Monday, 8 February 2016

Gift Ideas for Retro Gamer / Gaming Fans

If you know someone who was raised in an 8 or 16 bit environment, then you have a special opportunity to spread the 2D, side-scrolling goodness, by getting them a gift item that helps them rekindle those most cherished of childhood memories, every time they check the time, or every time they tip back their hip flask for a belt of bourbon. All available for sale on

Like this lovely stainless steel "magic potion" flask... which can transform your favorite alcoholic beverage into an honest-to-goodness opportunity to max out your hit points!

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Available at:

Or this fetching RPG clock, which helps your favorite gamer to get through their monotonous work shift, by diverting their attention to how many experience points they're actually gaining, and so helping them to forget the drudgery of work.

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wall clock RPG video game gamer gaming gift idea christmas birthday ideas level up xp points retro experience

If your gaming loved-one is particularly bold and well-adjusted (as only true gamers are) they may well take pride in owning one of these snazzy "gamer's pride" shirts, which lets the whole world know how much dogged loyalty they still hold in their heart, for the all-knowing video game gods.

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 Available at

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Want to see more? Check out the retro gaming gift shop at 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Top 5 Artists Thought to be in League with the Devil

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Hi, this is Alexei Maxim Russell, also known as the Guerrilla Ronin wRiter. This is the third video of my top 5 series, which explores the strange directions a writer's life can take, or any creative person for that matter, when they let their imagination lead them, and the subtle powers of their creative energies channel their life force. The sheer power of creativity is said to attract otherworldly attention, and whether it's the ancient Greek Muses or the Ghosts of our dreams, the supernatural often seems to co-exist, with those mysterious forces which come forth, from out of human creativity. Sometimes, as a part of the creative process, we have to explore our dark side and the darker sides of the human soul. Some people believe this power of these dark, creative experiences can channel evil spirits, if an artist fails to keep their guard up, and protect themselves. As a nod to this supernatural element of creativity, I've decided to make this video, which is entitled "5 Artists Thought to be in League with the Devil."

1, Paganini

Paganini is often called the greatest violin virtuoso of all time. Born in 1782 in Genoa, Italy, he was so famous in Europe, as a muscian, that he can well be considered one of the first true "rock stars" of Western history. The fanatacism of his followers are more akin to the modern groupee, than anything that existed in the music world, before then.

So ridiculously skilled and technically brilliant was he, that famous musicians of his day, such as Schubert and Berlioz, were in awe at his talent and his creative passion; and so utterly famous was he, that he served as the personal violinist for monarchs, including The Grand Duchess of Tuscany and the Empress Marie Louise of Austria. But the seemingly impossible intricacy of his fingering techniques when coupled with his wild lifestyle, his seductive good looks and his tendency to look sepulchral and menacing, dressing in all black, led people to call him "The Devil's Violinist" and it was always rumored that Paganini was in league with the devil.
For someone who spent his entire life mixing with royalty, and being -- quite literally -- worshipped for the depth of his talents, Paganini was born into a poor family -- the son of a failed tradesman. Although poor, his father was a trained musician and taught his boy the violin. Young Paganini showed startling ability, as a muscian, and it was always rumored that his mother had made a pact with Satan, trading her son's soul in exchange for a promise to make him the most famous violinist in the world. If this story is true, than the evil one certainly did deliver. Paganini seemed to have the ability to mesmerize his listeners and charm them -- leaving legions of hopeless fans, everywhere he went.

With his flaming, passionate eyes, his long nose and face, with hallow cheeks, luxuriant hair and tall, darkclad figure, he was certainly the very image you'd expect of the devilishly handsome rogue, who gains his irresistable powers from the devil. This mystique was reinforced by the circumstances of his death. His powers, his looks and his known weakness for wine, women and gambling had already incited no end of gossip, among the nobility, that Paganini was in the service of dark forces, but when he refused the priest, who came to give him last rites, on his death bed, and when the Catholic church refused to give him a Catholic burial, the rumors of his infernal pact spread far and wide. Although dying in 1840, Paganini was not permitted Christian burial, until 36 years later, in 1876. Whether he got his incredible talent from infernal powers or from the natural talent, that was in his blood, Paganini definitely earned the love and respect of the world, and the innovations he brough to music are still used by the thousands of musicians, whose technique have benefitted from his example.
Do you believe Paganini was really in league with the devil? I admit, that I'm one of his many fans. I think his music is, indeed, out of this world,  but I'm inclined to think it was merely  shock and disbeleif at his skill, along with the tendency of the upper classes, at the time, to amuse themselves by spreading intriguing rumors, that accounts for this rumor about devil worship, but then, I doubt I've heard the whole story, there might be more, to help explain why this rumor came to be so enduring. If you have more info about  it, please  leave a comment, and let the rest of us benefit for your insights.

2, Pope Sylvester II
"Pope Sylvester II" Sylvester Pope devil satan magician warlock Gerbert d'Autillac "brazen head"

Pope Sylvester II was Pope from 999 AD to 1003. He was the first French pope and was born Gerbert d'Aurillac, in 946 in the town of Bellac, in France. Sylvester is known today for being one of the greatest example of the early Scientist/Clerics who, during the dark and middle ages, were often the only preservers and protectors of knowledge, in countries that were largely ignorant and illiterate. As a youth, Sylvester joined a monastery and was famous for his love of knowledge and study. So great was his reputation, that when a visiting Spanish nobleman, the Count of Barcelona, visited the monastery, the Abbot of the monastery asked the Count if he would take the curious monk with him, back to Barcelona, where study of Mathematics and the mysterious libraries of the ancient Arabic kings, were available for study.

The young Sylvester flourished in this atmosphere of higher learning and soon had the chance, alongside his noble benefactor, the Count,  to visit the lavish courts of the old Arab world, at the great Palace of the Caliph, Al-Hakam II. During those times, of dark ages Europe, it was the genteel Arabs who were the holders of knowledge and the great scolars and scientists of the world. From his learning, in the great Caliphs libraries, Sylvester eventually brought back such inventions as the Abacus and the astronomical Armillary sphere, which were unknown in primitive Europe, at the time, and spread such new Arabic-invented concepts as the decimal system, geometry, algebra and the philosophies of the ancient Greek masters, who had been forgotten and lost, in Europe, since the times of ancient Rome, but had been preserved by the Arabs.

In 969, the Count made a pilgrimage to Rome, and Sylvester came along. There, he met with Pope John XIII, and the Emperor of Rome, Otto I. Once again, thanks to his great benefactor, Sylvester was given the coveted position of serving as a tutor for the emperor's son. As a result of these high profile connections, in Rome, Sylvester quickly made his way up the ranks of the church, until he was finally appointed the Archbishop of Ravenna, in 998. With the support of his former student, who was now the Holy Roman Emperor, Sylvester was elected Pope, in 999 AD. As Pope, Sylvester cleaned up the church and did an amazing amount, to spread knowledge and enlightenment, that was far ahead of his time. Sylvester is known for being one of the very first social humanists and enlightened thinkers, long before the cultural liberation of the renaissance.

It was thought, however, that Sylvester had gained his great knowledge, and acquired his alliances with great powers, through a secret pact with the devil. It was rumored that, during his secret studies in the strange and mysterious libraries of the old Arab kings, that he had also studied their ancient magical arts, and even that he had secretly carried off a spell book of black magic, preserved since the ancient days of Arabic magic, before Islam became the official religion. Since it was only from this time -- after he had visited the King's libraries, that Sylvester seemed to begin on his journey to great fortune -- having the favor of kings and popes -- it was thought that this legend could be true and Sylvester may, in fact, have traded his sanctity and his priestly oaths, in exchange for the knowledge that he had always craved, since his earliest days.

It is documented that rumors existed, since the time of Sylvester, and he is reported to have been able to disappear, at will, and to foretell the future, through his knowledge of Astrology. One of the strangest and most grotesque tales, of Sylvester's dark art, is that he had created a profane familiar, called a  Brazen Head, who would assist him in his wizardly pursuits, by answering his questions and providing secret knowledge. It was also thought Sylvester had formed a sinful relationship with a female demon, named Meridiana. She had appeared to him soon after a failed love affair, and had apparently helped him to pursue his forbidden knowledge and attract the good wishes of powerful people.

Although well-documented and historically verifiable, it is also known that a lot of these rumors were started by a rebellious cleric, named Cardinal Benon, centuries later, who was joining a general revolt against the Papacy and so, had a vested interest in making the popes look bad. Do you think there's anything to the rumors, which surround Pope Sylvester? I'm inclined to think it was merely the distrust, the ignorant people of the day had for learned people, back then, as well as their distrust for the Arabs, which caused them to fear and gossip about Sylvester, but I'd love to learn more about this. The reasons for these rumors seem flimsy and I imagine there's more to it. If you know of anything that might help explain these rumors, please share them .

3, Jimmy Page
"Jimmy Page" "Led Zeppelin" Yardbirds top 5 five "top 5" devil satan occult crowley zoso

Jimmy Page,  best known as founder and guitarist of the legendary musical group, Led Zeppelin, is still alive today. He is one of the world's most well-respected and honored guitarists in music history and is now a well-known record producer. Born in London, in 1944, Page started his musical career as a busker, but, after getting attention from important figures in the music industry, Page eventually went on to contribute guitar work to the recordings of such famous recording artists as the Beatles and Eric Clapton.

Eventually, Page took over a band called The Yardbirds, and changed their name to Led Zeppelin, in 1968. And so was made one of the best selling music groups in history, with some estimates counting over 300 million records sold, since the beginning.

One thing that has always characterized Led Zeppelin, however, is the use of occult symbolism on thier record covers and dark, arcane and mystical imagery, in much of their music.  It has even been rumored, that Jimmy Page, himself, worships the devil.

It is certainly well known that Page has always had a strong interest in the occult. In his fourth album, the occult word Zoso is used as a personal "magic word" meant to symbolize Page, and he would often wear this word, embroided on his clothing. This word originates from an ancient magical tome,Called Ars Magica Arteficii -- an old alchemical grimoire, written by Gerolamo Cadrano, in 1557. Page has also been documented, praising the notorious early twentieth century occultist, Alastair Crowley, who is known for his worship of a great beast and is venerated by modern day devil worshippers, as a pioneer of the movement of spiritual self-interest.

But is this reputation warranted? Although it can't be denied that Page is interested in the occult and has called his study of magic and sorcery "extensive," this doesn't necessarily equal a pact with the devil. I'm tempted to think there's absolutely nothing in it, and it's just the legacy of a lot of tongue-clucking parents, back in the 70s, who felt threatened by the new music which pioneers like Page helped to bring about. But then, I may not know all the details. I have yet to hear a decent tale of Page partaking in any truly profane activity. If you know more then I do, however, I'd love to hear about it. I'm always open to being convinced by a well presented and well-sourced argument.

4, Giuseppe Tartini
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Another devilish violinist, Giuseppe Tartini could well have been the earlier incarnation of Paganini. Also Italian, Tartini was born about 100 years before him, in 1692, in the town of Piran.  He was the all-important Magister violon of the town of Padua, later formed a highly successful music school, and is honored as the very first famous violinist to play on a Stradivarius.  His tremendous skill and his imposing physical appearance, mesmerized and charmed his audiences, as if in foreshadowing of the coming of Paganini, and he seemed to be in every way as talented, skilled and captivatiting. Perhaps fittingly, it was also thought, that Tartini had gained his great powers through a deal with the devil.

This seems to have come from the musicians own conflicts with the church -- he had refused to join the Franciscan Friars, as his mother had hoped, and famously fell out with the Cardinal Giorgio Cornado, when he eloped with his young girl, and was even charged, by the church, with abduction. One undeniable connection to Satan comes from out of Tartini's own mouth, when he credited his composition of a violin sonata called "The Devil's Trill" to the direct instruction of the devil. Tartini said that he dreamt of the devil, playing a violin. When he woke up, he composed the sonata, he saw the devil play, from memory. Even centuries later, the incredible technical skill, required to play the Devil's Trill, can only be achieved by the most talented of violinists. This admission certainly added to the belief that Tartini was in league with the devil, and inspired, in all likelihood, the folklore which made  such a compelling figure, a century later.

I'm not inclined to think Tartini was a devil worshipper, as there's no evidence of that, but he did say that Satan inspired him to create what is, perhaps, his most famous peice, and so, you can at least say that, on some level, whether subconscious or not, Tartini did deal with the devil, at least in his dreams. But what do you think?

5, Faust
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No list concerning a pact with the devil would be complete, without mention of the legendary tale of Faust.  The epic tale of a great scholar who, disatisfied with life, makes a pact with the devil, in order to gain unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. So widespread is the Faust legend that we use the term Faustian to describe any situation where we trade in our integrity, in exchange for impermanent forms of power or success -- you know, the kind of thing that happens in the business world, pretty much every day. Well anyways, few people know that Faust was a real person, whose real name was Johann Georg Faust. Many of the details have been lost in the mists of time and through the literary machinations of many authors, who have written variations on the Faust tale through more than 20 distinct tellings.

The real Faust, was an alchemist, astrologer and magician of the German renaissance, Because of the confusion, however, caused by the mish-mash of information, that has followed him in legend, historians can't be sure of the year or place of his birth. But the best estimates seem to fave 1480, in the German town of Helmstadt. The town of Gelnhessen does record Doctor Faust performing magic and casting horoscopes, in that town, in 1506. Over the next 30 years, there are records all over Germany, documenting Faust's performances, as he travelled around the country -- seemingly always on the move. There is also record that he was often accused of being a fraud and was officially declared to be a devil worshipper, by local religious authorities. These charges may help to explain why the persecuted Doctor Faust never stayed in one place for very long. In 1528, in the town of Ingersol, there is a record of Docter Faust being forced out of the town, by a committee of townsfolk, on the grounds that he was a dangerous necromancer (this being a kind of sorceror who can raise the dead, command undead servants and use them to achieve thier wicked, sorcerous ends).

As if this isn't enough, a priest of Faust's acquaintance said that Faust travelled with a dog, who was capable of transforming into a servant, who would serve Faust's needs, when need be. This same priest documented the cause of Faust's death. Apparently, his alchemical experiments led to a dreadful, devastating explosion, which tore the unfortunate wizard to pieces. It is documented, in this historical record, that Faust was found in a grieviously mutilated state, which led the priest to believe the devil had come to Doctor Faust, at last, to claim his final price, for the many magical powers he had bestowed upon him, in the course of his lifetime.

So, what do you think? I admit, I'm tempted to think there is something to this tale of Doctor Faust, just based on the fact there is, indeed, historical record of him, all over Germany, everyone telling the same tales of wizardry and dark powers, even in towns completely unconnected, and far removed from eachother. Towns didn't exactly communicate, after all, back in the renaissance days and they didn't have mass media or internet, to help spread the word. Couple that with the fact that the very first Faust tale was written only a few years after the original Faust's death, I'm swayed to the viewpoint this may well have been, a true flesh and blood Faust -- as fantastic as that idea seems to me... and as unbelievable. But what do you think? Do you think there was a real Faust, or do you think it's just a story? If so, do you think the real Faust did make a deal with the devil? Or was he just a charlatan? If you have an opinion, please leave a comment, and share any additional evidence you may have.

That marks the end of this third video. If you like this video series, please click the link above and subscribe to my youtube channel, or follow us on our social media:

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Monday, 28 September 2015

The Top 5 Novels Inpired by the Author's Dreams

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Hi, this is Alexei Maxim Russell, also known as the Guerrilla Ronin wRiter. This is the second video of my top 5 series, which explores the strange directions a writer's life can take, or any creative person for that matter, when they let the mysterious forces of their creative energies lead their lives into the new and the unknown. These creative juices, these imaginative dreams and fantasies, are often the very reason why creative people are able to create. One way that writers and other creatives get their idea is through the mysterious filter of their subconscious and through the bizarre landscapes of our dreams. This video includes the most interesting cases of writer's deriving their inspiration through their subconscious and is entitled "5 NOVELS INSPIRED BY DREAMS."

1, Dracula
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The original Dracula novel, written by Irish novelist Brahm Stoker, in 1897, was ultimately conceived of, in a dream.  Stoker is known mostly for Dracula, today, but he was actually a highly successful theatre manager and theatre critic, who served as the personal assistant of the then well-known and famous actor Henry Irving. With his close association with the theatre, and his background in the journalistic trade, Stoker had ample opportunity to study dramatic literature and the folklore and customs of far away, exotic places, such as Transylvania, where Dracula is, famously set. The genesis of the novel Dracula was actually a cumulative thing. It was study of old Romanian and Hungarian folklore, the inspiration of highly atmospheric local towns, such as Whitby, in England and the study of already existing literary vampire, which helped bring about the invention of Count Dracula. A lot of people don't realize it, but vampire literature was not invented by Stoker. Vampire writer predecessors such as "Carmilla", by Joseph La Fanu, "The Family of the Vourdalak", by Tolstoy, and "The Vampyre" by John William Polidori, were writing about vampires since the late 1700s and before then, it had enjoyed a long life, in folklore, going back into the mists of history. But it was Stoker who brought the vampire to the masses and gave him his most compelling form.

It is that form, of the count in the castle, who is noble, beguilling and irrepressibly seductive, that we all associate with the vampire and the unforgettable name of Dracula. This image of "the count" came to Stoker in a dream and is what finally compelled him, as if by the supernatural beckoning hand of Dracula, himself, to write the novel. According to the account of Stoker's son, these dreams were so vivid and terrifying, that Stoker felt intensely compelled to write the book, and write it in such a way, that the people will believe. This is why Stoker wrote his book in Epistolary form -- meaning it was composed of a series of supposedly authentic documents, which, when taken together, form a coherent story. This format helped to lend reality to the story, although it also has led some to believe that the Dracula tale was true. To further lend reality to the text, Stoker used a variation of the name Dracul, which was a surname used by an actual, historical prince of Trannsyvania, called Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler) -- a prince known for his incredible cruelty and who was believed to have become a vampire, after his death. Although Vlad's life bears no resemblance to that of Count Dracula, the real-world reference was no doubt included to help make people believe that the story could be true. Another reason why Dracula, as a novel, compelled the masses, when others did not was because of the integral sexuality of the count and his enslaved servant girls. This sexual element of vampirism, which was lacking in the earlier vampire books, also came to Stoker in dreams, and gave to his novel some of the most compelling elements of his tale, which helped make Dracula what he is, today.

Although it's clear that the idea of Dracula was a long process, inspired by a variety of things, the fact that the compelling persona, the atmosphere and the sexual nature of the Dracula tale came from dreams, I think it's safe to say this novel would never have come into existence, in the form that it did, if it wasn't for the vivid impressions left on Stoker's mind, as a result of his dream-time encounters with the vampire, himself.

2, Frankenstein
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Another staple of the 1950s movie monster scene, the novel "Frankenstein" was written by English Novelist, Short Story writter and Essayist Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley, in 1817. The entire idea for this revolutionary work of literature was hatched in the brain of Mary Shelley during a fitful, sleepless night, during a viciously cold winter's night. As Shelley, herself, tells it, she was struck by this vivid nightmare,  at 2 or 3 in the morning:

"I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world."

 This one concise scene completely defines the iconic image of the Frankenstein monster -- showing, perhaps better than that of any other dream-induced work of great fiction, that a single, powerful image, in the brain of the writer, can be enough to give birth and life to an entire work of legendary writing, based on that one image alone.

Shelley had this vision because she and her friends, who had been visiting the celebrated author "Lord Byron", at his villa in Switzerland, had been whiling away the long, cold winter's night around a log fire, reading translated tales of old German ghost stories. As a diversion, someone had suggested that they each make up their own tale of terror. After a few disappointing days, when no inspiration came to her. Finally, she was given this vision of Frankenstein, and in doing so, she created the germ of an idea, which would lead to three editions of the novel, within her own lifetime,  endless movie adaptations and a whole new concept in literature, which dealt with the horrors of what humanity could create, when they choose to grab the reins of nature. Shelley was the first to predict this dillemma, which is now so much a part of our lives, through such movements as GMO crops, transhumanism and stem cell research. And we never would have gotten this sneak peak into this future moral dillemma, of humanity, if it had not been for the late night imaginings of Mary Shelley, on that cold winter night.

3, Misery
Misery stephen king kathy bates horror movie film book book novel novels inspired dream dreams

One of my favorites, Stephen King, needs no introduction.  King has often credited his dreams for the inspiration of his nightmarish tales. He's said that he's often used the concepts and atmospheres, conjured during dream-time, to form the basis for his novels and generally calls his creative process, even when awake, a form of "creative dreaming." So, clearly, for King, dreaming and the ruminations of the subconscious are a big part of what makes a writer creative and able to invent visceral worlds of horror.

One of his most famous works, Misery, which was made into the iconic movie, starring Kathy Bates, was entirely concieved of, during a nap, while on a transantlantic flight from New York to London. King had read a short story, earlier, by Evelynn Waugh, called "The Man who Loved Dickens." It was a tale of an unfortunate man, in South America, who was sent to prison and forced to read the tales of Dickens, to a mentally unhinged prison chief, who was obsessed with the writer. During his fitful dreams, King wondered how horrific it would be, if Dickens himself had been in the prison with the chief, and he had been forced to read his own work to the crazed, unstable fan.

This forms the basis for the tale of Misery, which is a story about a well-known author, who becomes injured near the home of a crazed fan, in the middle of winter. Having the newly paralyzed author trapped in her snow-locked home, the unstable former nurse uses drugs and psychological warfare to keep the author weak and helpless. She forces him to recite her favorite lines, from his books, and forces him to listen to her insane babble, doing anything she can to assure she will never escape her grasp.

This tale, which has terrified many with it's incisive psychological horror, would never had come to be, had King not nodded off and dreamed, during that transantlantic flight.

4, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
strange case jeckyll hyde book novel Robert Louis Stevenson novels books inspired dream dreams

This book was written by the Scots author Robert Louis Stevenson, in 1885. Stevenson had been going through a period of illness, during his writing of a different work, called "Markheim." During one of his fever induced dreams, he had a series of nightmares, which seemed to get worse and worse, with time. One night, in the small hours of the morning, his wife heard his screaming, in horror. Terrified, she ran up to his room and woke him. Stevenson, apparently angry, shouted at her: "Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale!" Stevenson's wife had woken him up just as he was dreaming the first transformative scene of what would become Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, the now iconic tale of a man whose evil dark side comes out, as a result of his scientific experiments and his dabbling in things which humanity should leave alone.

Stevenson stumbled downstairs, in a fever, and recited the first half of the book, out loud, to his astonished family, and then climbed back upstairs to start writing it. He finished the first draft within three days, so obsessed did he become with his vision. During those days, Stevenson was influenced by the story he had heard, of a patient with split personality disorder (what is now called dissociative identity disorder) and his tale has become the defining work, now, for any tale that features a character with two distinctly different sides to it.

Although seriously ill, during the entire creative process, his family reported that he actually seemed energized and revitalized, by the creation of this new work. In true writer's fashion, he took life from the power of his creative energies, and lived to recover his health. Living a productive life until 1894. In this case, not only did Stevenson get his inpiration for a novel, through his dreams, but also recovered his health, all as a result of the inspiration, brought to him by his feverish nightmares.

5, The Works of Edgar Allan Poe
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Here I am, only in my second video, and I've already features Poe twice. This is partly the coincidence of the fact that both video topics are related to Poe, and also partly brought about by the fact that there are few writers I admire more, than Edgar Allan Poe. Much like King, who also derived most of the psychology of true Horror writing from the insightful landscape of his dreams, so also, Poe is known to have derived a lot of his most horrifying insights of what terrifies us humans, from the rich resources of his nightmares. Poe is known to have been plagued by nightmares, partly brought about by the many tragedies of his life. He would confide these nightmares to friends and relatives, and blamed this plague of bad dreams, at least in part, for being one of the reasons he drank. Given that most of his work has a nightmarish, subconscious and deeply psychological element to it -- it's not big jump in logic to suppose that the fertile fields of his tortured dream-life are probably one of the biggest inspirations for his writing. And Poe, himself, credited his nightmares for some of his best tales.

"The Tell-Tale Heart," which tells the tale of a man who has commited murder, but is thwarted in his attempt to hide the body, because he can hear the sound of the dead man's heart, in spite of the fact he knows he is dead; "The Cask of Amontillado," the tale of a man who is encased in a wall, by a vengeful nemesis; and "The Premature Burial," which is the story of a man, buried alive, are a few cases of truly nightmarish stories, thought to be inspired by Poe's tortured dreams.

Much like King's Misery, Frankenstein, and all the other stories featured here, most of the appeal of Poe's work, comes from the psychological insights handed to him, through his subconscious and, although tormenting him in life, helped to cement his legend and his legacy, by providing the resources to Poe's mind, which helped him to become one of the greatest and most celebrated writers of horror, suspence and atmospheric melancholy, known to the world of literature.

And that concludes this second video in the series. If you like this series, and would like to be updated, when a new one is posted, please take a second to subscribe to my channel. Next week I'll be posting my third video, which is entitled: "Five Artists Thought to be in League with the Devil." Thanks for listening, and we'll see you again next week.

To get updates on future videos, please subscribe to my youtube channel ( or follow my social media at

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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Top 5 Writers Who Died Mysterious Deaths

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I've been wanting to make a video series, for some time, that shares my lifelong interest in the many mysteries and curiousities that tend to accompany the lives of writers, artists and other creatives. As a writer myself, I am fascinated by the creative process, but often, I find, the volatile energies that artists and writers release, when they explore the limits of the creative mind, can lead to many bizarre situations, mysterious creations and frightening, unfathomable mysteries. As the first example of the unexplainable mysteries, as relates to writers, here my list of the top seven writers who died mysterious deaths.

agatha christie mysterious mystery death 1926 archie harrowgate fugue state poirot miss marple

Agatha Christie was an English writer and one of the most popular crime novelists of the early 20th Century. She is still widely read and respected, mostly for her 66 detective novels and her invention of such immortal and legendary fictional detectives as Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. There are many who say the modern detective story was invented by Christie. Although she was preceded by other literary pioneers of the detective genre, such as Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle, many of the conventions of the modern sleuth story borrow heavily from the structure and formulae that Christie, alone, invented. Though she helped redefine & recreate the mystery genre, one of the greatest mysteries, associated with Agatha Christie, has nothing to do with her writing, but with own mysterious disapearance and presumed death, in 1926.

On December 4th, 1926, Christie's car was found, abandoned, with the hood open and the lights on, parked next to a lake called Silent Pool, in Surrey. She had left her house, the previous evening, and, given the fact that she had left most of her personal possessions in the car, and the very suspicious circumstances, the Surrey Police were called in. Unable to find Christie anywhere near the vehicle or the lake, they issued a missing person report, in the hopes of getting clues from the public. However, because Christie had already become a famous author, ever since the publication of her wildly popular first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920, there was a greater public reaction to the missing person's report, than the police had ever imagined possible. More than 500 policemen across England, joined in the search, dredging Silent Pool, scouting the area with bloudhounds and scanning the countryside with airplanes. It was said that more than 15,000 volunteers were involved in the search.

Many people, who followed Christie's mystery writing, began to form their own conclusions, believing that Christie's husband, Archie, who was known to have a tumultous relationship with her, and was even rumoured to be having an affair, was somehow behind her disappearance. After 11 days, many more people were considering this theory, that she may have been murdered. Amazingly, and a bit anti-climactically, Christie was found, eventually, staying at a luxury spa resort in Harrowgate, which was more than 200 miles from where her car was found. One of the chambermaids had recognized her, from the missing person's reports and had tipped her off to the police. She had checked in, on December 4th, under the name of "Mrs. Teresa Neele" (Neele being the surname of her husband's mistress) and had told everyone at the hotel she was a bereaved mother. A journalist, who had guessed Christie's location and arrived soon before the police went up to the supposed Mrs. Neele and addressed her as "Mrs. Christie." She acknowledged her identity to the journalist, but told him she had lost her memory and had been suffering from Amnesia. Later, the cops arrived with the press and her husband Archie. Although she first mistook Archie for her brother, she eventually seemed to recognize him and seemed able to convince him that she had lost her memorie and wandered here, in a disoriented state.

Christie never fully explained the reason for this baffling incident, but many theories have sprung up, and people have been trying to solve the mystery, ever since she was found, in 1926.

One theory is that it was an elaborate publicity stunt, given that her latest novel, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd" was on the best-seller's list for a very long time, and her name was certainly on everyone's tongue, worldwide, for more than a week, as a result of her disappearance. Another theory was that Agatha had cooked up this elaborate situation in order to shame and punish her husband, Archie, who had just expressed his desire to divorce Christie, and move in with his mistress, on December 3rd, the night before Christie disappeared. By staging her own death, her husband had felt the pressure of the police and the public, who certainly learned about his undutiful and adulterous behavior, as a result of the publicity surrounding her disappearance. On the other hand, many people believed her story of Amnesia, given her car was high up and over an embankment, when found, as if she had hit something, in the dark, and possibly suffered a blow to the head. Although it is hard to explain how she found her way to a cab or a train, in order to make it to Harrowgate, in such an impaired state, in the middle of the night. One final theory is that she had suffered what is known as a "Fugue State," which is a form of nervous breakdown, that can happen to people who are going through a lot of stress. Christies mother had recently died, she had suffered a long and difficult illness, and it is theorized this final betrayal and demand for divorce, by Archie, had pushed her over the edge and caused her to detach from reality. This would explain why she left her belongings behind, in her deranged state of mind.

But, given Christie never offered an explanation, even unto her death, it is still a complete mystery why Agatha Christie disappeared, in this way. I'm inclined to think she was so emotionally disturbed, that she formulated this elaborate way to embarass Archie, based on the fact she so quickly admitted her true identity, when first confronted by the journalist. I have trouble believing she really did have amnesia. But I'm still unsure. What do you think? Although Christie lived a long and distinguished life, beyond 1926, I still wanted to include it in this list, simply because it was, and still is, a mystery which even Poirot would have trouble with.

Alexei Maximovich Peshkov Maxim Gorky Gorki Russian Writer Author Realism Soviet mysterious death stalin poison murder mystery

Maxim Gorky was born Alexei Maximovich Peshkov. I've always believed my mother chose my first two names based on this author's birth name, but since she's denied it, I can only assume it was subconscious or a coincidence. Maxim Gorky was a Russian writer, who lived from 1868 to 1936. He was part of the great literary movement of Russian Realism, which is still highly lauded, around the world. He was a close friend of other famous Realist writers of the period Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov and even published his memoirs about his experiences with these two close friends, soon after their deaths.

In addition to being a writer, Gorky was active in the socialist movement which lead to the Russian Revolution, in 1917. He seemed to have embraced socialism because of his powerful hatred for the tyranny of the Russian Tsars and his personal experience, travelling among the peasants and witnessing their suffering. In the early 1900s, he had been a popular writer, in Tsarist Russia, and had used his popularity to shame the Tsarist government and support groups that pushed for reform and social justice. His activism led to his being exiled to the island of Capri, in Italy, in 1906, and it was not until Tsarism was about to fall that Gorky returned to Russia. His apartment, in Petrograd, even served as a headquarter for local Bolsheviks, during World War I. When the Soviet state was formed, purporting to be the true state of the people, Gorky felt his vision of an ideal, just society had come to pass.

However, by 1921, the reality of the oppressive Soviet state began to dawn on Gorky. Stalin had taken over and was indiscrimnately executing anybody who showed even the slightest hint of disloyalty or rebelliousness. Gorky often wrote in local publications, denouncing the undemocratic and violent methods of the Bolsheviks. When Gorky's friend and fellow writer, Nikolay Gumilev, was executed for his suspected Monarchist sympathy, this seems to have scared Gorky into fleeing to Italy, once again, to live a life in exile.
By 1932, however, Italy had become fascist, under Mussolini, and so, in spite of his probably misgivings, Gorky accepted a personal invitation, by Stalin, to return to Russia. Being a popular propaganda figure -- given he was still hailed as a writer of the revolution -- it was valuable for Stailin to have Gorky in his country. He was given a mansion and treated with great honour, by Soviet officials, as well as by Stalin, himself, who often visited him and viewed his public readings. Although he had once renounced the Bolsheviks, Gorky, perhaps out of fear, now seemed to "tow the party line" and seemed to have kept a low profile, perhaps hoping he'd be left alone, to continue his writing, in peace. In spite of his previous hatred for violent tactics, he seemed resigned to the increasing horrors perpetrated by Stalin's ever-growing paranoia and tyranny.

However, as Stalinist oppression ramped up to a fever pitch, Gorky's fortunes inevitably took a deadly turn. His son died under suspicious circumstances, in 1934, and Gorky himself, turned up dead in his villa, a few years afterwards. The official Soviet story was that he had been ill and died of natural causes. But rumors spread, in Soviet Russia, that he had been poisoned by Stalin.

This theory that Stalin had him poisoned or murdered in some such way were later backed up by the fact that a trial, taking place in Russia, in 1938, led to the testimony of an eyewitness, who claims that Gorky was killed by  NKVD agents(the precursor to the KGB). Gorky was still revered as a great Soviet writer, and his coffin was even carried by Stalin and the powerful Molotov, during his funeral. I personally am inclined to suspect that Gorky's son might have done what his father didn't dare do, and might have voiced discontent of some kind with the state and so was gotten rid of. Perhaps this crime against his blood made Gorky's old sense of justice come to the surface, and so Stalin decided to get rid of him, before he destroys the illusion of the "hero writer of the revolution", which was such a valuable propagand tool. But, what do you think? Do you know more about this case and what might have been the real story behind Gorky's death? If you think you might, leave a comment and share your story with the rest of us.

Ian Mackintosh Sandbaggers Spy intelligence espionage British mysterious death mystery gulf alaska defection soviet agent

Ian Mackintosh was a writer of popular thriller novels and a screenwriter for British television. His most popular novels and television work, was generally set in the world of British espionage and was famous for being the first and only body of work that seemed to accurately portray the British secret services. Many people wondered if Mackintosh, himself, might have been in the secret service, given that his portrayal of the intelligence operative's lives seemed to be so authentic and laced with arcane intelligence jargon, known as "spookspeak" in British intelligence circles.

Mackintosh wrote spy novels in the late sixties, and later went on to create the cult TV classic "The Sandbaggers", which aired on British station ITV, in the late 70s. It was mostly the accuracy portrayed in "The Sandbaggers" which led many to believe Mackintosh was a genuine insider, given their seeming indepth knowledge of spy tactics, the history of various spy agencies and the detailed logistics of intelligence work. Nothing had ever been seen, in television, and many people in the industy, nowadays, have said that Mackintosh's work was the only television show to even come close to reflect what real intelligence work is like. So, how did Mackintosh come by this seemingly authentic knowledge? Many of the show's fans have speculated that Mackintosh may have been recruited into the British Intelligence Community during his time with the British Navy, stationed near the Baltic Sea at a time when British Intelligence frequently used those seaways in order to infiltrate into the Soviet sphere of influence. Although he was asked many times, if he was actually a spy, Mackintosh would always simply reply with enigmatic phrases like "might have been," never actually answering the question.

Besides that mystery, however, the true puzzle, surrounding Ian Mackintosh has to do with his unexplained death, in 1979. Him and his girlfriend, Susan Insole, and a friend named Graham Barber were flying a light plane over the Gulf of Alaska, when they seemed to run into some trouble. They sent out a distress signal, which was picked up by the US Coast Guard, but the search and rescue teams were never able to find any evidence of a wreck and the three were never heard from again.

Although it may seem like a simple case of a plane crashing in the inhospitable waters off Alaska, the fact of Mackintosh's suspected affiliation with the intelligence community has put his death into question. One theory suggests that he was shot down by American planes, as a result of his spy activities, and that the flight over Alaska might have been reconnosance activity. In this case, the story of a distress signal might have been a cover up. Another theory states that Mackintosh might have used this ruse to facilitate a defection to the USSR, given that Alaska was a hot-bed for Soviet spy activity, in the late 70s. Some of these theories seem to be given credence by the strange behavior of the pilot, during the fated flight. The pilot, quite outside of normal protocol, didn't submit a flight plan and the plane had made a mysterious, unscheduled stop at a disused World War II airfield. Years later, an official of the US State Department even admitted that he felt the crash had been staged. The seemingly endless theories also include the possibility that Mackintosh merely staged his own death, in order to avoid persecution by USSR agents and various terrorist organizations, known to have crossed swords with the British Intelligence community, such as the Black September, or even his own agency, who might have resented his sharing details about the intelligence community with the public, at large, through his books and his tevelision series. This is the theory I am leaning towards, as it certainly explains why he brought his girlfriend along with him, as well as his best friend, to keep him company in his new life. Although, because the bodies were never found and because we all know that planting misinformation is a major tactic of any intelligence agency, it really is hard to guess what might have happened to Mackintosh. What do you think is the most likely theory?

"Top 5" Ambrose Bierce mysterious death mystery pancho villa army mexico civil war devil's dictionary occurence owl creek bridge south america grand canyon journalist writer author

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist, writer and satirist, who was famous, in the late 1890s and early 1900s. His sardonic and cynical view of human nature gave him the nickname "Bitter Bierce" but he was seen as a comical and acidically witty critic of human nature. He's best known for his short story "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" and his satirical lexicon, "The Devil's Dictionary."

Bierce was a young man during the American Civil War and enlisted in the Union Army, where he eventually became a First Leiutenant and a topographical engineer, making maps of likely battlefields. After the war, he established a career as a journalist, where his painfully honest and caustic style started many controversies, when he'd criticize prominent politicians and business moguls.

By the turn of the century, Bierce had become a well respected author and continued to write short fiction and poetry, well into his old age. However, in 1913, at age 71, he felt a need to travel to Washington DC, to visit his old battlegrounds. Working his way south, he eventually came near the Mexican border, where a revolution was in full swing, led by the Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. Amazingly, Bierce convinced Villa's army to take him along, as an observer, and he actually observed the bloody battle of Tierra Blanca.

Bierce is known to have followed the army down to the town of Chihuahua, but after that point, nothing was ever heard form him again. Many theories were proposed, after his mysterious disappearance, given that Bierce was such a well-known and respected journalist, of the day. It seems to be the prevailing theory that he was executed by Villa's army, because they suspected he was an American spy. This theory seems to be borne out by the fact that eyewitnesses claim to have seen him executed by firing squard and claim to have found his ID, with his name on it, among his effects, after his death. Couple that with the fact that Bierce was known to be acidic, argumentative and prone to have a big mouth and the idea that he could have angered his proud, well-armed travelling companions seems likely. But there were theories that Bierce had wanted to retire, in Latin America, as he had often claimed that was where he wished to live, eventually. This theory is given some credence by the fact his final letter, sent to a friend, said that he would love to die at the hands of Mexican revolutionaries, because it would be a fittingly dramatic death, and he said a final goodbye, to his friend, just in case that happens. Of course, it is thought it did happen. This indicates that he knew that he was going to disappear, which implies he was either setting up his alibi or was using Villa's men in order to commit suicide. A kind of variation of the "suicide by cop." Some of his friends believed he had made up the whole story of Pancho Villa to cover up a simple suicide, by gun, at his favorite place -- the Grand Canyon. A few people even believe the stories that adventurers brought back from South America, claiming they met an old American, living with a native tribe, who worshipped him like a God, and believe this is what became of Bierce, who was known to write about highly supernatural topics, and probably would have loved to wind up in such a situation, retired with South American natives.

I am inclined to think he was killed by Villa's army, given there are two known eyewitness accounts, which is better than the other stories. But the friends that think he committed suicide by gun, and simply made up this more dramatic cover story argued he was very weak, asthmatic and unlikely to keep up with a revolutionary army, which seems to go against that theory. So, it is hard to know what the truth actually is. What do you think happened to Bierce? There seem to be no end to theories, but I've yet to read of any evidence, that seems to give a clear answer.

Edgar Allan Poe mysterious death mystery Baltimore cooping insanity delirium Reynolds Rufus Griswold murder rue morgue tell-tale heart raven virginia john allen father house devil alcoholism story top 5

This is perhaps the strangest one of them all. As we all know, Edgar Allen Poe was one of the first truly iconic American fiction writers. He is known as the creator of the mystery genre and the horror genre, and is famous for truly legendary works of early American literature, such as Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Telltale Heart and the epic poem, The Raven. His work influenced a great many future greats, in the writing world, like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Poe lived with tragedy, from his earliest years. His father left his family in 1810, just one year after Poe's birth. And, just a year later, Poe's mother died. Being orphaned, as a toddler, he was taken care of by a couple named John and Frances Allan. He lived with them until he was a young adult, although they never formally adopted him. Poe later conflicted with his father, who had a rocky relationship with him. Poe eventually fled his quarrelsome family and joined the army. Not long after leaving the army, he started a career in writing.

Poe became a sensation, when he poem "The Raven" was published in the Evening Mirror, in 1845. Although it is probably the most famous thing he ever wrote, reprinted 10 times, within the first month of its publication, Poe only received $9 for the rights to it. Poe also lost many potentially lucrative job offers, in publishing and federal government, because of his drinking and his tendency to miss appointments, because of it. Poe tried to create a periodical called the Broadway Journal, but it went out of business. And just a year later, in 1847, he wife, Virginia, died. These final misfortunes drove Poe even further into drink and he became an alcoholic recluse, during the last years of his life, living in what is now known as Poe Cottage, in the Bronx.

Then, on October 3rd, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore. He was apparently delirious, in great distress and in need of medical assistance. He was taken to the Washington Medical College, but the reason for his sudden madness was never found. He died in October 7th, 1849. Although the doctors attributed his condition to his known alcoholism, there were many strange circumstances that have made people suspicious of his death, ever since it was first published in the newspapers. For one, Poe was out of his mind, and unable to speak rationally. Because of this, he was never able to explain his odd condition to anybody, leaving it open to anyone's guess, concerning what happened to him. Strangely, he was found wearing clothes that did not belong to him and repeatedly shouted out the name "Reynolds" during his feverish delirium. This would seem to indicate some kind of foul play, rather than simply alcohol-induced madness. But people have postulated everything from schitzophrenia to epilepsy, to rabies, to explain his sudden descent into insanity. But this still doesn't explain why he was wearing strange clothes, seemed to have been beaten and repeatedly called out "Reynolds." Some have theorized Poe was a drug addict, and it was drug abuse that drove him insane. This is based on the dark and frightening nature of most of his work and based, in part, by rumors that were spread, after his death, by a hated rival named Rufus Griswold. Some people even postulate that Griswold, consumed by his hatred of Poe, murdered Poe or arranged for him to be assaulted, and so caused his death. Griswold did, in fact, publish this heartless and suspicious message, soon after Poe's death "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." Such an unnecessarily harsh public pronouncement, so soon after the man's death would seem to lend credence to that theory. But many commentators of the day said Poe was accidentally killed by ruffians who were engaging in a practice called "Cooping" This was a corrupt practice of the 1800s, where random people were pulled off the street and forced to vote for a particular candidate, often several times and were beaten if they refused. It was known, apparently, that cooping was happening in Baltimore at the time. But the theories are endless, anywhere from a nervous breakdown, brought on by the many miseries of Poe's life to retribution from the Devil, who dragged Poe into Hell as a punishment for the many evils and dark themes, that often populated his best works.

What do you think happened to Edgar Allan Poe? There are too many theories for me to come to a conclusion and too little information. But if you know more, I'd love to hear about it. One thing is sure, Poe's death was suitably mysterious, for a writer who would later be anointed as the Father of the Detective genre. Even the greatest detective superheroes, which have been borne out of Poe's invention of the genre, would have trouble sorting out this mystery.

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