Sometimes being chased around a graveyard is exactly what you need. Life in lockdown has hit in surprisingly unusual ways for me, affecting what I choose to read and sending life skittering away, the off axis torque of the pandemic hit driving the world into the ground at an unexpected angle.
In the pages of Occult Magazine #6, the world has shifted and everything is not what it seems. The veil of the occult and cosmos is pulled back, and somehow, the characters are okay with it, cracking jokes and persevering in the face of impossible odds. If you’re craving escapism in bite-size stories, I highly recommend this issue.
In the “The Rending Veil” by Melanie Atherton, a man who has been taken by fairies sends a letter to old friends, occult detectives, to help stop the end of the world that might occur when two ghosts perpetually collide on their nightly haunt. Including an illustration by Autumn Barlow, the story is both scary and humorous, featuring a stylized and unique sort of demon based on the headless horseman and Victorian-esque buddy cop comedy.
In “Blindsider” by Cliff Biggers, the small things that you see out of the corner of your eyes might be more than peripheral hallucinations, and getting rid of malignant entities means you will have to view things no human should ever see.
I like that in most of these stories the main character is knowledgeable about the unseen and esoteric, guiding the reader effortlessly as they build world after world, twisting together mythos and fairy tale lore to create something new.
In “The Empanatrix of Room 223” by Kelly M. Hudson, a man, tasked with finding Satan’s bride, uses his hellish bodyguard to exact revenge while getting the deed done, encountering horrifying tooth fairies and secret society magic along the way. It reminds me a little of The Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey, and that’s quite a compliment.
The magazine also features an interview with Jonathan Raab about the weird world he created featuring the Sheriff Cecil Kotto, which appears to leverage conspiracy theories to create something wild I can’t wait to read.
In many ways, I found this issue a great comfort. We’ve been raised to be afraid of the mysterious, the other, and the malicious, and returning to some of these places is cathartic. In “The Way of All Flesh” Matthew Willis weaves a fantastic vampire story from surprising beginnings, in which a woman accused of witchcraft by superstitious Christian villagers ends up solving the mystery along with her chief interrogator.
Closing out the issue is the chapter six of the serial Occult Legion: “He is the Gate”. I haven’t read it, yet, but I’ve never been more excited to stock up on back issues of a magazine just because of the strength of the current issue. I’d like to start at the beginning of the path that leads to that gate.
Looming in the backstory of the issue itself is a separate tragedy, the death of Sam Gafford, the founding editor of Occult Detective Quarterly, in 2019. May he rest in peace. I’m glad that this magazine lives on, like we do now, despite the turmoil and chaos that comes with living through an historic pandemic. We cannot escape death, or even the real or perceived peril of our situations, but with stories like the ones featured in Occult Detective Magazine, we can escape the grasp of demons, and ghosts, and witchcraft, and other occult phenomena.