Fortean Times

LIVES OF THE GREAT OCCULTISTS

Personally, I blame that Aleister Crowley. If my memory serves me well (which, these days, it seldom does), Hunt Emerson and I more or less drifted into creating ‘Lives of the Great Occultists’ after I told him a couple of my favourite yarns about the Great Beast. For a couple of decades or so, Hunt had been writing and drawing a regular series of cartoons called “Phenomenomix” for Fortean Times. One month, he was stuck for a subject, and decided to use one of these yarns, which I’d found in William Seabrook’s book Witchcraft. One afternoon in New York, Seabrook had seen Crowley fall into step behind a stranger, mimic the man’s walk, and then deliberately stumble. The poor chap hit the deck! And Seabrook was convinced that he had witnessed a genuine feat of Magick…

This was fun to write and draw; so were Crowley’s other pranks and japes. Somehow or other we decided to do a few more strips about magicians and mystics, expecting to run out of subjects fairly soon. But the more we sniffed around in the world of the arcane, the more wonderful characters we found – eccentrics and oddballs of all kinds, geniuses and charlatans, great writers and artists, delusional twits,

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