The Devil’s Own – Peter Robson

Ace Books – 1969
devil

I picked this one up from the bottom of the esoterica shelf in an out-of-the-way, used book store that mostly stocks old mystery novels. It had a picture of a man who is on fire on the front, and the heading on the back cover reads; ‘THE SPAWN OF LUCIFER…’ The most promising feature of all though, was the fact that when I started reading it, it was not yet listed on goodreads.com. Oh yes my friends, this kind of book is what it’s all about. It’s a collection of short accounts of the lives and atrocities of 25 of Satan’s most heinous disciples. Among the accused are Aleister Crowley, Rasputin, and John Dee, but many of the other names in here are a little less well-known.

The accounts given seem to be somewhat based in truth, but I suspect that they were mostly just patched together from urban legends, rumors, lies and complete fabrications. Some of the exaggerations are commonplace and believable, but others are downright silly. For instance; I have come across the mysterious figure of the Comte de St. Germain in several other books, and I was a little surprised to see him appear in this. Hitherto, I knew of his claims of being immortal, but that hardly seemed comparative to the cannibalistic orgies of the sadistic black magicians in this little collection. It all made sense however, when this book informed me that the Comte de St. Germain was actually “the Devil – in the guise of a gigantic werewolf.”

Most of the characters mentioned in here were definitely real people, but there are some accounts which are probably complete fabrications. There’s an interesting section on an evil priest named Raoul Hannah who lived in Belfast. He is supposed to have been involved in the slave trade, voodoo cults and human sacrifice. He is also apparently responsible for bringing the black mass to Ireland. According to the book,  this Satanic St. Patrick’s rituals always culminated in “the sacrificial murder of an unknown African Negro”. Given this peculiar fact, I wonder how often he was able to celebrate this sacrament; there probably weren’t many “African Negroes” in Northern Ireland in the 1930s. Anyways, I was fairly excited to do a little research on this lad, but the passage ended with a note:
In order to protect those whose families were quite innocently involved in the story of a man named “Raoul Hannah,” the real identities and the exact location of the town in the north of Ireland have been withheld.
I’ve searched online and can find no trace of this story. It’s a pity because it was one of the most interesting tales in here. I reckon it’s complete bullshit and that Peter Robson made it up to fill a few extra pages, but then again, there are only 3-4 sections in the book that I have not found some basis for. There’s a possibility that it is true and that Robson did just change the names. If you have any idea about where this story came from, please contact me and let me know.
(My hunch is that this is section is probably just a bio on Ian Paisley.)

There are other monstrous individuals in here whom I have not been able to track down. Two of the most diabolic, Raoul Plessy and Gustav Labahn, are probably fabrications of Robson’s. I would be happy enough to accept that these three suspicious entries were completely made up, but that would be to presume that they never existed only because they’re not mentioned online. In fact, there is one particularly horrific account in here that tells of a young girl named Bernadette Hasler being sadistically tortured by a religious order called “the Seekers of Mercy”. It seemed pretty bullshitty when I was reading it, but when I looked it up online I was disturbed to find an image of a teenage girl on the cover of a French crime magazine with the headline “Le Martyr de Bernadette torturée au mort au cours d’une séance exoricsme”. There’s also an article written in German that mentions the case, but I could find nothing in English. Now, I’m not taking two articles that I can’t read properly as evidence of Peter Robson’s account being accurate, but they have convinced me that it’s not complete bullshit. It’s weird to come across a story as disturbing as this without being able to find out more about it online. It makes me wonder about my dependence on the internet as a verifier of knowledge, and I am both simultaneously upset and excited to know that sometimes the truth isn’t out there.

There are other cool parts in this book. I liked the section on Abbé Boulan. I’ve already mentioned my interest in finding a reasonable account of this character, but as was to be expected, the account herein is fairly dubious. There are some glorious passages though:

Her arms were stretched out in the form of a cross, and she held black candles in her hands. A cloth with a cross embroidered on it was placed on her breasts, and the chalice was placed on her abdomen.Then a goat’s throat was cut, and the blood poured over the woman. Next, Boullan performed a ceremony over the woman which involved frequent kissing of her body and drinking  the goat’s blood. During the whole disgusting performance, the unfrocked priest screamed out curses and threats

I would genuinely rather read that than an accurate portrayal of anyone.

Also, there is a super cool fold-out advertisement in the center of the book.
psyOnly 10 cents for a copy of the Complete Illustrated Book of Psychic Sciences?!?!?!

I really enjoyed this little book. It’s trash to the Nth degree, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Buy a copy and read it on the way to work. 8/10.

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The Devil’s Own – Peter Robson

One thought on “The Devil’s Own – Peter Robson

  1. I have this one too; picked it up at a used book store years ago. Its prose is pretty tabloid-esque, as if the author were taking some basic factual accounts and embellishing towards the Satanic (with lots of exclamation points! Every few sentences!). You could well be right that some of the chapters are completely fictional, but the sad story of Bernadette Hasler, alas, is true.

    Liked by 1 person

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