Since he supplied us with a visual vocabulary for cutesy dread over many decades, perhaps it comes as no surprise that Edward Gorey designed a set of whimsical tarot cards. The set is called the “Fantod Pack,” the word fantod signifying “a state of worry or nervous anxiety, irritability” and thus possibly the most Edward Gorey word ever. (David Foster Wallace was fond of the word as well, using the phrase “howling fantods” multiple times in Infinite Jest; the main clearinghouse website for DFW information is called The Howling Fantods.)
Not surprisingly, Gorey’s tarot set is (a) not precisely a tarot set, (b) reflexively downbeat, (c) more like a parody of a tarot set, and (d) utterly hilarious. Seriously, and I know that he is known for this style of humor, but looking over the Fantod Pack will give you a whole new appreciation for the possibilities of the deadpan mode of humor. Why is the “Stones” card so funny, when it’s just a little drawing of three plinths of varying size? Somehow the silly self-seriousness of the project is communicated. The backs of the cards feature a typically Goreyish creature called a “Figbash.” Here’s one now:
Authorship of the Fantod Deck is attributed to a “Madame Groeda Wyrde,” which might engage the minds of those of you who enjoy anagrams. The instructions are as hilarious as the other elements of the set, as for instance:
Interpretation must always depend on the character and circumstances of the person consulting the pack. What might portend a wipe-out for a teenage hotdogger from Yokohama, might warn an octogenarian spinster in Minot, North Dakota, of a fall in the bathtub, though, of course, the results might come to much the same thing.
Ahem: “To read your fortune, first shuffle the pack and take it in your left hand. Stand in the centre of a sparsely furnished room and close your eyes. Fling the pack into the air. Keep your eyes closed. Pick up five cards and place them face up in the form of a cross.” Then you’re supposed to read the cards in the following fashion. The center card shows your current situation, the top card depicts “something from the past that continues to affect your future,” on the left is your “inner self,” the card on the right shows “the outer world,” and the bottom card displays “something about to come into being in the near future.”
Every card comes with an evocative list of associated words, and these too are simply brilliant. Unfailingly austere and morbid—nobody’s meeting a dark & handsome stranger in this set—the peculiar word choices only enhance the grim comedy, with bizarre words like chagrin, bêtise, megrims, impetigo, catarrh, inanition, cafard, barratry, and champerty lending everything a flushed air of erudite and anemic horror.
Some sources falsely attribute the deck to the 1995, which is when Gorey made the first set available. Its origins actually trace back to an issue of Esquire in the 1960s. An unauthorized deck was printed in 1969, after which an authorized limited edition of 776 copies was created (750 numbered, and 26 lettered) in 1995. Since 2007 it is available as an unlimited deck; you can get it from Amazon for about ten bucks. Copies of the 1995 limited edition set run much, much higher, though—there are three of them available on Amazon for $450 each.
January / wasting / loss of ears / an accident in an elevator / lurching sickness / cracks / false affection / vapors / a secret enemy / misdirection / demons / estrangement / chagrin
February / miscarriage of justice / gapes / a forged snapshot / morbid sensations / a useless sacrifice / alopecia / a generalized calamity / broken promises / ignominy / an accident in a theatre / fugues / poverty
March / a forged letter / paralysis / false arrest / falling sickness / evil communications / estrangement / a sudden affliction / anemia / strife / a distasteful duty / misconstruction
The rest of this great tarot deck is after the jump…..
Reading these flyers, distributed in Chicago in 1999 and 2000, is a very dizzying experience. I think we all have an idea what numerology is and how it works; it’s quite another thing to see it practiced with such vigor.
The author of these flyers is unknown. Here is the author’s declaration, taken from 2/1/00, of the conspiracy he or she is purporting to uncover, which is about an “ancient order” that controls most of the important events that happen on earth: “The not only tells the future; they decide it. The decide what outcome they want. Then they use this (over 300 years old) system to control , .”
They were found by Marc Fischer inside free newspaper dispensers on the streets of downtown Chicago between March 1999 and March 2000. Here is Fischer’s account of finding the mysterious photocopies:
These photocopied flyers were found over the course of a year in downtown Chicago. The main purpose of each flyer is to bring to light the mysterious workings of a group called “The Ancient Order” - who this group is, when they will strike in the future, what they were responsible for in the past, and how they have left their mark throughout history. Neither I nor anyone I know ever saw the person that was behind these flyers. The flyers were often hard to find if you weren’t paying close attention or in the right place at the right time. Every flyer is a single sided 8 1/2” X 11” photocopy, though several are longer and feature two or more pages stapled together.
The flyers were only found inside free newspaper dispensers. Like newspapers, the flyers were always dated, and were folded so that the bold headlines could be read along the top. Only the most recent flyer was ever available; back issues did not recirculate. The flyers were frequently left in the same locations but distribution was erratic and unpredictable. Usually only one copy of the day’s report was available in a dispenser. The dispenser’s clear plastic display window was always used for maximum visibility, but extra copies were rarely left inside the boxes. I have never seen more than three copies of the same flyer and I doubt that many copies of each one exist. There was never a contact address on the flyers or a way to subscribe.
Almost exactly one year after I first saw an Ancient Order flyer, they seem to have stopped circulating completely. The last flyer I found, “The Ancient Order and the Pearl Harbor Prevision”, is dated 3-17-2000.
In addition to the ones selected here, you can see the entire set at Ubuweb, along with Fischer’s description. There are 40 “issues” spanning 47 pages. Most of the issues are a single-page long, with the longest covering six pages.
Let’s have a look at the technique of the author. This excerpt, which comes from 12-17-99, is chosen almost at random:
President Lincoln was assassinated on 4-14-1865, the 23,846th day of the 1800’s. . Lincoln was assassinated 12,679 days before theend of the 1800’s.
. Notice how far 12,679 is from 13,000. The difference is 321, just like 3,2,1, a countdown. Now look at Lincoln’s name total:
President Lincoln’s name adds to exactly 123. And that was from the day he was born in 1809. He was assassinated 12,679 days before the end of the century and 12,679 is exactly 123 away from 13,000. 123 & 321 are the exact opposite of each other.
Lest anyone think I’m out to distort the author in some way by truncating the arguments contained in the flyers, I emphasize that this bit of prose is complete on its own terms. The significance of the number 13,000 is not explained, nor is the significance of the “countdown” number 123.
Some of the manipulations are not numeric but alphabetical in nature, like anagrams or noticing that three important presidents (Lincoln, Nixon, and Clinton) can be linked by the I-O pattern in their last names, stuff like that. The near-anagrams “Dorian” and “Gordian,” as in “Gordian Knot,” get quite a workout.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the author was able to shoehorn any event at all into the numerological scheme of the Ancient Order. Here is a partial list of topics that (so the author claims) the Ancient Order caused or was involved in:
the Los Alamos nuclear test sites
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four
the assassination of John F. Kennedy
the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
the death of Lady Diana
the OJ Simpson case
the Branch Davidian showdown at Waco
the Oklahoma City bombing
the Dred Scott case
the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr.
the Columbine killings
Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution
Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray
the Susan Smith murders
the impeachment of Bill Clinton
the death of Bruce Lee
the murders committed by John Wayne Gacy
the murders committed by Jeffrey Dahmer
the murders committed by Charles Manson and the Family
the murder of Gianni Versace
the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan
the Pearl Harbor attack
the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby
the March of Dimes
the assassination of Julius Caesar
In hindsight we can perhaps be grateful that the author apparently ceased production of these flyers before 9/11. If he or she lived to see it, we can only suppose that this defender of the peoples of the earth from the malign influence of the Ancient Order fairly went out of his or her mind.
Here are a few tasty examples of the Ancient Order flyers. Clicking on any of the pictures will spawn a much larger image.
Recently, I was reading a feature about Jonathan Richman in a 1986 issue of SPIN. This startling (to me, anyway) quote from Lou Reed jumped off the page:
One of my big mistakes was turning [Richman] on to Alice Bailey, that’s where that insect song comes from. I said, “Do you know, Jonathan, that insects are a manifestation of negative ego thoughts? That’s on page 114.” So he got that. That’s a dangerous set of books. That’s why Billy Name locked himself in his darkroom at Andy Warhol’s Factory for five months.
Wait a minute: Lou Reed was interested in Alice Bailey? Like, the theosophist Alice Bailey? Like, the musician Lou Reed, from New York City?Magic And Loss, okay, but I can’t hardly believe that the Lou Reed I’ve listened to for most of my life ever gave a flying fuck about esoteric matters. And that’s why Billy Name became such a recluse? Shut the front door, I said to the 1986 issue of SPIN; surely, Lou was pulling the journalist’s leg, putting him on, taking the piss.
How little I know. As it turns out, not only was Reed genuinely interested in Bailey’s work, but the Velvets’ “White Light/White Heat” was inspired by Bailey’s A Treatise on White Magic. That “white light goin’ messin’ up my mind” wasn’t just the rush of speed; Lou was singing about some heavy astral shit! Rock historian Richie Unterberger developed the Reed/Bailey connection while researching his White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day. Here’s Unterberger’s take on the song’s relationship to Bailey’s teachings, and to Reed’s occult interests:
Specifically, “White Light/White Heat” is often assumed to be about the exhilarating effects of crystal methedrine amphetamines, and Reed does say the song “is about amphetamines” in his 1971 interview with Metropolitan Review. But an equally likely, and perhaps more interesting, inspiration is Alice Bailey’s occult book A Treatise on White Magic. It advises control of the astral body by a “direct method of relaxation, concentration, stillness and flushing the entire personality with pure White Light, with instructions on how to ‘call down a stream of pure White Light.’” And it’s known for certain that Reed was familiar with the volume, as he calls it “an incredible book” in a November 1969 radio interview in Portland, Oregon.
Additionally, in his “I Was a Velveteen” article in Kicks, Rob Norris remembers Reed explaining “White Light/White Heat” as one example of “how a lot of his songs embodied the Virgo-Pisces [astrological] opposition and could be taken two ways.” Norris, who would get to know the band personally at the Boston Tea Party, also thinks the “white light” concept might have informed another of the album’s songs, “I Heard Her Call My Name.” “He was very interested in a form of healing just using light, projecting light,” says Norris today.
Incidentally, Reed wasn’t the only major ‘60s rock artist influenced by Bailey; Kinks guitarist Dave Davies discusses white light energy in his autobiography Kink, which reprints a couple extended quotes from Bailey’s books. Also interested in “white light” was Lou’s friend from the Factory who ended up doing the White Light/White Heat cover, Billy Name. According to Reed’s unpublished 1972 ZigZag interview, Name “got so far into it he locked himself in a closet for two years, and just never came out…I know what he was doing because I was the one who started him on the books [by Alice Bailey on magic], and we went through all fifteen volumes.”
In this excerpt from The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day, Unterberger gives a detailed account of Reed’s 1969 interview with Portland radio station KVAN. Here’s the relevant passage:
The Velvets will later be portrayed as a kind of ultimate anti-psychedelic group, but are in fact very much people of their time. Reed even steers this particular discussion in a direction that would find favor with the most spaced-out of hippies. He’s just had his aura read, he says, and had his previous incarnations revealed by a ‘reverend’ in Los Angeles, where “they told Doug, for instance, if you have long hair, you should always get it trimmed a little, get the ends cut off, because you’d pick up spiritual wasps.” (For the record, Lou’s aura was white, with “some blue, some green.”) Reed also reveals that he’s had 1,143 past lives. “Geez, that’s a lotta lives,” the deejay replies.
Reed goes on to hint at the origin of the “white light” he sings about in ‘White Light/White Heat’ when he reveals that he has recently been investigating a Japanese form of healing in Los Angeles that’s “a way of giving off white light … I’ve been involved and interested in what they call white light for a long time.” He briefly talks about Alice Bailey and her occult book A Treatise On White Magic, another likely source of his interest in white light. “It costs like ten dollars, unfortunately,” he notes apologetically. (Reed’s interest in such matters might later seem rather unlikely, given his hard-bitten, realist image. But Rob Norris recalls discussing “angels, saints, the universe, diet, yoga, meditation, Jesus, healing with music, cosmic rays, and astrology” with Reed in the late 60s in an article for Kicks magazine. Furthermore, he recalls Reed being a member of the Church Of Light in New York, which studied Bailey’s work as part of its theosophical teachings.)
Lita Eliscu’s 1970 Crawdaddy interview with Reed, “A Rock Band Can Be A Form of Yoga” (reprinted in All Yesterdays’ Parties), also mentions Reed’s interest in Bailey’s writings—to wit, “The teaching planned by the Hierarchy to precede and condition the New Age, the Aquarian Age.” News to me. Despite the song’s obvious beauty, I always figured Lou was merely being snide in the chorus of “New Age.”
Here’s a frenzied “White Light/White Heat” from one of the Velvets’ Boston Tea Party shows in 1969:
Like a modern day Lazarus, disgraced evangelist and ex-con Jim Bakker has risen from the dead. The Howdy Doody from hell has a new base of operations in the Ozarks. It’s called Morningside and is a smaller version of his gaudy, ill-fated, Christian theme park Heritage USA. Morningside’s not far from Branson, where the rotten egg smell of meth labs mingles with the Old Spice and lavender scent of sexagenarians lining up for “Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show.” The oleaginous huckster’s proximity to hillbilly Vegas is perfect - kind of like finding crab lice in a commune.
Morningside has a TV studio that airs a handful of programs, most of which feature Bakker and his new wife Lori. Now Lori ain’t no Tammy Faye by a long shot but they both share the same startled expression in their eyes - a wide-eyed, caught in the headlights look, that comes from years of staring at a husband who looks like a demented sock puppet.
The Jim Bakker Show has its own hard hitting investigative journalist named Zach Drew. As you can see in the video below, Zach is a pretty excitable guy. When he lands a major scoop, like cows with mystical hairdos, he practically wets himself. You got to admire his enthusiasm even as you wonder what’s crawled up the reporter’s bunghole to make him so damned giddy.
Anyway, here’s some “Breaking News!” from The Jim Bakker Show that somehow managed to fly under the radar of all of the major news outlets. It’s the mystery of the red-haired heifer - what Jim Bakker calls “a supernatural event.” I’m a bit bewildered as to why the heifer’s markings (it looks like the number 7) qualify as supernatural. Maybe it’s because I’m a non-believer when it comes to follicle-related miracles involving cattle. A red-haired cow with a massive rockabilly quiff or Afro might grab my attention. But the markings on this little lady doesn’t really do much for me. And I’m currently tripping on 400 mics of pure LSD.
If after viewing the video, you’re at all curious about the Biblical significance of the number seven click here. Otherwise, do what I did - drop another tab of acid.
In the book of Revelation there are seven churches, seven angels to the seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpet plagues, seven thunders and the seven last plagues. The first resurrection of the dead takes place at the 7th trumpet, completing salvation for the Church.
The heifer harbinger of the end times doesn’t appear until around the ten-minute point in the video but the lead-up is worth viewing just to witness Zach Drew’s delusional notion that this is the scoop of the century.
During the mid-1970s David Bowie entered his “Thin White Duke” phase, and this period has uniquely added to the Bowie mystique as well as become an object of special fascination to Bowie fans. (Among other things it produced my own favorite Bowie album, Station to Station.) It’s especially fascinating to us, I think, because Bowie seems to have lost track of himself a little bit in a way that was never true in any other period, in his phantastical ruminations about Nazis, Manson, cocaine, and his own bodily essences. Just a couple of weeks ago, DM featured a comic book about this period called “The Side Effects of the Cocaine,” the title of which comes from a line in Bowie’s song “Station to Station.”
When he arrived in 1975, Bowie was staying at the Los Feliz house of Glenn Hughes, bassist for Deep Purple, who lived just down the road from “the LaBianca house,” as Hughes recalls, being the site of one of the Manson murders in 1969, specifically the killing of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca two days after the murder of Sharon Tate and several other people in Benedict Canyon. As 1975 progressed and faded into 1976, Bowie would suffer from powerful forebodings right out of another connection to Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby.
Bowie in his “Thin White Duke” phase, here during a 1976 concert in Toronto
The artistic and sensitive Bowie clearly perceived a malign influence from the Manson connection to Hughes’ home. He was using huge amounts of cocaine. According to Marc Spitz’s 2010 Bowie: A Biography, Bowie was “obsessed with using occult magic to attain success and protect himself from demonic forces.”
(A brief note on Spitz. Spitz is not a careful writer, and his book is riddled with annoying typos and mistaken facts. However, on the general subject of whether he is a reliable source, he does appear to have gotten his interviewees on the record. Peter Bebergal, author of the recent Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, appears to regard him as a reliable source.)
According to Hughes, “David had a fear of heights and wouldn’t go into an elevator. ... He never used to go above the third floor. Ever. If I got him into an elevator, it was frightening. He was paranoid and so I became paranoid. We partied in private.” Bowie himself has stated the effect that the cocaine was having on his paranoia: “Cocaine severs any link you have with another human being. … Around late 1975 everything was starting to break up.”
Quoting Spitz again: “Bowie would sit in the house with a pile of high-quality cocaine atop the glass coffee table.” Bowie became obsessed with the book Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune (Bebergal confirms this bit), which describes itself as a “safeguard for protecting yourself against paranormal malevolence.” Among other things, “Bowie began drawing protective pentagrams on every surface.”
As Hughes says, “He felt inclined to go on very bizarre tangents about Aleister Crowley or the Nazis or numerals a lot. … He was completely wired. Maniacally wired. I could not keep up with him. He was on the edge all the time of paranoia, and also going on about things I had no friggin’ idea of what he was talking about. He’d go into a rap on it and I wouldn’t know what he was talking about.” As Bowie himself remembered, “My other fascination was with the Nazis and their search for the Holy Grail. ... I paid with the worst manic depression of my life. … My psyche went through the roof, it just fractured into pieces. I was hallucinating twenty- four hours a day. ... I felt like I’d fallen into the bowels of the earth.”
At his wit’s end, Bowie reached out to Cherry Vanilla, a former employee of Bowie’s management company MainMan, who witnessed much of this paranoid, debauched phase. Cherry Vanilla verified the connection between Bowie and a “white witch”—racial connotations aside, and those are by no means absent from this story either, but the term is intended to distinguish witches whose effects are “good” and “evil”—who would purify his living premises. “He had this whole thing about these black girls who were trying to get him to impregnate them to make a devil baby,” says Vanilla. “He asked me to get him a white witch to take this curse off of him. He was serious, you know. And I actually knew somebody in New York who claimed she was a white witch. She was the only white witch I ever met. So I put him in touch with her. I don’t know what ever happened to her. And I don’t know if she removed the curse. I guess she did.”
This comic by Vaughn Bodē from July 1973 is one of the few surviving visual depictions of the self-professed “white witch” Walli Elmlark.
That “white witch” was one Walli Elmlark, who had taught some classes in magic at the New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences on Fourteenth Street in New York. She wrote a gossip column in the rock magazine Circus and had known Jimi Hendrix and was also friendly with Marc Bolan. A couple years earlier, Elmlark had recorded a spoken-word album with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp named The Cosmic Children; it has never been released. According to Sid Smith’s book In The Court Of King Crimson,
In June 1972, Fripp finished recording an album with a Wiccan journalist, called Walli Elmlark. The album was called The Cosmic Children. Side one consists of Fripp and Elmlark in conversation where she outlines her experiences and commitment to Wicca. On side two, she talks to DJ Jeff Dexter about cosmic children—spirits from other places who take physical forms such as Hendrix, Bolan, Bowie and Mike Gibbons, drummer with Badfinger. Talking to NME’s Simon Stable, Fripp stated: “The function of the album is to reach out to the children like the drummer from Badfinger, I want to say; ‘You’re not nutty, you’re not a freak because you can’t relate to what’s around you.’”
Elmlark had also published (per Spitz) “a cosmic paperback full of collages, poetry, personal confessions and observations,” which bore the title Rock Raps of the 70’s. It was co-written with occultist Timothy Green Beckley. According to that book, Elmlark was fond of wearing a “floor length clingy high necked long sleeved black jersey, and a floor length chiffon over dress that floats around me like a mysterious mist of motion.”
Summoned to Bowie’s residence, she quickly and apparently successfully exorcised the pool. This next bit is confirmed in Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie the memoir by Angie Bowie, David’s wife during this period who was also living there at the time: “At a certain point in the ritual, the pool began to bubble. It bubbled vigorously—perhaps ‘thrashed’ is a better term—in a manner inconsistent with any explanation involving filters and the like.” As Spitz wrote: “Elmlark wrote a series of spells and incantations out for Bowie, in case the demons return for a dip, and remained on call for Bowie as he continued to wrestle with the forces of darkness.”
Of all the people in this narrative, the one who knew Elmlark the best was Beckley, by far. Beckley was the director of the New York School of Occult Arts and Sciences where Elmlark taught and also co-wrote the Rock Raps book with her. In the Conspiracy Journal, issue #549, Beckley describes her as follows:
Wallie was known widely as the White Witch Of New York. Because of her contacts in the music industry, she had established quite an eclectic clientele for whom she would offer spiritual guidance, and occasional good luck or love spells, but always of a positive nature. She didn’t dabble in black magick or even gris gris (a New Orleans form of “gray magick” that incorporates poppets and the use of talismans kept in a personal mojo bag). Walli was lively, imaginative, energetic, well spoken, and quite attractive in her flowing white garments complete with fashionable silver moon adornments. Oh did I forget to mention long black hair, complete with dyed green streak highlights? Indeed, Walli made a very bold fashion and occult statement wherever she went.
There is surprisingly little about Walli on the Internet, for someone who “made a very bold fashion statement,” introduced Robert Fripp to the occult, and exorcised David Bowie’s house, you would think her name would be a staple in rock and roll lore—but it doesn’t appear to be the case. I couldn’t find a picture of her, aside from the Bodē cartoon above, and the main thing she is known for on the Internet is her authorship of the Rock Raps book. I was unable to find Walli’s obituary.
Spitz says that “Elmlark departed from this plane of existence in 1991.” Based on a few ramblings I saw on a message board I don’t take too seriously, it’s possible that she overdosed on barbiturates. Beckley, overly addicted to euphemism, says, “Several years went by and Walli met an untimely passing as she could not remove the demons in her own life, even though she had a dramatic impact on almost everyone she came in contact with,” before recounting a lot of incidents from the 1970s like the Fripp album and so on. His final words on Walli are, “Somehow I can’t exclude the fact that Walli looks down from time to time and perhaps sings along with David Bowie as he performs all over the world in concert.”
I don’t know about you, but after all that, I could stand to hear “Station to Station”:
The ultra-chic dermal trousers above are housed in Strandagaldur, the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft, but they are not the last intact pair of necropants—slacks of human skin that some 17th century Icelanders believed brought wealth and good luck to the wearer. These beautiful britches are a actually a facsimile of the last intact pair, which the museum does possess, but presumably keeps more covertly hidden, lest some fashionable sorcerer up and runs off with them. And how’s it done?
If you want to make your own necropants (literally; nábrók) you have to get permission from a living man to use his skin after his dead. After he has been buried you must dig up his body and flay the skin of the corpse in one piece from the waist down. As soon as you step into the pants they will stick to your own skin. A coin must be stolen from a poor widow and placed in the scrotum along with the magical sign, nábrókarstafur, written on a piece of paper. Consequently the coin will draw money into the scrotum so it will never be empty, as long as the original coin is not removed. To ensure salvation the owner has to convince someone else to overtake the pants and step into each leg as soon as he gets out of it. The necropants will thus keep the money-gathering nature for generations.
Cringe if you must, but they’re arguably a more ethical garment than a pair of sweatshop Old Navy cargo shorts, since one had to ask permission from the man before flaying his legs, feet and genitals. If you need a ridiculous visual aid, check out the instructional video below. I like that the phrase “coin purse” can be used both literally and figuratively to describe the process! Also, theft from widows!
(Disclaimer: Neither myself nor Dangerous Minds endorses the wearing of human skin, for either witchcraft or magical purposes. In fact, unless you are Lemmy, maybe stay away from leather pants altogether, huh?)
Although he (apparently) vanished off this mortal coil in 1981, three decades after his death musician/magician Geoffrey Crozier (or Jeff Crozier or Geoffrey Krozier or any number of variations on that theme) still makes ghostly appearances all over the world via documents of his work that have been posted posthumously on the Internet like freaky little occult bombs with long fuses.
Crozier was called “the high priest of exorcism-rock,” “the Mad Magician,” “High Priest of Magick” and billed as a “voodoo psychedelic magician.” To think of him as merely an Aussie Alice Cooper (or Arthur Brown for that matter) is to entirely miss the point of the truly impressive CHAOS this guy was able (and quite willing) to orchestrate as a performer. Alice is, and always was, just a stage act. This guy obviously meant it. Like a man possesed, Crozier was also clearly doing whatever it was he was doing for his own benefit and only secondarily for the audience’s entertainment.
Suffice to say, I don’t think anyone who ever saw the man perform, let alone they who performed with Geoffrey Crozier, ever forgot him. Although he played with quite an assortment of different musicians, it seemed like his modus operandi changed little throughout the years. Loud music. Pandamonium. Pyrotechnics. Flashing lights. Illusions. Always a distinctly Dionysian, if not downright evil, flavor to the proceedings. No matter who was backing him at a given time, the idea was to have them just “play”—that is play whatever, basically, I don’t think he was fussy as long as it was half or fully crazed.
Duncan Fry, who played guitar in one of Crozier’s earliest groups, writes:
What he wanted was free-form continuous music for the 30 minutes or so that he performed, while clouds of oily smoke, flashpots, and strobe lights alternately choked and dazzled the audience. Most of the musicians who turned up for the audition couldn’t handle such a laissez-faire attitude to the music side of things.
“But what songs are we going to play?” they would whine. “No songs, just play, play” Geoff would reply, setting off another flash pot.
While Crozier did his thing, he would talk-sing in a freeform surrealistic schizophrenic poetic manner, often using snatches of Aleister Crowley. The effect was not unlike a demon-possesed jabberwocky-spouting Vivian Stanshall in many respects.
“Pope Pubic, 13th of March, April 1972 and the year of rats as big as cats, hmmm, what a well-hung door… Flamshot was his well-oiled name, and he was a supreme and utter no nonsense around here mate or I’ll rip your lungs out and flush your entrails into my hair he said. Face me when you talk to me, son of a tinker’s curse, all hail the redback, and let’s take drugs together, and let’s get pissed together and let’s fuck one another and let’s drown in one another’s bubbling bloodbath as we cut each other’s throats… mmm I’d like to see you squirm, I’d like to see you burn, and finally the coin stopped spinning and fell back to earth, and they both got what they wanted… a Shiva hand-job!”
There are fragments of Krozier’s biography scattered here and there (the best perhaps being “Geoff Krozier – A Magik Story” an essay from his friend and collaborator Rob Greaves). The (very) short version is that he was born Jeff Crozier in Australia in 1948, started off as a stage magician/illusionist in the mid-60s at a young age. His act was becomes something darker and much wilder incorporating psychedelic rock music with the formation of what ultimately became known as Geoff Krozier’s Indian Medicine Magik Show, having previously been called The Magic Word, or when they performed in more conservative parts of Oz, the Magic Pudding!
He ends up in New York during the punk era, living on Staten Island in a tiny room with “a dog called Schroeder, a black cat named Quasar, a dove named Tweedledee and a monkey with the unlikely moniker of Sarcophagus Mayhem.” There he performs with Kongress, a mind-bending mid-70s NYC punk outfit that also included berserk No Wave legend Von LMO on drums and Otto Von Ruggins on synthesizers. (We’ve covered Kongress before on the blog here). After that implodes—Crozier and Von LMO apparently felt homicidal towards one another—he returns to Australia, is given the Australian Society Of Magicians’ Magician Of The Year award and in 1980 he hooks up with an electronic group called The Generator (or Rainbow Generator) and records and performs with them.
Crozier hung himself on May 17th 1981. With the details of his biography scattered hither and yon like digital ashes, it’s impossible to say too much about him with much assurance. Google him yourself and you’ll see what I mean. [Try alternate spellings of his name: Jeff Crozier, Geoff Crozier, Geoff Krozier, etc to tease out more mentions of this fascinating character.]
The clip below is an insane 1970 vintage performance of Geoff Krozier’s Indian Medicine Magik Show from an Australian television program called Hit Scene that has got to be the single most demented thing anyone did on TV (let alone in private) anywhere in the world that year. As I watched this, I wondered how such a thing could have been allowed to happen and I found that the answer that Krozier’s day job at the time was as a set painter at Channel 9, so he had connections at the various TV shows taped there and was able to fill in at a moments notice if another act cancelled, so that is the answer as to “how” something this insane occurred and was beamed into middle class living rooms some 45 years ago.
However it happened, I’m just glad that it did. Press play….
Nearly five years ago, in August 2010, Sean T. Collins (writer) and Isaac Moylan (artist) posted “The Side Effects of the Cocaine” on a Tumblr dedicated for the purpose. It had as a subtitle, “David Bowie 01 April 1975-02 February 1976,” which puts us squarely in the Thin White Duke era, of course, covering Station to Station (the title of the comic comes the title track of that album), Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie’s appearance on Soul Train, Bowie’s Playboy interview, conducted by Cameron Crowe, who also wrote “Ground Control to Davy Jones,” a profile on Bowie for Rolling Stone that appeared in February 1976. As Peter Bebergal wrote in his excellent book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll, “When a nineteen-year-old Cameron Crowe visited David Bowie for a Rolling Stone magazine interview in 1975, he found a coked-out Bowie lighting black candles to protect himself from unseen supernatural forces outside his window” of his home in Hollywood.
In that Playboy interview Bowie made some comments about the appeal of fascism that would get him into trouble:
Television is the most successful fascist, needless to say. Rock stars are fascists, too. Adolf Hitler was one of the first rock stars. ... Look at some of his films and see how he moved. I think he was quite as good as Jagger. It’s astounding. And, boy, when he hit that stage, he worked an audience. Good God! He was no politician. He was a media artist himself. He used politics and theatrics and created this thing that governed and controlled the show for those 12 years. The world will never see his like. He staged a country.
It’s one of Bowie’s best and most interesting periods—Station to Station is my favorite Bowie album—and in “The Side Effects of the Cocaine” Collins and Moylan take a peek at the romantic/fucked-up mythos of that period. What is the significance of the dates April 1, 1975-February 2, 1976? Well, April 1, 1975 was the date that Bowie severed ties with MainMan, Tony Defries’ management company, and it’s that scene that kicks us off in the comic. On February 2, 1976 was the start of his Isolar tour, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which ends the comic. You can read an account of that show by Jeani Read under the title “Sinatra Having a Bad Dream,” which presumably ran in the Vancouver Sun the next day (but I don’t know this):
Bowie performances are-have been-legendary for being massively orchestrated orgies of visual and musical sensationalism. Which makes the current offering the biggest no-show of his career. And possibly the best. The thing was absolutely brilliant, maybe for its sheer audacity than anything else, but brilliant nonetheless.
Dressed in black 40’s style vest and pants, white French-cuff shirt, edge of blue Gitanes cigarette pack sneaking out of his vest pocket. Posturing-a naked kind of elegance now, brittle and brave-in front of a bare essential band of guitars, keyboards, drums and bass, on a bare black stage in the bare glare of white-only stage and spots. Looking about as comfortable as Frank might fill-in as lead singer for Led Zeppelin, and even within that assuming total control over the proceedings.Bowie has always said that on stage he feels like an actor playing the part of the rock star.
Collins and Moylan take a slice-of-life approach with Bowie’s life, with the proviso that his life wasn’t anything like a normal person’s at this time. Towards the end some of the panels feature Bowie making utterances from his Playboy interview.
MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has extended their Marjorie Cameron exhibit by a week—it’s closing now on the 18th—so if you’re in town and haven’t seen the show, you still have a chance to catch it. In order to bring attention to these extra dates, MOCAtv‘s director Emma Reeves has kindly offered Dangerous Minds readers this exclusive glimpse at some never before seen footage of the artist/occultist reading poetry at the Barnsdall Art Park in East Hollywood in 1989.
Prior to “Cameron: Songs For The Witch Woman,” October 11, 2014–January 18, 2015 at MOCA Pacific Design Center, the largest survey of Marjorie Cameron’s artwork was “The Pearl of Reprisal,” a retrospective at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in 1989. The exhibition spanned thirty years, from the notorious Untitled “Peyote Vision” (1955) to Pluto Transiting the Twelfth House (1978-1986), pen and ink drawings that lent insight to the artist’s psychic state at the time.
Before the opening reception, Hedy Sontag introduced a program titled “An Evening With Cameron: The Pearl of Reprisal.” Sontag screened two films that feature Cameron: Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) and Curtis Harrington’s lyrical documentary The Wormwood Star (1955). After the screening, Cameron emerged barefoot to give a dramatic reading of her poetry by candlelight. Pleasure Dome cast members Samson De Brier and Paul Mathison were among those in attendance.
The reading, which was art directed by Sontag, evokes Cameron in her Topanga Canyon studio, deep in thought as she detaches from the lived world and navigates the subconscious. A prolific writer who shared her work with friends, Cameron was private when inspiration struck. She was known to write in her notebook in social settings, fervently and silently; she forbade visitors to her studio, a sanctum where art-making and writing mingled with astrology and occult ritual.
Though the dates of these journal entries and poems are not known, in their language of mourning and invocation, and use of sacred and Romantic imagery, they are of a piece with the notebooks Cameron kept after the death of Jack Parsons in 1952, as well as the verses she recites in The Wormwood Star, which describe the birth of a spiritual child born of psychic union with Parsons. Notably, Cameron reads prose from “Anatomy of Madness” [5:39], a mixed-media folio included in the exhibition and on view at MOCA. First published in Wallace Berman’s Semina 1 (1956), the text recounts a life cycle of death, rebirth, metamorphosis, and finally, a transcendent spiritual breakthrough.
This never before seen footage, courtesy of the Cameron Parsons Foundation, is a rare document of an artist whose practice had delved further inward, away from the public eye. Due to the quality of the recording, this video has been subtitled. Every effort has been made by MOCA and the Cameron Parsons Foundation to ensure accuracy of the transcription. Please note that the original footage was edited in camera and portions of the reading and poems were omitted by the cameraperson.
Doorways to Danger is a 1990 British short film warning of the risks in flirting with the occult. Here’s the description from the Amazon listing:
Dabbling in the occult is widespread and often thought of as harmless entertainment. But this video shows why it is dangerous to get involved with spiritism, fortune telling, witchcraft, magic, and Satanism. The program introduces the real life stories of those who have been involved in these activities and shows the way out based upon a Biblical perspective.
A description also opens the video, and what comes next is pure gold: A cheesy montage of occult images with a song poem-esque number underneath warning of the hazards of looking up your horoscope and fooling around with a ouija board. And we’re off!
The anecdotal evidence that follows—offered up by supposed experts and decidedly non-experts alike—often seems scripted and/or total B.S., and the “slippery slope” examples given as gateways to full on devil worship (playing Dungeons and Dragons; watching Ghostbusters II!) are a hoot-and-a-half. One of the highlights is the segment with the band Heartbeat (“one of Britain’s top Christian groups”), who we get to see recording and then have an obviously rehearsed conversation about occult dabbling. The late ‘80s fashions they’re sporting will also surely induce a chuckle or two (and dig those hairdos!).
The video was produced by an organization calling itself the “Christian Response to the Occult.” Forming in 1982 by the Deo Gloria Trust, “to give a Christian answer to the inroads that occultism was making into society at that time,” the group later merged with the existing and ideologically similar, Reachout Trust.
Here’s Tom Poulson, the director of the CRO and the man behind Doorways to Danger:
We have a divine commission both to warn and inform our friends, family and neighbours that there is an enemy of God, actively engaged in both blinding them to and drawing them away from Jesus. We neither want to shout ‘FIRE!’ so loudly that people rush towards it, nor remain silent and see people receive life-endangering burns from their involvement with the occult.
Indeed, no one actually shouts “FIRE!” in Doorways to Danger, but to say that believing in things like “bad luck” could lead you into the arms of Satan comes pretty damn close.