The Secret Origin of Lincoln Crisler

My Religious Roller-coaster Part 3

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Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan

So, after a few years as of being the best Catholic I could be, followed by an approximately equal amount of time as a pagan-in-training, I dipped my toes in the pool of Satanism. I was probably around sixteen or so, and came across the works of Anton LaVey on the Internet, in school, most likely when I was supposed to be learning the right way to type or something. I was comfortable with the candles, herbs and spells of eclectic Wicca, but I’d turned into a bit of a hardass during my adolescence, and wasn’t in complete agreeance with the “Harm None” philosophy.

When I read LaVey, I didn’t feel like I was learning a new religion as much as I was discovering a name for something I was already living: kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates; vengeance instead of turning the other cheek; do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself; do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked and a host of other virtues and guidelines for life embodied by the Biblical Satan, whom Satanists view as an archetype rather than an actual being. I quickly discovered that Satanists didn’t harm children, rape people or worship Teh Ebil Goat Man–that pretty much it was common sense with psychological “magic” thrown into the mix. Perfect for a kid who’d been screwed with most of his life and was sick to freakin’ death of it.

So I jumped in head-first–took notes, studied websites, bought books, joined Internet message boards, read the shit out of everything in sight for about a year, and then launched my own Satanic coven, complete with website, original essays written by me, and a small membership eventually spanning three states. I shaved my head. My sophomore year of high school I roamed the halls in a black trenchcoat, handing fellow students printouts of my devilish diatribes. To say I developed a reputation was an understatement. Years later, when I began to catch fire as a fiction writer with a major online presence, I spent months scouring search engines for traces of this stuff in order to have it eradicated–one email to Google, Yahoo, etc. at a time. And it worked. I know of exactly one trace of my “High Priesthood” online,  and you’d need to know very specific information to even find it.

Kinda like this, but older, wider and in the woods behind a cemetery rather than out in the desert.

We weren’t the school freaks–we were a sub-section even of thatspecialized clique. We hung out together all the time, chain-smoked across the street from the school before homeroom and hung out in the woods behind the cemetery next door, where we’d found an abandoned stone altar that looked over a century old and which was probably erected by Christians for outdoor funerals before being abandoned and taken over for pagan usage (if I remember right, we could barely make out the words Holy Holy Holy carved into the rock).

One day, maybe a month after the Columbine killings, a janitor pulled a fire alarm (unbeknownst to anyone at the time) after supposedly hearing a bomb threat, and I was dragged back into the building by the cops in front of the whole school, because It Must Have Been Me. I hadn’t done shit, of course, but they searched me, my belongings and my wall locker before letting me return to class.

I enjoyed what I had. A lot of people screwed with me for it, but I had just enough friends to make me not care about the majority. Some people thought I was pretty badass. A good number even sought me out for advice, and I helped  quite a few of them, I’m happy to say. I dated at least three of my buddy’s sister’s friends because I was involved in the occult and they found it fascinating. For a kid who’d grown up with hardly a damned thing, it was a pretty heady mixture of odd power and newfound confidence.

Then, after a couple years of what essentially boiled down to the worship of myself, I gave in to another year’s worth of pestering–to go to church.

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My Religious Roller-coaster Part 2

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Author’s Note: When I mapped this series out in my mind, I totally thought I’d cover everything in three chapters. Now, we’re definitely looking at at least two more after this. I hope you’re digging it.

Fr. Dave Mura. Probably from the late 70s-early 80s.

Last week, I gave you the lowdown on my dance with Catholicism–short but furious, all things considered. It lasted less than three years, but included four Holy Sacraments and a long stint as one of St. Anthony’s most badass altar boys of the ’90s. Or something like that.

It ended with an exorcism. Well, an attempted exorcism. And some death.

I didn’t get to witness the exorcism myself. My mother wouldn’t let me, of course–what mother would? I asked her about it though, today, as a matter of fact, just to make sure I got everything straight. Back in the early 90’s, my mom and I and several of her pagan friends all lived in the same apartment building or nearby. One of her friends’ adult son moved into the house next door, and discovered it was haunted.

My mom and one of her other friends got into the basement and found evidence of four graves in the area of the water heater, and a big hole in one of the walls. The rumor she learned was that someone had killed his family a while back and cut off one of his fingers before killing himself. My mom swears she and her friend could feel his ghost while they were in the house, and her friends reported other screwy things going on. Two of the friends have since passed away and the others, I couldn’t find today if I had the Batcave at my disposal, but I digress. Long story short, her friends living there asked her to make the ghosts go bye-bye.

I guess it could have been worse...

Mom tried clearing the spirits out of the house with candles and rituals, but it didn’t work. She went to our church’s priest, Father Dave Mura, and asked for his help (there’s very little about Father Dave on the Internet, but I found some stuff here and here). He couldn’t get rid of the ghosts, either. My mom believed the spirit of the murderer cursed Father Dave; a week or two after the attempted exorcism, he died of a heart attack during a family outing. I remember Father Dave being a funny guy, and one of the few Catholic priests I’ve heard speak who can make a homily interesting. I’m sure that being married with a family, a rarity among priests, had something to do with it. But again, I digress.

We didn’t go back to the church that often, after that. It just wasn’t the same without Father Dave, and I wonder if maybe my mom felt bad about getting him involved. Eventually we didn’t go at all. Mom still wouldn’t let me read her occult books, but they were in plain sight on bookshelves in the living room and I snuck them into my room one at a time, reading them and eventually making my own notebook (a very electic Book of Shadows!). For those interested, here are a few of the books I read as a beginning eclectic Wiccan:

After several months, probably around the age of twelve or thirteen, my mom started teaching me things: how to meditate, read auras and the like. I got really good at meditating and making knot charms for protection. I had a great collection of stones: tigers eye, malachite, amethyst, hematite and the like, which were good for things like getting rid of negative energy, protection and healing. I carried a small leather medicine pouch on my keys. I watched my mother and her friends travel astrally, allegedly to combat bad spirits and the like. I learned about the elements, how to call the corners and what herbs were good for different things. And I practiced ritual witchcraft, albeit in a very eclectic form (the practitioners my mother knew were all solitary and self-taught–I guess we were kind of like a coven, and I was somewhat of an acolyte, but there was no formal group) up until the age of sixteen or so. I did a pretty in-depth interview a couple years ago, where I discussed a lot of this stuff in greater detail:

When I discovered Satanism.

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My Religious Roller-coaster Part 1

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My religious experiences from birth to about—I’d have to say nine or ten—were virtually nonexistent. My parents had both been raised Catholic, but other than having me baptized at birth, I don’t recall setting foot in a church as a young child. I’m sure I did once or twice, for Christmas or Easter at least, and they would have held Mass for my grandmother when she passed. I do have a picture of myself as a small boy dressed for Easter in a suit matching my father’s, but I don’t remember attending Mass. I knew about He-Man and Optimus Prime and Lion-O, but not Christ or the Devil or angels.

After my dad left, we were able to stay in the home we were renting for a few months. When we got evicted, my mom and the pot-head she was seeing at the time went to stay at a friend’s place and I went to live with my aunt and her lesbian lover. After at least six months, but maybe as much as a year, I moved back with my mother when she and her new fiancee found an apartment. Shortly after that, Mom rediscovered her Catholic roots, for the most part, with an eclectic twist.

She started taking me to church with her—Saint Anthony of Padua on Lorimer Street, near Jones Park, for any Rochesterians reading this. It’s been gone for something like seven years now, but their sister church, Holy Apostles, is still up and running. At any rate, I was entranced by the Mass. The music, the chanting, the participation—the only thing I had participated in up until that point was school, and as a poor, scrawny, white kid in a New York public school, to say I tended toward introvertedness would be an understatement. The best part is that I came into religion for the first time already in a question-asking frame of mind. I wasn’t taught from birth that things happened ‘because the Bible said so’ or anything like that. I went to church from day one because I wanted to.

Our robes were brown rather than white, but you get the idea.

I volunteered to serve as an altar boy maybe a month after we started attending. For some reason, with regards to religious practices, I’m in all the way or not at all. You’ll see that thread in these recountings. In this instance, I wasn’t content to just sit in the pew. I wanted to help make the Mass happen. The parish deacon taught me what to do—Deacon Bill Hunt, his name was. We had a couple of other servers, but I became known in the church for being an altar boy before too long. On more than one occasion the little old Catholic grannies would pull me to the side and give me a hug for doing a good job—sometimes a buck to buy candy, too. I was Confirmed—I chose the name Patrick, for those interested—and took my first Eucharist as soon as possible. I even attended Confession on a fairly regular basis.

After a couple of years—not more than two, I don’t think—my mother stopped going to Mass regularly. It was within walking distance, so I still went. She’d begun to collect these books with strange symbols on the covers; some about rocks and herbs, others about fortune-telling and others I had no idea about. She still believed in God and encouraged me to go to church. She also forbid me to read the books. On occasion she’d still go to Mass with me. The last time I remember us ever attending was a week or two before our priest, Father David Mura, died. One of the last things he did on Earth was perform an off-the-record exorcism in our apartment building at my mother’s request.

More about that next week.

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Thank You, and I Hate You Forever

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Today’s Secret Origin installment is a reprint of a guest post I did last year in support of my weird-western novella, WILD.

Today, for Sue’s fans and readers (and hopefully a few of my own!), I offer up one of my darkest secrets. One so dark and so secret I myself didn’t know it myself until recently, though it’s been with me over half my life. When it hit me, I’m pretty sure I got a taste of what Paul did on the road to Damascus.

I owe everything I am today, to include all my creative successes and joys, to a man whose grave I’d cheerfully piss on every day for the rest of my life.

When I was eight or nine my mother started dating this guy, Russ. He was a friend of the guy she’d been dating before, and before him there was nothing and before that was my dad, who’d gotten loaded at a party hosted by one of my friends’ parents, checked into rehab and never came back (except for the occasional weekend, which looking back, I kinda sorta miss). My mom really knew how to pick ‘em: my old man liked the occasional impromptu boxing match with the old lady after a few beers and her first boyfriend after he left was a pothead, an unemployed waste and, apparently, allergic to soap. Russ liked to smoke up, but at least he washed his ass. And he worked, at least some of the time.

Shortly after they started dating, my mother could no longer afford the rent on the half-house she and my father had been renting and they moved in with some friends of Russ’. I lived with my aunt and her girlfriend for a few months, to give me some sort of stability. I really miss those days, too, incidentally, and maintain that even though my father died after not seeing me for ten years (and only missed me by an hour, too), he’s smiling down through the clouds (or up through the flames, perhaps) every time I visit his side of the family again, since being reunited at his funeral after more than a decade apart. Long story short, a few months later my mother and Russ got an apartment, and then they got me. And that’s where the adventure begins.

Besides God and my family, the only things that really matter to me in life are reading, writing and music. I played music on and off for seventeen years; in school bands, garage bands and church bands. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and getting published, in school magazines, community magazines, school newspapers, real newspapers, and books. I always have a book or two around and have been reading on my own since about the age of three. If somehow music, books, or writing were removed from my life I would cease to be Lincoln Crisler. This holds true now and at any point in my life to date. Those three things have always been there, whether I was full or starving, clean or dirty, married, divorced or separated, living with my family, my friends or on my own. Forever and ever amen.

Now here’s the kicker: Russ gave me those things. He was into all the seventies and eighties rock you could think of. There was always rock and roll playing in the house. He brought home recordings of Nik and the Nice Guys shows when they went out of town and brought me to local shows. I even played on stage one time, strumming a beat-to-hell guitar as part of the Air Guitar Army. My birthday and Christmas gifts always consisted, at least in part, of bootleg cassettes of albums by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Journey, Fleetwood Mac, Reo Speedwagon and many other bands. Most importantly, he introduced me to the music of Rush. To this day, they’re my favorite band. If I woke up in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys missing, I’d call it good as long as the bathtub was center-stage front row at a Rush concert. To this day if I were to come up with a setlist to play on a half-hour’s notice, most of it would be music I first listened to while my mother and I lived with Russ.

He introduced me to all of my favorite authors. He gave me Piers Anthony’s Incarnations and Mode series’. He gave me the first seven books of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series. He gave me Eddings’ Belgariad, Elenium and Tamuli (though not the Mallorean, and though I now own it, I still haven’t read it). He gave me my first Poul Anderson, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffery and Stephen King books. He bought me my first copy of The Lord of the Rings. I pick up new books by most of these authors to this day. I still read the old ones he gave me seventeen years ago. Today I write and publish science fiction, fantasy and horror almost exclusively, and I think most of that comes from all the great books from those genres I read when I was young and impressionable.

The monster of my childhood created a monster himself. In his own image, but better in some ways. Perhaps in the way that Frankenstein’s monster could be said to be better than the Doctor. I don’t beat women, for instance, but I definitely write about worse things than he ever acted out. Instead of working behind the scenes, I’ve been on the stage. If I saw him right now, I can’t say with any certainty whether I’d hit my knees and thank him or kick him in the scrotum.

So much damned gray area. Such is life.

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Meet Dexter (or, Lincoln’s Uncanny History with Pets)

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Chirping bird at 5AM--cute when you're five, and bored. When you're 18 and home on leave during Army Basic Training? Not so much.

When this weekend comes, it’ll mark two weeks of dog ownership in the Crisler house. I’ll introduce you to the little guy in a minute or two–but I’m certain most of you don’t understand what a milestone this is, both for me and my family as a whole. So bear with me a bit. Most of you read this ’cause you like my storytelling anyhow, right? Right?

Pets have always been a big deal in my life; sometimes a good one, sometimes not so much. When I was a child, I had a few. My first cat was named Frisky. I don’t remember the circumstances, but I remember him being taken away one day. After that (I don’t remember how much time elapsed) I got a bird for my birthday, a cockatiel named Sammy. My mother’s owned a couple other cockatiels since, and in my opinion, they’re much more enjoyable when you’re seven than when you’re seventeen. Sammy flew out the window one weekend while I was visiting my father.

Some time after Sammy took off for greener pastures, my mom and stepfather got me a turtle. I named him Dino, short for Donatello. My previous anecdotes indicate a poor history with animals, but up until now, none of the misfortunes were my doing. I can’t say the same for Dino. One morning before going to school, I turned up the water heater in his tank, thinking to make him more comfortable, and when I came home that afternoon, the water was too hot and poor Dino was dead.

I was mortified. Stricken with fear. My heart was a block of ice as my mother and stepfather tried to revive it in the bathtub with cool water. No bueno. How the heck was I going to own up to this one? Luckily, my mother, odd bird that she is (God love her) blamed the building super, a crotchety old woman who lived a floor below us and had a master key. Mom figured old Doris came in and did it, just to be a mean bitch. To this day, I’ve never told her anything different. You read it here first. To replace Dino, my mother got me a new turtle. I named him Mikey (after Michaelangelo). He had a mean temper and a tendency to snap, however, and we soon returned him to the shop.

My mom’s not this bad–but we knew a chick who was WORSE. At least a hundred cats–straight up–and all the associated filth you’d expect. And you folks wonder why I write the scary stuff.

My mother’s always had cats–multiple ones, copious amounts of cats–in the house from the time I was about 13 or 14, up until now. She’s the quintessential cat lady; lives alone, upwards of five cats in a one-bedroom apartment, pays to get them cremated when they die and keeps the ashes, etc. She’s always had good luck with her animals, though. She loves them, they love her, and they live long lives.

When I moved out for the second and last time at 17, I took my cat, Lucifer, with me. I rescued that cat from the yard next door to the home of my then friend-with-benefits, a girl named Katie, and named it after her until I discovered it had a scrotum. I had to leave Lucifer behind when I joined the Army. I hope my roommate took care of him. The guy moved out by the time I came home to visit after training. From 2000-2005, I had no pets–you can’t have them in military barracks, and the one attempt my ex-wife and I made at feline ownership ended (in less than 48 hours) in the cat running off into the woods during a pagan ritual after slipping the leash (Megan insisted on bringing it with us).

In 2005, Connie and her daughter (now my adopted daughter for over five years) Cheyann moved in with me in Watertown, when I got stationed at Fort Drum. Cheyann brought a cat, Mocha, with her, that she’d had since she was five. I tried to like Mocha. I really did. Mocha was a beautiful animal. But she hated everyone but Cheyann. I tried to get Connie to let me find it a good home, but Cheyann’s feelings came first. I was finally able to find Mocha a new home in 2010, while stationed in El Paso, Texas, when Cheyann grew unattached to the cat and it began urinating on furniture. To this day, it is one of my sweetest victories. Cheyann was fine with the cat’s departure, and she was in good hands less than twelve hours after I posted her on Craigslist. Everyone won.

Buy my books or the dog gets it.

In 2007, while still stationed in Watertown, Cheyann and I acquired a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy, to the tune of around a thousand dollars–the cost of the dog, it’s plane ride, roundtrip gas to New York City and back when I miscalculated the destination airport of choice and the vet bill for when Chupa (short for Chupacabra) ran under Connie’s feet while Connie was carrying a basket of laundry. Cheyann and I had wanted a Corgi for the past couple of years, since before we’d met, and we’d decided to get one after I came home from Afghanistan. A month later, I gave the bloody thing away to a neighbor after failing to housebreak it. In 2008 or -09, my brother-in-law brought us his dog to keep in El Paso when he could no longer house it. It dug out from under our backyard fence and ran away the next day while we were taking my mother-in-law to visit her childhood home in Albuquerque.

Before leaving El Paso in 2010, we bought a baby turtle which moved to Augusta, Georgia with us. We named him Pollo–Spanish for chicken. About a year after we got him, he ran away while I was cleaning his tank. Read that again, folks–my damn turtle ran away. I put him in the backyard, in my son’s water table so he could stay moist. It took me under fifteen minutes to clean the tank. No more Pollo.

Obviously, the Crislers aren’t meant to own pets. Cheyann and I have good intentions, but piss-poor luck. Connie doesn’t even like pets in the house, and only tolerated Mocha for Cheyann’s sake. The dogs and turtle acquired during our marriage each came with their own uphill battle.

A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to try again, and Connie agreed to give it a try. I was shooting for a kitten–much easier to housebreak–but she shifted gears to a puppy overnight. My lovely wife actually did the legwork on finding us a kickass Doberman puppy–he looks to be 6-8 months old, but we’re not sure. Some country folk rescued him from a ditch and gave him to us for $25. He had bright eyes and good teeth and his coat shined after three back-to-back flea baths and brushings. So far, so good. And after a couple days of accidents, he learned to walk on a leash (I don’t think he’d ever been on one, before living with us) and is mostly housebroken. It took him a week or so to become fully confident, but he now barks when he hears other dogs in the distance, and when someone comes into the house unexpectedly (Chey had a really late night at work Tuesday).

So, meet Dexter. Cheyann named him, after the television serial killer whose show Connie and I have watched every episode of. I think this one’s gonna work out.

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