priest

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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April Reviews!

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I purchased Ganymede by Cherie Priest at my local bookstore the day before my flight to World Horror and devoured it between the flights there and back. It’s the fourth of her Clockwork Century steampunk books, set in an alternate 1890s America where the Civil War is still raging. I was slightly apprehensive at first after having to set aside Dreadnought (the third book) a third of the way through because it didn’t hold my interest. At this point, I’m invested in the series, though—I’ll be taking another stab at Dreadnought soon enough, I’m sure, and will probably find something to like. I’d been looking forward to Boneshaker, the first novel, for nearly a year before it’s release, and Clementine, the Subterranean Press-released novella, was nearly as good.

I found Ganymede, which revisits Boneshaker’s pirate Andan Cly as he undertakes one last illegal operation in order to finance his retirement, to deliver on the promise of Boneshaker better than any other book in the series to date. For those eager to meet another of Priest’s plucky heroines, we have Josephine Early, a mulatto cathouse owner and one of Cly’s former lovers. For readers looking forward to revisiting old friends, Briar, Zeke, Mercy and Swakhammer all make appearances. If you’ve never read a Clockwork Century book yet, you can certainly jump in with Ganymede (these novels are all self-contained, though they do build on each other), though I’d recommend at least reading Boneshaker first.

Red Empire and Other Stories by Joe McKinney collects his previously released novella Red Empire and seven short stories, some written specifically for this collection. McKinney fans know him best for his zombie stories (he took home a Stoker this year for Flesh Eaters, his third Dead World novel), but there’s not a zombie in sight here, but for one story. Like most of McKinney’s work, many of these stories take place in Texas and feature police. The novella in particular reminded me of the mid-90s-era Dean Koontz novels I enjoyed before I figured out they all followed the same formula—but with the possible romance between the male and female leads left to happen after the story, rather than bogging down the action. A solid collection, and a must for any McKinney fan.

Rust and Blood by Ed Kurtz collects nine short stories, many brand-new with a few reprints. Kurtz has a great writing style, and even the stories that failed to suspend disbelief for me held my attention all the way through. I ripped through the collection in a couple of hours. The premises behind ‘Hungry’ and ‘Pearls’ were a bit farfetched, but both were fun–‘Pearls’ in particular was an uncomfortable read for a guy who had a nickel-sized, inch-deep chunk of necrotized flesh carved from his thigh a couple years back. ‘Sinners’ and ‘Roadbeds’ were confusing, to be completely honest, but the rest of the book is packed with solid, old-school horror–‘Family Bible’ in particular was a great read.

Faint of Heart by Jeff Strand is a self-published novella featuring Rebecca, a young wife who is kidnapped from her home the night after her husband, Gary, goes off on a hunting trip with a couple of buddies. Her kidnapper and his accomplice force her to relive everything Gary did the day before—or else. Strand is great at making a reader care about his characters in a short amount of time, and screwed with my expectations expertly. I also appreciate his economical, to the point style. Faint was a quick, exciting read that I blew through in one sitting.

The first two Sam Truman Mysteries novellas—Catch My Killer! by Ed Kurtz (released this month) and The Last Invasion by Brandon Zuern (coming in May) are the first in a new ongoing series of pulp novellas from Abattoir, an imprint of Kurtz’ Redrum Horror. Abattoir plans to release a new digital novella every six weeks, with print omnibus editions collecting every four or so. If I had to compare the Sam Truman series to anything else I’ve read, it’d be Shroud’s Hiram Grange series, in that both feature down-on-his-luck investigators-for-hire who solve paranormal mysteries. Killer! introduces Sam Truman, an involuntarily-retired private investigator who doesn’t have a pot to piss in. He intercedes in an attempted robbery at a diner by blowing away the perpetrator, only to be later visited (and hired) by the ghost of a murder victim housed in the robber’s corpse. In Invasion, Sam is hired by the family of a missing girl, and uncovers much more than a simple kidnapping or disappearance. Kurtz was born to write noir pulps; Killer! flows effortlessly and is grounded firmly in the series’ 1960s setting. Invasion is Zuern’s first published work, but hopefully not his last.

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