Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Stoner Rock Mysteries: Top 13 Of '13

To wrap up 2013 in style I've decided to offer up my very own best-of-the-year list focusing in on the top releases from a musical genre generally referred to as "stoner rock". Stoner rock is a bit of catch all for various styles that include desert rock, traditional doom metal, sludge, drone metal, occult rock, fuzz rock, heavy psych, and so forth. As I noted before here, stoner rock is a genre that was seemingly steeped in synchro-mysticism from its very inception.

Desert rock, for instance, was spawned near the infamous thirty-third parallel north in the desert surrounding Palm Desert area. This region also includes Joshua Tree National Park, a location that became legendary in rock 'n roll lore after Gram Parsons' (of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, among others) body was burned there in a bizarre send-off by his road manager. Less than 20 years later the surrounding deserts would play host to what became known as "generator parties."

Local bands would erect makeshift stages deep in the deserts and use generators to power their amps. Festivities would begin shortly after dark, with local kids making the scene and consuming massive amounts of beer, weed and hallucinogens. Frequently the bands would play for hours, not stopping until the early hours of the next day. For all sakes and purposes these generator parties brought rock 'n roll back to its shamanistic origins and it should come as little surprise that musicians who cut their teeth in this environment would become key members in a host of bands that include Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, the Obsessed, Goatsnake, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Masters of Reality, and so forth.

To this very day the whole Palm Desert/Joshua Tree area remains a musical mecca, with both veterans of the Palm Desert scene as well newer bands with no direct links to region heading there to record. Blaak Heat Shujaa, a group comprised of individuals from France and the eastern United States, even went so far as to relocate there before recording their most recent EP and album so as to bask in the atmosphere.

Rancho De La Luna, one of the famed recording studios in the palm Desert/Joshua Tree region
The origins of other styles associated with the stoner rock genre are not quite so dramatic, but regardless this genre has long displayed a curious relationship with the occult and mystical. Of course rock bands delving into the occult, especially in the metal genre, is rather passé in this day and age but stoner rock always took a much more original approach than the lame LaVeyian Satanism and Nordic paganism of many extreme metal bands. Consider, for instance, In the Labyrinth's The Garden of Mysteries, an album originally released in 1996. This album, recently re-released in 2012, attempts to be a kind of soundtrack to ancient Mystery traditions from across the Mediterranean. More recently Sabbath Assembly (whom I already wrote at length on here and here) set the hymns of the notorious Process Church of the Final Judgment to music in two superb albums, Restored to the One and Ye Are Gods.

In the Labyrinth's The Garden of the Mysteries (top) and Sabbath Assembly's debut (bottom)
So yes, despite the hedonistic and escapist nature of much stoner rock, there are some incredible instances of synchronicity and occult musings. For a genre that is not considered especially serious in nature it seems to routinely out do the Masonic Easter eggs of much pop music. 2013 was a year in which synchs seem especially pronounced in some of the genre's top releases. Hence, my decision to offer up to my readers the top thirteen synchro-mystic stoner rock releases of 2013. Those iTunes and Amazon gift cards would likely be put to better use exploring some of these releases rather than latest offerings from Jay Z or Lady Gaga, at least in this researcher's opinion.

Before beginning with the countdown I would like to remark on two trends I've noted in this year's releases. The first is that, despite some serious over exposure, the retro occult rock movement continues to churn out quality releases. This movement began in earnest in the mid-00s with the emergence of Sweden's Witchcraft. Witchcraft took the sound of Black Sabbath and 1970s Pentagram and the occasional prog and psychedelic flourishes and fashioned a sound so retro that it was almost more 70s than many albums that were released in the 1970s.

Witchcraft's landmark debut
Since then many bands have followed in their wake, mining the sound of late 1960s/early 1970s metal, acid rock and prog while adding increasingly occult-centric lyrics and imagery. This is in stark contrast to the approach many bands from an "alternative/indie" background take to retro rock (i.e. the Brain Jonestown Massacre, the Black Angels, the Elephant Six Collective, etc). While these bands may have painstakingly recreated the sounds of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones they generally seem to have felt the need to apply more contemporary (and even politicized) lyrics to their work (with a few exceptions, such as the great Kula Shaker). To this listener's ears, this lends a certain hollowness to much of these efforts that is hard to overcome.

By contrast, the musicians coming from a metal background were not afraid to tackle the most uncouth aspects of the Psychedelic 60s and the Heavy 70s --the witches, the mythological gods, the dragons, the pot smoking wizards, and so forth. In a way this has created an idolized version of the first great wave of heavy music (which ran from roughly 1968 till 1974), one in which every band seems to operate their own coven on the side.

While the reader may find it hard to believe after reading the upcoming list, Recluse does in fact listen to other types of music other than retro occult rock. Indeed, he contemplated rearranging the list several times to reflect this diversity (as well as making the writing process a little easier), but the fact is the albums put out by this subgenre easily surpassed many of the "modern" sounding releases of this year.

The next trend that bares noting is the reflections upon the current state of rock n' roll several of these bands engage in. Rock is of course approaching 65 (or may have already surpassed that mark, depending upon where you date the birth of rock 'n roll), and more than a few observers believe that it is getting a little long in the tooth. It is of course no longer the dominant style of music in youth culture, having long since been surpassed by hip hop, and even its historic live tradition is beginning to fade away, at least in these United States (though possibly not in Europe). This uncertainty seems to have been at the heart of several of the years best releases, inspiring both defiance and contemplation.

And with that out of the way, on to the list...

#13 --Jex Thoth, Blood Moon Rising 

Jex Thoth is both the stage name of Jessica Bowen as well as the name of her band. Miss Bowen is one of the pioneers of the modern occult rock sound. She first began recording in the mid-00s as a member of Vanishing Voice, a collective that also included Miss Bowen's ex-husband, James "Wooden Wand" Toth. Around the time their marriage started falling apart Miss Bowen founded Totem with several other members of Vanishing Voice. After realizing the name was already taken, the group was re-christened Jex Thoth and released their acclaimed self-titled debut in 2008.

Despite displaying ample influences from groups such as Black Sabbath and Amon Duul, there was a modern sensibility to Jex Thoth's self-titled that many later occult rock acts would forgo. The album itself was littered with references to the occult and the band would develop a highly ritualistic performance style that includes bathing the stage in candlelight and burning Palo Santo before beginning their set.

 Miss Bowen further upped the occult ante in 2010 when she joined Sabbath Assembly and handled the lead vocals on Restored to the One, an album based up the hymns of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. After touring with Sabbath Assembly for a time she dropped out and reformed Jex Thoth with mostly new musicians. It would not be until 2013, however, that a proper follow up to the debut full length arrived.

Blood Moon Rising finds Jex stripping away much of the psychedelic and retro aspects of her sound. This album is steeped in a stripped down, highly atmospheric brand of traditional doom metal that occasional echoes female-fronted alt-rock outfits, most obviously PJ Harvey. Jex also seems to have been influenced by some of the work Sera Timms has done with Black Math Horseman and the Ides of Gemini on this outing as well. Despite being a five-piece, the instrumentation is very sparse throughout the album. Lyrically, the album seems more personal and less occult-driven that Miss Bowen's prior work but such musings still appear rather frequently.

On the whole, this album is a step down from Jex's prior works and requires multiple listens to fully grasp. While I appreciate subtly, this album borders of meandering at times. Still, Jex remains one of the most compelling and original figures in occult rock even if she can not quite overcome the dreaded "sophomore slump."

#12 --Black Pyramid, Adversarial

On their Facebook page Black Pyramid describe their sound as "Psychedelic War Metal." Its an apt label, having grown out of a fusion of Sleep and sludgier groups such as High on Fire and The Sword. After some serious lineup turmoil the formerly Massachusetts-based power trio delivered their third, and possibly final, album earlier in the year.

The word "adversarial" is generally used in reference to the legal system used in common law countries in which two adversaries, one for the prosecution and one for the defense, square off. In some accounts this system derived from a medieval mode of trail-by-combat in which some litigants were allowed a champion to represent them. I suspect that this is the inspiration for the name of Black Pyramid's third long player, war being a reoccurring theme throughout.

The opening cut "Swing the Scimitar," possibly both the longest and heaviest track Black Pyramid has ever released, makes this clear right off the bat. Its followed by the more up tempo "Bleed Out," seemingly a condemnation of modern day warmongering. The instrumental "Issus," placed square in the middle of the album, is named after the ancient settlement located in modern day Turkey. It was the site of three battles that had ramifications for world history of varying degrees --the First Battle of Issus, in which Alexander the Great defeated Darius III of Persia; the Second Battle of Issus, a minor Roman civil war in which the Emperor Septimius Severus defeated his rival, Pescennius Niger; and the Third Battle of Issus where the Eastern Roman Empire defeated the Sassanids in a victory the Prophet Mohammed supposedly foretold.

a depiction of the First Battle of Issus
The albums closing track, "Onyx and Obsidian," is an epic that makes good use of the mythos surrounding twins, in this case of the warring variety. Both onyx and obsidian have extensive magical associations --onyx stones were worn by ancient Israel's priests and are said to be the stone of Solomon; obsidian was the material used for sacrificial knives amongst some Mesoamerican tribes while also being used as a seeing stone by the Aztecs as well as magicians such as John Dee and Joseph Smith.

# 11 --Naam, Vow

Naam is the Sanskrit word for "name" but it is also associated with the divine identity of the Creator. It is also a type of meditation, so it should be unsurprising that much of the music produced by the band Naam seems bent on capturing a journey into inner space.

With this, their second full length, Naam has joined the forefront of the mostly European-dominated heavy psych scene. While many of the bands on the other side of the Atlantic prefer epic length tracks heavy on jamming, Naam has progressively scaled back their song lengths. Only three of the albums eleven tracks go over five minutes.

 Sonically the group builds upon the space rock of Hawkwind, slowing it down and making it even more cerebral. There's also the inevitable Pink Floyd influences as well, but Naam remains their own outfit with each player carving out a distinct niche within their sound.

The major knock on this album is none of the tracks, aside from the lonesome country of "Laid to Rest" and the driving "Brightest Sight", really standout. Still, this album washes over one like a pleasant reverie and departing before overstaying its welcome.

# 10 --Purson, The Circle and the Blue Door

The debut album of a retro occult act with a sound that is largely more prog than proto-metal. This album recalls early Traffic as well as both the British folk of Fairport Convention and the Medieval vibe of King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson Kingthough it occasionally ventures into heavier territory. The founder and chief figure in Purson, a name derived from a fabled demon, is vocalist/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham.

Cunningham was the work's chief songwriter as well as playing the bulk of the instruments on the album. Despite the band name and the album title Cunningham takes a light approach to the occult --Witness "Spiderwood Farm", an almost gleeful take on a cult. Elsewhere the album ventures into subtle character studies ("Sailor's Wife's Lament") and even sensual musings ("Well Spoiled Machine").

The album's closing track, "Tragic Catastrophe", is easily one of the year's strongest cuts. Its also one of the most poignant ruminations on the present state of rock 'n roll. The song begins with the protagonist's discover of the whole rock thing, employing almost Knowles-ian language for this moment:

"In a dusty attic, he found a magazine
Full of gods and heroes, of deities and queens
He took it as his bible, with religion in his eyes
He saw his life before him, he saw his name in lights"

But the Golden Age of rock 'n roll is long past, having succumbed to corporate masters who initially did everything in their power to reduce a vibrant medium to another soulless commodity. Now they are ready to move on from something they always found rather bothersome and cannot hide their glee. The song woefully notes:

"And what will become of him?
This day and age has no time for a dinosaur taking the stage
It's a tragic catastrophe
'Cause there's nothing else that he can do
"Chairs of computers sing
The mannequins played guitar so convincingly tonight
The man says boy get a real job,
Take off all of that make-up"

Get a real job has become something of a mantra for modern society. Thus the dreams of local garage bands become ever more unattainable to the delight of "real" professions, such stock brokers, investment bankers, corporate lawyers, defense contractors, private security specialists, CIA assets, and so forth.

#9 --Kadavar, Abra Kadavar

The sophomore outing of the German proto-metal power trio. While a solid release in its own right, this album is certainly a step down from Kadavar's self-titled debut. The debut, which truly sounded like an album that could have been released in 1968 production wise, was aided immensely by a moody atmosphere that lent mystery to its six compositions. By contrast the sophomore outing, while still suitably retro, sounds to "bright." The additional songs and longer running time don't help matters either.

Regardless, one would be hard pressed to find a more rocking collection of acid rock songs released in 2013. Kadavar seems to have both upped the tempos and the LSD intake, creating an album that would fit comfortably in rotation with the likes of Blue Cheer and Sir Lord Baltimore. The first single, "Doomsday Machine" is as driving as anything off of Kingdom Come while later tracks such as "Liquid Dream" and "Rhythm for Endless Minds" surpass the acid-washed fuzziness of Blue Cheer at their most primal. You will not find many profound insights here, but few albums released this year are quite as fun to listen too.

#8 --Spirits of the Dead, Rumors of a Presence

While certainly retro leaning, Spirits of the Dead's earlier work (that Recluse has heard, at least), offered a modern take on acid folk with occasional heavy rock interludes. The Norwegian four-piece's songwriting is firmly rooted in 60s psychedelia and 70s folk, prog and heavy rock, but the approach to production is firmly modern. Many of the tracks SOTD's last offering, The Great God Pan, are so elaborately produced and mixed that the group can not recreate them live as a four piece.

While The Great God Pan was firmly rooted in acid folk the follow up is a much more "conventional" rock album, with only one track ("Seaweed") done in the acoustic vein of the prior release. By contrast, Rumors is dominated by fuzzy, effects-laden guitars and trippy keyboards. While still firmly in the retro camp, "Golden Sun" almost sounds like something the Screaming Trees could have written in the late 1980s while the slow, Sabbathy-blues of "Red Death" wouldn't sound out of place on Goatsnake's debut. The title-track is effectively a modern fusion In the Court of the Crimson King and The Man Who Sold the World-era Bowie while the epic closer, "Oceanus", updates Secret Treaties (an album littered with synchronicities and high strangeness, as noted before here and here)-era Blue Oyster Cult.

 Spirits of the Dead take their name from a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, an individual with more than a passing interest in metaphysics and the occult (I briefly touched on this aspect of Poe in my examination of The Following, which can be found here). Recluse suspects that SOTD also have a fondness for such topics --the opening track, "Wheels of the World", boasts "I have a taste of forbidden knowledge" after all. Unfortunately, Recluse does not have the lyrics to this release and has problems making them out on several tracks, making an in-depth examination of this album's themes difficult. But when a band names a track after the Greco-Roman god Oceanus, a being usually depicted as having the upper half of a man and the lower half of a fish (such gods are highly significant in Robert Temple's theories concerning Sirius), its a pretty safe bet that they have more than a passing knowledge of the arcane.

#7 --Hidden Masters, Of This & Others Worlds

It's almost obligatory to put a band with the name Hidden Masters on a synchro-mystical list. Fortunately, the British trio's debut is one of the most unabashedly fun albums of 2013. Unlike many  retro bands in the stoner rock camp, Hidden Masters' sound is more Psychedelic 60s than Heavy 70s. Of This & Other World's ten tracks sound like they could have been a bonus disk for the second Nuggets box set, Original Artyfacts From the British Empire and Beyond, as well as displaying shades of more well known acts such as Cream, Revolver-era Beatles, and the Syd Barrett-fronted Pink Floyd. There are also shades of contemporary retro acts such as the Dukes of Stratosphere and Kula Shaker. In short, this is prime psychedelic garage rock with a thoroughly British sense of whimsical and the absurd.

Hidden Masters do not take a serious approach to metaphysics, at times even falling back on one of the most time-honored themes of old school garage rock: women. But these are women who bring time itself to a stand still and seemingly plunge the narrator into an alternative reality (opener "She Broke the Clock on the Long Now"); or mysterious women who possibly disappear into the "smoke and the alcohol" ("Perfume"). There are also the inevitable ruminations of altered states of consciousness, other dimensions, and beings from outer space. Like Kadavar, Hidden Masters did not turn in one of the deepest releases of the year. But there are few more fun.

#6 --Wolf People, Fain

This is the second album from the British quartet, though this author is unfamiliar with the group's debut. Like Spirits of the Dead, Wolf People craft songs that sound like 60s/70s rock, but have a contemporary edge. Throughout Fain they beautifully capture the vibe of a British countryside during the early hours of a winter morning. Wolf People manage a very Medieval atmosphere on this album, calling to mind both Fairport Convention as well as Led Zeppelin's folk-centric third album. There's also a bit of Jethro Tull and early King Crimson.

Opener "Empty Vessels" is seemingly an ode to a hungry ghost, or possibly some type of elemental being, while "When the Fire is Dead in the Grate" chronicles a magical ritual gone wrong. "Athol" and "Thief" are compelling character studies, the former seemingly in the mold of a murder ballad. The epic "Hesperus" may also be in this vein, or an allusion to the sinister forces behind a murderer. All of it adds up to a haunting atmosphere that could rival that of the after-mentioned Led Zeppelin III.

 #5 --Blood Ceremony, The Eldritch Dark

This is Blood Ceremony's third, and best, album. Like several of the other albums we've already considered, The Eldritch Dark is strongly influenced by British folk and prog such as Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull (yes, Recluse has a thing for druggy, Medieval-sounding music). Front woman Alia O'Brien even adds some Ian Anderson-style flute parts to the proceedings, along with her vocals and work on the organ. Blood Ceremony is heavier than similar groups such as Purson and Wolf People, however, and unleash ample amounts of thick, sludgy Sabbath-style riffs.

Blood Ceremony can replicate Black Sabbath with the best of them but on this album their prog and folk influences provide a compelling contrast to the more convectional proto-metal riffing. "Lord Summerisle" (an allusion to The Wicker Man) is a gorgeous ballad in the mold of Fairport Convention sung by bassist Lucas Gadke. "Ballad of the Weird Sisters" is a foot-tapping murder ballad involving two desperadoes that come upon a trio of witches. The witches take the two men in and give them a strange brew featuring "eye of newt and Mandrake root." Murder ensues.

 Closer "The Magician", clocking in at just a little over eight minutes, recounts a sorcerer named Haddo's bid to perform a Black Mass. In lesser hands this track would come off as utterly ridiculous, but Blood Ceremony manage to pull it off in style. The same could be said of the rest of the album.

#4 --Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

You can't go wrong with an album named Mind Control from a band called Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. What's more, Uncle Acid may even be a bit synchro-mystically inclined, if the press release they put out in the wake of being selected to open for Black Sabbath during their latest tour is any indication:
"Formed in Cambridge by media-shy frontman K.R. Stars, in an era of profile building, brand-expanding and over-exposure Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats are a cult genuine phenomena. The dictionary definition of cult, in fact: 'a system of religious worship, with reference to its rites and ceremonies. A group or sect bound together by veneration of the same ideal.' In this case: taking rock music back to its ritualistic beginnings when pagan heathens would stomp out a dirt-rhythm and howl at the moon. When music was the carnal catalyst for orgiastic midnight reckonings." 
In fairness to Uncle Acid, front man K.R. Stars has insisted that the group's occult pose is not serious and more inspired by old horror movies than anything else. Regardless, this album is a synchronistic gem.

While many bands have attempted to capture the sound of early Black Sabbath over the years, few have been as successful as Uncle Acid. The production and guitar throughout Mind Control sounds like vintage Vol. 4. Uncle Acid have stepped up the psychedelia on this album, their third, however. "Follow the Leader" sounds like something Revolver-era Beatles could have written pending Tony Iommi's gear could have been brought a few years into the future.

Lyrically, this album could be a concept album revolving around the various conspiracy theories surrounding the Process Church, the Manson Family and the Son of Sam murders (which I briefly touched on here, here, here and here). Opener "Mt. Abraxas" references the Great Archon in the Gnostic system of Basilides. As I noted before here, Manson seems to have embraced a kind of dualistic Gnosticism filtered through the Manichean racism of Christian Identity "theology." "Desert Ceremony" recounts an occult ritual geared towards brainwashing while the demonic biker boogie of "Evil Love" chronicles a programmed cult killer. "Valley of the Dolls" cleverly references the cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the ending of which was inspired by the Manson family killings. Valley of the Dolls is also a book (later adapted into a movie co-starring the most famous Manson victim of all, Sharon Tate) by author Jacqueline Susann, whose autistic son Guy has rarely appeared in public after being "treated" by a doctor (Lauretta Bender) connected to the CIA's behavioral modification experiments (as noted before here). Album closer "Devil's Work" is seemingly an account of the Tate killings, even referencing Tex Watson's well known phrase.

#3 --Vista Chino, Peace

Vista Chino has its origins in Kyuss Lives!, a group formed by Kyuss veterans Brant Bjork (drums), John Garcia (vocals) and Nick Oliveri (bass) to perform the back catalog of the desert rock giants. After ample legal haggling with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme (who was Kyuss' guitarist) over the name, the group (which also features guitarist Bruno Fevery) rechristened itself Vista Chino and issued its debut this year.

Kyuss of course had it roots in the generators parties of the Palm Desert scene (mentioned at the beginning of this article), an experience that would have a tremendous effect of the group's sound. Kyuss is one of the most atmospheric groups ever, their sound taking the listener to a primal place in human consciousness, namely the haunted deserts where so many holy sites of the ancient world resided. Kyuss was never an occult-centric group, but their sound was practically shamanism set to music. None of the former members, including drummer Bjork (who never ventured far from the Southern California deserts) has ever quite matched the incredible vibe of Kyuss.

 Nearly 20 years has passed since the demise of Kyuss and more than a few wondered if Bjork and Garcia would be able to recapture the old magic when they decided to cut a new album together, especially without Homme (who was Kyuss' chief songwriter) on board. Not only did they deliver, but guitarist Bruno Fevery takes Kyuss' legendary sound into the 21st century with shades of European heavy psych and Nordic fuzz rock (i.e. Dozer, TruckfightersBrain Police, etc) in his playing. Like Kyuss at its best, Peace takes the listener back to that primal state that could only be found in the harshest and most mysterious of environments.

#2 --Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

What synchro-mystical list would be complete without a band whose founder alleged was meant to do for rock 'n roll what Jack Kirby did for comic books?

Last Patrol represents a bold step for the veteran rock outfit. After over a decade of playing arena-ready heavy rock the Magnet opted to return to the heavy psych and space rock of their first three albums (Spine of God, Superjudge and Dopes to Infinity, respectively). The group only gained some semblance of mainstream success after they streamlined their sound enough on 1998's Powertrip for kids raised on White Zombie to grok. Beyond this, the band (with the exception of founder, vocalist and sometime guitarist Dave Wyndorf) is entirely different from the space rock years. Needless to say, there were probably some serious skeptics when the 57-year-old Wyndorf started talking about the Magnet returning to their roots.

But not only is Last Patrol a success, its arguably the strongest album the group has released since Dopes. Its aided in no small part by the emotional heft Wyndorf's one-of-a-kind lyrics add to the rumbling, Hawkwindian bass lines, druggy synths swooshes and effects-laden guitars. Last Patrol is an hallucinogenic take on the current state of rock 'n roll and, to an extent, Western culture on the whole. The nine minute-plus title track makes this clear, beginning with Wyndorf contemplating retirement before letting his defiance fly:

"Baby, can you save my heart and take this gig into the stars
Melt the ghosts inside my head
The same ones who told me rock was dead
No more will those dogs pervert the life I've lead in motion blur
I'll fry the fools who'll never learn
and leave them in my after-burn"

"Paradise" is seemingly a melancholy take on rock's storied live tradition and its erosion in the States. "Hallelujah" is a scathing send-up of the Mega Church age of Christianity, followed by "The Mindless One." Whether intentional or not, this track echoes long standing Gnostic sentiments concerning the Demiurge who, in some accounts, is referred to as Samael (a word literally meaning "Blind Idiot"). Closer "Stay Tuned" is as good a reflection on the sheer hollowness of Western culture at the onset of the second decade of the twenty-first century as any yet written:

"There ain't no targets to aim for
No more mountains to climb
At least they're not where they used to be
Why even keep it hard in a flat-line world
Where every piece of dung is the next big thing
"What's gonna happen now?
Will the good guys pull through somehow?
Stay tuned till next time and we'll see what's what"

Hell, Last Patrol even has a Donovan cover ("Three Kingfishers") that more than does justice to the original. In other words, it is a triumph of the highest order. Highly recommended.

#1 --Clutch, Earth Rocker

This selection should come as little surprise to regular readers of this blog as I already posted two in depth blogs (which can be found here and here) on Earth Rocker earlier in the year. As noted there, Earth Rocker is a loving tribute to rock 'n roll as well as a call to arms in the ongoing rock 'n roll wars. Thus, it is thematically linked to Last Patrol, though Clutch return to their hard rock roots on this outing rather slipping into the ether as Dave and company did. Unsurprisingly, both albums make great companion pieces to one another.

I don't have much more to add here other than give this band and album a chance if you haven't done so already. Clutch is truly one of the most intelligent and unique heavy rock outfits to emerge over the past twenty years and is still churning out great releases at a point when lesser bands had long ago become pale imitations of their former selves.

Before wrapping things, honorable mentions go to: Beelzefuzz and Vidunder's self-titled debuts, Blaak Heat Shujaa's Edge of an Era, All Them Witches' Lightning at the Door, Eye's Second Sight, ASG's Blood Drive, and Sasquatch's IV. To my readers, I would like to wish all a happy New Years and offer you a hearty thanks for making 2013 by far VISUP's most successful year. Cheers all and stay tuned till next time.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The JFK Assassination: A Strange and Terrible Saga Part VII

As we go through the gates of heaven
Our numbers multiplied from one to seven

With our reflection on the TV screen
No violent death remains obscene

I'm the devil
And I'm here to do the devil's work

-"Devil's Work", Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats

Welcome to the seventh and final installment in my examination of the assassination of JFK. For those of you just tuning in, here's a brief rundown of the prior six: The first and second installments primarily focused on Oswald's time in Dallas/Forth Worth and New Orleans in the months leading up to the assassination with a special emphasis on the synchroncities and high strangeness that abounded in that time frame.

Part three addressed the plotters themselves while part four focused in on the possibility that CIA/Pentagon behavioral modification techniques were used on individuals who frequently turn up in assassination lore. The fifth installment began my examination of the secret societies that pop up in the background of assassination lore. It briefly addressed the well known Masonic theories before considering the appearance of numerous Skull and Bonesmen and Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) knights potentially involved in the assassination and cover up. Part six continued in this vein, addressing the role the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (SOSJ), some times known as the Shickshinny Knights of Malta, played in the plot and cover up before shifting to the bizarre ministers and churches that appear throughout Oswald's saga.

It is here that I shall pick up. As part six was coming to a conclusion I began to address the American Orthodox Catholic Church (AOCC), a peculiar sect that had several eventual members active in New Orleans in the months leading up to the assassination. The most notable future members were David Ferrie (who was played by Joe Pesci in Oliver Stone's JFK film) and Jack S. Martin (played by Jack Lemmon in the same movie), both of whom worked for former Naval intelligence officer and FBI man turned private detective Guy Banister. Banister, a figure long linked to the assassination, was addressed at length in the second installment of this series.

At the end of part six I raised the possibility of whether or not David Ferrie could have been involved in CIA/Pentagon behavioral modification experiments. As noted in part four, the New Orleans area and other parts of Louisiana had been used for experiments under the auspices of Projects MKULTRA and Artichoke. This, combined with several of Ferrie's "hobbies", have led to speculation amongst more daring assassination researchers over the years that Ferrie may have been involved in these experiments.
"One of the central targets of Garrison's investigation was David William Ferrie, who was both a hypnotist and a CIA operative. Coincidentally, Ferrie had been in a New Orleans Civil Air Patrol group in the fifties with Lee Harvey Oswald. One witness said that Ferrie had been the man who had instructed Oswald in marksmanship.
"When New Orleans police raided Ferrie's apartment, they confiscated a number of weapons, various drugs, and three blank U.S. passports – things that any good CIA operative would keep at his elbow. Much later researchers realized the importance of some of the evidence obtained in the raid – several voluminous abstracts on posthypnotic suggestion and a library on hypnotism.
"A salesman for the Equitable Life Insurance Company, Perry Raymond Russo, told a New Orleans grand jury that Ferrie's apartment had been the scene of many 'parties'  where hypnotism had been used as 'entertainment.' One evening, Russo said, Ferrie hypnotized a young man to whom he apparently had a strong homosexual attraction. Another evening, Russo said, he himself hypnotized a young woman and made her immobile. He struck pens in her hand and burned her arms just to demonstrate the extent of the control he had over her."
(Operation Mind Control, Walter Bowart, pgs. 192-193)
the highly controversial Garrison-witness Perry Russo, whom we shall encounter again before the end of this series
Judyth Vary Baker even went so far as to allege in her book Me & Lee that not only did Ferrie tell her that he was involved in MKULTA experiments, but that he had revealed documentation of his participation to her. In Baker's account, Ferrie was allegedly approached by the Agency for such a project initially due to his knowledge of obscure religious practices.
"Dave said he knew about every religion on earth and had witnessed the rites of Voodoo and Santeria. In fact, his interest in hypnotism came from observing religious oddities, like speaking in tongues, chanting, and rosary prayers, which had essentially the same result. They hypnotize the participants to make their minds more pliable. The drugs used in Voodoo were particular interest in him. Eventually, Dave said, he was asked to participate in a study of  hypnosis secretly conducted at Tulane by the CIA.
"Dave said he made friends with some of the professors at Tulane by bringing in young test subjects they could experiment on, and that he even taught a couple of classes for Dr. Heath, who was working with the CIA on a secret program investigating mind control.
"The CIA, Dave explained, was intrigued by the legends of zombies. Under the influence of drugs, these people became slaves without a will. 'I became a consultant,' he said. 'At first it was with Voodoo drugs. Later, it was with hypnosis.'
"Then Dave showed us a large, olive-colored metal container with a lock on it. As he opened the box, he said that if  we ever heard he committed suicide, not to believe it, because he was a Catholic...
"After extracting a promise from us never to describe its contents while he lived, Dave showed us. There was his will, some letters, photos, religious cards and post cards.
"At the bottom was a fat brown file wrapped with a black cord knotted in front. Dave opened this file. Inside, the pages were stamp TOP SECRET. Because of my position at the table, I could only see the pages upside down. They were held at the top with fold-overs spindles going through two holes. All the pages were stamped and signed. These were MK-ULTRA files. With the files was a report, also stamped and sign, that Dave pointed to proudly. His name was not on the report – just a number."
(Me & Lee, Judyth Vary Baker, pgs. 215-216)
the highly, highly controversial Judyth Vary Baker
Personally I find Miss Baker's work, centered around her alleged affair with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans shortly before the assassination, to be highly dubious on several levels. But in this case, there may be a grain of truth to her claims. During the House Assassination Committee it was alleged that Ferrie attempted to recruit kids from his Civil Air Patrol group for experiments at Tulane, which was the location for several CIA behavioral modification experiments, as noted in part four.
"Sometime in 1955, when he was fifteen, Oswald join the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a group of young men interested in flying. Its Senior Squadron Commander was an older fellow then employed as an Eastern Airlines pilot named David Ferrie.
"One of the CAP's members, Lawrence Marsh, later spoke to a House Assassinations Committee investigator about his several years with the group in the mid-1950s. 'When we would spend the weekend by Dave's for these parties,' Marsh said, 'he used to practice hypnosis on us, and find out if it were working on us by using a compass or a pen and stick our arms. He was a fanatic about this hypnosis stuff.'
"In 1994 I contacted another CAP cadet who have been interviewed by the committee named John Irion. 'The New Orleans CAP unit, at Lakefront Airport, attracted by and large, a lot of underprivileged kids from broken homes,' he told me. He remembered Oswald coming, 'a recruit if I remember, but he never got much out of that stage. He would sulk and then get argumentative. I would say Oswald was there maybe six months at the most.'
"Irion also remembered Ferrie's fascination with hypnosis. 'He fancied himself as a self-made doctor or psychologist. I personally never submitted to it, because I knew better. It's possible he hypnotized other people, but back then for kids of our age, it was more of a novelty.'
"Another former CAP cadet, Anthony Atzenhoffer, told the House Assassinations Committee that Ferrie had 'wanted the kids to participate in some kind of experiment for Tulane University. They didn't do it.' Irion recalled that Ferrie was 'constantly at Tulane' during those years.
"In September 1975, Charles D. Ablard, General Counsel for the Army, would deliver this testimony before a Senate committee: 'We have learned of a 1955 contract with Tulane University, which involved the administration of LSD, mescaline, and other drugs to mental patients who had therefore had electrodes implanted in their brains as a part of their medical treatment....' The project was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Heath, then chairman of the Tulane Medical School's Department of Neurology and Psychiatry, and whose specialty was electrical stimulation of the brain. Heath once stated that the real solution to mental problems would be found in 'controlled manipulation of the pleasure response and... manipulation of memory by biological means.' Heath acknowledged having taken part in one CIA research project in 1957, testing a purported brainwashing drug on several monkeys."  
(On the Trail of the JFK Assassins, Dick Russell, pgs. 254-255)
Dr. Robert Heath
As was noted in part two of this series, Ferrie was an arch pedophile who was accused on not only molesting numerous kids in the New Orleans area, but of taking them out of the country to Honduras, Guatemala and such like for "mining" expeditions. Ferrie would also recruit kids from the Youth Study Center in New Orleans as well as the East Louisiana State Hospital (another location of CIA behavioral modification experiments, as noted in part four) while posing as a doctor. Unsurprisingly, there have long been allegations that Ferrie had some type of sexual relations with Oswald when he was a member of the CAP. The great H.P. Albarelli Jr. recounted one such claim in his recent work from a former New Orleans resident aware of Ferrie's unsavory activities.
"Continued the former resident: 'The Oswald kid, when he was young, was in Ferrie's [CAP] group for only a few months or so and then quit. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know why. Everyone knew one or two kids who quit Ferrie's group because of his coming on to kids. A lot of people, parents, pulled their kids out when they found out he was molesting kids...'"
(A Secret Order, H.P. Albarelli Jr., pg. 80)
Judyth Vary Baker alleges that Ferrie once tried to rape Oswald as a teenager in a fit of lust, but came to his senses before things advanced too far. Her account is, however, highly dubious, but it would hardly have been inconsistent with Ferrie's well documented illicit behavior with the CAP.

David Ferrie (far left, wearing a helmet) and Oswald (far right) during the CAP days
The curious relationship between Ferrie and Oswald would seemingly continue in New Orleans during the months leading up to the assassination. In an earlier work journalist Dick Russell revealed an incredible allegation concerning Ferrie and Oswald during this time frame made by Richard Case Nagell, a former military intelligence officer and CIA asset.
"When Richard Nagell was with Oswald in New Orleans, he discovered that Oswald was 'undergoing hypnotherapy' from David Ferrie. Nagell dropped this potential bombshell in a single phrase in one of his letters to Arthur Greenstein. In a set of 'cartoons' that Nagell also mailed to Greenstein from prison, one sequence shows Oswald, armed with a secondhand rifle, at the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, when he suddenly 'awakens from [a] hypnotic trance.'
"Ferrie's former roommate Raymond Broshears told me in 1975 that hypnosis was part of Ferrie's general interest in the occult – 'spiritualism, voices from the other side, all of that.' The reader may recall the House Assassination Committee's mention that Ferrie frequently practiced techniques of  hypnosis on his young associates... Jack Martin, an associate of Ferrie and Guy Banister, told the FBI three days after the assassination 'that he believed Ferrie was an "amateur hypnotist" who may have been capable of hypnotizing Oswald.' And, when the New Orleans police discovered Ferrie dead in his apartment in 1967, they found several voluminous abstracts on posthypnotic suggestion amid a veritable library on hypnotism."
(The Man Who Knew Too Much, Dick Russell, pgs. 671-672)
There are also incredible allegations concerning Ferrie's occult pursuits in New Orleans during this time as well.
"...  Ferrie's interest in occultism is hinted at by the people who knew him. It is known that he considered himself something of a hypnotist, as well as a psychotherapist... or at least used these dubious qualifications as a lure for potential sexual partners. According to Perry Russo – one of Jim Garrison's witnesses during the Clay Shaw trial, and not necessarily the most reliable or credible of those witnesses in the eyes of many investigators –  Ferrie conducted the equivalent of Black Masses in his apartment at the appropriately-numbered 3330 Louisiana Avenue Parkway, New Orleans.  James Kirkwood, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Chorus Line, conducted his own informal investigation in New Orleans during the Clay Shaw trial, published as American Grotesque in 1970. Kirkwood was unequivocally pro-Shaw and anti-Garrison, so although his lengthy study makes for entertaining reading, his conclusions are not always above reproach, but it is worth quoting his transcript of Perry Russo's description of Ferrie's weekly Black Masses:
The chalice featured animal blood, the wafer consisted of some kind of raw flesh, instead of cake or bread. He wore a little black toga, solid black. He  wore nothing underneath it. ...he called it the American Eastern Catholic Orthodox Church... after all, the ritual, shouted ritual... it ends up and it's a brutal thing, a sadistic quality to it – bloodletting, chicken killing, stuff like that....'
"Previously, in his own description Ferrie, Kirkwood states,
He professed to be a bishop in the Orthodox Old Catholic Church of North America, a cultish underground group quite different the Catholic Church we know.
"We can see that there is some confusion with the ecclesiastical nomenclature, if nothing else. This is understandable, since these groups have long, outlandish names which generally include 'Orthodox' and 'Catholic' and 'Church' somewhere in the title, in some order. Often, the bishop concerned has consecrations with several groups so that the confusion becomes almost unmanageable. The author believes that Perry Russo actually  comes closest to the name of the organization, which we now know to be the American Orthodox Catholic Church; but, as we have seen, there were Old Catholic elements behind Ferrie's succession as well.
"The rest of Russo's characterization of the Ferrie's Black Mass sounds more like Voudoun or Santeria than it does Satanism, and one wishes that Russo had paid a lot more attention – or the Kirkwood had published the transcript of his interview in full – so that we can trace the elements of Ferrie's ritual to a known progenitor..."
(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pgs. 281-282)
the Willie O'Keefe (Kevin Bacon) character in JFK was partly inspired by Perry Russo as well as the above-mentioned Raymond Broshears (who was later involved with the Universal Life Church; which may have counted at least one other JFK assassination figure, Fred Lee Crisman, among its ministers)
As noted above, Judyth Vary Baker alleges in her highly controversial account that Ferrie was quite well versed in the rituals of Voudoun and Santeria. She also claims that he alleged to have infiltrated cults from time to time as well, but did not conduct Black Masses.
"... Dave also brought out three rings: an aquamarine ring that he said belonged to his mother, a small ruby ring that glowed purple under the light, and one carved with an ugly mythological creature.
"'This is my priestly ring,' he said. 'I use it for black magic. And Satanic rituals.'
"'Are you serious?' I said, taking up the exotic ring.
"'Of course not,' Dave replied. 'When I say a Mass, and sometimes I do say Mass, it isn't a Black Mass. I'm not a son of Satan, so I wouldn't wear that thing. I love God. But I use things like this to penetrate religious cults. I can go into certain places around here with that ring on, and they think I'm one of them.'"
(Me & Lee, Judyth Vary Baker, pg. 215)
David Ferrie
Clearly Ferrie seems to contradict himself, first claiming that he didn't wear his "priestly ring," then in the same breath noting that he can penetrate "religious cults" in New Orleans with it on. Baker herself has strongly disputed the notion that Ferrie had been ordained, insisting that his bid with the AOCC fell through once Jack Martin revealed his homosexuality to the bishops. Peter Levenda, who actually knew several of the personalities behind the AOCC as a young adult, was unconvinced by Ferrie's alleged rejection based on his homosexuality --quite a few priests in the wandering bishop circles were homosexuals (some openly so), making this a rather flimsy excuse. On the whole, Levenda's account is far more compelling than Baker's in this regard.

The fact that Ferrie may well have been an ordained bishop conducting a Black Mass is highly significant for reasons that are very rarely, if ever, addressed by the countless website "exposing" satanic ritual abuse (SRA). Levenda explains this significance as thus:
"The Black Mass which Ferrie was accused of performing is a ritual that mocks those of the Catholic Church; essentially, it is an attempt at organized blasphemy, an attack of rebellion, political as well as theological. It is also designed to attract demonic influences, evil spirits and the souls of the angry dead. Yet, this ritual carries very little weight if performed by a lay-person. It is potentially quite powerful, however, if performed by an ordained priest.
"A valid orientation is one of the most singular sources of spiritual strength in the West. It is a line of ritual, faith and trust that extends back in time through two thousand years; to those who believe in the power of the 'laying on of hands' it is a potent magic, indeed. Aleister Crowley, dubbed by the myopic British tabloids as the 'wickedest man in the world,' could not perform a Black Mass no matter how much he may have liked to (there is no evidence that he ever wanted to). He was not an ordained priest.
"Further, many rituals of ceremonial magic prescribed the use of relics and other articles that could only be sourced from the Church, thus giving rise to a great deal of theft and subterfuge. A priest, however, has immense access to all of this and possesses the power to create more: holy water, holy oil, a consecrated Host, etc. Inasmuch as many grimoires  – cookbooks of ritual magic – insist on invoking God, Jesus, Mary, the Saints, etc., the use of genuinely blessed religious artifacts would, of course, give the ritual that much more authority.
"Thus, David Ferrie – should his line of apostolic succession prove valid  – could 'legitimately' perform a Black Mass whereas Crowley (from all available evidence) would not have been able to do so. This should not be viewed as the sole objective, however. Many occultists value the line of succession as a source of spiritual power whether or not they consider themselves Christian. Power is power, wherever it is found  and by whatever means it can be obtained; a validly ordained priest has the power to perform most of the sacraments, and the validly consecrated bishop has the power to perform all of the sacraments, including ordaining more priests and consecrating more bishops, thus ensuring a line of power for his cult equal to that of the Catholic Church. The allure is irresistible."
(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pg. 287)

The role validly ordained priests play in ritualistic Satanism, especially the Black Mass, is a crucial one that is rarely addressed on conspiracy blogs. Indeed, many act as though anyone is capable of performing such rites when all "credible" (and I use that word extremely loosely for such a dubious topic) sources indicate that this is far from the case. The highly controversial Catholic priest Malachi Martin indicates priests commonly lead such rites in his notorious Hostage to the Devil as does famed mythologist Robert Graves in the equally controversial The White Goddess. In The Golden Bough Sir James George Frazer recounts tales amongst the French peasantry of a "Mass of Saint Secaire" that bares striking similarities to the Black Mass and which could only be performed by a priest.
"...  peasants believe that to revenge themselves on their enemies, bad men will sometimes induce a priest to say a mass called the Mass of Saint Secaire. Very few priests know this mass, and three- fourths of those who do know it would not say it for love or money. None but wicked priests dare to perform this gruesome ceremony, and you may be quite sure that they will have a heavy account to render for it at the last days. No curate or bishop, not even the archbishop of Auch, can pardon them; that right belongs to the Pope of Rome alone. The Mass of Saint Secaire may be said only in a ruined or deserted church, where owls mope and hoot, where bats flit in the gloaming, where gypsies lodge of nights, and where toads squat under the desecrated altar. Thither the bad priest comes by night with his light o'love, and at the first stroke of eleven he begins to mumble the mass backwards, and ends just as the clocks are knelling the midnight hour. His leman acts as clerk. The host he blesses is black and has three points; he consecrates no wine, but instead he drinks water of a well into which the body of an unbaptized infant has been flung. He makes the sign of the cross, but it is on the ground and with his left foot. Many other things he does which no good Christian could look upon without being struck blind and deaf and dumb for the rest of his life. But the man for whom the mass is said withers away little by little, and nobody can say what is the matter with him; even the doctors can make nothing of it. They do not know that he is slowly dying of the Mass of Saint Secaire."
(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pgs. 51-52)

In general the occult has been practiced at all levels of the Catholic Church for centuries, even amongst upper management.
"... Pope Sylvester II was one of the earliest of these mystically inclined Popes. Due to his studies among the Arab philosophers of Spain, he is considered one of the first to introduced Arabic numerals to Europe. He was rumored to have built a mechanical head that would answer questions put to it by the Pope. (This is an underlining myth among many of the occult philosophers of the Dark and Middle Ages: the ability to create talking heads.)
"Benedict IX (pontificate 1032-44, 1045, 1047-48) was another Pope suspected of magical pursuits, although his Papacy was more notorious for his sexual indulgences than anything else. Elected Pope at the young age of eleven or twelve (some say around eighteen or twenty; either way, the youngest Pope on record), he was considered to be 'a demon from hell in the guise of a priest' by St. Peter Damian in his text Liber Gomorrhianus due to his homosexuality and, it is said, bestiality. Benedict IX is the only Pope to have held the office for three separate terms of office, all due to political machinations and corruption. It is no wonder that he was also accused of sorcery and demonology.
"Pope Gregory VII (pontificate 1073-85), while considered by many a saintly man who forcibly established priestly celibacy as a rule in the church, fought against corruption, and strove for unity between the Eastern and Western churches, was nevertheless deposed on the grounds of sorcery and magic. It was, of course, a political maneuver, and the evidence provided against him is suspect.
"The Dominican Bishop St. Albertus Magnus was reputed to have a talking head, like Sylvester II. This one, however, was smashed by his pupil St. Thomas Aquinas.
"Roger Bacon (1214-94), a Franciscan monk famous for his scientific research in the field of optics, among other disciplines, was imprisoned on suspicion of magic and sorcery by his own Order. In actuality, he did study alchemy and the occult, particularly Arab treatises on these subjects, and was supported in his efforts by Pope Clement IV (pontificate 1265-68).
"Pope Boniface VIII was accused of sorcery in 1303 A.D. by King Philip IV ('Philippe le Bel') of France, only a few years before he organized the wholesale arrests of the Knights Templar on charges of blasphemy and devil-worship, which led to the subsequent execution of their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, in 1314.
"During another trial lasting from 1308 to 1313, Bishop Guichard of Troyes was accused of sorcery and magic in the murder of the Queen.
"In 1317 the Bishop of Cahors was burned at the stake for his attempt on the life of Pope John  XXII through magic and incantations. He was joined by Matteo Visconti and Galeazzo Visconti for the same crime against the Pope.
"That same year, another man – a layperson – was convicted of the murder of several persons through the use of wax images that have been baptized by priests.
"In 1319, Brother Bernard Delicieux was convicted of possessing occult and magical books in Carcassonne, France.
"And one and on throughout the fourteenth century, an incredible number of Catholic clergyman – including most importantly bishops and the occasional Pope – were accused, tried, and convicted of using occult means to rid themselves of political enemies. This was the same period that saw the suppression of the Order of the Knights Templar, the organization believed to have been the origin of the Masonic Orders that would appear in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
"Thus, as we can see, there is a certain pedigree of occultism among the Catholic hierarchy, by reputation if not in fact. This pedigree certainly extended downward in the hierarchy to include all manner of priests, and in these cases the evidence is more clearly available and irrefutable."
(Papal Magic, "Simon", pgs. 41-45)

There have also long been rumblings of satanic cults being operated by "rogue" priests as well.
"Priests with less noble approaches to the subject of demons, however, also proliferate throughout Church history. A few years before the outbreak of possession at Loudon, a similar case took place in the town of Aix-en-Provence in France, at another Ursuline  convent. In the years 1610 a young novice  –Magdalen de la Palude– entered the convent and befriended another nun, Louise Capeau. In short order, Magdalen became possessed, subject to fits, and this state became contagious to the point that Louise Capeau also became possessed.
"Eventually, the two nuns revealed that they had been subject to spells cast by a Catholic priest by the name of Louis Gaufridi, said to be the head of all the magicians of Europe 'as far as Turkey.' Magdalen revealed that she had been initiated into a coven of sorcerers and witches by Gaufridi when she was still a child.
"This astonishing information was only the beginning, as Magdalene gave many detailed descriptions of the action of the cult. Eventually, Father Gaufridi was himself arrested and eventually admitted that he had come into the possession of occult books left to them by his uncle and was tempted to try them out. When he did, he found himself face-to-face with demons, who instructed him in all the mysteries of magic. He used his magic powers to seduce women, and introduce them to the cult and marry them to demons, such as Beelzebub, the 'Lord of the Flies.'
"According to Gaufridi, his cult consisted of three levels of degrees: that of novices, witches, and magicians (the highest degree). Eventually, after the inquisitors had all the information they could use from him, they had Gaufridi burned at the stake.
"Sixty years later, in Paris, we are confronted by an even greater monstrosity, that of the Abbe Guibourg and his colleague and partner in crime, Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin – known more popularly as La Voisin.
"This scandal, involving human sacrifice, Black Masses, poison, and the murder of infants, rocked France during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Most of what we know about Guibourg, the priest at the center of the scandal, and his satanic excesses can be gleaned from the  interrogation archive still held at the Bibliotheque de l'Arsena and the Bibliotheque Naionale in Paris. The La Voisin affair involved Madame de Montespan, a mistress of King Louis XIV, who was afraid she would lose the King's love and attention. Driven to distraction, she consulted the famous La Voisin, a sorceress and fortune-teller, who told her that a Black Mass had to be performed... on de Montespan's naked body.
"Several of these masses were performed, and the priest in charge was one Etienn Guilbourg, a man of about sixty-seven years. He had been chosen to replace another priest, Abbe Mariette, who had been performing these rights for La Voisin until he found himself in prison for sacrilege, and then went into self-imposed exile abroad. Guibourg  eventually would perform Black Masses in the hundreds, according to the trial records, and during these Masses infants were sacrifice. At times, he was assisted by other priests – the Abbe Davot, the Abbe Guignard, and the Abbe Serault, among others, including Bishop Gille-Lefranc, for a total of some fifty Catholic clergyman who were finally executed for sacrilege, sorcery, and blasphemy over the affair – and once news of this operation finally reached the authorities, a large-scale crackdown took place during which more than one hundred other persons – nobles and commoners – were arrested and over thirty commoners executed (the noblest generally escaping the death sentence)."
(ibid, pgs. 32-35)
the notorious "La Voisin"
And here we have David Ferrie, an ordained priest of the American Orthodox Catholic Church, who was accused of performing Black Masses in the months leading up to the assassination of JFK  – the same David Ferrie who was linked to the assassination by another ordained priest of the AOCC, Jack S. Martin; and the same David Ferrie who was an arch pedophile and expert hypnotist operating in a region of the country heavily linked to various CIA behavioral modification experiments. Were all of these things related, and somehow linked back to the AOCC?

No doubt many will believe that I am stretching here and I would not even have gone into this digression concerning David Ferrie's possible performance of Black Masses were it not for the fact that the American Orthodox Catholic Church appears in at least two other instances of incredible high strangeness in recent history.

The first instance involves a highly controversial book generally referred to as the "Simon Necronomicon." The Simon Necronomicon was allegedly a Medieval Arabic grimoire that was adapted from a magical system handed down from ancient Sumeria. It was allegedly discovered in the early 1970s by an Orthodox priest who uses the alias "Simon," who in turn came to possess it after he had unwittingly borrowed it from another Orthodox priest (of a different denomination) named William Prazsky. Prazsky, who had been consecrated by Bishop Walter Propheta of the AOCC, apparently acquired the book and other rare texts via series of thefts performed by other priests of his church.

possibly Bishop Walter Propheta
This account is of course highly, highly controversial. Many believe that "Simon" is Peter Levenda himself and that he was one who wrote the Simon Necronomicon as an elaborate hoax to cash in on the famous (and fictional) grimoire referenced to in several short stories by H.P. Lovecraft. Regardless of which account is true, however, the AOCC still crops up in the tale: Levenda claims to have become indebted to the AOCC after they helped him secure a religious deferment from the draft for the Vietnam War.
"It was understood that Levenda would be acting as part of the 'team' of right-wing, anti-Communist agents at the AOCC and available for such... assignments as needed. This was not so much a formal request as quid pro quo as it was a suggestion."
(Dead Names, "Simon", pg. 72)
Of these "assignments, "Simon" noted:
"This meant acting as an informer on the various churches and bishops with which he had contact, and to cooperate in whatever duties he was asked to perform. Most of these were mundane and had no obvious intelligence function."
(ibid, pg. 72n)
So Levenda was (briefly) an acknowledged informant for the AOCC. And here he is, lurking somewhere behind the notorious Simon Necronomicon. One of the most curious aspects of the Simon Necronomicon is the fact that, despite being widely denounced as hoax, even vigorous critiques of the grimoire such as Daniel Harms and John Gonce acknowledge that it works. Gonce apparently even went so far as to claim that the book was protected by an egregore, a kind of psychic entity.
"... The Necronomicon must be the only book of its kind in the world whose detractors and supporters both believe is a book of power. Nowhere does the same reputation exist for other occult works. The Satanic Bible is not singled out for this concentrated fury. Neither are any of the ceremonial magic grimoires. Gonce's is saying that the Necronomicon is dangerous, that it encourages people to violence, that it contains mysterious traps for the unwary or uninitiated, that even Gonce and Harms themselves have been victimized by magical attacks from users of the book. Not since James Joyce's Ulysses was banned by the U.S. government has there been such a pseudomoral outrage over a book. In fact, it is probably the only volume of modern times that has been characterized as a book that is itself intrinsically powerful. This is certainly a phenomenon of immense interest and importance: a mere book whose reading of the causes all sorts of extreme events to occur..."
(Dead Names, "Simon", pg. 308)
Numerous accounts can be found online of people experiencing hauntings and other bouts of high strangeness simply from having a copy of the Simon Necronomicon in their home. But I digress.

the dread Simon Necronomicon
The other bizarre appearance of the AOCC in the surreal I would like to address involves a figure known as Thomas Jude Baumler. Baumler had worked out of Guy Banister's office in New Orleans in the months leading up to the assassination. What's more, he was brought into the AOCC by another former Banister employee and wandering bishop, Jack S. Martin. Peter Levenda gave a great rundown of Baumler in his "The Bishop and the Boys" series posted on his Sinister Forces blog a few years ago, but these blog entries have since been taken down. There were cut and pasted in their entirety in this forum, from which the following quote is taken:
"And was Jack Martin really investigating “phony” churches on behalf of the US government? Or was he trying to call someone’s attention to something? Jack Martin remained a bishop with the American Orthodox Catholic Church to the end of his days, even going so far as to bring in another Banister associate, the corpulent attorney and unapologetic racist Thomas Jude Baumler, to the Orthodox fold, consecrating Baumler a bishop in August of 1974, nearly eleven years after the Kennedy assassination and seven years after the beginning of the Garrison investigation and the death of both Stanley and Ferrie.

"From personal correspondence with an individual involved with this affair, I learned that Baumler had already been ordained a priest by Stanley years before; in other words, prior to Stanley’s death in March, 1967. Baumler’s status in New Orleans society was assured; he came from an old family and was associated with one of the famous Mardi Gras 'crewes'. In addition, according to my informant, Baumler was also a Mason and belonged to the same lodge – the Etoile Polair Lodge of the French Grand Orient – as Mafia don Carlos Marcello, the man for whom David Ferrie was working on the day of the assassination."
("The Bishop and the Boys Part III", Peter Levenda)
the Etoile Polair Lodge of the French Grand Orient
In the mid-1960s Baumler would become involved with one of the most notorious "churches" of recent times.
 "The magazine was selling well and the Chapters, now in a number of cities, were bringing in money at last. We had a theology and it seemed a rational next step to incorporate as a church with a tax-exempt status. An attorney was needed to conduct the business and New Orleans, with its overlay of sensuous spirituality, felt an appropriate place to do it.
"Quite how we stumbled into the attorney, the late, great Tommy Baumler, others might recall; perhaps it was his irreverent flamboyance that magnetized us together. He was already immensely fat and as I picture him in my mind's eye, I see him hunched in a darkened office, an overhead fan barely disturbing the heavy, dank air. A lenticular cloud of cigar smoke hangs above his head like a dirty halo. He was gruff, cynical, rude and very funny. We were charmed.
"Everything about Tommy Baumler was dark. He thought we were a great joke and he loved the idea of turning us into a regular church. Much of the flowery, pompous language in the incorporation papers came directly from Tommy's fevered imagination. We had to talk him out of calling is the Church of Christ and Satan as being simply too provocative, finally setting on the Church of the Final Judgment."
(Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, "My Life Inside the Process Church," Timothy Wyllie, pg. 74)

Yes folks, Tommy Baumler, a bishop of the American Orthodox Catholic Church, helped incorporate the Process Church of the Final Judgment and even helped the Process select its full name. As many of you are probably aware, the Process Church has been a long time staple of conspiracy culture, having been linked to the Manson family and the Son of Sam killings, among other infamies. As I argued in a prior series (which can be found here, here, here and here), the role that the Process Church of Robert and Mary Ann DeGrimston played in this bizarre cult underground was likely marginal at best.

Robert DeGrimston, a long time whipping boy of conspiracy theorists
But much like the Minutemen organization (as noted before here), there seems to have been two Process Churches --the "official" Process of the DeGrimstons and the "real" Process, a cult that may well have been comprised of wandering bishops drawn from the AOCC and other fringe Orthodox and Catholic Churches in that netherworld. This topic shall be discussed in much greater depth in a future series.

Before wrapping up there is one last aspect of the AOCC that bears mentioning here, and that is the organization's likely ties to the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem (SOSJ), sometimes referred to as the Shickshinny Knights of Malta. As was noted in part six of this series, the SOSJ seemed to have played some type of role in the JFK assassination and cover up. As was noted here and here, the order also played an enormous role in the creation of the "Patriot movement," having members involved with the creation of the John Birch Society as well as the Posse Comitatus movement (from which both the modern "sovereign citizen" and militia movements derive). As was noted in the sixth installment in this series and here, the SOSJ was littered with former high ranking military officers (including several generals and admirals) as well as CIA assets.

the Knights Hospitaller cross many modern Knights of Malta organization claiming descent from the Medieval order use
"Simon" indicated in his history of the Necronomicon that the underworlds of wandering bishops and knighthoods claiming Medieval descent frequently overlapped.
"In addition to bogus churches, there are bogus nobles. That is, bogus orders of chivalry, of knighthood, and titles like baron, marquis, count, and duke. There are legitimate lines of nobility, of course, and legitimate orders of knighthood, such as the famous – or infamous, depending on your point of view – Knights of Malta. But there are many, many false orders that have been established for the express purpose of separating credulous Americans from their American dollars.
"The reader may be interested to learn that, often, those who create bogus orders of knighthood are also involved in bogus churches, and that sometimes these same individuals may be involved in bogus universities as well."
(Dead Names, "Simon", pg. 43)
Numerous members of the AOCC were involved with various orders of knighthood. In the first installment of his groundbreaking Sinister Forces trilogy Peter Levenda notes that Bishop Walter Propheta, the head of the AOCC, even acquired a Papal Knighthood at one point.
"For an unknown consideration, Propheta was to receive a Papal Knighthood from one Prince Policastro of Sicily. This event had been arranged with the Belgian bishop aftermentioned. This dignity was delivered to Propheta's church by two gentlemen from the Italian Embassy in a limousine. The reason for this award is not known to the author; indeed, as an award it would not have been particularly necessary since Propheta had his own purveyor of knighthoods, baronetcies, dukedoms and other such endowments in the person the Bishop Pierre Michel Lorenzo de Valitch, a putative Serbo-Croatian Count who had been in the art gallery business years before, but who ran a flourishing trade in bogus orders of knighthood for the rich and famous. The Count's appearance was reminiscent of a young Bela Lugosi, complete with kidskin gloves, monocle, and silver-knobbed walking stick. Thus, there would have been no particular need to have gone to such extremes to pick up what the Count could have more easily provided using his own connections. The author suspects that he was being tested in this instance, and introduced the religious underground and some of its political affiliations."
(Sinister Forces Volume I, Peter Levenda, pgs. 282-283)

Bishop de Valitch is an interesting figure. He seems to have overseen his own Sovereign Order of Saint John, now known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John Knights of Malta Federation of the Autonomous Priories. According to "Simon," de Valitch had ties to the Serbian war criminal Željko Ražnatović, known as "Arkan."
"This would be the late Bishop DeValtch, a Serbian count with the AOCC who had ties to an infamous Serbian war criminal known as Arkan or 'Archangel'. DeValich's church had provided money laundering and other services to Arkan and his Serbian warlords, according to SISMI, the Italian military intelligence organ..."
(Dead Names, "Simon", pg. 63n)
Levenda notes in his "The Bishop and the Boys" series that at least one member of the AOCC also held membership in the SOSJ (the Shickshinny organization) at the time of his consecration:
"One of the other bishops of the American Orthodox Catholic Church – Homer Ferdinand Roebke, an associate and colleague of Carl Stanley – consecrated one Forest Ernest Barber on March 7, 1965, less than five months after the Forbes consecration. As I am informed by investigator David Guyatt, Barber was a member of the Augustan Society (an “International Genealogical, Historical, Heraldic and Chivalric Society” with some interesting associations) as well as of the Shickshinny Knights of Malta, a far-right organization and secret society that numbered among its initiates such intelligence notables as the rabid right-winger Major General Charles A. Willoughby (the former Adolf Tscheppe-Weidenbach and member of General MacArthur’s intelligence staff during World War II) as well as Colonel Philip J Corso, a man with a long background in intelligence dating from the war who was the author of The Day After Roswell, a controversial memoire of his experiences in the aftermath of the UFO crash in New Mexico."
("The Bishop and the Boys Part III," Peter Levenda)
Its also possible that Archbishop Christopher Maria (Carl) Stanley was also involved in the SOSJ. According to this article posted on something known as the Maine World News Service, Stanley was the Grand Master of his own version of the Knights of Malta, known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller, Priory of the Holy Savior. While the credibility of this article should certainly be questioned, it makes no outrageous claims and its reference section seems to be on the up and up. Of this order, the article states:
"This group is one of the many scissions of the Shickshinny operation (see II). It was headed by the Rev. Christopher Carl Jerome Stanley of the Old Catholic Church. Stanley was consecrated by J.F. Assendelft-Altland, a highly controversial "episcopus vagans" and self- styled Patriarch of the Ancient Catholic Byzantine Church. According to Formhals,(5) Stanley initially styled himself "Bishop" later "Archbishop". Somewhere along the line he also acquired the titles of "Count of Durazzo" and "Prince of the Holy Roman Empire". The prioral seat was originally located in Louisville, then moved to Seattle, and finally to Texas. After Stanley’s death the group disappeared from the American chivalric scene."
Archbishop (now "Saint") Stanley
This would seem to imply that Stanley himself was a member of the SOSJ before founding his own order some time around 1960. Still, if the above-mentioned Homer Ferdinand Roebke is any indication, it would seem that overlap between the membership of the SOSJ and the AOCC continued well after Stanley officially broke with the SOSJ. In general, the netherworld orders of knighthood and wandering bishops is quite incestuous.

What then are we to make of the appearance of the SOSJ and the AOCC and the broader anti-Communist network to which both belonged in relation to the Kennedy assassination? As was examined in part three of this series, this network seemed to have been involved in arms and drug trafficking as well as sexual slavery in conjunction with Syndicate figures and US intelligence assets. In part four I also noted that there was overlap between prominent figures engaged in the CIA/Pentagon behavioral modification experiments, most notably in the figure of Project Artichoke head Morse Allen. And here we find David Ferrie, a member of the AOCC with deep intelligence ties, engaged in pedophilia throughout the New Orleans area and beyond and rumored to be preforming Black Masses in the months leading up to the assassination.

At this point this researcher feels compelled to issue a warning as I have ventured into the world of one of conspiracy culture's most fanatically held beliefs, namely that of a vast international cult network engaged in what is commonly referred to as Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) under the auspices of the US intelligence community. These claims first began to come to public attention at large in the late 1970s and would become a bona fide pop culture staple by the 1980s.
"Nineteen seventy-seven was also the year that Satan returned to Earth, according to the controversial bestseller Michelle Remembers, allegedly a true story about a satanic cult survivor and the book that started the craze later memorialized by Geraldo Rivera in his famous television broadcast of October 24, 1988, "Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground," one of the most-watch programs in television history. The broadcast  included live interviews with former FBI agent Ted Gunderson and investigative journalist Maury Terry, who both insisted on the reality of murderous satanic cults in the United States..."
(Dead Names, "Simon", pg. 155)

By and large these claims are almost totally bogus.
"Prompted in part by the hysteria surrounding the revelations of Maury Terry concerning the Process and the Son of Sam murders, and the appearance of Terry and others on a controversial Geraldo Rivera television program, these cult cops found themselves with their hands full. Like the witchcraft mania that gripped Salem at the end of the seventeenth century, America was in the throes of 'satanic cult survivor syndrome': a new psychological category defined by victims coming forward and claiming they had been sexually and physically abused by members of a cult. Often, these claims were accompanied by lurid tales of generational cult activity and the blood sacrifice of infants and children committed far from the prying eyes of the authorities. At one point it was claimed that tens of thousands of children went missing ever years as a result of the insatiable thirst of satanic cults for fresh, virginal victims.
"Eventually it was discovered that the statistics didn't quite match the claims of the 'survivors.' There simply could not have been that many sacrificial victim; some young women who claimed they had been used as 'breeders' for the cults – carrying babies to term that would be sacrificed in obscene rituals, without any official record of their birth – were found never to have been pregnant at all. In fact, the FBI was having a hard time coming up with even a single solitary case of the ritual murder of an infant carried out by a cult. No bodies, no evidence, no crime scenes, no crime."
(ibid, pgs. 243-244)
Eventually SRA proponents tried to rationalize these discrepancies by arguing that SRA was part of the CIA/Pentagon behavioral modification experiments and thus covered up by the US intelligence community. This led to the rise of the Project Monarch conspiracy theories, which are almost surely a hoax, as is the bulk of the SRA claims.

But not only are these satanic cults a hoax, but a dangerous one at that. As the satanic cult hysteria revved up in the 1980s countless individuals had their reputations, careers and very lives ruined as a result of these claims. The most well known of these incidents are the so-called West Memphis Three, three teenage metalheads who were falsely convicted of a series of brutal child murders in Arkansas in 1993. These boys (now men) rotted in prison until 2011, 18 years of their lives wasted while the actual killer(s?) remained free.

the West Memphis Three
Nor was the case of the West Memphis Three an isolated incident. Four San Antonio women were just recently released from prison (in November of 2013) after they were falsely convicted of committing satanic ritual abuse in 1998, for instance.

But beyond these travesties of justice, the satanic ritual abuse hysteria accomplished something potentially even more tragic: Deflecting blame from the one community, that of these bizarre knighthoods, wandering bishops, fringe Christian churches and the broader anti-Communist network to which they belonged, that may have actually been involved in such things. And again, that is highly debatable, though this anti-Communist network was involved in any of horrible things over the years. In recent series I've sketched an outline of it, from its origins in the First Red Scare and pre-WWII union busting up to the foundation of a powerful right wing lobby group known as the American Security Council (ASC), which became the national front for this network; the ASC's international counterpart, the World Anti-Communist League (WACL); and the US "Patriot" movement, which was closely aligned with both the ASC and the WACL. The ASC series can be found here, here, here and here; the WACL, here, here, here and here; the Patriot movement one here, here, here and here. Those of you just joining me are urged to look over these series to put the information presented in my examination of the Kennedy assassination in context.

And it is here that I shall wrap things up for now. In a future series or two that will appear at some point in 2014 I shall examine the possibility of some type of cult network operating in this anti-Communist underground and popping up in places as diverse as the Process Church and the Patriot movement. In the mean time this blog will focus on a few "lighter" topics for a time. Stay tuned.