Denver Memories

It may be a strange thing to say (or write, as the case may be) but I was kind of hoping to spend some extra time at the Denver Airport.  When I traveled to Denver for a conference last year, I arrived to a workload (attending AAR/SBL as an editor is all work, not play).  I had no time to hang around the airport.  I knew, however, as a recent New York Times piece states, that the airport has a reputation for the paranormal.  While the Times article focuses on Luis Jimenez’s sculpture “Mustang” to start, it quickly moves on to “conspiracy theories.”  And the parts of the airport passengers never see.  The place has a reputation for being weird.  During construction in recent years, the usually anodyne partitions that block construction from the view of passengers, housed images of aliens, bolstering rumors that Denver, and its airport, have some connection with our extraterrestrial neighbors.

The Times story points out alien graffiti in parts of the Denver Airport where travelers can’t go.  And it also points out that although the fiery red eyes of “Mustang” are to represent Jimenez’s father’s start in the neon business, they give the giant horse a demonic aspect.  The artist died working on the sculpture.  A piece fell during construction, severing an artery.  But the conspiracy theories began earlier.  The southwest has a reputation of being the home of the shapeshifting reptilians that have made it onto mainstream television.  Is it any wonder that Trump stands a possibility of getting the nomination while yet more crimes are actively stacked on his record?

Of course, I was in Denver to work.  I claimed my bag and got a taxi on a snowy southwestern morning.  While there I worked, of course.  It was cold, in any case, back in November, so getting out to see the sights didn’t particularly appeal, especially since it was getting dark by the time the book stalls were closing and I was there alone.  I always want to be on time, and since I’m an early riser, and since Thanksgiving was just a couple days away, I went to the airport three hours before my flight home.  I was thinking I might have some time to do a bit of X-Filing while waiting.  Alas, it was not to be.  The helpful flight attendant put me on an earlier flight and I ended up with a three-hour layover in Chicago.  But I also knew that several “mothman” sightings had taken place at O’Hare over the preceding months.  When you’re a traveler, however, they keep you away from the interesting parts of the airport.

Young Reading

It was more the lede line than the story.  Melissa Kirsch’s “The books we read when we’re young help shape the adults we become in ways we don’t always grasp” caught my attention.  My own current rereading of Dark Shadows books certainly reflects that.  As my You Tube video on Dark Shadows considers, it was the books more than the television show that shaped my young mind.  Consciously, I know that’s probably the main reason I’ve always wanted to live in Maine.  It may seem strange to some to want to move where a vampire frequently visits, but there was more going on in those stories than I realized.  It would be enough to make me tremble were I a young persons’ fiction writer.  They have so much influence.  Spending my younger years searching for a father took me some strange places.

My other young reading was, naturally, the Bible.  I can’t remember how young I was when I began to try to read through the King James.  Eventually I did get through, and then I started all over again.  Clearly my entire life has been impacted by that early fear of Hell that drove me to the Scriptures.  Perhaps that combination of Bible and Dark Shadows novels led to Holy Horror and its aftermath.  In other words, my youthful reading led to what has become a vocation, of sorts.  That elusive university, or college job in Maine never came to fruition.  I tried many times to get a toehold there, Bible in hand.  I’ve ended up back in Pennsylvania, where I started.  And I’m still reading.

I’ve read a good number of good books, but it has been some time since one set my life off on a different trajectory.  Some books have lead me to write books, and books I read often suggest even more books.  Whether I die today or thirty years from now, books will have defined my life.  I grew up reading them and wanting to write them, with no real idea how to do the latter.  One of those childhood books convinced me that a career outside the church was one not worth having.  Indeed, were I clergy now my enjoyment of horror would certainly garner more attention than it does in my current role as “some guy.”  I am, however, that person who grew from a worried-looking kid who’d not yet figured out that my reading choices would lead to a life measured by books.

The ultimate adventure…

Spiritual Alterations

I’d been meaning to watch Altered States for quite a few years.  I suspect the reason (it’s been long enough that I can’t recall for sure) is that I knew it had a story line tied in with religion.  The tale follows Edward Jessup, a psychopathologist, who is attempting to understand schizophrenia.  He’s particularly taken by the religious nature of some schizophrenic delusions, and he uses sensory deprivation on himself to trigger something similar.  A trip among tribal Mexicans leads him to a psychoactive substance that he decides to combine with sensory deprivation to enhance the effects.  Along the way he explains to his girlfriend, and eventual wife, that his father was religious but died a horrible death.  He therefore became irreligious but his altered states of consciousness are often full of images from Revelation.

While the Bible theme eventually gives way to biological regression to pre-Homo sapiens, one of Jessup’s experiences has him coming to his dying father again and dropping a Bible on him which turns into the veil of St. Veronica on his face, which he then rips off and throws, flaming, to the floor.  Another instance of the Bible in horror, the film also uses crucifixes and hellish images to demonstrate the religious nature of these alternative states.  Jessup’s goal is to regress to the original thought, to encounter, as he puts it “God.”  This desire, combined with the potent Mexican drug, transforms him physically, and, in the end, emotionally.  Instead of being dissociated from his wife (whom he is planning to divorce), he realizes that love is the only thing that can save him from the terror of his experiences.

This is some profound stuff.  Paced like a movie from 1980, it has a quality not unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The message seems to be sound—the need for encountering the “divine” ends up convincing Jessup (that may autocorrect keeps changing to “Jesus”) that love is really what it’s all about.  The transformation scenes, while not shown in the detail of An American Werewolf in London, are nevertheless convincing enough.  It’s a rare movie that treats religion respectfully.  Here Ivy-League scientists are motivated to understand it.  In real life, alternative states of consciousness are quite real, if poorly understood.  They’ve been part of religious practice from the beginning and are a far cry from sitting in the pew and singing anodyne hymns week after week.  The more movies I see, the more it seems that a sequel to Holy Horror will be necessary some day.  

Monsters of Mystery

Sunn Classic Pictures was responsible for much of my young movie viewing.  Or at least a reasonable portion of it.  As I predicted, I ended up watching The Mysterious Monsters in the wake of Boggy Creek, and that got me curious about this unusual production company.  As a film distributor, the company began in 1971.  One of its early films was the aforesaid Mysterious Monsters.  Unlike other film distributors, their practice was to rent out a theater (this was before multiplexes) and take all the profits for the run of their film.  This was no risk to a theater owner and apparently it worked for Sunn.  They sponsored documentaries on unusual topics, likely because of the tastes of one of the founders, Charles Edward Sellier Jr.  

In addition to cryptids, the company also made films of the Bermuda Triangle and Noah’s Ark.  They even had a hand in a television version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  Ever since my college days, I’ve tried to figure out whether they had a religious motivation.  I suppose it was In Search of Noah’s Ark that made me wonder.  They even distributed work by Alan Landsburg, who would go on to initiate the series In Search of…, which claimed many of my childhood viewing hours.  Sunn lasted only a decade before being bought out by Taft International Pictures, but what a formative decade it was!  As I’ve noted in a couple of my books, the bestselling nonfiction book of the seventies was Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth.  That level of interest firmly fixed the Apocalypse in the American imagination.  I even saw the 1978 film (not Sunn Pictures)  in the same theater that’d housed Mysterious Monsters.

Come to think of it, the Drake Theater in Oil City had an outsized influence on my thinking.  The Drake is now gone.  It served the Oil City area for many years.  I saw Star Wars there for the first time, as well as Clash of the Titans.  We didn’t have much money, which may be why the escapism of movies was so important to my young self.  Now that I’ve finished my third book about movies it seems that perhaps I missed my calling.  Life is all about finding something someone will pay you to do.  The most fortunate find meaning in it as well.  The rest of us generally have to wait for the weekend to have the time to watch movies.  But like the Drake, Sunn Classic Pictures is gone, leaving memories of formative ideas behind.


“Expect a miracle,” Oral Roberts used to say, “and a miracle is yours today.”  The famed Evangelical probably didn’t have Catholic-variety miracles in mind, although a story on the Catholic News Agency does.  Miracles come in big and small varieties.  In case you’re feeling encrusted in materialism, there are plenty of things science hasn’t yet explained.  It helps to have a little wonder in your quotidian routine.  So what was this miracle?  It took place in Hartford, Connecticut.  Specifically, at St. Thomas in Thomaston.  In case you’re not Catholic, or high church Episcopalian, a brief explanation: after the consecration of the host (communion bread), ordained clergy pass communion wafers to those who come forward to receive them.  Believing in transubstantiation, this is done with a great deal of attention to detail.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

The vessel that holds communion wafers is called a ciborium.  (My years at Nashotah House were good training for this.)   Since consecrated wafers should never be defiled, only a certain amount are consecrated at a time—enough to cover those present for the Eucharist, usually.  Any extras are locked in a tabernacle for future use.  In this miracle, a minister handing out the wafers noticed he was running out.  Believe me, this is something to which clergy pay close attention.  Then suddenly there were more wafers in the ciborium.  A multiplication of loaves, but in much smaller and pre-ordered form.  One child called them, I once heard, “tiny little quesadillas.”  Perhaps a small miracle, but we take what we can get.

A miracle is defined as “an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.”  Since we can’t observe all phenomena all the time, they do occur now and again.  What happened in Connecticut?  I don’t know.  No scientist was observing, and no vestment cams were in use.  We have the word of a clergyman with no cause to lie.  Maybe something unusual did happen.  Yet I can hear the evangelicals protesting that if God were to perform a miracle it would have something to do with Donald Trump rather than some popish fetish.  That’s the problem once religions get involved around miracles.  Too much is left to interpretation.  Sometimes I think of the miracle of the sun at Fatima, Portugal.  Or of people miraculously healed from late-stage fatal diseases without medical intervention.  These things happen and when people are pressed for an explanation they tend to turn to the divine.  Perhaps, however, things just aren’t what they appear to be.

Holiday Hopping

Weekends in spring are like touching base.  They’re the only places you can’t be tagged out and you run from one to the next, hoping not to get caught.  Our British colleagues, more secular than we, tend to have both Good Friday and Easter Monday off work.  Religious America grins that Easter’s always on a Sunday so nobody has to be given any time off.  This disparity has long played into my fascination with holidays.  After generously giving you off both Christmas and New Years—within a week of each other!—the typical US company will throw a long weekend or two into January and February, but then won’t let you out of sight until the end of May.  And this is just as the weather is warming up and we’re wanting to be outdoors a bit more.  On weekends only, of course.

Holidays are a religious idea.  We have the various world religions to thank for them.  The idea of sacred time was, once upon a time, taken seriously.  And nothing is more secular than business.  World religions gave us the concept of weekends and the little breaks that we take from doing the same stultifying thing day after blessed day.  The more enlightened of companies have decided, after senior-level employees have accumulated days off with years of service, that adding extra days for every decade of servitude isn’t really fair and stop the practice.  So we find ourselves in that strange day between Good Friday (a work day) and Easter (thankfully, a Sunday), and thinking, “you know I could really use a break about now.”  We cast a weather eye toward Memorial Day while dreaming Beltane dreams.

My personal fascination with holidays really kicked off when beginning 925 work.  I don’t mind long work hours if it’s a vocation rather than a job.  When the relationship’s purely economic, however, you begin to miss the time to regenerate.  We remember someone died yesterday, too—we’re told—liberate us.  Tomorrow amid lily scent we’re informed he came back.  The rest of us, however, look at the clock and know that despite world-changing events we’ll be back at our desks on Monday since, well, what do you think we’re paying you for?  Don’t try pointing across the Atlantic, either.  They’re burdened with holidays and we’ve been liberated to capitalism.  And what are you doing, reading this blog on a Saturday?  I am most honored and grateful.  And I hope you have some time to rest, since it’s still a long way to the last Monday in May.


In retrospect, I suppose I wrote Holy Horror a bit prematurely.  Back when I started writing it, I had thought that the Bible in horror wasn’t as common as I’ve since found it to be.  I still stand by what I wrote, but I could’ve included a lot more movies that I’ve watched over the years since.  The Sacrament is one of them.  Based on the Jonestown massacre, the film sets the movie in the early twenty-tens.  A reporter for VICE is going to find his sister who’s joined a religious commune in some unspecified country.  In an effort to get him to join, she invited him to visit.  She was unaware, however, that he brought another journalist and cameraman with him.  The movie gives creepy vibes right away since they’re greeted at the helicopter landing site by men with guns.  Eventually they’re allowed to enter.

“Father,” the leader of the commune bears a resemblance to Jim Jones and soon it’s clear where this is going.  Along the way, however, Scripture gets quoted to justify their communal lifestyle.  There are many fictional aspects thrown in—the young women seduce the journalist whose sister invited him.  She makes no bones about saying they do it to convince him to stay.  The camera crew is almost convinced that this is the paradise it claims to be, but they start getting requests for help.  The writers clearly did their research on Jonestown since several details of the final weeks of the Peoples Temple are fictionalized here.  The mass suicide is shown in graphic detail.  The number of the dead, however, is only about a fifth of those who actually died in Guyana in 1978.

The movie clearly shows that the commune is problematic, but it also raises uneasy questions.  If it weren’t for the murder of Leo Ryan, would Jonestown ever have happened?  Probably, but the film shows “Father” making the point that nobody was being harmed.  That’s belied by the introduction of an abused girl and the number of people who want to leave.  It’s true of Jonestown that mind-control tactics were used and people weren’t permitted to leave, especially as Jones’ paranoia grew.  The movie leaves the viewer wondering whether utopian communes can ever work, people being what they are.  We crave our freedom, even when things look great.  The movie condemns the exercise, but not so much that it leaves lingering doubts about whether, had things been different, it might’ve worked.  And it would’ve worked, had I seen it earlier, for Holy Horror.

Another Exorcist

I learned from the wonderful Theofantastique that Russell Crowe’s new movie is The Pope’s Exorcist.  (I guess Crowe hadn’t read Nightmares with the Bible to think to send me a personal notice.)  I knew instantly, from the title, that it had to be about Fr. Gabriel Amorth.  Say what you will about him, he inspired William Friedkin to make a documentary titled The Devil and Father Amorth.  It’s pretty unnerving to watch, no matter what is really going on.  Catholic officials aren’t trilled about Crowe’s movie—I wasn’t impressed with his portrayal of Noah in Darren Aronofsky’s take on the flood story a few years back.  It takes a certain kind of director (like Friedkin) to be able to handle theologically dense material in a believable way.  I can’t say anything about Julius Avery’s The Pope’s Exorcist, of course, without having seen it.

I can say, however, that those who publish books at $100 miss many opportunities.  My book is one of very few written by a credentialed religious studies scholar on demons in movies.  A quick web search will reveal that it remains basically unknown and uncited.  (The only Amazon review is a two-star job by an evangelical who didn’t like what I was doing.)  Pay $100 for a book with a two-star review?  Most people, reasonably, have better things to do.  I once got around this in the past by posting a PDF of one of my book for free on, where, at recent count, it has been viewed over 6,000 times.  Academic publishers don’t realize the appeal of most of the books they publish.  Even demons can’t open a wallet to a Franklin level.

So while I’m waiting for enough royalties to afford seeing The Pope’s Exorcist, I’ll focus on my current book project.  Of course it’s on something completely different.  The Wicker Man should be coming out in September, but my mind will likely be elsewhere.  Those of restless intellect are condemned to wander, it seems.  Of course, I have Theofantastique to keep me busy.  There are other kindred spirits out there.  They don’t know the way to my website, I suspect, but I’m not alone in being excited about a new exorcist movie.  I’m not expecting anything to surpass The Exorcist, however.  Like The Wicker Man, The Exorcist turns fifty this year.  One guess which was the more popular film.  Given Crowe’s profile I’m surprised there hasn’t been more buzz about his new film.  Demons can be funny that way.

Sleepy Once More

I think this is the last of my recent nostalgia reads for a while.  When trying to recapture the feeling of watching that first season of Sleepy Hollow without actually spending all the hours necessary to do so, the spin-off novels are a quick fix.  Keith R. A. DeCandido obviously has quite a bit of experience of writing novels that tie into pop culture.  Many of us were pretty enthralled and impressed in 2013 (already a decade ago!) when Sleepy Hollow first came on the air.  This literary member of what was an emerging new legend is a novelized episode that is slotted into season one, referring back to what had happened earlier in the season without betraying the cliff-hanger ending for the 2013–14 run. Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution is a guilty pleasure read and a jaunt back to a decade that now seems long ago.

Here the story involves an attempt to resurrect (one of the main themes of the show) the witch Serilda of Abaddon.  Serilda had her own night in the moon earlier in the series (the episode “Blood Moon” was dedicated to her).  This novel asks, what if a coven of her followers, one of them a former policewoman, tried to bring her back?  It does so by using historical scenarios—much like the series—such as Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, and impregnating them with magical subtexts.  Here there are congressional awards that have been secretly engraved with runes.  George Washington knows about them, of course.  When brought together they can transform Serilda into a real monster.  Remember, Moloch was still an active concern in the first two seasons of the show.  In the present day, these artifacts have been regathered by the coven, and you can guess that all Hades will break loose.

I often ponder how, with the series Sleepy Hollow, the story began to fall apart when the Bible fell out of it.  It was in the process of tying together great American mythologies such as Irving, Revolutionary-Era history, and biblical self-identification.  These formed a compelling net that brought in many viewers.  Season one ended with two of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Sleepy Hollow, and a third had been nodded toward earlier in the series.  Instead of finishing out that line of thought, the storyline dispensed with Moloch and gave the headless horseman a head.  The plot ran out of steam.  Books like this demonstrate that there was other fertile ground to plow.  Had the original conceit kept intact, we might still be watching it.  Of course, novels like this are good for reliving those days a decade ago.

Old Library Books

There’s a quiet joy to it.  Even if they have other people’s markings in them, books I obtain ex libris are among my personal treasures.  They bring back memories of reading library books—learning new things.  For a fleeting moment when reading my current used, ex-library book, I was taken back to a night long ago.  The youth group at my local United Methodist Church had occasional sleepovers in the church itself.  Despite being a small town, folks were okay with mixed genders (with chaperones, of course) doing this.  We were even allowed to go into the sanctuary at night.  Churches are scary places in the dark.  We would sit there and talk about nothing in particular, the way teens do.  And I always brought a book.

On one sleepover I was working on a term paper on—don’t laugh—vampires.  I’d been researching with the limited resources of Oil City High School’s library, supplemented by the Oil City Public Library.  I still remember the exact book I took along.  Although awaking ultra-early only developed with me during my commuting years, I’ve always been an early riser.  (The early teen, or tween, years excepted.)  I remember waking up before everybody else, returning to the sanctuary, sitting in our usual pew, and reading about vampires by the light of dawn coming through the windows (which were only modestly stained with off-whites and yellows).  And feeling profoundly happy.  Friends were asleep downstairs and I was curled up with a library book.  What more could you ask?

Many such memories linger as I age.  But my current reading of a marked-up library book brought something else to mind.  Many such books have marks near the beginning that quickly peter out.  As if most readers never made it past the introduction.  I’ve stopped reading a book or two in my time, but generally I need to get past page 10 or 20 before I’m willing to make that call.  I often find that a book’s introduction is one of the best parts—especially in academic books.  Authors try to draw you in with intriguing ideas and then, at least in my field, get technical once you reach chapter 1.  Honeymoon’s over.  The mind of the person, however, who marks up a library book and then suddenly stops intrigues me.  Perhaps I’m just feeling nostalgic this morning, but reading a withdrawn library book, with its soft pages and old book smell, is one of life’s great gifts.  Even if it’s not about vampires.

Love’s Life

One of the things about literary classics is they open themselves to reinterpretation.  It’s often a lot of fun to trace these.  Andi Marquette is obviously an educated writer.  Her The Secret of Sleepy Hollow is one of those reinterpretations that has a unique take on the tale.  Set in modern times and featuring a member of the Crane family—Abby—as a graduate student, this story brings the tale into a contemporary context.  Abby meets another graduate student—Katie—in Sleepy Hollow and the two fall in love.  It turns out that Katie is a member of the Van Tassel family, thus bringing the two main families of Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” together again.  There’s even a headless horseman.

Like the biblical book of Ruth, this is a gentle tale of women’s love.  There’s no overt violence, no heads get chopped, but two women love and care for one another.  Many of the more modern repackaged versions of Sleepy Hollow tend to go for the violent, sometimes drug-fueled tales of bored youth in a small town facing an angry ghost.  Here the interest is more literary, a gothic romance.  The fact that it’s a lesbian love story makes me wonder why so many people have trouble with others’ love lives.  People are prone to curiosity about sex—that’s a simple fact.  What isn’t so simple is that mores based on culturally specific ideas from millennia ago don’t stand the test of time and yet cause misery in modern lives because they can’t accept what we now know—sex and love are anything but simple.

Marquette’s book is marked by that anxiety.  When people discover a love that’s often misunderstood, they face ridicule or worse.  The book of Ruth provides a good guide here—the acceptance of a normally forbidden love can bring good and happiness to people in what is often a difficult world.  There’s trouble enough—there are headless horsemen out there—that we don’t need to be causing more by judging the loves of others.  Even a cisgender heterosexual can understand that.  Life is complicated and we all try to find our way through.  Love is one of those things that can help to make it more bearable.  I found The Secret of Sleepy Hollow compelling in that way.  It may not be a literary classic—few books are—but it takes on a complex topic intelligently and with heart.  It’s a new take on an old story that still fits the modern world.


God wasn’t thinking of search engine optimization (SEO) when he was writing the Bible.  First of all, he doesn’t seem to have considered that all the nice, short names he used would soon become the most common in the western world.  And he didn’t give all the characters last names.  Job is particularly egregious because you could be searching for employment and not a complaining old man (you can always find one of the latter here!).  Perhaps he wasn’t aware at the time just how popular his book would become so that just about everything in it appears on some twenty-million webpages and you need some distinctive keywords for SEO.  And this unfortunate high profile has also led to knock-on search problems.

I quite often have to search for bits of the Good Book together.  “Pentateuch” isn’t so bad because it’s a bigger word that most people don’t use every day.  But what about “historical books”?  It’s two words and search engines begin scouring the web for pages that have both words.  And there are plenty of historical books outside the Bible.  Writings?  Poetry?  Even Gospels is used all over the place.  I had to find something about the Catholic Epistles the other day.  My search engine found plenty of places with both words, but not linked together.  (I know the quotation mark trick, but bear with me here as I’m trying to make a point that will perhaps lead to divine intervention.)  I tried again with Pastoral Epistles but the same problem arose.  This is the burden of being so important that everyone copies you.

It’s the price of success.  God surely must’ve foreseen that.  The problem is that Holy Writ predates the internet by so many centuries.  Those who’ve determined how searching works have redefined our lives—have given us new commandments.  Thou shalt not put commas in titles, for example.  Thou shalt use distinctive keywords.  Pity the fool who must find information on a biblical character with only one name.  Perhaps that name is John.  Or David.  Or Mary.  Sure, you can add qualifiers but they’re all common words as well.  The Good Book is a victim of its own success.  And for containing all the prophecy that it does it is truly amazing that not even the creator of the universe didn’t see this coming.  We live in a world driven by tech and although the Bible had a direct role leading to that world, you wouldn’t know it by your standard Google search.

Just Being

You know, I sometimes resent being forced to be something I’m not.  In these days of tolerance and letting people be themselves, the bullies have taken over, forcing the rest of us to clean up their messes.  Take politics, for instance.  I have no interest in it.  From the beginning of this nation to the present the political inbreeding has been obvious.  Wealthy families presuming that riches mean you know how to govern—since the beginning they have set the tone.  Voting is always important, but how can you be anything else when you need to be a constant political activist just to assure politicians are actually doing their jobs?  I’m no micromanager—in fact I’m okay with just getting by.  Still, I feel compelled to spend my time keeping an eye on corrupt politicians.  How are you supposed to write books?  Imagine what we could accomplish if they’d just do their job!

Or consider business.  It’s tax season.  Every New Year marks the time when you need to keep track of what you spend on what because accountants, backed by politicians, can’t keep their noses out of other people’s money.  You want to eat?  Find a place to sleep out of the incessant rain?  Then you have to play the capitalist game.  There’s no opt out short of heading under the bridge and going through trash cans for your next meal.  Those of us who are creative don’t really impose our wills on others.  You don’t like what I write?  Don’t buy my book.  (And I speak with authority on this particular point!)  Nobody forces you to look at art.  (Although they do force you to listen to music in many stores, even if you’d rather shop in silence.  This, I think, is a business decision.)

Image credit: Warren K. Leffler, public domain, via Library of Congress

One of the reasons a monastic vocation appealed to me even as a young Protestant was that I need time to think things through.  To contemplate.  To try to make sense of all of this.  I’m not motivated by money or power.  I want to be with others who just want to be.  I’m not lazy and I don’t mind being productive.  It’s just that, well, can’t things not be about money for a while?  Can’t politicians just act like actual adults with a moral center for a time?  The religious leaders who managed to do this were quickly commodified.  In this cloud-smitten winter I’m in the mood for lament.  Some of us want to live authenticly, but those with power and money simply won’t allow it.


There’s some symbolism here that I haven’t had time to sort out.  (Some of us need time to just sit and think—time that work won’t allow.)  I’d been wanting to watch Jeepers Creepers for quite some time but streaming services said it was unavailable.  I suspect that was because a sequel has been running in theaters and those who own the rights want to capitalize on it.  So it goes.  When it finally did show up on Freevee, so you have to subject yourself to commercials, I had to see it.  Now I need some time to think.  In case you’re even slower than me, the film involves a couple siblings driving home for spring break when they encounter a monster/demon, Creeper.

Creeper smells peoples’ fear and consumes parts of those who have something it needs to regenerate itself.  The brother and sister encounter Creeper on one of those long stretches of road without civilization that you find in parts of America (in this case, the unspecified south).  I won’t spoil the ending, but for my money (or actually, Freevee patience), the first half is pretty scary.  The whole is not bad either.  So what do I need to think about?  Well, Creeper stores its victims’ corpses in a church basement.  The church is abandoned, but still.  This overlap between religion and horror is an aspect that has fascinated me time and again.  Shouldn’t a church be a safe place?  (For many of us, that’s a myth long debunked.)  Is it because it’s abandoned that a demonic monster has moved in?  Or does religious symbolism not bother it?  Or perhaps attract it?

Not only that, but the movie also has a prophet.  While she’s not called that, this local woman has dreams of things involving Creeper that haven’t happened yet.  Like Cassandra, however, everyone ignores her.  It seems that Jeepers Creepers experienced a budget cut during production that led to a rewritten, and cheaper, ending.  While I won’t spoil it, I will say that it is a bit of a letdown from how the film started.  A lot is left unexplained, but the story is pretty good and the acting, at least by the siblings, and the always entertaining Eileen Brennan, was impressive.  They have a way of conveying fear that’s believable and contagious.  The religion theme, however, appears to have been dropped once the church burns down.  It may be that it was somehow revisited in the ending that money forced to change.  Regardless, it is worth watching, and, if you have the time, pondering.


Not to dwell on Satanism, but the morning after my last post on the topic, while out on my morning jog, I came across a pentagram incised in the pea gravel of the bike path.  Then another.  Lest there was any lingering doubt that this had to do with the local school’s Satan club, a few feet further along a 666 appeared.  None of this was there the day before and, given that folks my age are too busy to be out scraping sigels in the sand, I suspect that it might’ve been someone younger.   Dare I say, school-aged.  Protesting or promoting I couldn’t tell.  As I jogged, I fell to thinking about pentagrams.  They’re not inherently evil and actually have an interesting history.  For most of that history it was morally neutral, if not a positive sign.

In the 1800s, during Romanticism’s heyday, it was supposed that an inverted pentagram—one with two points up instead of one at the top—was a sign of evil.  It was also in the 1800s that the contemporary king of outrage, Aleister Crowley, began what would eventually morph into modern Wicca.  Crowley liked to refer to himself as “the wickedest man on earth,” at least among his friends.  The upside-down pentagram was seen to represent a goat’s head, and if you’ve read my book you’ll know that some groups have long associated goats with demons.  Ironically, during the Nixon Administration the Grand Old Party began to use inverted pentagrams on their elephant logo.  Evangelicals who otherwise object to this “Satanic” symbol seem quite okay with it branding their political party.  Truth in advertising, I guess.

The thing about symbols is that they only have the power we give them.  The five points of a star symbol match well the pentagonal symmetry that we often see in nature: sea stars, sand dollars, strawberry flowers, and eucalyptus seed pods.  It’s pleasing to the eye for creatures with five fingers and five toes.  There’s a rightness about it, even if it doesn’t look a thing like the stars in the sky.  Is it Satanic?  No, only to those who believe it to be so.  Are there Satanists trying to take over public schools?  No.  That doesn’t mean people don’t think they aren’t.  (That last sentence is all tied up in nots, I guess.)  Symbols, by their nature, contain the meaning we assign to them.  They say to me that kids pay attention to what adults do,  so if we act grown-up perhaps—just perhaps—they will aspire to do the same.