Psychic Detective: The Unicorn


Psychic Detective: The Unicorn
Hans Holzer | Manor Books | 1976 | 192 pages

Tiring of his luxurious, yet mundane, daily existence, shipping magnate Adam Pitt invents a secret life for himself as “The Unicorn”, kingpin of a drug smuggling operation. Although not lacking in wealth since inheriting a fortune from his wife’s tragic, and possibly suspicious, death, Pitt nonetheless yearns for the excitement that his illegal operation provides. Also fancying himself as an amateur treasure-hunter, Pitt sets off to find a lost fortune in sunken Spanish gold after discovering a map in a local antique shop that points to a shipwreck off the coast of Corley Hall, his East Anglican estate.

Frustrated in the attempt to find the Spanish treasure on his own, Pitt seeks out the help of Randy Knowles, internationally renowned psychic detective, and specialist in solving unusual and extraordinary cases. Accompanying Pitt back to Corley Hall, Knowles makes an early psychic connection—not with the location of the treasure, but with Pitt’s ingénue, Rowan Dorset. A young actress whose career has been constructed with Pitt’s money and connections, Rowan has been unknowingly used as a mule for information exchanges in his drug trade.

Discovering his client’s smuggling operation, Knowles becomes determined to destroy the secret drug trade and bring Pitt to justice. Rowan, sensing a special link with Knowles, volunteers to assist the effort, after he shows her—through a coached session of astral projection— an earlier incarnation of herself, a centuries-earlier brothel madam.

By the time of Knowles’ introduction some sixty-plus pages into the story, Pitt has almost become the default anti-hero, giving readers a mostly charming sociopath to root for in his battle against the moralist detective—who steals his love interest and upsets his villainous schemes. Further complicating the moral divide are the local villagers, who should be sympathetic characters against Pitt’s efforts, but instead show their own murderous impulses. Knowles also brings little of his supernatural mental gifts to his case-cracking repertoire, using his psychic skills seemingly for seduction, and poorly timing his trance-state-derived astral projections—when also not using them for seduction.

Ghostly Haunts (Issue #21)


Ghostly Haunts, Issue #21
Charlton Comics | November 1971

Hep-cat horror hostess Winnie, the sexy bespectacled witch, introduces another trio of terrifying tales in her own groovy style, “Do you cats see what I see?


The Scariest Picture of Them All:
Past-his-prime special effects master Roy Quenton develops a brand new method for getting his nightmares on film—projecting mental images into existence, then recording them. His current picture’s leading lady discovers firsthand the dangers inside of Roy’s head, but his Psycho-house digs, vulture in the foyer, and butler named Cadaver should have served as a warning.


Old Soldiers Never Die:
An old patient of curvy nurse Miss Oliver telepathically projects himself from his nursing home bed into the rice paddies of Vietnam to save her fiancé from certain death at the hands of the Viet Cong. Straight from an armchair general’s fantasy, he’s a fearless buffed-out hero in his own mind.


The Man Who Refused to Die
Through sheer stubborn willpower, Joshua Richards refuses to acknowledge the possibility of his own death, and attains a certain level of immortality. Those around him, from fellow pilots in the skies of Vietnam, to climbing buddies on the slopes of a Himalayan peak, to organized crime thugs, aren’t so lucky—he even causes the death of the Abominable Snowman.

Dark Ways to Death (Guardians #2)


Dark Ways to Death (Guardians #2)
Peter Saxon | Berkley Books | 1968 | 143 pages

The Guardians, a group dedicated to combating the forces of supernatural evil in the modern world, return to battle a Voodoo cult in the subterranean world below London.

Steven Kane – a former Professor of Anthropology, expert in the field of Black Magic and de facto leader of the group.
Gideon Cross – the enigmatic founder of the Guardians and master of astral projection.
Anne Ashby – a raven-haired psychic beauty with an aversion to fire, who may have a connection to a namesake who was burned at the stake for witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
Father John Dyball – a former Catholic priest and specialist in Black Magic.
Lionel Marks – a private investigator handling the group’s problems on a purely physical plane.

Sir Bartley Squires, a successful shipping magnate, seeks out the counsel of Steven Kane for the assistance of the Guardians in saving his daughter Caroline from an occult threat. Members of a Voodoo cult have targeted Caroline’s West Indian boyfriend, Jack Johnson, as a human sacrifice for Dambalawedo, an ancient spirit taking the form of a feathered serpent. Two other members of the Guardians, Father John Dyball and Lionel Marks, have been independently alerted to the workings of the cult, following the trail back to its leader, Dr. Obadiah Duval.

Duval operates a chemist’s shop as a front for his Dambalawedo cult in London, and has thrown down a challenge to Steven Kane and his team; he has kidnapped Anne Ashby’s black cat—and possible familiar—Bubastis, to use as a sacrifice in an upcoming ritual, and as a lure to draw out and destroy the Guardians. Their destruction will clear the path Duval has set for invoking his Old God, unleashing its great evil into the world. Venturing into Duval’s shop alone, Anne indeed falls victim to his plot, escaping only with the help of Gideon Cross—and his psychic powers traveling across the astral plane to save her.

Although many lives are in peril, the Guardians spend much of their energies focusing on the return of Bubastis—probably a sore point for the potential human victims, even considering Bubastis’ special nature as a specimen of direct lineage from the cats of Ancient Egypt. The introduction of a group of slumming socialites, seeking cheap thrills at Duval’s ceremony, makes for an irritating distraction from the characters in real jeopardy. The Guardians completely fail to operate as a team in this outing, with each member fumbling around on their own—without any real coordinated plan, except to gather for a protective magic circle—towards their inevitable showdown with Duval in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath London.

A creepily effective high point of the final battles comes as Dambalawedo re-animates the corpse of his fallen follower, who becomes a zombie-puppet in the control of his master. However, the conclusion cheapens whatever tension has built up, since the power to confront the Serpent God arises from an unexpected source, with little groundwork for its establishment. This newfound power reads more simply as a hastily written device to wrap up the story, rather than an enigmatic character shading to be developed in future installments of the series.

The Witching Hour


The Witching Hour
Florence Stevenson | Award Books | 1971 | 155 pages

At the latest performance by opera star Gilda Gianiani, whose fifty-year career and seemingly ageless voice has astounded critics, young psychic Kitty Telefair is approached by an anxious man. Ted Rutledge, having seen Kitty’s guest appearances on her fiancé’s midnight television show, The Witching Hour, wants to employ her telepathic powers to investigate the mysterious influence Madame Gianini holds over his girlfriend, Peggy Ozanne.

Peggy has been accepted into the “Gianini Method”, a year long, one-on-one intensive study program with Madame Gianini at her rural estate. During that that time, Peggy will be unable to communicate with anyone in the outside world, presumably freed from distraction to develop her latent operatic skills. However, Ted has already noticed disturbing personality changes in Peggy as the date of the study program draws near, and suspects that Madame Gianini is exerting some sort of strange, possibly supernatural, spell on her.

At a cocktail party hosted by Madame Gianini, the singer’s long-time vocal coach lets slip to Kitty that an earlier protégé, Melody Blair, disappeared without a trace following her year-long study with the opera star. After their conversation, Kitty experiences a cold, ghostly sensation, and surmises that Melody’s spirit is attempting to contact her. Later, when the vocal coach is found brutally murdered, Kitty realizes the extent of the danger facing Peggy.

Kitty is an engaging heroine, cheerfully investigating the strange events revolving around Madame Gianini and her circle. Her perky demeanor never slips into the trap of precious obnoxiousness, even when she and her boyfriend “Colly” pause for a chaste romantic interlude (represented by the imagination-taxing placeholder “* * *” in the text). She also finds emotional—and telepathic—support from her eccentric family of “hereditary occultists”, including her aunts Astarte (clairvoyant concert pianist) and Drusilla (culinary expert and trance medium), and her mysteriously powerful father Rupert. Her cheeky good humor is only briefly compromised after an attempt on her life, when her psychic defenses are breached during an astral projection. Although her spirit guide helps Kitty reach the rather expected conclusion, the details revealed about the “Method” unexpectedly evoke the grim horrors of the all-too-real material world.

The Druid Stone


The Druid Stone
Simon Majors | Paperback Library | 1967 | 157 Pages

Ugony MacArt and his sister Moira, students of the arcane Black Arts, have set up house in a small New England village to pursue their occult research. They recruit Brian Creoghan, a man Ugony met briefly in Hong Kong some years before, to assist them in their experiments. Brian is a great world adventurer with the following list of (rattled off, and completely unconvincing) accomplishments:

-danced the Gran’ Zombie on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain
-fought leopard men in Nigeria
-listened to the talking head of a dead brujo in Ecuador
-watched a man afflicted with the evil eye bring disaster to an Italian village
-attended a black mass in a French monastery
-leaped around a stone circle in a ritual with a coven of witches in England
-found a bed of black pearls with hoomanamana priests in Hawaii

More importantly, Brian possesses an innate ability for astral projection, which the MacArts wish to exploit through the use of their artifact, the Druid Stone. When used by a person gifted with sympathetic occult powers, this unassuming sandstone boulder triggers the machinery of the universe to change gears, transporting the user to another plane of existence.

The literal machinery of the universe:

The great machine on the rim of the universe hummed in a steady pulsing. The temporary generator fed power back and forth along the unguessable billions of relay units that were its integral parts. There was no suspicion that its capacity was being stretched beyond safe limits. But deep inside its titanic motor, a governor had burned out during the in-load of power and had not yet been detected.

Ugony theorizes that most of the world’s folklore, from the Greeks to the Garden of Eden to Gilgamesh, stems from encounters through this inter-dimensional portal, a gateway he is unable to activate himself. However, Brian needs little convincing to join the experiment (already having danced around a stone circle with a dead brujo in a witches coven of leopard men, or something like that). After placing his hands on the stone, he passes out in a wash of blue light, but his consciousness re-awakens inside the body of Kalgorrn—a warrior in the land of Dis. He meets a witch named Red Fann, who informs him of their current plight in this new world of not-Earth:

“Thasaikor—or his sorcerors—will soon enough discover that the spell of Afgorkon has been broken,” she told him. “He will send his servants to search for us. So we must ride to Wynthane wood for the sword Shadowmaker, that was forged by the dwarf Grom from the sky-metal that fell in Dis long ago.”

The fantasy passages suffer from the acute suspicion that the names, places, and people cited are all, in fact, made up.

The Druid Stone switches back-and-forth between Earth and Dis, as Brian/Kalgorrn struggles to shut the link between the dimensions and ultimately save Earth from an extra-dimensional invasion. Rather than being the wellspring of great human myth, Dis exhibits all the base fantasy tropes of a cheap sword-and-sorcery tale. Meanwhile on Earth, the townspeople blame the death of a child on the spooky goings-on at the MacArts house, and plan for a fiery retribution. All will converge on a fateful All Hallows Eve—because, Halloween.

Eventually, as the machinery of the universe creaks under the strain of the inter-dimensional transport afforded by the Druid Stone (the titular device), the staggering amount of hokum transmitted through the pages of The Druid Stone (the book) overloads the carrying capacity of the reader.

The Killing Bone


The Killing Bone
The Guardians #1
Peter Saxon | Berkley Medallion Books | 1968 | 159 Pages

Former priest John Dyball is called to St. Botolph’s Hospital to review a troubling case. An unknown patient was delivered in a strange catatonic state approaching rigor mortis, still alive, but seemingly frozen in a rictus of silent terror. Reverend Dyball, who has honed his own parapsychological skills through years of training, senses a malicious presence behind the patient’s staring but unseeing eyes, an unknown entity internally tormenting the man to death.

Reverend Dyball is not just an ordinary ex-priest; he is an active member of the elite team known as The Guardians, an agency established to push back against the advances of evil. The group’s founder is Gideon Cross, a sinister recluse and expert in arcane knowledge of the occult, suspected by Dyball as having advanced powers of the black arts. Anthropologist Stephen Kane acts as the group’s leader, providing guidance to Dyball and the group’s other two members. Lionel Marks, a cynical private eye, assists in gathering intelligence on cases, and Anne Ashby, a finely-tuned “sensitive,” contributes with her gift of advanced psychic abilities.

Following the lead of an eyewitness who saw a boomerang logo on the truck that dropped off the mysterious patient at the hospital, Dyball meets with an Australian journalist at an art opening featuring a new Aboriginal artist. Disregarding his own internal warnings, he is lured away by a young woman with promises of information to a nearby club, where he experiences an alarming blackout. While unconscious, he has bleary visions of his own sun-baked body burning on hot white sands, a compelling but indecipherable voice boring directly into his skull. Upon awakening, he returns to the Guardians’ headquarters in a partially amnesiac state, as if his recent memory had been scrubbed. With Dyball retaining little knowledge of the strange case at St. Botolph’s Hospital, it is up to Kane and the rest of the Guardians to solve the mystery and ultimately save the former priest from the malignant force at its center.

Lionel Marks and Anne Ashby are given virtually no roles in this outing of the series, with Steven Kane eventually pursuing the leads—and a psychically-controlled Dyball himself—to the Australian outback. Although Ashby does sense the evil in their opponent through a telepathic impression, the resolution acknowledges an unexpected gray-area, with the motivation of the initial attack revealing a certain level of understanding. This evil does not set out to destroy the world, but instead to punish a wrong inflicted against it.

Plus, Gideon Cross and his witch-doctor nemesis engage in an amusing final smack-down using their astrally-projected bodies, a battle only lacking in Wonder Twins-like cries of “Form of a dingo!” or “Form of a crocodile!”