a ton of gecko carcasses because those things infest this house and yard.  The garage had been turned into some sort of indie-band sound studio and that’s my most optimistic guess. I am 90% certain porn films were shot in there. Dozens of electrical outlets still remain along the ceiling and we will never be able to mask all the surround sound speaker mounts in the TV room.  We could replace the drywall entirely and they would still be there.  The whole house is covered with scars, and I know the house doesn’t like these scars.  These are not the sort of scars that chicks dig.  Neighbors seemed visibly relieved when a quiet-looking couple bought the house.  So you can imagine how our house felt.

And let us not mention the… weird stuff that happens in this house, the almost Lovecraftian entities we are certain inhabit this space.  I brought it up discussing Konrath’s fine lunacy, and you may have thought I was exaggerating for comedic effect, but seriously there is something living in this house that makes me certain it will kill me.  The stairs have already come for me, and I now have a limp every time the temperature dips into the sixties or below, so in addition to worrying about my house’s feelings, I also fear it.  Or rather I fear the things living here I cannot see.  The house does, too, which is another reason I will feel really bad if we move.  Our house doesn’t have cancer.  It has PTSD.

My reaction to this story is longer than the story itself, I think, which is the real magic of the sort of writing Ben presents us with in this collection.  Some of his stories really are a foundation upon which you can build your own cat-infested snot hole that will one day kill you or maybe just leave you feeling guilty about the messes that your slovenly pets make along with the certain knowledge that all the cleaners you use give you your own tumors to deal with.

But it’s not all “fill in the blanks.”  In “My Church” I didn’t need to descend into a near-psychotic analysis of my house to appreciate the story.  A kid attends a dismal church held in a basement and the best way to describe the philosophy of the church is Pointless Aggression Theology.  After prayers they turn off the lights in the basement and beat each other with hymnals that were accidentally printed in Russian. I love the reason the pastor gives for these book beatings but I’m gonna keep it to myself to keep from wholly spoiling the short story.  (It’s also interesting that this collection features a character who wants to be beaten by a book via the punches to the tomes he straps to his face and a religious group who smack each other with books written in a foreign language none of them can speak.  I want to psychoanalyze Ben but I’m currently using my powers for evil.)

The book ends with “Love: A Parable.”  It may seem like a jaded, cynical look at love, but at the same time it is a kind look at the nature of some sorts of romantic love, a perspective that can become very sentimental if not kept in check.  It’s strange to say that a story can be both cynical and sentimental but here we are.

This book contains some rough and/or gross content: a neighborhood descends into really uncompelling group sex, a war criminal recites a nauseating soliloquy, weird angels wreck cars when they fall from the sky, and similarly unnerving content can surprise the reader unprepared for this sort of bizarro-ish splattery writing.  Luckily I was prepared.  You should be, too.

I find it interesting that a style I find intolerable in other writers works to Ben’s advantage.  I’ve spoken before about the tiresome, emotionally-removed, flat style that caused me to rebuke books from Tao Lin and Stephen Elliott, yet found myself enjoying from Sam Pink.  And now I can add Ben Arzate to the very short list of writers who use this style well.  In Ben’s case, this flat remove is needed because you really can’t create a strong emotional attachment to characters in stories that are often two paragraphs long.  Nor would you really want to.  Additionally, extremely violent content can often be better appreciated at a certain emotional remove.  It’s a variable that I now realize I have to solve on a case-by-case basis.  I used to think I detested the style.  Now I think I simply dislike when it is not done well.

This style is especially well-married to the stories Ben tells.  Absolutely dystopic in almost all cases, yet often tempered with a bit of affection for the story or a little serving of hope.  Such stories need a simple, direct method of story-telling.  Too much emotion would clutter up these spare tales.  As would too much detail.  Ben achieves a sort of spartan reserve that lets him tell outrageous stories without crossing over into the false wackiness and pointless gore that eventually turned me off so much bizarro.

I want to leave you with this line from “Deep Sea Diving Suit” because I relate on an almost spiritual level to the protagonist Jeff’s decision to live his life in a deep sea diving suit:

He is so used to spending time in an environment hostile to his survival that he finds himself unable to leave his protective suits despite the fact they make existing in a welcoming environment difficult.

And now you know one of the many reasons why I cannot hold a day job.

You should get this book, highly recommended.

God Speed, You Desert Wizard

Art Bell has died.  On Friday the Thirteenth.  Of course he did.  Because he was Art Bell and we should have expected it.

So many people will be offering up eulogies of this man who, in my estimation, heralded in the current “reality TV” obsession with the paranormal and supernatural through his radio show, Coast to Coast AM, that I don’t know how much I can offer that is unique.  I’ve mentioned several times over the years that Art Bell has influenced me in strange ways, from introducing me to the works of former priest/fallen man of faith/potential conman/charming Catholic Malachi Martin to making me wonder how many pieces of modern music he influenced.

Mostly I adored him for suing the late Ted Gunderson for defamation when Gunderson insinuated that Bell molested one of his sons and was involved in child pornography.  My low opinion of Ted Gunderson should not be belabored in this short paean to one of the most notable purveyors of weird, but I love that Art Bell did not tolerate such slander.  He prevailed in a civil suit against Gunderson and Gunderson’s cohorts, and the details of the verdict are sealed so we don’t know how much Ted Gunderson had to pay out for making such base accusations, but the moral victory was more than enough for Bell fans.

Every year I listen to Art Bell’s Halloween shows called Ghost to Ghost, where he takes in calls from people who had paranormal and frightening experiences.  It’s going to be a bittersweet listen come this October.  I hope now Art knows if there’s a bottom to Mel’s hole and what is down there if there is, if Oswald was a lone gunman in the Kennedy assassination, was there really a frozen little green man in Jonathan Reed’s freezer, and if John Titor Timetraveler was really a load of horseshit.  I hope his afterlife is as weird as he deserves.  Rest well, Art, and know that your death, in maybe a few weeks, will likely have a very strange conspiracy theory surrounding it.  We all know you would have wanted it that way.

Halloween 2017: Hopefully brief interruption

It’s been an interesting autumn season out here at Chez Oddbooks and I am under the weather, so to speak.  I hopefully will resume Halloween-y posts no later than Thursday.  Until then, please feel free to share any creepy or Halloweenish story you think I’d like to hear.  Any awesome horror novels or movies you’ve consumed lately?  Did you listen to the Silencer video in today’s earlier entry and want to sue me for emotional damages? Comment away!

Halloween 2017: Corn Hill Cemetery

When Mr. OTC first learned about the Corn Hill Cemetery, the message board included some geographic coordinates and nary a mention that there was also a  New Corn Hill adjacent to “old” Corn Hill.  The geographical coordinates were only marginally more accurate than closing our eyes and smelling our way there, so it took us a while to find the Corn Hill Cemetery.  Before we came close to our final destination, we found the Catholic cemetery in New Corn Hill, a herd of longhorns, a five-grave cemetery in the middle of a cornfield, a cemetery in someone’s front yard in Weir which is a completely different city, and eventually we found Corn Hill.

The cemetery was presented online as a cemetery in a ghost town.  Really, it’s an active cemetery in a town that moved and got absorbed into another town.  We were green in terms of such explorations at the time and now know the difference between “abandoned” and “located within a ghost town.”  Ghost towns in Texas can be remarkably lively towns, teeny-tiny bucolic places among larger bucolic places.  Corn Hill is such a ghost town and its cemetery, while very rural appearing with some very old graves (for Texas), is maintained and contain some recent burials.

I photographed this cemetery several years ago and didn’t intend to include it here for Halloween 2017, but decided to because of a bit of equipment failure that lost new photos.  I also want to mention that this cemetery had some souls of the living variety when I photographed it.  Some edgy teens were having a literal tea party at the edge of the cemetery where there were no graves.  Because this is sort of a visually grim cemetery, they weren’t sitting on a blanket under a big tree or near a gazebo or benches.  They were just out there in the corner of a chain link fence, quietly hanging out.  They watched me for a while then realized I had no plans to hassle them and ignored me as I went about my business.  They were still there when I left.  If I were buried in a place like Corn Hill, I think I’d welcome well-behaved teens and their tea parties.  I didn’t photograph them because they seemed like good kids, and also because if I had I might have upset them and a scene would have ensued.  I don’t want to cause a scene among the dead.

A modest marker for a modest cemetery.

 

Nice little view of the cemetery. It’s a very exposed, hard-baked cemetery. This is also what summer looks like in central Texas.

Halloween 2017: Beyond the Dark Veil from the Thanatos Archive

Book: Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem & Mourning Photograph

Author: Jack Mord

Type of Book: Non-fiction, photography, death photography, mourning photography

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Photos of dead people, etc.

Availability: This was beyond a doubt the most involved copyright page I’ve ever seen in a book. Shortest publisher name behind this book was Last Gasp, this book was published in 2014, and you can get a copy here:

Comments: All the death photography books I own are in some regard beautiful. The Burns Archive books are all substantial yet minimalist in their arrangement. Beyond the Dark Veil is more ornate, a gorgeous little book, with gold-edged pages and a gold embossed cover. The pages are thick and glossy and I felt like I needed to don gloves before flipping through it. I’m lucky enough to own some amazingly beautiful books and Beyond the Dark Veil takes a certain pride of place among them.

I am harping on this book’s beauty because this book really is a visual and tactile experience. All photography books are visual, of course, but among people who accumulate books we occasionally come across a book that is just above and beyond, constructed in a way that makes you want to hold it and stroke it and just gaze at it lovingly. This book has interesting information about death photography and funerary customs, and deviates a bit by offering photos of the sick and dying, as well as customs of burial, but I’ve quoted from books about death photography and cemeteries in several entries on this site. So I don’t plan to quote too much information from this book.

Instead, I will quote from the introduction, entitled “Remembering Death.” Written by Marion Peck, herself an artist who creates gorgeous, visually compelling paintings, this introduction captures the loveliness of the book. I think the final paragraph in her introduction very well sums up the photographs in this collection that speak to me the most:

In a sense, these photographs are like ghosts. They are the shadows of people who once lived actively and breathed in a present moment, who saw the blue sky above their heads and might have felt the same passions, joys, and sorrows in their hearts that we feel in our own. If we can quiet ourselves enough to spend some time with these ghosts, contemplating, listening to them, we may learn from their great wisdom. It is the wisdom of ancestors, of those who came before. What we are, so once were they. What they are, so we shall be.

I don’t know if I can ever really explain why I have such a love of cemeteries, death photography, funerary statuary, and most of the ornate customs and accessories of Victorian death. But on some level I think I am learning from the dead. I am godless. I fully expect that when I die I will cease to exist – no heaven, no reincarnation, no posthumous salvation. But we don’t know, really, what happens when we die. Modern medicine seems to think that the brain protects us from the worst horrors of death, that the parts of the brain that experience great pain and fear shut down and we experience only the brightly-lit sensations of awe and wonder as we leave. I think I wander cemeteries because I want to know what awaits me and am studying all the options.

Part of it too is that I am one of two leaves left on a withered branch on a spread-out family tree. There won’t be mourning children and grandchildren or bereft siblings when I go. If I die before Mr OTC, I won’t have a headstone. I won’t be photographed. I will be cremated and hopefully poured into some paint or concrete and something interesting made of my ashes. All the evidence of death I sift through will not be mine so I have to observe now because I will never be among those who are buried and presumably know. And that’s good. I don’t really care if I have these customs applied to my death.

But at the end I wonder how much anyone can really control the customs that others use to navigate the death of loved ones. My mother, by her own request, has no stone and her ashes were scattered on private property that we need special permission to access. Not having that place I can go to visit, to speak to her, is a lot more troubling than I expected. These customs we have built up over centuries of civilization may be steeped in religion that means nothing to me but the customs came about as we human beings struggled to cope with death, to ease the blow, to be able to remain tethered to the dead because even the most hardened unbeliever feels forsaken when she realizes she will never again be in the presence of her mother.  In the absence of a place to visit her, I have created a sort of shrine to her.  I didn’t think about it too much as I did it because my actions were really mindless reactions, but I have some of her ashes, a couple of her prized perfume bottles, small gifts she gave me, some of her parents’ belongings, all behind a glass-fronted shelf in one of my bookcases.  It almost seems like it is an instinct to demand a permanent place to mourn the dead and if the dead prefer not to have a static mourning place dedicated to them, those who miss them will do what is needed to be able to commune with them.

We do these things because it is part of being human.  These photos show me that.

But even as I feel a bit melodramatic writing this out, the fact is that we do what we do for the dead so that we can remember them and so that we can be remembered because it is daunting to think that there will be a time when no one alive knows us. These traditions are an attempt at permanence, and given my own recent experiences, it’s an attempt I understand all the better.

Under the cut are the photographs that resonated the most with me, presented with only enough comment to give them context.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Five

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments: We are nearing in on the end of my obsessive look into Rachel Doležal’s book. Just one more installment after this and it will be a short entry (comparatively, don’t laugh). I realize this may look a bit unseemly or even unhinged to any newcomers to this site but this happens to me from time to time. I get obsessed with a topic – anthropodermic bibliopegy, an obscure child murder in Germany, among others – and I gnaw at it like a dog with a bone until I reach the marrow. I’ll have a new obsession in a few months and will tl;dr the hell of it when it comes.

So two more remaining. If you haven’t read Part One, Part Two, Part Three or Part Four, and you find Rachel Doležal interesting enough to invest that kind of time reading an obsessive’s interpretation of her book, be sure to check them out.

Part Five is going to look into how it is Rachel tends to view dislike for her through the lens of racism or sexism rather than engaging in a hard, long look at herself, her behaviors and how she may be the sole person responsible for her many failures in life.  Rachel developed her love for black culture before her personality was solidly settled.  But now, as an adult who engaged in a race hoax and was publicly shamed, it seems odd that she refuses to examine herself and see if maybe, just maybe, the dislike people had for her when she was still trying to pass as black stemmed from a reaction to Rachel rather than a reaction to her race-appearance or sex.  This section will also look at how it is even as Rachel adores all that is black and acknowledges her status as a “transBlack,” she also seems to not really know who or what she is.  As you read how she discusses these issues, in places it’s hard to pin down what she really thinks about her genuine race while readers are able to see clearly how she is still informed greatly by her whiteness.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Two

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments:  Now begins part two of my look at Rachel Doležal’s memoir.  You can read Part One here.  There will be at least two more installments.

As I read Rachel’s memoir, I highlighted a lot of statements that at the time seemed to convey an idea of sincerity or at the very least attempted to explain earnestly why Rachel Doležal genuinely believes she is transBlack, a black woman born into a white body.  Rereading those highlights was a wholly different experience than reading them the first time.  Isolating some of her statements, reading them alone and with direct focus, transformed the experience of reading this book for me.

Rachel Doležal, when you look closely at her words, is telling you who she is and what she believes, and what she is telling you is at odds with the message she really wants to convey.  Rachel wants to paint a picture of herself as a victim, a hero for black people and the civil rights struggle, an honest, hardworking mother who feels such kinship with black people that she worked herself to the bone to promote black issues, a white woman by birth who genuinely believes she is black. Yet as I read many of the passages I highlighted, I began to feel that sort of stomach tingle that told me I was being lied to.  Several times I felt outright second-hand embarrassment at some of the things Rachel said.  As I culled and reread the highlighted passages, once I sifted out the information about her childhood and her family, the information began to fall into various categories, many of which overlap, but hopefully my logic will make sense as you read.  Since I’m no longer following a timeline as events unfolded, instead dividing Rachel’s interesting and very bizarre life into categories that describe her behavior, I will try to be clear as to timing and will be sure that I set up explanations for the context of quotes when needed.  If anyone ever needs clarification, let me know.

It was hard to know where to begin given the variety of categories I ended up with (“Rachel Sees Blacks As an Exotic Other,” “Rachel Is a Self-Impressed Asshole,” “Rachel Doležal Will Never Get It,” among several others).  I decided to just dive into the murky water with the longest category and get it out of the way because for the most part I see Rachel Doležal as a sad clown, a ridiculous human being who has ruined her life and the life of her family due to her delusions and pathological need to be at the center of attention. But there is a very dark side to what she did.  Today’s discussion is focusing on the more malignant, criminal side of what Rachel has done.