Monday, April 30, 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Women to Rule the World AGAIN

While it may not be entirely related to Chicago, this article from the Chicago Examiner, August 22, 1915, is too amazing not to include here.

Lauren De Laurence

Synchronicity is a funny thing.  Last summer I found an article about Lauren de Laurence and his Order of the Black Rose.  I posted it here two days ago.  Tonight I was reading Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies, and who should be mentioned but Mr. de Laurence himself.

De Laurence (1868-1936) was born in Ohio and moved to Chicago as a hypnotist around 1900.  He began publishing books, mainly pirated versions of existing books on magic and "Hindu mysticism."  He did write a few books of his own, namely The Master Key which is available online in its entirety at this location on

De Laurence founded two orders:  The Order of the White Willow (which apparently consisted entirely of women, whose initiation involved being weighed in the nude ) and the Order of the Black Rose.  A disgruntled worker filed a claim against him, leading to the mail fraud charges that I previously posted about.

From the Chicago Defender, June 13 1914:  "Slick Man Lures Boy from Africa; Beats and Robs Him."

According to Carolyn Morrow Long's book Spiritual Merchants:  Religion, Magic and Commerce, the beating was a result of Williams's being lecherous toward female employees.  Long states that much of what we know regarding Laurence today is due to his testimony in this case.

The Chicago Examiner, November 27, 1915
"Why, all book dealers sell books on magic."

Chicago artist Corkey Sinks

Corkey Sinks was mentioned in the previous entry on Chicago's Occult Artists.  Last night I saw some of her work at the MFA Exhibition at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  My eye was caught by the angular candles and a bookshelf (the nerdy part of me instantly noticed a copy of Richard Cavendish's The Black Arts).

From the artist's website

"The research branched into the lives of celebrities, Mia Farrow, Anton LaVey, the Manson Family, Kenneth Anger, the Beatles, Gerald Ford, etc. and the occult, building upon the American-centric imagination of a hidden evil." (From this interview with Stephanie Cristello)

The Graduate Exhibition is open until May 16th.  Visit the site for more information.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Madame Colette Willy

From the Chicago Examiner.  September 4, 1910.  Madame Colette Willy is shown "practicing occultism."  I was going to quote a few things from this, but I love every bit of it.  So you'll just have to look at it yourself.

Order of the Black Rose, 1915

From the now defunct Chicago Examiner, November 1915.  Lauren de Laurence apparently headed numerous magical orders in the area and wrote several books.  This article makes sure to let you know that "both men and women, both negroes and whites" took part in his ceremonies.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Psychic Power magazine

Psychic Power magazine was the forerunner of Occult Digest, being published in the earlier part of the 1920s.  Like the Digest, it was edited and published by Effa Danelson.  Psychic Power was just slightly different in that it had less illustrations and focused a bit more on Spiritualism, seances and etc.

A year's worth of Psychic Power, bound.

Local spirit photographer W.K. Dunmore published a series of essays in Psychic Power which would later be published in book form.

Dunmore also had ads featured in the back of the magazine.

The Psychic Power headquarters, later home to the Occult Digest and Occult Book Mart.

Documenting seances and other events at the center.

Two articles from the same year regarding radio gaining "sight."

I'd read before about Edison's secretive inventions intended to contact the deceased.  I appreciate finding this article published during his lifetime.

 Publisher and editor Effa Danelon

Update: Homoccult & Other Esoterotica

It was recently pointed out in response to my previous post regarding Homoccult & Other Esoterotica that they are having gallery hours this Saturday 4/28. And there is a closing reception on 5/11 at 7 pm.  Great news!

Visit the HOMOCCULT website for more information

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CF Russell, Sex Magick and Fine Arts

I mentioned CF Russell in my previous post regarding the Occult Digest, and promised that I would devote an entire post to him.  This is a fascinating subject in relation to Chicago's history, the history of the occult and the local gay community that worked in esoteric circles locally in the early 20th century.  Needless to say, someone could write an amazing essay/book/thesis on the subject.  This is my attempt to show the tip of the iceberg.

Cecil Frederick Russell (1897-1987) was at first an ardent follower of Aleister Crowley.  After getting dishonorably discharged from the US Navy, Russell stayed at Crowley's Abbey of Thelema briefly, where the two fought and parted ways.  Russell (who Crowley referred to as having a "violent reaction against any act of authority") then founded his own order, the Choronzon Club, in 1928. Some sources say that Crowley suggested that he The Choronzon Club changed its name to G.B.G. in 1931 - it is often believed stand for "Great Brotherhood of God," though apparently Russell was evasive regarding the meaning of the acronym. 

Dues were only $5, and if a new member got a friend to enroll then they were able to keep half of this amount.

Russell put out advertisements in the Occult Digest, which he also wrote several articles for:
A shortcut to Initiation
The Choronzon Club
Box Chicago, 111

Naturally there are those who disagree with any idea of "shortcut," so Russell raised some eyebrows with what some called "abbreviated rituals" (though they may have just been jealous of his quickly growing numbers due to the fast track and low dues).  "For his first few months of membership the initiate of the G.B.G. was kept in ignorance of its sexual-magical affiliations and were only revealed to him (or her) after he had satisfactorily completed a course of occult training devised by Russell" (Francis King, "Sexuality Magic & Perversion").  This course can be found online as a PDF very easily.

 "But in 1933 a schism broke out in Russell's ranks; a meeting was held
 on the 8th floor of 410 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, with the
 object of forming a group consisting exclusively of homosexual men (the
 basis on which all contemporary XI° groups are founded). Eventually
 four groups could be distinguished as springing from Russell's initial

"The remaining members in Chicago, who had been an exclusively XI° group for some time, had held their meetings at 64 East Van Buren Street since 1941 independently of Russell; in the 1960s they returned to Michigan Avenue."

For those not aware, XI° was the anal sexual magick degree of Crowley's formulated for the O.T.O.  

Those of you who are paying attention will recognize the 410 South Michigan Avenue address as being the Fine Arts building.  The building how houses artist studios, several music instructors, a Kundalini Yoga studio and others.  There is an art walk on the 2nd Friday of every month.  The building was built in 1885 and at one point housed a number of Theosophical groups, among other things.  If you wander through the building, it's easy to feel some of the earlier roots.


Prepare for an obligatory elevator ride with a human elevator operator.

 Murals on the top (10th) floor.

 staircase finials

8th floor, as mentioned previously

also on the 8th floor

Selected Works bookstore on the 2nd floor - these are only the discount books outside of the entrance.  They have a cat that roams the stacks, and if you look you can find books that were originally part of different Theosophical / esoteric groups.

Many of Russell's writings can be found online here:

All of the information in this post taken from:
1.  XI°: Anal Intercourse and the Ordo Templi Orientis -
2. Sexuality, Magic & Perversion, Francis King
3. Magick - The Order of the GBG (online PDF)

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Also posting updates on Twitter now.!/OccultChicago


For those of you who would like to get updates on Facebook, I've created a page for Occult Chicago:

Join in!

Newberry Library - bibliophiles take note!

Until a few months ago, I had only been to the Newberry Library for their yearly book sale every July (this year from the 26th to 29th - mark your calendars).  I had no idea what I was missing out on.  This is one of the best resources in the city.

Located at 60 West Walton street, The Newberry is a free public library non-circulating library with mind blowing archives.   I finally browsed their catalog online after wondering if they might have an antique copy of the witchcraft treaty Malleus Maleficarum.  It turned out that they had at least SIX, the earliest dating from 1484. 

They have a ton of information relating to local history, Medieval studies and consequently quite a lot of items of interest regarding witchcraft, magic and the occult.  Take a look at bound volumes of Austin Osman Spare's publication The Golden Hind.

For more information, visit:

The direct link to their catalog:

Show up, sign up for their library card and bring your camera.  They allow photographs to be taken as long as you vow not to publish them in any way (otherwise I would definitely be posting some of my own here). 

Also, dating from 1887, the building is beautiful.

Photograph taken from the Newberry's Plan Your Visit page

Friday, April 20, 2012

Quasi Runic / Futhark graffiti

Found in Bucktown.  Assuming that this is someone's personal take on runic script.  Am I wrong?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Occult Digest

The Occult Digest - A Magazine for Everybody was a Chicago magazine published from 1925 until 1947.

It was published for quite some time in a great looking building known as the "Occult Digest Center," which also included the "Occult Book Mart."  This was located near what is now Lincoln Park (and coincidentally right around the corner from where Process Church and the Foundation Church of the Millennium would set up headquarters in the 1970s).  They also published Psychic Power magazine in the early 1920s and a variety of books on occult subjects.

This cover image blatantly stolen from the Jackie Gleason Archives at the University of Miami Libraries

As far as I can tell, the Occult Digest had amazing cover art for only the first couple of issues, then utilized a fairly generic (though decidedly Art Deco) cover design.  Please forgive these low quality snapshots.
By the early 1930s they switched to a more blocked off design.

Some subjects are obviously problematic now.  There are allusions to the fallout from the Civil War and the ideas regarding eugenics and race.

I love both of these articles about magic and music.


It was interesting for me to see several ads referring to psychic or clairvoyant phenomenon as "human radio."  It put some things into perspective regarding the things I've been reading about Radionics lately.  Imagine how crazy it must have seemed, sending sound through the air invisibly.  

The National Theosophical Convention was held in Chicago at the Stevens Hotel, which is now the Hilton.

Effa Danelsen was the driving force behind Occult Digest, appearing to edit and publish the magazine as well as writing for it. 

CF Russell wrote regularly for the magazine from 1930 - 1933.  Also, he regularly placed ads for his  Choronzon Club in Occult Digest.  His writings from this time have been archived online on this website.  Russell definitely deserves an entry all of his own here at some point.

By 1939 The Occult Digest merged with the Telepathic Magazine.  The format changed from a standard magazine size to a small digest with only 30 pages per issue.  At this point it was published by Maha Publishing, and the headquarters would move to south 89th street with new editor Marie Harlowe.  Much of the magazine seems to have revolved around Harlowe at this point, with her writing the editorial column and various articles relating to comparative religion.  Several pages were also dedicated to advertisements for Harlowe's "Occult Lessons" in "Breathing Methods Suitable to Western Vehicles."  In 1942 the magazine changed its name to World Philosophy.