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B is for Birthday: The great Alan Moore turns 60 today
04:10 pm



On his fortieth birthday in 1993, Alan Moore openly declared himself to be a magician, something he discussed in an interview with The Guardian in 2002:

“One word balloon in From Hell completely hijacked my life… A character says something like, ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind’. After I wrote that, I realized I’d accidentally made a true statement, and now I’d have to rearrange my entire life around it. The only thing that seemed to really be appropriate was to become a magician.”

For Moore, his writing is his magic and his magic is his artform. In The Mindscape of Alan Moore documentary, he states rather unequivocally:

“I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.”

Consider the truth of that statement in terms of Moore’s very own work and say… the Occupy movement or Anonymous.

God, I love Alan Moore. May he have the best birthday ever this year (and every year).

Click here to read about “Who Strips the Strippers?” Excelsior Burlesque’s tribute to Alan Moore.

Below, a video of Alan Moore’s complete lecture at Northampton College on September 26, 2013. The mage of comics reads an extract from his book, The Mirror of Love and offers insights on being a writer.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The Stately Ghosts of England’: Spooktacular documentary on haunted houses
03:50 pm



My grandmother could have been Margaret Rutherford, or even the Queen Mother, for she had the same type of eyes, smile and well-lined face. Maybe, they were all sisters? If they’d been lined up together, you might think they were some ancient showbiz troupe like septuagenarian Andrews Sisters. Or maybe, like babies, all old people eventually begin to look the same? (My grandfather had a hint of Stan Laurel.)

I quite liked the fact my old grandmother had the look of Dame Margaret Rutherford, as I loved this fine actress as Miss Marple, and it took years before I could accept anyone else playing that role. She was unforgettable. It was like Rutherford’s turn as Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit—no one could ever better her performance.

Dame Margaret was beloved by millions, and greatly praised for her various stage and cinematic roles, winning an Oscar for her scene-stealing performance in the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie, The V.I.Ps.

Yet behind all this talent and success was a woman terrified of inheriting the murderous mental illness that had destroyed her family.

In 1882, ten year’s before Margaret’s birth, her father, William, had battered his own father to death with a chamber pot. No matter the potentially comic value of murder weapon, it was a brutal and bloody crime, and let’s be honest, most working class killers would have been sent to the gallows for such an offense, but William was sent to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, where he was detained for seven years. He was then allowed to return to his family.

In a bid to start a new life, her father changed his surname from “Benn” to “Rutherford” (The family were related to British Labor politician Tony Benn.) After Margaret’s birth in 1892, the family moved to India, where the mother suffered severe depression and committed suicide by hanging herself. The three-year-old Margaret was then entrusted to her aunt, who raised her in a comfortable lifestyle in suburban Wimbledon, London.

As Margaret grew-up happy and loved, her father had another breakdown and was re-admitted to Broadmoor. To shield her of this “blight,” Rutherford was told her father had died.

A few years later, the young Margaret was confronted by a strange, disheveled man who claimed he had a message from her father. The news devastated the impressionable girl, who on being told the truth of the matter by her aunt, was terrified that her father might escape and murder her.

The twelve-year-old Rutherford was sent to a boarding school, where she developed her talents for music and acting. She spent her twenties leaning her craft, and joined the Old Vic Theater company in her early thirties. Once established, her career blossomed with great and rapid success. She met and married fellow actor Stringer Davis, who became literally her dog’s body, looking after every aspect of Margaret’s life. This included nursing the actress during her long bouts of depression; her electro-shock therapy; and her “bad spells.”

Having no children of their own (it’s uncertain if the pair ever had sex with each other), Margaret and Stringer adopted a young man, Gordon Langley Hall, who was in his twenties and had started a promising career as a writer. Gordon later said he was born intersex, and had “an adrenal abnormality that causes female genitalia to resemble a man’s.” He changed his name to Dawn Langley Hall and began a long career as writer, eventually having gender reassignment surgery in 1968. Dawn then married a motor mechanic, John-Paul Simmonds, and wrote a biography of her adoptive mother, Margaret Rutherford: A Blithe Spirit in 1983.

Margaret Rutherford described herself as a buff of all things paranormal, and had an interest in ghosts, hauntings and things that go bump in the night. In 1965, Dame Margaret appeared in the NBC documentary film, The Stately Ghosts of England, alongside her husband Stringer Davis, and “society clairvoyant” Tom Corbett. This trio of ghostbusters visited three stately country houses that are claimed to be haunted, Longleat, Salisbury Hall, and Beaulieu. They interviewed the householders, and witnesses, and even captured a “ghost” on film. Based on Diana Norman’s book The Stately Ghosts of England, this is a beautifully made and thoroughly delightful film.

The remainder of Dame Margaret Rutherford’s ‘The Stately Ghosts of England,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Satanism’ was basically anything horror writer Dennis Wheatley didn’t agree with
08:27 pm



Dennis Wheatley probably did more to sell black magic and the occult to the masses than any other writer. During his lifetime, Wheatley wrote over 60 books, which sold more than 50 million copies. His best-sellers included such classics as The Devil Rides Out, To the Devil a Daughter, and The Haunting of Toby Jugg. Wheatley actually hoped these occult novels would alert readers to the growing “forces of darkness,” which he believed were destroying Britain and the world. He considered these dark forces to be communism, socialism, multiculturalism, and to an extent sexual liberation and personal freedom of expression. Actually, anyone whose politics he didn’t like, the old crumudgeon lumped in with “Satanism” and he once famously said:

“Is it possible that riots, wildcat strikes, anti-apartheid demonstrations and the appalling increase in crime have any connection with magic and Satanism?”

It was after the Second World War, that Wheatley first indulged his nutty belief that a war between what he described as “good” and “evil” was inevitable, and became firmly convinced people (i.e. those to the right) should be prepared to form private militias to fight against the rise of “Satanism.” Cue thunder and lightning flash.

So, that’s the background to this brief interview, which Wheatley gave to the BBC in 1970, where he discussed his views on “good” and “evil,” “light” and “dark,” and why he believed civilization was disintegrating.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘99% of stoners are Satan worshipers’
06:50 am



For a stretch in the mid- to late 1980s, Satanism was almost an everyday topic in the media. Future “Second Lady” Tipper Gore founded a group called the Parents Music Resource Center (shudder), which spent its days lobbying Congress for increased censorship of rock albums—two groups that attracted its scrutiny for its “occult” content were Venom and Mercyful Fate.

In 1989 Dr. Jerry Johnston published a book called Edge of Evil: The Rise of Satanism in North America, and this video—also with Johnston, I believe—must date from about the same time. (in this video he is unidentified; I’ve consulted pictures and videos of Dr. Johnston from more recent years—it’s probably same guy but he’s softened his preacherly accent quite a bit.)

Today Johnston’s focus is on more mainstream subjects like teenage suicide, and the tone is a lot less doomy. I would venture that he’s been influenced by someone like Rick Warren, who (like him or not) has given evangelism a more compassionate face. Anyway, in this clip the preacher is in full Satanic alarmist mode, speaking with such great understanding about the presumably hundreds, if not thousands, of teenage Satanists he’s met—“some of them, I noticed, on the little web between the thumb and right index finger was a Satanic emblem…. They had the pentagram tattoo and some of the girls were dressed in black. Closer looking at their fingers, I noticed they had skull rings.” In a troubled teen’s bedroom he spies “the decorative heavy metal rock posters of Venom and Slayer and Ozzy and a few others.” (His account of the Satanists he’s met for all the world sounds like something he read in a book or just made up.)

And I haven’t even gotten to the part with his impression of a teenage Satanist luring his would-be victims into undertaking human sacrifice with promises of drugs and easy sex…...

At the end of the video a number is given to call if you think you know of a teen who has fallen or is on the verge of succumbing to the allure of Satan—it’s 1-800-SV-A-TEEN. I called it the line is dead.

via William Caxton Fan Club (a.k.a. John Darnielle’s Tumblr)

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Watch the William S. Burroughs-narrated ‘Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages’
04:01 pm



The trouble with classic silent movies is that they can be a bit of a schlep. If you’re not down to read title cards and accept nearly 100-year-old conceptions of cinematic pacing, silent film may not feel like leisurely entertainment. This is why when I suggest folks watch the 1922 Swedish/Danish documentary, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, I strongly recommend they go for the 1968 William S. Burroughs-narrated version.
For one, the Criterion Collection version is 104 minutes long to the ‘68 version’s 77 minutes, cutting out some “fluff.” Bigger doesn’t always mean better, film buffs! Second, you get Burroughs’ genuinely spooky-as-hell voice perfectly setting the mood. Third, the new soundtrack is absolutely amazing! We’re talking weirdo jazz and early groovy synth work. I like a little camp in my horror, but it in no way relegates this classic to kitsch.

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages was the most expensive Swedish film ever made at the time, and the movie itself is absolutely beautiful. The high production values are apparent in the elaborate scenery, costumes and props. While the film itself is nominally a documentary chronicling the hysteria surrounding the occult in Europe (primarily during the Middle Ages), most of the actual footage is reenactment of these superstitious delusions. We’re talking satanic masses, sex with the devil, broom rides, and all kinds of black magic.

Based largely on the Malleus Maleficarum, the 15th century German guide to witch and demon identification, director Benjamin Christensen makes it perfectly clear that the mass delusion of witchcraft was the true horror, and the inquisitors the real monsters. My favorite part is the depiction of witches cursing the clergy with lust; isn’t that convenient? That way, anytime a priest couldn’t keep it in his pants, he could blame a woman for seducing/bewitching him! I guess some things never change!

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Happy Halloween (and death day), Harry Houdini: A recording of his widow’s final séance
09:44 am




Magician Harry Houdini (Erich Weiss) died of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926 in a Detroit hospital. He was buried in the family plot in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York in a bronze coffin he had purchased for one of his escape acts.

Throughout his career Houdini considered spiritualists to be frauds who conned gullible grieving people. But he didn’t exactly rule out the possibility of ghostly contact either. Shortly before his death he and his wife Bess agreed that, if spirit communication was indeed possible and she outlived him, he would contact her via séance on the anniversary of his death. They established a secret code (“Goodnight Harry”) so that she would recognize his spirit’s authenticity if a medium claimed to have a message from him. Every Halloween for a decade after his death, she held a séance. She also sat in seclusion with his photograph every Sunday to await a sign from the afterlife. None ever arrived.



Santa Muerte candle, stones, and playing cards left at Houdini’s grave. Photo by Allison Meier.

Séances continue to be held all over the world every Halloween in an attempt to reach Houdini’s spirit.

Houdini’s widow’s final séance, Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel, October 31, 1936:


Via Atlas Obscura

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
‘Kneel Through The Dark’: Talking art, magick, Crowley and cats with filmmaker James Batley
07:10 am



You couldn’t really not dig it. Last month I went to the first London screening of James Batley’s Kneel Through the Dark. It was at the Bunker, Dalston, which was a fair bit better than it might sound. For a start, the Bunker is (or was) an actual WWII bunker, with stinking rotting walls lined—for the occasion—with guttering sputtering candles. Then there was the rain, a mighty downpour above ground that the ceiling only filtered through its filth, so that it sluiced dirtily down, refilling drinks gratis and forming such large puddles about the film gear that the nerves of the sodden audience were soon getting quite lustily strummed by the dual threat of flood and fire. Meanwhile Batley himself—great name!—flitted (or flapped) hither and thither in a splendid black cape.

As for Kneel Through the Dark itself, the short, Crowley-inspired film left an impression more physical than mental. A bassline clawed nastily at your stomach, while the images—a turning torso of technicolour smoke; a submerged face; a boy crowned with antlers—flashed by.

Like I say, you couldn’t not dig it, and since there’s a special Halloween screening in London town, I thought it’d be an opportune time to trouble Batley himself (whose work has collected plaudits from Dennis Cooper and Gus Van Sant, among others) with some inescapably inane questions…
Thomas McGrath: Loved the screening. I found the atmosphere and setting to be a part of the film, rather than extraneous to it. How important is it to you where you show a film?

James Batley: Ah thanks. The environment definitely adds an extra dimension. When I first walked down those stairs and saw how the bunker sucked in light, the stale air choked my lungs and rancid water dripped through my eyelashes. I was like… this is perfect

Thomas McGrath: Could you think of some kind of ideal setting or circumstance?

James Batley:I’d love to do a screening in a burning building.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us a bit about Kneel Through the Dark?

James Batley: It’s my second short film shot on Super 8 that features an Aleister Crowley magick ritual but it’s about a lot more than that. It’s a bit like a spell that buries into your subconscious and pushes your whiskers to the ether.

Thomas McGrath: Go on, unpick its symbolism for us a bit…

James Batley: I don’t like to break it down too much. I hate going to an art show where the plaque on the wall tells me more about the art than the piece does or just spells it all out arbitrarily.  Why’d you create something when you could have told me on a postcard?  I don’t like to be lead around and told what to think.  Art is ultimately subjective anyway. Anything you connect with is because it relates to your own experiences or self in some way, no matter how coded or buried in your subconscious it is.

Thomas McGrath: Would you draw any distinction between ritual and art?

James Batley: Art is magick in the Crowley sense.  When you listen to a piece of music, watch a film or whatever, it is momentarily possessing you, directing your mood and bending you to its will. 

Thomas McGrath: How did you come to make films?

James Batley: I just see it as a way of communicating.  Language can be clumsy and fraudulent so I threw up some sound and light to try and express something that gets lost in words.  I tried photography for this but found it wasn’t enough.  Sound is better but put them together and you have something really potent.

Thomas McGrath: Tell us about the Crowley influence.

James Batley: He made his own way in. I’m an aerial for this stuff.  It’s important to be a conduit.

Thomas McGrath: I understand you’re very fond of your cat. How would you describe your cat in five words?

James Batley: Nippett. Will. Eat. Your. Brains.

Thomas McGrath: Crowley has a bad reputation among cat lovers usually, right?

James Batley: Well, yea.  He has a bad reputation generally.

Thomas McGrath: Got a new project in mind/motion?

James Batley: I’m planning out my next short at the moment.  It involves a boy who buries dead bees in the park and draws maps to their corpses.  It’s autobiographical.  It has meteors too.

The next Kneel Through The Dark screening will be in the basement (on a loop) at the DCR Halloween party tonight at Red Gallery, London, EC2A 3DT.  Cheap tickets here. More details at: Add/follow James on Facebook to find out about future screenings.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Guided by Voices: The Enigmatic Visionary Art of Madge Gill
11:00 pm



This is a guest post by Nick Abrahams

Madge Gill (1882-1961) is finally being heralded as one of England’s premier visionary artists thanks to a major exhibition of her works taking place currently at the Orleans House Gallery in Richmond, London. Her work is also the subject of a major new catalog, filled with essays (including one by Roger Cardinal, the critic who first coined the term “outsider art,” to cover the wide range of artworks created by self taught and visionary artists) and - even better! - that includes many rare pictures by Gill, most reproduced for the first time.

Madge Gill produced all her work under the influence of a spirit guide named “Myrninerest,” whom she believed was responsible for her prolific output of work. Under Myrninerest’s influence, she would often draw 100 intricate postcard sized drawings at a single sitting! Gill believed she was channeling images from an alternate reality and that the work therefore belonged to her spirit guide. To this end, she did not sell her work during her lifetime, and upon her death hordes of work was found stacked under her bed and in cupboards.

Gill’s work invariably includes female faces, staring out at us , but who these women are (self portraits? Myrninerest?) is never clear. Occasional words and phrases appear. And often heavily repetitive abstract patterns fill the background, or become the subject in themselves. Although self taught, Gill had a draftsman’s eye for composition, and the hallucinatory nature of much of the work is exquisitely delicate. Here is an example of her purely abstract work:

Although Gill seemed to have little influence on the wider art world, the work carries an amazing psychic power, and seeing the work en masse gives a glimpse of Gill’s restlessly inquisitive inner world.  It is exciting to see these works in the flesh, many for the first time being exhibited in public, and to get a glimpse of the compulsive need this woman had to make art. There is something visionary in her work that often echos elements of psychedelic art, as well as Gustav Moreau or William Blake, but with a far more obsessive focus, and a feminine lightness of touch.

So if you are in London, scoot along to Richmond to see this epic show, including the colossal “Crucifixion of the Soul,” a brightly colored and heavily drawn upon 10 meter long work on calico, here on a rare public display, taking up one entire wall of the gallery, alongside a bewilderingly range of other works by Gill, as well as a carefully curated display of other artists who were themselves visionary or mediumistic in their approach. And its free!

Loosely inspired by Madge Gill and her work, David Tibet, best known for his musical output as Current 93, now has a new musical project under the name Myrninerest. Tibet has also collaborated with Henry Boxer, one of the curators of the Orleans House Gallery show, to publish a book of 108 reproductions of some of Gill’s postcard sized drawings, reproduced at their actual size, available here.

Below, Myrninerest’s recent soundtrack for filmmaker Derek Jarman’s magical Journey To Avebury film, all shot on Super-8 back in 1972.

This is a guest post by Nick Abrahams

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Occult Experience
10:05 am



Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, the Temple of Set’s high priest Michael Aquino and H.R. Giger figure into The Occult Experience, a well-made, intelligent mid-80s Australian TV documentary,  Of particular interest is the section, starting at 33 minutes in, focusing on “witchy” Australian painter Rosaleen Norton, where you can catch a glimpse of some of her fantastic—yet seldom seen—paintings.

Noted occult author Nevill Drury (who contributed two essays to my Book of Lies anthology) did the interviewing, research and co-wrote the narration script, so this one is a cut above the usual fare. Drury’s latest book, co-written with Lynne L. Hume is The Varieties of Magical Experience.

Thank you, Tim Bob!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Aleister Crowley, self-proclaimed Antichrist; Victorian hippie
01:40 pm



Happy Crowleymass, everyone! Aleister Crowley, thee Great Beast 666 was hatched from a dragon’s egg on this very day in 1875.

Below, I discuss Uncle AL on the History Channel TV series, How Sex Changed The World

I had fun doing this show and I got to explain a general concept of sex magic to middle America! Good times!

The Crowley segment starts at about the 5:50 mark.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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