The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steven Hassan

After January 6, 2021, public rhetoric about Donald Trump as cult leader has escalated, but such discussions aren’t new.  Trump’s obvious narcissism, his penchant for repetitive and slogan-ridden language, and his political rallies that play more like tent revival meetings certainly meet criteria for defining a charismatic leader. I’m using the term “charismatic leader” in […]

Arthurs for Our Time: Recent Interpretations of a Legend

Writers across ages and places have created versions of Arthur that either retell his legend or depict what could happen whenever his prophesized return occurs, when and how he’ll address whichever crisis is at hand.  T.H. White’s Once and Future King, for example, includes a Merlyn who lives backwards so that when he reaches the […]

Mid-Twentieth Century Women Crime Writers

Recently, I came across two anthologies, A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir edited by Megan Abbott (2007) and Troubled Wives, Twisted Daughters: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense edited by Sarah Weinman (2013).  I’ve been a fan of Abbott’s since reading Die a Little (2005), a harkening back to crime […]

Playing at Bucknall Elementary: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

In the 1970s, the Moreland School District owned copies of two films without educational content.  The first was American Graffiti, a version unprofessionally edited to the point of unwatchability.  Our principal at Castro Junior High School, now Moreland Middle School, trotted this out each semester to reward students with acceptable grade-point averages.  I sat through […]

Cults in Comics

In Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China (1961), Robert Jay Lifton identifies techniques related to thought reform, once called “brainwashing,” that applies to how destructive cults inculcate their members and keep them indoctrinated: Milieu Control: the control of communication, of everything a person sees, hears, or reads. This […]

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

When he wasn’t chained and hanging from skyscrapers, or entombed deep underwater, Harry Houdini spent much time debunking criminals and fraudulent spiritualists. By the 1920s, Spiritualism had taken on religious weight both in Europe and the United States, and as with any such phenomenon, unscrupulous types stepped in to gain profit or to exploit hopeful […]

Ultra the Multi-Alien AKA The Hero of Dalesville

No superhero has received more ridicule than Ultra the Multi-Alien. Even Aquaman garnered more respect during the years when fans denigrated him as the useless Justice League member who swims and talks to fish.  Jon Morris includes Ultra in his The League of Regrettable Superheroes, stating “Ultra resembles a mixed-up box of puzzle pieces.”  Blogger […]

Help! Universal Monsters Are Terrorizing My Bookshelves!

Books based on or related directly to Universal Monsters have been appearing for decades.  Many read like lighter versions of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, bursting with Easter eggs from other sources within the Universal library and beyond.  I’ll discuss a few to show you how writers and publishers have drawn inspiration from these classic films. […]

Power Records: The Action Comes Alive!

I can’t do audio formats. When friends went mad for Welcome to Nightvale, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, and podcasts, I hoped for print editions of these recordings so I could join the fun.  Thankfully, the forces behind Welcome to Nightvale have come through for me, publishing scripts I can read while listening to episodes. But […]

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Musicals aren’t my first choice for entertainment.  I’m more agnostic than atheist with this genre, however.  I’ve enjoyed sing-along performances of My Fair Lady played at the Retrodome, now 3Below, here in San Jose, California.  During my 1989 three-month tour of Europe, I spent a week in Salzburg, Austria, where I stayed at a hostel […]