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One of my narrative fetishes is occult mysteries, especially if they were written in the 1970s or early 1980s. While _The Corpsewood Manor Murders in North Georgia_ by Amy Petulla is categorized as true crime and was published in 2016, it has all the earmarks of the trashy occult fiction I love: the overblown language, the almost inseparable tangle of fact and supposition, and the Dionysian mishmash of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll (or, in this case, Renaissance harp music)).

The book examines the December 1982 murders of Charles Scudder, a former pharmacology professor, and his companion, Joey Odom, who had moved from Chicago to the wilds of northern Georgia, where they charmed and befriended many of the local straight residents, while also throwing scandalous secret baccanales for semi-strangers.

The two men had built their own quite literal castle, complete with drawbridge, in the wilderness, and they filled the castle with Renaissance-style furniture (the author claims these were authentic priceless antiques). At times, the author seems to want to paint a picture of a gay Camelot in a fairytale wildwood:

begin excerpt
Dr. Scudder owned a golden harp that he sometimes played from the tower deck at night, when the full moon would reflect the moonlight from their pond onto the pink gargoyle [a statue set over the entrance to the castle], purportedly making it glow neon. The unearthly tones seemed to draw forth a time when castles, lords and magic might be waiting behind every hill.
end of excerpt

While the savage murders of the two men is never trivialized, the author is prone to freely throwing about wild speculations like a drunken partygoer might toss around handfuls of confetti on New Year's Eve.

This is where the story becomes Agatha Christie country house mystery meets _Rosemary's Baby_.

Because the two gentle gay men who grew their own vegetables, baked their own bread, and made their own wine, were also devil worshippers.

The same old sources get dragged out, Eliphas Levi's _Transcendental Magic_, Anton Levay's _Satanic Bible_, the _Necronomicon_ (though this seems to exist in two forms, one being the fictional book written by H. P. Lovecraft, and the other being the ancient text translated by the alchemist John Dee...or maybe they are supposed to be the same book? I don't know--that part was pretty confusing.).

But there are some new faces, also. William Blake in his guise as Satan worshiper gets a lot of love, but here is my favorite:

begin excerpt
It is no great surprise, given their philosophies, that the self-indulgent Church of Satan was founded by Anton LaVey in the tumultuous, "If it feels good, do it" 1960s. Specifically, it was founded at midnight on the dawn of the auspicious May Day (May 1) 1966 in San Francisco. It is interesting to note that the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) was founded the exact same day, a few miles away in Berkeley. The society is the group known for reverting to the Middle Ages by dressing in medieval garb and cavorting in the woods or, if one can be found, a castle, eschewing modern conveniences and utilities, often drinking homemade wine and incorporating period items, like harps or even renaissance furniture, into their revelries. Many also eschew Christianity in favor of pagan rites that they believe were practiced during that era.

Sound familiar? It could not be determined whether Charles Scudder participated in the
SCA, due in large part to the fact that SCA members operate under different character names and usually do not share their actual identities.... Besides sharing a founding date, calendar (beginning for both on their founding date, year I AS) and initials with the Church of Satan (which is referred to by some as the Satanic Church or the Satanic Church of America), the SCA surely shared some founding members, as both drew alienated college students from the Berkeley/San Francisco area.
end of excerpt


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