Even in the twisted milieu of pulp illustration, Lee Brown Coye was an outlier. His was not a world of square-jawed detectives or musclebound Tarzan manqués, nor was he one to luridly but lovingly render the adipose flesh of reanimated dead in colorful gouaches. Coye did ten darkly expressionistic covers for Weird Tales between the mid ‘40s and early ‘50s, in dolefully subdued shades that emerged from dense, nihilistic black fields to coalesce into nightmarish wraiths. It was strong stuff that recalled Emil Nolde and Georges Roualt, and even if he’d never done anything else, those covers and his black and white interior work for that publication surely would have made him the cult figure who inspired Mike Mignola, Guillermo del Toro, and Stephen King. But there were also his macabre black and white ink drawings that graced book covers for the likes of Arkham House and Farrar & Reinhart. Coye secured his reputation with his work for the Sleep No More anthology before going on to produce definitive covers for H.P. Lovecraft works like The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness, and perhaps his masterpiece, his work on Three Tales of Horror, which sports 19 Coye illustrations, all more than sufficiently disquieting to merit accompanying Lovecraft’s dark mythos.
When I was a kid I was told that Ouija boards were portals to Hell. That used to really freak me out, until I realized that I don’t believe in Hell.
Now that I’m past all that superstitious mumbo-jumbo, I’m completely charmed by the jewelry of UK punk and Occult artist Bex Ling which features Ouija boards, crystal balls, seeing eyes, palmistry, and the hands of fortune tellers. Not one piece of it emits a whiff of bad juju to me.
Her jewelry, sold under her company Misfit Makes, is crafted out of the same material that Shrinky Dinks are made of, so I doubt that it’s opening any windows of evil.
I predict you’ll take a look at some of her pieces:
If “Subtle” and/or “Danger” is your middle name, there’s a vehicle in South Los Angeles perfect for you. Described as an “awesome project that you can drive as you restore,” this 1969 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75 limousine is priced to sell at $2999.
Wait, did you see that custom paint job? Let’s stop to appreciate this badass Caddy. Not only is this limo’s tail fin spray-painted in red to read, “I’m gonna f*cking kill you” and the side, “Go to Hell,” its hood has been tastefully decorated with an (upside down) satanic pentagram. Additionally, its Craigslist ad explains that there is a working partition window which “makes drinking legal in the back.”
Want a really good story? Talk the owner down to $2666.
Submitted for your approval are two priceless videos from the cusp of the late ‘80s “Satanic Panic” era which, despite the outrageously ridiculous performances, are an insight into just how seriously some folks took the threat of creeping occultism at the time. Placed in historical context, this was the start of a cycle of hysteria so real that many high-profile arrests were made based on groundless allegations of “Satanic ritual abuse,” most notably the McMartin Preschool and West Memphis Three cases. It was a heavy time for followers of the left-hand path, but these clips remain utterly hilarious.
Wally George, host of ‘Hot Seat’
Hot Seat was a syndicated talk show, running from 1983 to 1992, hosted by over-the-top reactionary conservative commentator (and estranged father of actress Rebecca De Mornay), Wally George, who termed his delivery “combat TV.” The show’s format was a precursor to the popular “shock talk” shows hosted by the likes of Morton Downey, Jr. and Jerry Springer, with a profoundly right-wing posture. Hot Seat‘s studio audience was generally comprised of aggressively out-of-control meatheads, as you will see in these clips.
In the segments, Wally brings ‘80s uproarious cult goth band, Radio Werewolf - led by Nikolas Schreck, onto the program, and is given the treatment.
Schreck, pictured here with wife Zeena, who co-directed Radio Werewolf from 1988-93. Both renounced Satanism and occultism in the late ‘90s and today are artists and Buddhist teachers.
I had the opportunity to discuss Radio Werewolf’s Hot Seat appearances with Nikolas, in this exclusive Dangerous Minds interview:
I was initially aware of one appearance Radio Werewolf made on Hot Seat, but your webmaster informed me that you actually appeared on the show twice.
Nikolas Schreck: Well, thank God you turned to me to correct your appalling ignorance on these matters of earth-shaking importance! Now future historians can use your article to confirm that in fact, Radio Werewolf battled Wally George an unholy three times. Our first titanic Hot Seat struggle took place on April 25, 1987. That went over so well that he then invited us on his radio program, where Wally started things off with a bang with a little flattery, introducing me as more dangerous than Hitler, Jim Jones and Manson. The other guest that night was a Baptist minister who officially declared me possessed. Our final Armageddon of the airwaves occurred in the Fall of ‘87, when Radio Werewolf returned to Hot Seat to declare our triumphant return to the stage after the little obstacle of my ear getting cut off during that eventful summer. And that event led to a kind of “Brides of Radio Werewolf” spinoff, since Wally, admirer of the ladies that he was, was so taken with two of my stripper girlfriends who accompanied me to the show that he later had them on as guests so that he could pretend moral outrage at our sinful ménage à trois. If I’d paid Wally to be Radio Werewolf’s publicist, he couldn’t have done a better job.
Wally George’s presentation is so exaggerated that at times he comes off as, what would be known in the world of professional wrestling, a “heel.” Did you ever get the impression that there was any insincerity or fakery to George’s act?
NS: Wally was a consummate showman, no more or less insincere or fake than his showbiz idol Ronald Reagan, who both cunningly played exaggerated roles for their niche Neanderthal audience in the grand old tradition of American populist demagoguery. Offstage, Wally was unfailingly courteous to me, and was actually genuinely supportive of my career, despite his on-the-air hostility. Hard to say which one of us was “the heel” or “the face”. Our encounters were definitely “kayfabe” professional wrestling at its finest though. The difference being that what we did when the cameras rolled was completely improvised. We served each others needs. I understood that Radio Werewolf couldn’t be “The Most Evil Band in the World” without a worthy Van Helsing adversary such as Wally to oppose us. And he needed me to be the “Man You Love To Hate” so that he could be the “Good Guy” for his fans. Really, the supposedly more legitimate network news journalists who interviewed me were all just as contrived and two-faced as Wally. At least he was honest about it.
In the OC Weekly article on Wally George you are quoted “the audience was whipped into a genuine frenzy. They did not take it as a joke, and it felt very dangerous to be there.” Do you feel there was a closed loop between exploitative infotainers such as Wally George and Geraldo Rivera, and a fearful Cold War era public that created the Satanic Panic of the 80’s? Did you personally experience repercussions as a result of your appearances on Hot Seat?
NS: The live audiences watching the Radio Werewolf appearances on Hot Seat could easily have turned into lynch mobs, but I was as recklessly irresponsible as Wally in feeding fuel to the fire. It’s astute that you place all this in its Cold War context, because looking at these and other wacky ‘80s clips today without understanding the panicky fear of imminent nuclear Armageddon permeating the USA under the Reagan regime, it’s hard to understand the hysterical theological intensity driving the Satanic Panic. Wally and Geraldo were both simply fear-mongering entertainers making a living by giving the terrified audience exactly what they wanted. And I was part of the same closed loop, in that I collaborated with them by consciously embodying their worst fears, since that early phase of Radio Werewolf was designed as a self-parodying, mirroring manifestation of that society’s deepest nightmares about “occult music”. As for repercussions, Wally first invited us on Hot Seat after the horrified reaction in Los Angeles to my public announcement of Radio Werewolf’s “Free Manson” benefit concert at a Friday the 13th performance in March of ‘87. That was immediately followed by many months of death threats, LAPD surveillance and harassment of me and my friends, blacklisting and banning from certain clubs, the need to have security guards patrol our concerts, so I can’t determine how much of these shenanigans were inspired by the Wally vs. Werewolf broadcasts specifically.
More interview and those amazing clips after the jump.
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?)