Christopher Lee’s Best Movie

I was genuinely saddened to learn that Christopher Lee died last Sunday. For some of us, he wasn’t just great talent, but an iconic figure from our childhood. I was a Monster Kid of the 1970s: raised on Saturday matinees, the 4:30 movie, Chiller Theatre on channel 11 (that hand!), and Famous Monsters of Filmland. I didn’t do sports and wasn’t much of a student. I did Karloff and Chaney and Cushing and Lee.

And he was the last. They’re all gone now. Lugosi and Chaney, before I was born. Then Uncle Boris, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Jr, Peter Cushing, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Peter Lorre, John Carradine, all of them. And now the towering legend with the giant voice and those amazing eyes joins them.

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Reunion time?

Christopher Lee appeared in a couple hundred movies. I’ve sought them out and maybe seen less than half. A great many of them were crap, a number of them were quite good, and some were classics.

There are a few titles that fans would place at the top of their lists: The Wicker Man, of course. Horror of Dracula. Curse of Frankenstein. Lord of the Rings. Maybe Hound of the Baskervilles or The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes or Richard Lester’s Musketeers movies.

But one film many of fans, myself included, would single out as their favorite is The Devil Rides Out (1967), directed by Terence Fisher from a screenplay by Richard Matheson.

This was a pet project of Lee’s, and he had to push Hammer to get it done. Lee was tired of the pop-up scares of Dracula movies. He wanted to depict real evil and Satanism in a serious way. He wanted to show that the occult was dangerous, and treat it with intelligence. I just rewatched this film a week ago with the commentary track on, and was struck by how knowledgeable he was about the subject, and how much the film meant to him.

Jesus wins.

Based on Dennis Wheatley’s novel, the film stars Lee as Nicolas, the Duc de Richleau, a character who appeared in many other novels by Wheatley. Nicolas and Rex Van Ryn learn that a young friend, Simon, is being drawn into Satanism by a charismatic Aleister Crowley type played by Charles Gray. (Both Gray and Lee later played Bond villains.)

The film is notable for its accuracy and its sober depiction of occult practices and their dangers. Even more notable is its strong Christian message. Over and over, either God or Jesus is used to thwart evil. The final triumph (it’s not like I’m spoiling things here) is accomplished by the overwhelming power of the cross. Even when the good guys use an incantation, it hearkens back to Solomon. (In esoteric tradition, Solomon was able to control and cast out demons.)

A lot of horror has a winking quality: the audience understands this is a lark. The Devil Rides Out plays it straight down the line, and it’s stronger for it.

Lee clearly believe in the devil and the power of God to thwart him, and was adamant about the dangers of trifling with the occult, as he shows in this clip.

Lee himself was Anglo-Catholic. His noble blood line was traced back to Charlemagne, and I believe that he had a pope somewhere in his family tree. He was the one of the last men of a dying generation. He saw evil up close in the war, and he knew the devil’s power.

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Lee’s autobiography is great fun.

The Devil Rides Out is out of print on DVD, but you get all 11 of the original Wheatley occult novels in one Kindle collection

Get all 11 of the original Wheatley occult novels in one Kindle collection. Well-researched and good fun.

Out of print and expensive. Even when I needed money I wouldn't sell this one.

Out of print and expensive. Even when I needed money I wouldn’t sell this one.

The Earliest Known Depiction of Witches On Brooms, and What It Tells Us About Evil

2015-03-22 13.59.07This marginal illustration comes from Le champion des dames (A Defense of Women) by Martin Le France, 1451. Martin was secretary to both Antipope Felix V and Pope Nicholas V. His work is a 24,000-verse (!) poem extolling the virtues of women, but also condemning heresy and corruption.

The witches are identified Vaudois, or Waldensians, who were accused of practicing witchcraft and celebrating the witch’s Sabbath. Flight was one of the powers given to demons and their minions, and thus was often associated with evil.

The art is interesting because it’s part of a shift from depicting witches demonically or sexually, to showing them as simple women in everyday clothes.

Why the broom? The internet is full of very silly theories with little historical grounding, the most commonly repeated being that brooms were used to apply flying ointments to the nether regions of the witch. Go ahead and take a moment to imagine that. I’ll wait. The flying ointment part is real. The awkward and painful applicator? Not so much.

We’re also told that it stems from the testimony of male witch Guillaume Edelin in 1453, which was two years after this manuscript was created. So, we can stop blaming poor Guillaume any time now.

I prefer simple answers: as witches start to be depicted as more ordinary, they’re given a prop to indicate their commonplace, feminine nature. What’s more ordinary than a housewife’s broom?

The witch, it tells us, is not always discernible by outward appearances. What does evil look like? It looks like us. Or, in the case of medievals, like that annoying woman next door.

The Most Important Book of the Year is Only $5 For a Limited Time

manual-spiritual-warfare-1043105Paul Thigpen’s Manual for Spiritual Warfare is a must-have. I hate the phrase “instant classic,” partly because it’s an oxymoron, and partly because time is fickle, but I can see this one being read and handed down and treasured a hundred years from now.

Thigpen’s book is a clear-headed and faith-filled look at the devil and his works, and the tools we have to fight him. My blogmother Julie D. has a review of it here. I hope to write a more considered appraisal of it in the future.

TAN books published it in a leather-bound prayer-book format meant to be carried around, but they blew through their initial print run so fast that people are having trouble getting a copy while TAN prints more.

Because of this, the’ve reduced the price of the Kindle edition to $5 for a limited time. At that price, just buy it. You will not regret it.

Night Will Fall: Watch The Actual “Hitchcock Holocaust Film” Online

By all accounts, the documentary Night Will Fall is an excellent piece of work. It chronicles the production–and suppression–of a vivid and gruesome documentary about the Nazi death camps shot in April 1945.

The marquee name attached to it is Alfred Hitchcock, even though Hitch’s exact contribution is unclear. He was brought in to supervise the production and had some input into the filming at the camps, but while he was working on the editing and the script the British government pulled the plug. Was it a loss of nerve? The horrifying nature of the material? Or just plain old antisemitism? Those are some of the questions Night Will Fall tackles.

Here’s the trailer:

Yet, in many of the articles I’ve read about the film, there’s no mention at all of a singular fact: the film was actually “made” 30 years ago and broadcast on PBS Frontline. They dug up a surviving script, got hold of five of the original six reels of footage, edited it together, and got Trevor Howard to narrate it.

And you can watch that film–called Memories of the Camps–right now, online.

Here’s how PBS describes it:

As the film’s history shows, it was a project that was supervised by the British Ministry of Information and the American Office of War Information. And during that summer of 1945 some of the documentary editing was done under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock.

“At the time we found the film, it was not entirely clear what role Hitchcock played in its development,” says David Fanning, executive producer of FRONTLINE. “Moreover, one reel of the original six, shot by the Russians, was missing. There was a typed script intact — undated and unsigned — but it had never been recorded.”

FRONTLINE took the film, added the script and asked the late British actor, Trevor Howard, to record it. The aim was to present the film unedited, as close as possible to what the producers intended in 1945.

“Memory of the Camps” includes scenes from Dachau, Buchenwald, Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps whose names are not as well known. Some of the horrors documented took place literally moments before the Allied troops arrived, as the Germans hurried to cover the evidence of what they had done.

Twenty years after its first broadcast on FRONTLINE, “Memory of the Camps” remains one of the most definitive and unforgettable records of the 20th century’s darkest hour.

HT: No Garcia.

Taking the Devil Seriously

Republished from June 2014, because posts about Satan always bring the evil little worms out of the woodwork.

The reality of the devil was one of the hardest things for me to accept when I returned to the Church. When I made my choice to assent and submit to all the Church teaches, I knew I had a long road ahead of me. I knew that much pride and intellectual vanity and modernist funk would have to be scraped away before I could conform myself fully to the Church.

This process of death to self and the world in order to allow a new life in the Spirit to take root is not easy, and indeed it is ongoing. Each Catholic is in a different places in his or her journey. If you would have questioned me about my faith in my early 20s, I would have dismissed many key elements of Church teachings and sounded like a typical cafeteria Catholic. Faith is not a static thing. It’s organic. It has its seasons of growth and seasons where it seems to lay fallow.

And we all have those weaker moments. Not moments of disbelief, necessarily, but of weakness, of a lessening ardor, of a gentle fading of the passion for the Lord. The distractions and pressures of the world batter us and threaten to push faith to the fringes.

That’s the place where Satan wants us. When we aren’t looking, when we are distracted, when we are weak or sick in body or mind, when we have doubts: those are moments for him to do his work.

Families are organic, and thus they, too, have their cycles from fallow to fruiting. The Church is always under attack, from within and without, and the family is an image of the Church. Why think it could be any less under attack? One look around us shows a society where the meaning of marriage has collapsing. Gay marriage didn’t do it. That was just a final bullet to the head after the damage wrought by no-fault divorce and other family-destroying policies and social trends.

So when Francis speaks of the family being under attack by the Devil, he’s speaking a truth more need to hear:

Families are the home Church where Jesus grows. He grows in the spouses’ love and in the children’s lives. For this reason, the enemy attacks the family so much. The devil does not want it. He tries to destroy it, to prevent love from becoming free. Families are the home church. But married people are sinners like everyone else, they do not want to go in faith, in its fertility, in children and the faith of their children. May the Lord bless the family, and make it strong in the face of the crisis by which the devil wants to destroy it.

We need to start acting like the devil is real and threatening, particularly in our families. The Church cannot stand without the family. One is a reflection of the other.

Dealing with the devil: tie him and give him a heavy burden.

The problem is that we don’t like to think about demonic activity in our world, and we certainly don’t like to talk about it. When was the last time you ever heard Satan mentioned in a homily? I don’t think I ever have. The recent controversy about the Black Mass at Harvard pushed it forward and forced us to deal discuss it in the open, and we shouldn’t let that moment go to waste.

There’s one basic fact you must accept: you cannot be a Christian and reject the existence of the devil. It’s that simple. Jesus talks about the devil more than anyone else in scripture.  He’s not a metaphor. He’s not another word for evil or sin. He’s a fallen angel, and he’s real.

That’s tough stuff for modern man to grasp. The devil was used so effectively as a boogeyman for so many years that eventually the real understanding of his existence was lost, and only the boogeyman remains. And what do parents tell frightened children? “There is no boogeyman.”

Satan’s had a pretty good run lately. A look around the world seems to show that it’s pretty much his playground. We see it the broken families and broken lives. We see it in the anxiety and doubt of faithful Catholics and the boldness of the forces of disbelief. We see it in a government and society that dehumanizes the individual.

And yet we see hope, too, and though it’s never as flashy or as evil, it’s a powerful thread binding us all together in the Catholic community, the larger Christian community, and in human family. We’re all either tending upwards towards heaven or downwards towards hell.

In the face of so much evil at work in the world, the differences separating Catholics from each other and even Catholics from other Christians and other faiths shouldn’t occupy as much energy as they do. We have a common enemy, and it’s trying to destroy faith and destroy families, since it knows it can’t destroy the Church is itself. Convincing the world he didn’t exist was Satan’s most powerful act, but shattering Christian unity and fomenting discord runs a close second. We can’t fight him and each other at the same time.

Let’s begin by taking the devil seriously. If you don’t already pray the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel every day, you should start. Teach it to your children and students.

Indeed, it’s well past time that we returned the prayer to its rightful place at the end of each mass. It keeps the enemy always in sight, and reminds us that we are not alone in this struggle against the powers of this present darkness.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

Satanist Guilty of Killing Two Women

As part of what was allegedly a “Satanic suicide pact,” Mark Dobson killed Helen Dorrington (age 52) and Mary Hepburn (32) in May 2012. He cut their throats in a TraveLodge motel in Barrie, Ontario, in a bloody scene marked by Satanic art and dismembered dolls.

Dobson tried to plead guilty, but the judge refused because he felt the plea was not in the best interest of the defendant. If Dobson could prove mental illness had compromised his ability to know right from wrong, he might have been able to escape the harsh punishment of the plea.

During his plea attempt, Dobson told the judge, “I did it, I murdered them and now I want to do my time in the pen.”

This week, he was found guilty of first degree murder because he appreciated the gravity of his crimes.

Dobson met the women in a chat room for a Satanist site called (and I am not making this up) the Joy of Satan, which is filled with the usual Church of Satan-style hoo-ha about this being a true religion of peace and other lies. Please don’t go there. You’ll get dumber just glancing at it.

On a related note: The “Church” of “Satan” has complained to Patheos before about my reference to Satanic murderers as Satanists. Apparently, people who worship Satan and kill in the name of Satan are not real Satanists because: reasons!

Mark Dobson, who slit the throats of two women in an orgy of Satanic violence, worshiped Satan.

Ergo, he was a Satanist.

Sources here and here.

North Carolina Satanist Killed and Ate Two Victims

pazuzu-amber-algarad

“Pazuzu Algarad” and accomplice Amber Burch

A North Carolina man named “Pazuzu Algarad” (he changed it to the name of the demon from The Exorcist) has apparently confessed to murdering two men and eating parts of their bodies during Satanic rituals. The men–Joshua Wetzler, age 37, and Tommy Welch, 26–were then buried in his backyard with the help of two women.

There was also indications of animal sacrifice during Satanic rituals, with “Pazuzu” boasting of eating the “still beating hearts” of animals. The Winston-Salem Journal has more details, and the strong content warning for this one should be obvious.

More details continue to emerge about the lives of Pazuzu Algarad and Amber Burch, the two people arrested on Oct. 5 and charged in the murder and burial of two men at their Clemmons home.

According to a friend of Burch, Algarad’s girlfriend, he claimed to get a high from eating the “still-beating heart” of a sacrificial animal and bragged openly about having killed two prostitutes.

That friend visited the house in 2009 where the couple lived on Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons. Algarad and Burch are each charged with murder in connection with the deaths of two men whose remains were found recently in the couple’s backyard.

As a front-end loader scooped up tires, lawn mowers and other debris from the couple’s yard Thursday morning, Burch’s friend told about conditions inside the house that were so bad she thought she might vomit.

“It reeked of feces and urine,” said the friend, whose identity was confirmed, but who spoke with the Journal only on condition that her name not be used. Her identity has been confirmed with other people the Journal has interviewed in the last two weeks. “You didn’t get a good feeling walking into that house at all. It was dark. It was like a lifeless house. It was creepy.”

When the friend first arrived to visit Burch in 2009, Algarad was completely naked and never put on any clothes during the visit. The excrement on the floor might have been both animal and human, the friend said.

“He was on all kinds of drugs and drink when I got there,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I witnessed him peeing in the corner.” The friend said Algarad’s behavior was “very sexual, very provocative.”

“He commented on a number of occasions that he was trying to get in my pants,” the friend said, adding that Burch “was all for it. I made it clear that that it was not going to happen.”

Burch’s friend said she was only a teenager when she visited the couple’s house on several occasions during those months in 2009, and that the atmosphere was one of partying, loud metal music and drugs.

“At that time I was experimenting with different drugs, and all I knew was, ‘Hey, it’s a party.’ Granted, it took a lot not to throw everything back up.” The one night she actually spent the night, the friend said, “I was woke up numerous times with Pazuzu over me trying to mess with me.”

Burch told her friend that she and Algarad had met through a mutual friend.

“She was living with him for a long time, and she kept telling me about this really weird but super-great guy that she was with. He wasn’t the average person that she would be with. Amber was always a very clean-cut person. After about a month, she quit taking showers. She started to dreadlock her hair. She filed her teeth down to points. She quit shaving. It was not Amber at all.”

Walking into the house, trying not to step in excrement, Burch’s friend saw Satanic sayings written on the walls and filthy dishes piled up with “bugs crawling all over them.”

Algarad bragged about killing two prostitutes, the friend said, adding that neither she nor Burch really believed he had done it.

“The facial tattoos, the Satanism, I never gave it much thought,” the friend said. “I figured he was just trying to psych everybody out.”

The friend said she never saw anyone from the Winston-Salem area at the couple’s house when she was there, and doesn’t know anything about Joshua Wetzler and Tommy Dean Welch, who have been identified as the two men buried in the backyard. She said she and her friends have been wondering about the victims — who they were, and how they might have ended up at the house.

Tertullian’s Deceiving Devils [Ghosts and the Church]

In De anima, Tertullian acknowledges the extensive literature about ghosts, but rejects it as a “fraud.” He has specific pagan lore in mind: the idea that some could “call back from Hades the souls of those who are sleeping out their destined time, those who died through violence and those deprived of burial.”

His explanation reveals just what the early Church made of these encounters: they were demonic:

What are we to say, then, of these pretensions of magic, except what everyone says—that it is a fraud. Christians are the only ones to see through this fraud, since we have come to know the evil spirits, not, of course, by consorting with them, but by the knowledge that unmasks them; not by trying to solicit their assistance, but by a power which subjugates them. Thus do we deal with that universal pollution of the human mind, the inventor of all falsehood, that plunderer of the soul’s salvation. By magic, a second form of idolatry, the demons pretend to be dead men [come to life], just as in ordinary idolatry they pass themselves off as gods. And that is reasonable, since the gods are dead. [De anima, 57]

Tertullian specifically cites the aoroi and the biaiothanatoi in this section as spirits to whom people pray. Aoroi were those who died in youth. Biaiothanatoi were those who died violently. Both were invoked by people to bring harm to enemies. The idea was that their untimely or violent deaths made them thirsty for revenge on the living.

This is where Tertullian gets interesting, because although he dismisses the notion of spirits of the dead being summoned by magic to get vengeance on the living, he does allow demons a similar power:

The demons inhabit those souls especially in whom they used to dwell when they were alive and whom they drove to this kind of untimely end. We have already suggested that every man is attended by a demon and many are aware that sudden and horrible deaths, which usually pass for accidents, are really work of demons.

And, I think we can prove that the evil spirit tries to deceive us by hiding in the persons of dead men, from the facts that come to light in exorcisms. We know that the demon tries to pose as a relative of the person possessed, or sometimes as a gladiator or as a fighter of the beasts, or even as a god. And, in this, his object is always to disprove what we are here affirming, namely, that all souls go down to Hell at their death, and to weaken our faith in the Judgment and Resurrection. Yet, the Devil, after trying to deceive the bystanders, is overcome by the power of Divine Grace, and at last, much against his will, admits that he is an evil spirit.

I have to pause here to explain Tertullian’s use of the word “Hell.” He believed that only the great saints went straight to heaven. Everyone else went to “Hell” until the resurrection. Clearly, this is not an orthodox view (there’s a reason Tertullian is a Church Father but not a Saint), but what Tertullian is describing as “Hell” functions somewhat like Purgatory. Souls wait in Hell for the Second Coming, when they will get their reward (heaven) or punishment (damnation).

Pacher: St. Wolfgang and the Devil

Pacher: St. Wolfgang and the Devil

Tertullian goes on to explain another trick of the devil, in which he “brings back the souls of the dead and exhibits them to view.” This is a more effective deceit, since it offers the witness a visual stimulus: namely, the physical form of the deceased, which the devil has possessed. As he says, “it is easy to deceive the eyes of a man whose mind is so easily taken in.”

Intriguingly, he says that “even now” (in his lifetime) the followers of Simon Magus are attempting to use magic to bring back the “Prophets from Hell.”

Like other Fathers, Tertullian grants the devil one great power: the power to deceive. It’s the same power wielded by the Witch of Endor, but it is only the power of lies. “God forbid we should believe that any soul, much less a Prophet, could be called forth by a demon.” What Saul saw, therefore, was a demon in disguise, not Samuel.

This seems to contradict the previous passage, where he suggests that the devil can bring back the souls of the dead to exhibit for view. Though he’s not particularly clear here, he seems to saying the devil does have a measure of control over the souls he has possessed, but that souls cannot be “called forth” by a mere demonic or magical agency. He also appears to distinguish between those who died peacefully in their own time and the aoroi/biaiothanatoi. (Clarifying this point is difficult because my two translations contradict each other, and I find several passages in the original Latin confusing.*)

Tertullian concludes by addressing dreams of the dead. This has unsavory connotations for him since the pagans practice such things as incubation (sleeping on graves), which is deeply offensive. Thus, he rejects the idea with an explanation that a modern skeptic would embrace: “These things are not real because they are seen, but because they are fulfilled. A dream is true because it works out, and not because a vision is seen.” Essentially, the fulfillment of the vision makes the dreamer believe he has been contacted by the dead with a prophetic utterance.

The basis of all his theology is the story of Dives and Lazarus, which closes on the door on the notion of people returning from the afterlife. Any apparitions people claim to witness, therefore, is due to the work of the devil or “the trickery of magicians.” We’ll see this developed in more depth when we get to St.  Augustine.

Related posts on Ghosts.

*Esoteric language point: My Latin is gawdawful, which means I don’t like to rely on my own translations of difficult passages. The sentence in question reads “Publica iam litteratura est quae animas etiam iusta aetate sopitas, etiam proba morte disiunctas, etiam prompta humatione dispunctas euocaturam se ab inferum incolatu pollicetur.” Arbesmann/Daly translate “etiam prompta humatione dispunctas euocaturam se ab inferum incolatu pollicetur” as simply “those deprived of burial,” while Thelwall renders it as “had even been buried with full rites and proper ceremony.” Those are, I’m sure you’ll agree, completely opposite translations, but I think Thelwall has it right.