Book: Occult Investigations: Real Cases from the files of X-Investigations
Author: Bob Johnson
I, Constance Parker, have found a new sub-genre of books. I plan on presenting my findings to the Book Watcher’s Society at their Spring Meeting (as soon as that organization exists). In the mean time, you people will have to do. *Constance peers over the speaker’s podium as the lights glint off of her pince-nez.* You there! Quiet in the back row! More curious than mini-genre of “true-crime-books-in-which-the author-claims-a-relative-killed-the-Black-Daliah,” more frustrating than “witchcraft-confessionals-written-by reformed-Christians”, I bring you the latest genre: Bardus Glorior Occultist Fabula (stupid boasting occultist story – and ain’t that the worst dog Latin you’ve ever seen? Bark, bark!) I’m basing this sub-genre on any book written by David Devereux and my latest review target: Occult Investigations: Real Cases from the files of X-Investigations.
You may be wondering what attributes contribute to a book being thrown forcefully into this category. If not, keep your trap shut and smile until the end. If so, you know I’m just dying to tell you all about it.
1. The book will be by some Dashiell Hammett-obsessed pseudo-detective with questionable fashion sense. Ain’t no Thin Man here, no matter how hard they try.
2. The author will claim various “secret occult learnings” but never be specific about what he knows, because his learnings were actually gleaned from old Dragon magazines and maybe some Googling on the days he feels more academically stringent.
3. The author will have a website which will contain photos of him in “action.” The site will be light on information and action, but will serve to confirm the questionable fashion sense.
4. The book will contain ridiculous stories of the author’s adventures which will serve only to highlight his lack of knowledge about the paranormal (and sometimes consensus reality).
So, with such a silly introduction, where do I start with this book? It is the story of X-Investigations, an organization that Mr. Johnson created to be “hard nosed,” “like the X-files,” and able to “kick the asses of a few malevolent demons.” I wish I was making those quotes up. So, already I’m picturing an angsty Fox Mulder in a Philip Marlowe trench coat doing an Anita Blake imitation. But before that image could scar me for life, Bob goes on to tell us that the problem with paranormal investigators is that they have no “real-world investigative smarts.” And the problem with Churches is that they only deal with the Devil and you have to tithe to them. I’m not going into how he has apparently confused the Catholic Church with all other Churches.
Of course, we get the usual story about how Mr. J got involved in the creepy crazy world of the paranormal. He says he’s greatly influenced by Hanz Holzer (the guy who was just sure the Amityville Horror haunting happed because of an angry Indian Chief’s ghost). And J initially began his foray into the paranormal because he liked scary stories! Be still my beating heart. Soon, he’s going to tell us that he read Joseph Campbell. But, no! Instead, he tells us that he met Raymond T. McNally while he (Johnson) was in college. Dr. McNally wrote In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires way back in 1972. Bob Johnson will have you believe that Dr. McNally “took the dark side seriously” and later on in his book claims that Dr. McNally “didn’t discount factual vampirism.” Excuse me for turning into Penn Gillette for a moment, but that is complete bullshit. You want to know how I know that? Guess who else got to talk to Raymond T. McNally when she was in college? Go ahead – guess! You got it in one – I met Dr. McNally while he was doing a college tour in the 1990s to promote the new edition of In Search of Dracula. McNally didn’t believe in vampirism, no matter how much Mr. Johnson wants to hint that he did. He did believe that other people believed in it, however. I appreciate how that can be confusing. McNally also managed to be a brilliant scholar and historian while being light hearted enough to walk around in a cape and fangs – he was a legend of a man. And one whose name shouldn’t be taken in vain by the likes of Bob (I’m a) Johnson.
So Bob read scary books, liked Hans Holzer, harassed Raymond and then worked for Beyond Reality, a paranormal magazine that had its hey day in the 1990s.They even assigned him to spend a night in the Amityville Horror house, the results of which he claims is “stuff for another book.” That statement doesn’t surprise me, despite the fact that Amityville was a poorly-orchestrated hoax. Anyone who claims to be an expert on the paranormal and claims to believe that that shouse on Long Island is haunted is one of three things: a liar, an idiot, or a conman.
Okay, enough about the distant and murky past of good old Bob. It’s time to move on to the puzzling and contradictory story he tells about the formation of his little investigative organization. One day, little Bobby decided that what the world needed was a paranormal investigation organization associated with a licensed detective agency. According to the description of this blessed event in the introduction (p. xv), he spent a few hours chatting with his private detective friend Vincent, brought in his “Emma-Peel-like psychic Czech colleague” (in a leather cat suit, no less!) and so impressed his detective pal that they decided to create X-Investigations on the spot. From this story, we understand that Bob was associated with Silvana (the Czech colleague) prior to the formation of X-investigations and that the formation of the organization required a couple of hours of story telling. It’s a simple story, really. Which makes it even stranger when it completely changes on page 9. According to the story on page 9, Bob went on a ghost hunt (where he was apparently terrified by a cold spot and a flickering gauss meter – maybe he should rethink his career path). When he got home from the hunt, he had a message from Silvana, now described as a “woman in Vincent’s office” and a complete stranger. In this version, their successful completion of their first case together caused Vincent to agree to assisting in creating X-Investigations.
So, which is it? It can’t be both, unless some kookie paranormal stuff that not even I would believe in is going on. Johnson never attempts to explain the discrepancy in the origin of his own organization. So it is obvious that Bob is lying about how his organization came to be. (It’s also pretty obvious that Bob has a really bad editor.) I wonder what else Bob will like about? Sadly, we don’t have to wonder for long.
Let’s just have a run down of the topics that Bob covers in his true-to-life exploits:
1. A woman burns down a café because she’s haunted by a ghost that was wronged by an ancestor.
2. A husband is forced to cheat on his wife by the ghost of her father who is being controlled by her aunt. Huh?
3. A Romanian youth in the US becomes a vampire thanks to role playing games. Shoving his cousin (who is residing in another country) into a box with a corpse somehow cures him.
4. An occultist uses his 128k Macintosh to store his soul and to take over the soul of a child.
5. A devout Catholic woman randomly decides to do a ritual and gets possessed by an Incubus, so se decides to have sex with everyone she sees – and she wears a penis-shaped pendant!
6. Some Satanists move into a New York apartment and own a dog with green eyes – and sometimes the eyes appear blue!
7. A woman speaks to cats and obtains their magical secrets. She melds her soul with one of her cats when she dies.
8. A psychic is pestered by Houdini’s Hell Rats.
9. A house is haunted by a remorseful ghost, who attempts to strangle people anyway.
Yeah, I know that the above list makes about much sense as a Dadaist poem. But those are the real-life events that Bob gives us to work with. All of the above creatures seem pretty daunting. Well, at least a little daunting. What the hell is a Houdini Hell Rat anyway? Good thing for Bob that he has backup. Unfortunately for us, his backup is Silvana, who is just as much of a cartoon character as he is. I knew things were going to be bad when he first describes her as “Emma-Peel-like.” It’s even worse when you go to the X-Investigations web site and see that they have trademarked the phrase “The World’s Sexiest Ghost Buster.” She’s Bobs Czechoslovakian psychic. Don’t worry about forgetting that she’s Czech, because Bob mentions it ever time he mentions her in the first half of the book. We get references to her “Czech accent,” complete with poor phonetic reproductions of it which make her sound like Natasha Fatale from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
So, that’s it – I’m not going into any more details on this one. To sum up, our hero gives two different stories for the formation of his own organization, can’t keep details straight about who he meets when, and lies about what scholars believed about the paranormal. Yet, he asks us to believe in the existence of “Houdini Rats” and Incubuses. Either Bob is completely disconnected from reality or (worse) a liar. Take your pick!
Book: Occult Investigations: Real Cases from the files of X-Investigations