“A Horrifying excursion into a world ruled by the prince of darkness”
We don’t do Halloween in Australia, but it’s as good an opportunity as any to post some of the terrific occult pulp paperbacks covers I’ve collected over the last few months.
The supernatural and occult were major pre-occupations of popular culture in the sixties and the first half seventies. I am not exactly sure why, but some observers have linked it to regular outbreaks of witch mania that historically coincided with periods of major social change and dislocation.
Occultists, witches, Satanists, ruled much of the cinema screen. As was often the case, relatively highbrow offerings, Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976), coexisted along side more sensationalist exploitation fare. Devil’s Rain (1975), Brotherhood of Satan (1971), The Witches (1966) and Race with the Devil (1975), are just some of the many, many examples.
And where cinema went, pulp fiction followed. Old stories were spiced up, new ones penned in rapid succession.
Rest in Agony concerns what transpires when a husband and wife discover a little black book that reveals their dear deceased Uncle Amby lived a secret double life as a Satanist. Not surprising when some of his mates included Vandal James “Satan’s playmate” and Amora Cartwirght “Goddess of dark waters”.
Night of the Warlock, Simon, King of Witches and The Witches all deal with witch craft. The Witches treads the familiar path of a innocent young female schoolteacher who arrives to take up a job in a dream village in the English countryside only to discover it “in the grip of a centuries-old evil”.
Simon King of Witches is about a male wizard whose powers enable him to bewitch any woman for as long as he likes. As back cover blurb puts it: “Simon was in bed was in bed when he first discovered the amazing power he possessed.” Classy.
In Night of the Warlock a young woman does battle with three evil wizards to collect a legacy left by her dead uncle, a powerful necromancer.
Dennis Wheatly’s The Devil Rides Out and To the Devil – A Daughter, both deal with the consequences of occultists unleashing the power of Satan. Both received excellent cinematic makeovers at the hands of Hammer Studios.
The Case Against Satan is the “truly startling novel of a priest’s struggle with the devil – in the body of a teen-age girl.”
Dinah and Drums of the Dark Gods deal with another aspect of the occult, voodoo. Dinah, the story of an escaped prostitute who falls into the clutches of voodoo cult, appears to be little more than soft-core porn. Drums recounts one man’s fight against Haiti’s dreaded Ton Ton Macoute.
The remaining books deal with one of my favourite pulp sub-genres, exploitation fiction dressed up as faux sociological/historical investigation.
The Witch Hunters by Horwitz house pseudonym James Workman, purports to be a history of witch hunters in 17th Century England. “They used fiendish cruelties and shocking secret societies to smash mass orgies.”
The Weird, the Wild and the Wicked is billed as a collection of true occult stories. “Fugitives, prostitutes, body snatchers, confidence men, bluebeards, physical and mental freaks, ghosts, miracle workers, crazed kinds, and crackpot beggars – all of whom were key figures in the strangest happenings of all time!”
Last, but by no means least, Strange Powers of ESP by Scripts Publications is a series of articles on the power of the mind. It includes pieces on “a tape recorder that can pick up voices that human ears can’t hear”, and “a sexy mindreader so accurate she scares away men”.
Enjoy, and for those of you celebrating Halloween, have a great one.