Satanskin – James Havoc

satanskin james havoc.jpgSatanskin – James Havoc
Creation Press – 1992

When I was reading Irene’s Cunt a few weeks ago, I spotted an ad in the back of that book for another book named Satanskin. I can’t remember what this ad said exactly, but I know the words occult, erotic, blasphemous were used. I was expecting the book to be rare and sought after, but copies were going for next to nothing. I had purchased a copy within a minute of reading about it.

Unfortunately, Satanskin is puerile, boring, and embarrassingly transparent. The author has tried his utmost to seem mystical, dark and shocking, but he comes across as a bullied teenager using a thesaurus to channel his rage. Seriously, this is a cringefest.

These aren’t stories; they’re long, boring dream sequences. It’s just anal imagery peppered with mild occult references and big words. The average paragraph reads something like this:

Staring into the purple void, Harold ran the razor around his dilated anus, streams of blood mingling with trickles of purple feces as fecund as the panic of isolation – mother’s milk, feeding the vampiric clones of contused goblins. With a transparent swastika hovering in the placid skies of rage, Harold could feel the sickening pulse of his self induced hysterectemic stump through his lacerated colon.

I tried to write the above paragraph as a parody of Havoc, but it actually came out very close to the real thing. This book is 100 pages of this kind of garbage.

Satanskin also contains a version of Havoc’s previous book, Raism: The Songs of Gilles De Rais, as an appendix. This is a revised version of the original text of Raism, but it is not the 4 part complete version. There was also a graphic novel series based on Raism, and Havoc wrote a 4th part for that, but I don’t think the comic series was ever completed. I assume the final version of Raism appears in the collected works of Havoc, but I have no intentions of ever reading that. I think these are supposed to be songs or dreams or something from the perspective of Gilles De Rais, but Raism, much like Satanskin, is unreadable garbage. Havoc also had a musical project called Church of Raism. It sucked real bad too.

I’m being quite harsh on James, but from what I’ve read about him online, he’s not the greatest guy in the world. That being said, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book if it had been written by Nelson Mandela. It wasn’t intelligent, it wasn’t mysterious, it wasn’t disturbing, and it wasn’t remotely enjoyable. It was terrible, a nightmare, a waste of time, money and effort.

 

The Cipher and Bad Brains by Kathe Koja

koja cipher bad brains
My offering this week is a couple of books by Kathe Koja. These immediately went on my to-read list after I saw them in Paperbacks From Hell. It took me quite a while to find copies, but they’re so deadly that it only took me a few days to read them.

the cipher kojaThe Cipher
Dell Abyss – 1991
This is the story of a couple who find a weird hole in the corner of an unused maintenance room in their apartment building. The hole is weird because stuff that goes into it comes out quite different. Dead bugs come back to life and mutate. Human body parts that are inserted come out grossly disgfigured. When a video camera is lowered into the hole, the resultant video footage is so disturbing that it radically and permanently affects its viewers’ lives.

No sensible explanation of the hole is ever given, and the narrative is enhanced by this omission. The plot here is quite simple, and atmosphere is what drives this novel. It’s original title was ‘The Funhole’, and while that title definitely makes more sense than ‘The Cipher’, it might have made the book sound far less dark than it is. I don’t know why they went with ‘The Cipher’ though.

Nobody is happy in this book, and everything that happens is uncomfortable. It’s fairly long too, and while I enjoyed it immensely, it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s very 90s, very dark and a little bit arty. If you like Nine Inch Nails’ early records, you’ll love this. (I can’t imagine a movie version of The Cipher that doesn’t end with Head Like a Hole playing over the credits. There were talks of a movie version, but I don’t think it ever happened.)

The Cipher is an original, exciting and disturbing horror novel, truly deserving of its reputation, but it has been out of print for a long time. I managed to find a copy at a thrift store for the price of a cup of coffee, but copies currently go for silly amounts online. Luckily for you, there’s an ebook version available, and Meerkat Press are publishing new hard copies next year. I can wholeheartedly recommend that all horror fans pick up this book; it’s seriously awesome.

kathe koja bad brainsBad Brains
Dell Abyss – 1992

Bad Brains is Koja’s second novel, and it has a lot of similarities with The Cipher. In this one, the protagonist trips over a curb, and smashes his head. The resulting brain damage fucks up his life. This book has nothing to do with everyone’s favourite Rastafarian hardcore punks.

Again, the plot is quite straightforward. It’s the slick, shifting prose and atmosphere that carry this novel. The text is fantastic, but I found the pacing a little uneven with this one. There’s a lot of build up to a very cool, but overly short ending segment. Also, the blurb on the back of the Dell edition gives away the most surprising element of plot, so don’t read it until after you’ve finished.

Bad Brains is certainly a horrible story, but it’s less of a horror story than The Cipher. Weird stuff happens, but the central character is so messed up that it’s impossible to know how much of what’s being described is hallucination and how much is real. The definite supernatural element here, the Dorian Grayesque alterations of the protagonist’s paintings, are background events that occur far away from where the story is unfolding. I reckon that the most frightening element of this book is the way it forces you to contemplate the fragility of the human brain.

If you enjoyed The Cipher, you’ll enjoy this. It’s a lot easier to find too.

impermanent mercies kathe kojaLoving that comic sans action.

I also read by Impermanent Mercies by Koja. It’s a short story featured in the second Splatterpunks anthology about an accident involving a kid’s pet puppy. It’s fairly bizarre. I’m planning a post on the 2 Splatterpunks anthologies for the near future. Stay tuned.

Aside from her books, Kathe Koja is pretty cool. She doesn’t eat meat, and she doesn’t like Donald Trump. I plan to read more of her books in the future.

 

The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 4

the book of old ones - scorpio.jpgThe Book of Old Ones – Scorpio
Finbarr – 2002

Truly, there are terrible primal arcana of earth which had better be left unknown and unevoked; dread secrets which have nothing to do with man, and which man may learn only in exchange for peace and sanity; cryptic truths which make the knower evermore an alien among his kind, and cause him to walk alone on earth. Likewise are there dread survivals of things older and more potent than man; things that have blasphemously straggled down through the aeons to ages never meant for them; monstrous entities that have lain sleeping endlessly in incredible crypts and remote caverns, outside the laws of reason and causation, and ready to be waked by such blasphemers as shall know their dark forbidden signs and furtive passwords. – from The Diary of Alonzo Typer

When I read a book on Lovecraftian magic, I want to learn about the aforementioned dark forbidden signs and furtive passwords. Unfortunately, this is never what these books contain. The one I’m reviewing today, Scorpio’s The Book of Old Ones, might well be the silliest of all the Lovecraftian grimoires I’ve read.

Imagine what a grimoire would read like if its author had absolutely zero understanding of magic. It’d probably contain powerful spells that are quick and easy to perform and unfailingly effective regardless of whether the person performing them believes in them or not – ‘say this magic word under your breath, and the girl beside you on the train will become your sex slave’ kinda crap. Take 20 pages of that garbage, add a few Lovecraft references and some stories about pathetic losers trying these rituals and then becoming rich, sexy and succesful, and you’ve got Scorpio’s Book of Old Ones.

Much like The Necronomian Workbook, this book shows little understanding of the total apathy of Lovecraftian entities towards human beings. The Old Ones are bigger and older than us. Their children made us for the sake of their amusement. Cthulhu is not concerned with the affairs of mere mortals. He’s plotting revenge on the elder things that imprisoned him. I doubt he’s interested in watching over you as you go on sea voyage, and I really struggle to imagine him helping you find a girlfriend.

cthulhu love spell.jpg
Seriously?

This book is stupid. The author understands neither magic nor Lovecraft’s mythos, but he has written a book combining them. This Scorpio guy seems like a real moron. Then again, this was published by Finbarr, so I’m not quite surprised.

I have made fun of the authors published by Finbarr Publications quite a few times at this stage, and I had initially planned this week’s post on two grimoires written by another of their authors. After doing a little bit of research though, I discovered that this guy actually has a learning disability and has suffered tremendously with his mental health. I’m not being facetious. I decided against reviewing his books, as he uses his real name, and I don’t want to cause any suffering for a person with serious mental problems. I mention it here only to highlight the remarkably low standard of stuff that this publisher puts out. I didn’t find out much about this Scorpio guy, but he’s clearly an imbecile too.

 

lovecraft horror in the museum.jpgH.P. Lovecraft – The Horror in the Museum
Wordsworth
This is the second entry in Wordsworth’s Lovecraft series, and it is comprised of works that Lovecraft worked on with other authors, only one of which I had read before. Most of the stories in the other 3 Wordsworth entries are included in the Penguin editions which I read and reviewed years ago, and after a year of rereading tales I had previously encountered, it was really cool to dive into a fresh batch of unread terror. The quality here is pretty high, and I enjoyed most of the stories in here more the fantasy stuff in Volume 3 and the odds and ends in Volume 4. Picking favourite stories from this collection is quite difficult. The tales in here are really good, and many of them flesh out the Cthulhu mythos – there’s references to Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu every few pages.

This volume contains the following stories:
The Green Meadow, Poetry and the Gods, The Crawling Chaos, The Horror at Martin’s Beach, Imprisoned with the Pharaohs, Two Black Bottles, The Thing in the Moonlight, The Last Test, The Curse of Yig, The Elecrtic Executioner, The Mound, Medusa’s Coil, The Trap, The Man of Stone, The Horror in the Museum, Winged Death, Out of the Aeons, The Horror in the Burying Ground, Till A’ the Seas, The Disinternment, The Diary of Alonzo Typer, Within the Walls of Eryx and The Night Ocean
(Imprisoned with the Pharaohs appears in the Penguin collections as Under the Pyramids.)

Some of these tales are fairly racist. The word ‘nigger’ is thrown around quite a bit. One of the stories, Medusa’s Coil, is particularly nasty. It’s about a very evil woman. I was quite confused when I finished reading it. In this edition, the last line reads; “It would be too hideous if they knew that the one-time heiress of Riverside… was faintly, subtly, yet to the eyes of genius unmistakenly the scion of Zimbabwe’s most primal grovellers.” I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this, so I looked up a summary, and it seems as though the editor at Wordsworth actually cut the final line of the story. The original text ends: “No wonder she owned a link with that old witch-woman—for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a negress.” The final revelation of tale is that the anatagonist is a bit black. This is not made very clear in the Wordsworth edition. In 1944, August Derleth anthologised this story and altered the final line to say “though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a loathsome, bestial thing, and her forebears had come from Africa.” At least Derleth’s version kept the meaning. The redacted Wordsworth edition makes the ending confusing rather than ugly. This is obviously a horribly racist ending to a horribly racist tale, but I’m pretty disgusted that Wordsworth thought it acceptable to censor it. I absolutely hate when publishers do that. If you choose to publish a dead racist’s work, don’t pretend he wasn’t a racist.

So why do I devote so much of my time to reading and reviewing books by and about this horribly bigoted individual? Well, it has a lot do with passages of writing like this:

These scribbled words can never tell of the hideous loneliness (something I did not even wish assuaged, so deeply was it embedded in my heart) which had insinuated itself within me, mumbling of terrible and unknown things stealthily circling nearer. It was not a madness: rather it was a too clear and naked perception of the darkness beyond this frail existence, lit by a momentary sun no more secure than ourselves: a realization of futility that few can experience and ever again touch the life about them: a knowledge that turn as I might, battle as I might with all the remaining power of my spirit, I could neither win an inch of ground from the inimical universe, nor hold for even a moment the life entrusted to me. Fearing death as I did life, burdened with a nameless dread yet unwilling to leave the scenes evoking it, I awaited whatever consummating horror was shifting itself in the immense region beyond the walls of consciousness.

Come on. That is brilliant. This is from The Night Ocean, the last story in the collection. Of all the stories in here, this one is the least explicit in its horrors, but the sense of gloom and despair that pervades the narrative is perfectly effective. Lovecraft may have been a horrible racist, but damn, his work does a damn fine job of expressing the futility of life. Interestingly enough, the author of The Night Ocean (Lovecraft was mainly an editor for this one) was gay. He was also an anthropologist, and was actually one of William Burroughs’ professors at Mexico City University.

There’s another curious little tale in here called Till A’ the Seas that I really liked. It’s about the last human on an Earth that has overheated. It’s set in the distant future, but by now it could believably be set 60-70 years from today. You should definitely read the full story (link above), but if you’re too lazy, just read this:

And now at last the Earth was dead. The final, pitiful survivor had perished. All the teeming billions; the slow aeons; the empires and civilizations of mankind were summed up in this poor twisted form—and how titanically meaningless it all had been! Now indeed had come an end and climax to all the efforts of humanity—how monstrous and incredible a climax in the eyes of those poor complacent fools of the prosperous days! Not ever again would the planet know the thunderous tramping of human millions—or even the crawling of lizards and the buzz of insects, for they, too, had gone. Now was come the reign of sapless branches and endless fields of tough grasses. Earth, like its cold, imperturbable moon, was given over to silence and blackness forever.

God damn, that’s beautiful.

Originally, the second collection of Lovecraft’s work put out by Wordsworth was titled The Loved Dead, but this story was removed from this collection after the people at Wordsworth decided that Lovecraft’s influence on that tale was only minor. Also, Through the Gates of the Silver Key is curiously absent from this collection despite being a collaboration between Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price. Through the Gates… is the only story to appear in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work that is missing from the Wordsworth collections. I’m planning a fifth and final post in this series on the few tales by Lovecraft that are missing from this series, so keep an eye out for that in the near future.

J.N. Williamson’s Martin Ruben Series: The Ritual, Premonition and Brotherkind

martin ruben seriesHere’s three books by prolific horror author, J.N. Williamson. I had never read any of his books before reading these, and it is highly unlikely that I will ever read anything else by him again. The description of Brotherkind in Paperbacks from Hell ensured that I was going to track it down and review it here, but after buying it, I discovered that it was part of a series of 3 books: The Ritual, Premonition and Brotherkind. Naturally, I had to read all of them.

the ritual j. n. williamson
The Ritual – J.N. Williamson
BMI – 1987 (First published 1979)
A young boy turns out to be the Antichrist. His body becomes possessed by the spirits of Napoleon, Hitler Aleister Crowley and Genghis Khan, and he goes on a spree of rape and murder. Other people in his town also go a bit mad and start misbehaving. A local university professor and expert on the occult, Martin Ruben, is called in to deal with this issue. With the help of a priest, a police officer and one of his students, Ruben tries stop the Antichrist. This is just a shit version of The Omen.

If you don’t want spoilers, skip the next paragraph.

This book is really surprisingly shit. Most of the text is taken up with Ruben’s squad attempting to exorcise the kid through hypnosis, but in the end they just kill him. What a damn waste of time!

There’s no suspense, no mystery and no likable characters. This book also contains what might just be the worst line I’ve ever seen in a horror novel: “what Greg was doing had nothing to do with love or marriage and a great deal to do with rape.” Yuck. There are a couple of needlessly brutal rape scenes in here. I guess that’s what you have to resort to when you have no interesting ideas on how to scare people. I was looking forward to finishing this junk after only a few pages.

 

brotherkind j. n. williamsonBrotherkind – J.N. Williamson
Leisure Books – 1982

In J.N. Williamson’s brief profile at the back of Paperbacks from Hell, both Brotherkind and the Premonition are said to acheive an accident “lunatic grandiosity”, so I was hoping they’d be more fun than The Ritual. They are a little better, but they’re not good books.

The description of Brotherkind in Paperbacks from Hell makes it sound awesome. Bigfoot and a gang of aliens gang rape a woman in the first step of a plot to subjugate mankind, but their plans are eventually foiled by the rock’n’roll music of KISS. I mean, maybe that sounds unsavory to some, but probe my ass, it sounds amazing to me. Read that description again though. It took me a single sentence to give you all of the cool parts of this 283 page novel. Unfortunately, there’s nothing else in here of any worth. This is long, overwritten and surprisingly boring.

The book, while fiction, actually serves to expound Williamson’s sincere theories about the UFO phenomenon. He thinks that UFOs and their pilots are beings made of anti-matter that are actually from Earth. He thinks that they are contacting us to try to help up develop the side of our brains that we don’t use as much. I picked up Brotherkind right after finishing The Dark Gods by Anthony Roberts and Geoff Gilbertson, so my patience for bullshit theories about aliens was already wearing thin. Williamson lays out his ridiculously stupid ideas in great detail. This slows everything down and makes for a tedious reading experience. Between chapters, he includes lists of quotations from crackpots and alien researchers, including himself, and he actually ends the book with a page of quotations from The Eternal Man, one of the sequels to Pauwels and Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians. I’ve had that book on my shelf for many years, but I’ve avoided picking it up because I know how incredibly shit and dumb it will be.

The plot of Brotherkind is ridiculously  trashy, but it could have been awesome if Williamson had acknowledged this and gone with it. Instead, he absolutely ruins the book by trying to make it thought provoking and clever. What a waste.

 

premonition j. n. williamson

Premonition – J.N. Williamson
Leisure Books – 1981

By the time I got around to reading Premonition, I was well and truly sick of this series. I didn’t want to read this at all, and I ended up mostly skimming through large sections of the book. This method actually enhanced my enjoyment of the story greatly, and I reckon that this book and Brotherkind would have greatly benefited if 100 pages had been cut from each. The stories in these two are mental enough to be entertaining, but they get bogged down in boring details. I know publishers used to charge more money for longer books, so maybe these were originally good stories that Williamson ruined for some extra cash.

Brotherkind had a mental storyline, but I reckon Premonition is probably the wackiest of this series.

Ruben goes to work for Solomon Studies in an abandoned amusement park on an isolated island. It turns out that his boss is the reincarnation of King Solomon, and her company is secretly trying to develop a way to prolong life indefinitely. Unfortunately, the island where they have their headquarters is also home to a sex demon that is made of cancer. Also, one of the doctors working there, a former Nazi, has cloned a pterodactyl. Eventually this pterodactyl teams up with a magical hermaphrodite midget to put a stop to the cancer demon. I’m not joking.

Like I said, I flicked through this one pretty rapidly, mainly just skimming for the important points of the plot. There was one passage that jumped out to me though. It’s a scene in which a hospital worker is verbally abusing an elderly patient to prove to Ruben that the old man is in a catatonic state. He shouts, “you’re a useless piece of excrement on life’s shoals, a chunk of fleshy shit caught on the rocks”. I laughed heartily at that, both when I read it and again when I was typing it out. Think about what that would look like. For a shit to be described as ‘fleshy’, it would have to have some girth to it. You wouldn’t use the word fleshy to describe a stringy little turd. It’s the next deductive step that provides the big laughs though: for a shit to be girthy, the person who did it must have had a stretched anus. The hospital worker is telling the man in a vegetative state that he is a big poo from a big bumhole. This made the book worth reading.

premonition williamsonThis is the image from the cover, un-negatived. I wonder who she is.

These books share a central character, but they’re not much of a series. The timeline is all messed up. Aside from Martin Ruben, there is one other character who appears in all three books, but he actually dies in the first one. In terms of publishing, The Ritual came first, then Premonition and then Brotherkind, but the timeline of the actual stories is quite different. Premonition comes first, and then The Ritual and Brotherkind take place at the same time. There’s a single mention in Brotherkind of the stuff that’s happening in The Ritual, but Williamson didn’t have the foresight to include events from the unwritten Brotherkind in The Ritual. The characters must be incredibly talented at compartmentalizing their lives. They simultaneously save the world from the Antichrist while also preventing an invasion of alien rapists, and they do so without letting one event even remotely interfere with the other.

All in all, this series was terrible. There’s some silly ideas in here that could have been entertaining, but these books are boring and unpleasant to read.

Summertime Reading: A few more Paperbacks from Hell – Miss Finney Kills Now and Then, The Stigma and The Tribe

paperbacks from hell summerI’ve read quite a few paperback horror novels over the summer. Most of them are throwaway reads that don’t justify a post of their own, so I’ve been grouping them by series, authors and publishers. (Expect posts on William Johnstone’s horror novels, J.N. Williams’s Martin Ruben series, Richard Jaccoma’s Werewolf series, and random Zebra and Tor books showing up here in the next few months.) The books in this post have nothing to do with each other aside from the fact that they were all featured in Grady Hendrix’s and Will Erickson’s Paperbacks From Hell and also reviewed by those guys online. I don’t feel a need to go into much detail with these books as Grady and Will have done so already.

 

the stigma trevor hoyleThe Stigma – Trevor Hoyle
Sphere Books- 1980
This book starts off very serious, and there’s a bunch of references to real witch trials and the Brontë family that got me excited. I’ve never reviewed Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights on this blog, but they’re two of my favourite books, and the Brontë references left me moist. There were also some fairly scary moments, and by the halfway mark I was wondering if it was really fair for a book like this to have been listed alongside the work of J.N. Williamson in the pages of Paperbacks From Hell. Then I got to the bit where a naughty dog tries to rape someone and had to reevaluate my stance. Things get grosser and sillier as the book comes to a close, and the ending alone warrants its inclusion in PFH. This is ultimately quite a silly book, but I enjoyed it.

I decided to buy The Stigma after reading about it in PFH, but like so many of the texts featured therein, cheap copies of The Stigma became scarce for a while. I paid more than I should have a year and a half ago, but it seems that there’s loads of affordable copies online again now. Grady Hendrix also wrote a more elaborate review of this book for Tor.com

 

miss finney kills al dempseyMiss Finney Kills Now and Then – Al Dempsey
Tor 1989 (First published 1982)
This is the story of an old woman who can grow younger by murdering people. I found it very enjoyable. The characters are more interesting than I expected, and the plot, while obviously ludicrous, is pretty entertaining. When I was buying this at a thriftstore, there were two copies. One had a slightly classier looking cover featuring a bloody dagger, but I obviously went for the hideous hag one. I discovered Grady Hendrix’s review of this book right after finishing it and then realised that it’s actually featured on the front cover of Paperbacks from Hell. Will Erickson also reviewed Miss Finney. He hated it.

 

the tribe bari woodThe Tribe – Bari Wood
Signet – 1981
I saw a copy of this at a used bookstore a few weeks back and picked it up. I couldn’t remember reading about it, but I knew it was recently republished under Valancourt’s Paperback from Hell reissue series, so I assumed it would be pretty good.

This is definitely a cut above the other two books in this post. It’s actually a well written novel with an exciting plot and complex characters. It deals with complicated issues in a way that doesn’t get pedantic or preachy. The Tribe tells a story that makes you think. Will Erickson and Grady Hendrix both commented on the effectiveness of the prologue, and I can confirm that it’s pretty great. I can’t imagine anyone reading the first 20 pages of this book without wanting to read the rest.

Oh yeah, it’s about a murderous Golem in New York, but don’t let that put you off. It’s actually fucking great.

After having read The Tribe and enjoying it so much, I definitely aim to read the other Paperbacks From Hell that Valancourt are reissuing.

 

Well, there you go. These books were amoung the better horror novels I read over the summer. Thanks to Grady and Will for the recommendations.

The Legend of the Mass of Saint Sécaire

mass of saint secaire
This is an original translation of Jean-François Bladé’s description of the diabolical Mass of Saint Sécaire:

Of course, some magicians have a more dangerous trick up their sleeves, one of these being the Mass of Saint Sécaire. It withers a man’s body, little by little, and doctors won’t be able to diagnose what’s happening to him.

Very few priests know the Mass of St. Sécaire; and three quarters of those who know it will never perform it, neither for gold nor for money. Only evil priests, damned without hope of redemption, are willing to do it. These are the type of miscreants who never stay two consecutive days in the same place. They travel by night, constantly on the run, today on the mountain, tomorrow in Bordeaux or Bayonne.

The Mass of St. Sécaire can only be said in an abandoned church that has been partly demolished or tainted by some terrible occurrence. These churches should house owls, bats, and occasionally gypsies. Under the altar, there should be plenty of croaking toads.

For the mass, the evil priest brings his mistress with him to serve him as clerk. He must be alone in the church with this slut, and they must share a fine supper. At the stroke of eleven o’clock, the mass begins and continues until midnight. The communion wafer is black, and three-pointed. The evil priest does not consecrate wine: he drinks water from a well in which an unbaptised child has been drowned. The sign of the cross is made on the ground with the priest’s left foot.

There are other terrible things that happen at the Mass of St. Sécaire, but to see them happening would blind a good Christian for the rest of their lives.

This is how some terrible people wreak vengeance on their foes.

The evil priests and their customers will find themselves in a nasty situation on judgement day. Only the Pope of Rome can grant forgiveness for this most terrible of sins, and the penance that must be paid is truly Hellish and must last until the death of the sinner. Very few of these wretches submit to their penance, and most die damned to eternal suffering in Hell.

There is a way to guard against the Mass of St. Sécaire; but I do not know the counter-mass that must be said. Please believe that if I had been taught it, I would pass it on to you…(there’s a couple of lines here that I’m omitting because they have nothing to do with the mass.) Unfortunately, the counter-mass only has the power to gradually kill the bad priest and the people who paid him. Both will die as their victim did, without knowing the cause of their own death.

I first heard of the abominable mass of Saint Sécaire in Montague Summers’ The History of Witchcraft, and I recall it popping up again when I was reading H.T.F. Rhodes’ The Satanic Mass. The description was intriguing. Summers notes that he read about this horrible rite in  Jean-François Bladé’s 1883 book, Quatorze Superstitions Populaires de la Gascogne. An almost identical description appeared 7 years later in James Frazer’s Golden Bough, and this doubtlessly brought the Mass to the attention of a larger audience. You can find Frazer’s account online, but I always want to read the original of everything and I wasn’t able to find a direct English translation of Bladé’s text online, so I made one myself. My French isn’t great, but after comparing my translation with Frazer, I’m confident that the above gets the message across.

Frazer omits the few lines about the counter-mass at the end of Bladé’s description of the Mass of Saint Sécaire, but otherwise his account is almost identical. The descriptions of the mass in the aforementioned books by Summers and Rhodes follow directly in this line of succession. (Summers provides another extremely similar account in his later book, A Popular History of Witchcraft.)

When I briefly mentioned this blasphemous ritual in a post 4 years ago, I knew that I’d have to return to it at some stage. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a novel that had been lying on my shelf for years. It turns out that the Mass of Saint Sécaire is a major part of the story.

the witching night c.s. codyThe Witching Night – C.S. Cody (Leslie Waller)
Bantam 1974 (First published 1952)

I’m ripping through my paperback collection at the moment, and I’m trying to get some of the boring ones out of the way with. When I was starting The Witching Night, I assumed that it would be fairly dull. It turns out that it’s actually a Satanic love story filled with mystery and suspense. This book is absolutely deadly.

A doctor encounters an old friend who is dying. The doctor realises that something very peculiar is going on, but his friend won’t speak explicitly about it. The only clue he gives before dying is the name of a girl. When the doctor tracks her down, he finds her irresistible. The only problem is that she is the Satanic witch who performed the Mass of Saint Sécaire that killed his friend! The doctor soon suspects that he too has been cursed, but he can’t bring himself to sever his relationship with the woman who he knows is responsible.

the witching night c.s. cody back coverFuck yes.

Some grisly Satanic rituals are described, but the really entertaining part of the book is how the author gets into the psychology of what’d be like to fall for a very sexy, yet very evil, witch. Imagine being in love with a person who was slowly killing you. There are also some really interesting dream sequences and supporting characters in here, and I was kept guessing what would happen until the last few pages. This is a surprisingly well written book. (So well written in fact, that I discovered some pathetic loser who copied the text, changed the names of the characters and tried to pass it off as her own work. Join me in complaining to her publisher.)

The author of The Witching Night, Leslie Waller, used ‘C.S. Cody’ as a pseudonym for this work, and as far as I can tell didn’t write any more occult themed fiction. This is unfortunate, as he did so in a tasteful way. The occultism in here is serious and effective. This isn’t a Scooby-Doo episode where the devil is unmasked and demystified at the end. The power of Satan is real! And while it’s an infamous black magic ritual that moves the plot of this book along, the author doesn’t rely on occult references to make his book entertaining.

Frazer’s account of the Mass is quoted in this novel, but later in the book the female character admits to having said the mass herself. This doesn’t really make sense, as she’s obviously not a Catholic priest, but I’ll let it slide because it adds to the story. Also, Waller describes a hitherto unmentioned way to cancel the effects of the Mass, but you’ll want to read the book to find out what that is.

 

After reading The Witching Night and realising that I’d have to do discuss the Mass of Saint Sécaire in my review of this book, I decided to check out the Aleister Crowley story about the Mass too. It was written in 1918 and published as part of Golden Twigs, a book of 8 short stories that were influenced by Frazer’s Golden Bough.

aleister crowley simon iff and other worksAll 8 of the Golden Twigs tales are featured in this collection.

If you’ve read the above description of the mass, this story is pretty straightforward. Two men love one woman. She loves one back. The other lad gets jealous and gets a dodgy priest to say the Mass… No surprises. I think I liked Crowley’s description of the Mass best. I mean, it gives the exact same details as Bladé‘s, Frazer’s, Summers’, Rhodes’, Waller’s and mine, but I felt that Crowley made it sound nice and creepy. I haven’t read any of Crowley’s other short fiction, but I have a couple of books of his short stories that’ll get reviewed on here someday.

 

While researching the Mass of Saint Sécaire, I saw that there was a radio play recorded in 1974 that was based around this terrible ritual. It was part of CBS’s Mystery Theater series, and it was called The Secret Doctrine. Thankfully, somebody has posted every episode of this series online (complete with advertisements from the early 70s). I was so happy to be able to listen to this. Again, if you know about the Mass, this story is very straightforward. Unrequited love, frustration, blasphemous ritual, death… This story is perhaps the most complete fictional account of the mass – it includes the sinner’s repentance and penance. There was a brief mention of Eliphas Levi, and the play seems to take its name from Helena Blavatsky’s 1888 theosophical opus. The writer here seems to have had a genuine interest in the occult. I was also intrigued to see William Johnstone on the cast list for this show. (He plays Father Giles.) A decade after this radio drama was recorded, Johnstone would go on to write a bunch of insane horror novels about Satanists – I just finished his The Nursery a couple of days ago. I can honestly say that it was one of the most mental books I’ve ever read.

mass of saint secaire books
Just some of the works I had to reference for this post.

Of course, there is no Saint Sécaire. There are 3 Saint Sacerdos, 2 Saint Securus, a Saint Sacer, a Saint Sektar and a Saint Sagar. A few of these boys were French too, so the name Saint Sécaire probably sounded legitimate to the Gascony peasants from whom Bladé heard the legend. Also, I have read several places online that Sécaire probably comes from the French word ‘sécher’ which means to dry. If you wanted to imagine a corresponding creepy name for a Saint in English, you could go with Saint Withers. I think that works pretty well. I wouldn’t want one of my enemies saying the Mass of Saint Withers against me.

Back in November 2001, in an article in Fortean Times titled Satan in Suburbia, Gareth J. Medway suggested that the Mass of Saint Sécaire was fictional. (Meday also claimed that the original source for the story of the Mass was Bladé’s Contes Populaires de La Gascogne, but this is not quite true. Contes Populaires was published in 1895; Quatorze Superstitions had been published in 1883. The passages in these books about the Mass are identical though, so the point that Medway was making in his article still rings true.) Bladé was a collector of folklore and fairy tales, and he never presented his account of the Mass of Saint Sécaire as history. Russell Hope Robbin’s Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology states that “The so-called mortuary mass of St. Sécaire in Basque-speaking territories and the mass of the Holy Ghost in Normandy belong to folklore or anthropology, but not to witchcraft.” Was the Mass of Saint Sécaire ever a real thing? I really doubt it, but let’s be honest, it makes for a damn cool story. In the aforementioned article by Medway, he points out that later occult authors went on to use parts of the description of this terrible ritual in their descriptions of more general Black Masses, and from what I have read, it has since become a basis for modern black magic ceremonies. I’ve presented three pieces of fiction based on this blasphemous rite, and I’d love to know if there’s any more out there.

If you’re interested in other folk tales that came to be accepted as elements of occult history, I recommend that you check back soon. I’ve got a post on Gilles De Rais lined up for next week.

 

Fleshbait – David Holman and Larry Pryce

fleshbait holman pryce.jpg
Fleshbait – David Holman and Larry Pryce
New English Library – 1979

There was a period a few decades ago when animal horror was the big thing. Authors would pick any living creature, imagine them having murderous tendencies and a book would soon emerge. Harmless creatures such as dogs, cats, rats, slugs and crabs all had their turns at turning nasty. This type of horror isn’t hugely appealing to me, but I was in a bookstore the other day and found a short book about what looked like killer fish for 2 dollars. I thought I might as well give it a go.

One of the many problems with this truly awful book is that the first identifiable group of killers is a swarm of trout.

There are two reasons why I find trout amusing. Can you remember when you and your friends were teenagers and you would collectively fixate on a word or phrase? In my school this happened several times. The boys in my 4th year classroom decided as a whole that the word “girth” was hilarious. We’d mutter it under our breaths when the business studies teacher turned his back, or we’d write “Adam has a girthy one”on the inside of Adam’s copy book. Another time, somebody realised that a boy in the year below us had bulbous eyes and a fishy looking mouth. When he dyed his hair different colours, he sealed his own coffin. From that moment on, he became known as ‘Rainbow Trout’. For the interests of mischief, we dropped the Rainbow part of the phrase when in class, but the phrases ‘trout’ and sometimes even ‘brown trout’ were forevermore heard echoing through the classrooms and corridors of my alma mater.

The second reason that the word trout brings me mirth is a text message my sister sent me a few years ago. She was on holiday with a less than responsible friend, and on one occasion, my sister returned to their hotel room only to discover this friend engaged in an act of passion on the veranda. I believe the exact phrasing of her later report to me was, “I walked in and there was a lad on the floor licking her trout.” To this day the memory of that text never fails to bring me a chuckle.

Keeping these points in mind, the reader will understand how I found it difficult to take seriously the horror of a swarm of malevolent trout.

There’s more than trout to this book though. After a bunch of nuclear waste leaks into the sea, any fish that encounter it begin to mutate. They quickly evolve larger brains, vocal apparatus, telepathic abilities and a thirst for revenge against the humans that have hunted them for thousands of years.

A scientist, still reeling (haha) over the suspicious death of his best friend, finds himself in charge of the campaign against the killer fish.

After a particularly nasty fish attack, he calls a press conference, but the only person to speak at this conference is an insane woman.

When the scientist discovers that his friend actually committed suicide because he was gay for him, he recklessly dives into the most contaminated part of the sea and discovers a slab of rock that’s covered with mutilated human bodies that the fish have put on display in much the same way that fishermen display pictures of their catches on the walls of their offices.

This grisly grotto turns out to be a radioactive hub that is charging the local sea life with mutating radiation. After it is blown up, everybody assumes that the problem is solved.

This illusion is shattered when a big gang of fish assemble near a railway that passes by the ocean front. When a train containing the scientist and his team passes by this little stretch, these fish point their arses inland and flip their flippers. This causes a tsunami that knocks the train off the tracks.

Haha, this book was such a piece of crap. I just looked back through the animal horror section in Paperbacks from Hell and saw that it does get a brief mention there. Of all the books I’ve read that were featured in there, this is definitely the worst. The authors try to fit too many ideas into a very short text, and the antagonists aren’t scary at all. This book is shite.