To the Dark Tower
Lyda Belknap Long | Prestige Books | 1969 | 191 pages
Young archeologist Joan Lambert returns home after encountering a strange supernatural force during a dig in Spain. While documenting the pictorial representations of witchcraft on the walls of a cave in the southern Pyrenees, a shadowy presence—which she vaguely perceives as a hawk-faced figure with talons—attaches itself to her. Even after fleeing the archeological site, Joan is visited several more times by the ominous force, usually accompanied by oppressive physical symptoms. Driving to meet her mentor, Dr. Wilfred Allen, at his Kentucky home, the dark intrusion manifests itself again in her car. She is able to shake off the attack, but a strange hooded figure in the roadway causes her to swerve and crash into an embankment.
Fleeing the crash scene, Joan runs into the town sheriff, who escorts her to safety. Dr. Allen has assembled a small team of psychologists and experts on occult phenomena at his home to assist Joan in battling her demonic affliction. However, the danger threatening Joan reveals itself to be greater than just the monstrous passenger accompanying her back from Spain. Looking out her guest room window the night of her arrival, Joan sees a dozen writhing figures in torchlight, engaged in some kind of horrific ritual dance, all circling around—what appears to her as—a giant, impaled toad.
Joan’s vision through the window blinds is interrupted by the news that the sheriff has returned to question her. A dim-witted local boy was found murdered by a curare-tipped poison dart at the scene of her car crash, with a voodoo doll bearing a striking resemblance to her resting near his body. Joan fears that the sheriff will discover her supernatural experiences in Spain, and somehow implicate her in the boy’s death by connecting them to the occult evidence found at the crime scene.
With only a few asides to follow the fates of other victims, (the tower-less) To the Dark Tower quickly unfolds over the course of a single night. Although the mastermind operating behind the witch cult is eventually revealed, the individual witches remain as rough sketches creeping in the night. Correspondingly, Dr. Allen seems remarkably oblivious to—what must have been—an amazingly high concentration of practitioners of the occult arts in his small Kentucky town. The sheriff wraps things up in a patchy denouement, revealing an arbitrary inheritance motivation that fails to adequately address Joan’s experiences in Spain—and oh, ESP.