The World’s Most Famous Ghosts – Daniel Cohen

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Archway Pocket Books – 1985

I picked this one up as part of a collection a few weeks ago. I’m not really interested in ghosts, and I’m pretty sure this is a kids’ book, but its size and short chapters made this a perfect book for some potty-reading.

So this is a collection of accounts of different ghosts and hauntings, from the ghost of Abraham Lincoln to the Flying Dutchman. It’s written in the style of writing that 12 year olds are taught to use; every paragraph in here has an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence that rephrases the introductory sentence (Teachers call this the sandwich or hamburger paragraph.). What follows is an actual paragraph from the book:

The local people were very happy. They gave Dickie all the credit. They said he didn’t want noisy trains so close to his home. So he used his supernatural powers to stop them. Dickie is a great favourite.

Come on Daniel! You’re an author; please try to use some complex or compound sentences!

While it doesn’t contain the most eloquent writing in the world, it does contain some cool stories ( And I mean, the writing is bad, but it’s not Gothic Ghosts bad.). I like the chapter on Sarah Winchester, the millionaire’s mad widow who designed a mansion to house ghosts. There’s also the tale of the Baychimo, a ghost ship from Vancouver. I’ll definitely be doing a little more research on that one. The section I found most interesting though, was the chapter on the Screaming Skulls. These cacophonic crania are alledged to shriek whenever they are moved from their particular resting spots in certain  English mansions. I looked the skulls up, and I found the following on their wikipedia page:

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Whoever captioned that is a genius.

Like I said, I’m not hugely interested in ghosts, and I can’t say I believe in them, but three days ago, I spent about half an hour in the certainty that my home had been invaded by a poltergeist. My wife and I were sitting down, watching tv when our couch was lifted half a foot off the ground and instantly dropped back down. We don’t have any room-mates or pets, and nothing else in the room had moved. Neither of us had stirred, and our couch is right up against the wall, so we were able to deduce that whatever had done this wasn’t visible.  It wasn’t just a little bump either; this is a heavy couch, and it would take something very powerful to move it with the two of us sitting on it. Now I’ve spent the last two weeks reading books about ghosts and monsters, and so I immediately assumed that we were under some kind of infernal assault. I thought that I had perhaps awoken an evil spirit through my perusal of forbidden texts. I couldn’t sit back on that couch again without a weapon in my hand, and so I took down my trusty bullwhip from its mount and prepared to give 50 lashes to any intrusive ghoul! On seeing that I was ready for business, the spectre took his leave, and we were free to watch tv in relative peace. A while later, my wife checked facebook and saw that there had actually been an earthquake. I had never experienced an earthquake before, and so the thought hadn’t really crossed my mind. It was pretty funny to see how easily my scepticism was shaken in just a few moments of uncertainty.

Anyways, this book is alright. I wouldn’t recommend that you run out and buy a copy, but if you’re stuck on the crapper with nothing else, this will do trick. First you can use the ghastly tales to entertain your mind, and then you can use the nice soft pages to wipe your shitty rim.

The Dark Side of Freemasonry – Ed Decker

Huntington House Publishers – 1994

About 20 years ago, a bunch of evangelical christians met up somewhere in the backwards part of the southern US and had a symposium on the evils of Freemasonry. Most of the attendees were former masons, mormons and muslims; the kind of people who jump ship at the drop of a hat. This book collects the speeches that they gave. A lot of it is the kind of thing you’d expect (“Freemasons worship the Devil!” stuff). Other chapters are outright ludicrous (Freemasons are trying to destroy the US education system!), and one of them is a fairly interesting account of famous occultists and their links and opinions on masonry.

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(If anyone can fill me in on the relevance of ‘The Wayfaring Man’ within Masonic ritual, it would be greatly appreciated. I own the above copy of a book with that title by George Estes. It was published in 1922, and it’s very definitely a Masonic text. I don’t want to read it until I have some context.)

I’m not a Freemason, and I don’t feel any great desire to defend Masonry, but most of this book is silly nonsense. Several of the papers claim that most Freemasons aren’t aware of the occult influence on their organisation because they never bother to read the literature. I’m not interested in refuting this claim, but I found it hilarious to see christians criticising others for blindly accepting dogma without having read the literature.  Have you seen that awesome video of christians reading passages from the Bible for the first time and being repulsed?

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Whoever owned this book before me took it pretty seriously. They seemed to have been upset by this image of Baphomet. Also pictured is the bookmark that was hidden inside when I bought the book. I looked it up, and the christian bookstore it came from has shut down. Yipeeee!

Yeah, this book was crap. I only read it because I don’t want to get into anything too interesting while I’m in school. It came with the two books from my last blog post, and I promise it will be the last christian book that I review for a while. I got a great haul of books off craigslist the other day, and I’m hoping to read a few of those over the christmas break. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, I’ve created a facebook page so that people without a wordpress account can stay updated on this blog. The link is here and also in the menu in the top right. Give it a like if you’re so inclined.

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The X-Files Haul
A guy was selling most of his book collection on craigslist, and I nabbed these absolute classics for a measly 8 bucks. I had to take three buses to get out to meet him in front of a drugstore in the middle of nowhere, but it was totally worth the opportunity to pretend I was Mulder meeting up with some shady character to obtain esoteric information.

Demonology Past and Present by Kurt Koch and Satan, Satanism and Witchcraft by Richard W. DeHaan

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Well it’s Halloween today, and I thought I had better make a post to give you something to read before the trick-or-treaters come to set fire to your cat. Here’s a review of the two books that I have managed to read since September. Enjoy!

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Demonology Past and Present – Kurt Koch
Kregel -1973

Satan, Satanism and Witchcraft – Richard W. DeHaan
Zondervan – 1972

These ones aren’t just shitty books; they’re actually shit books. I have barely any free time anymore, and so I have to limit my leisure reading to my Sunday morning craps. Being in school has made it so that those holiest of moments on the Sabbath are now my only opportunity to read about Satan without feeling irresponsible. (I used to limit my toilet reading to the collection of Poe’s poems that I kept under the bathroom sink. Whenever my phone was out of battery and I couldn’t play solitaire while pinching a loaf, I would treat myself to an old ‘Edgar Allan Poo’.)

As you have probably guessed, these two books are awful. They came as part of a collection I purchased a few years ago from a hippy lady in the suburbs. She was selling a collection of 6 books, only 2 of which I actually wanted to read. I have since read and reviewed all 4 of the books that I was not interested in, but the ones I wanted have remained on the shelf. Anyways, both of these books deal with the topic of Satanism from a Christian point of view, and unsurprisingly, they are both repulsively stupid.

Let’s consider the authors for a moment. One of them is named Kurt Koch. Old Kurty is a classic case of “Koch by name; Koch by nature”. And what about his companion; Mr. Richard W. DeHaan? Well, they say that a picture speaks a thousand words, but the below picture only seems to repeat the word ‘wanker’ a thousand times.
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As i have probably mentioned elsewhere, I find it fascinating to read  the ideas of people who take each word of the Bible as being literally true. Let’s be completely honest here; 99% of the time, when a non-christian comes into contact with a christian, the non christian can instantly be sure of the fact that they are more intelligent than the christian. Oftentimes though, we can give the christian the benefit of the doubt;  although the person claims to be a christian, it can be safely assumed that they have not actually read the bible. When a person has actually read the bible and still claims to be a christian, you can safely infer that that person is an imbecile of the lowest order. To all whom encounter them, rubes of this variety seem to be entirely incapable of thinking critically.

On closer inspection though, these people are capable of a form of critical thinking. Unfortunately, the logic on which they base their thought is both flawed and perverse. Instead of using reason to reason, they use fear, prejudice and a unhealthy splash of utter nonsense. The authors of these two books are particularly fond of this approach. They weave a web of dogma around the topics of Satan and Satanism, and make themselves look like a pair of proper fools. One of the big points that both authors push is that many people who are having problems with their mental health are actually possessed by a demon and more in need of an exorcist than a psychologist or a doctor! My favourite argument that is put forth in either of these books though, is DeHaans argument for the consistency of the Bible’s attitude towards witchcraft. There has always been a bit of a problem with this issue; despite the infamous “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” rule, there are actually quite a few witchy characters in the bible. There is a particular incident in Genesis when Jacob plays with some sticks to alter the appearance of the lambs being born to Laban’s flock. (Gen 30:37-43) He peels patterns into the bark on some sticks, and the animals who mate near the sticks will give birth to offspring with a similar pattern on their fur. Now let’s think about that for a moment. If a woman were to  have attempted something similar to this 500 years ago, she would almost definitely have been burnt as a witch. If somebody was to do something similar in the 1970s, the authors of these books would likely have attempted to perform an exorcism on them. How then does DeHaan get around the fact that Jacob, grandson of Abraham himself, was a dirty, occulting, sorcerer? Well, it turns out that God was actually trolling Jacob; he had organised the sheep to mate a certain way, and Jacob’s twigs never had any effect. Therefore, the sticks were a waste of time and Jacob hadn’t actually done magic. That’s fair enough, but DeHaan seems to think that this gets Jacob off the hook; however, it doesn’t change the fact that Jacob attempted to do magic. Just because he was a shit sorcerer doesn’t mean he wasn’t a sorcerer. It’s all about intent, you fucking dope DeHaan. (On a depressing side note, I just looked it up, and it seems that many people are still seriously discussing the tenability of Jacob’s approach to genetic engineering.) DeHaan’s twisted defenses of other biblical witches are just as unsatisfying, but this is hardly surprising. He is stretching the prim, white blanket of reason over an awkward, shit-brown, virulent mass of obtuse, dogmatic rubbish.

There was one cool part of DeHaan’s book where he lists some other books that you shouldn’t read. I haven’t heard of these, and maybe he made them up, but I’m sure as hell going to keep an eye out for them in the future. Let me know if you have copies!!!
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To conclude; these two books were truly moronic. Don’t waste your time with this kind of crap unless you’re crapping. School is really getting intense now, so it’ll probably be another little while before I post anything else. In the meantime, have a good Halloween, listen to metal, worship Satan and remember to keep it anti-christian!