Occult detective fiction combines the tropes of detective fiction with those of supernatural horror fiction. Unlike the traditional detective, the occult detective is employed in cases involving ghosts, curses, and other supernatural elements. Some occult detectives are portrayed as being themselves psychic or in possession of other paranormal powers.
Fitz James O’Brien’s character Harry Escott is a contender for first occult detective in fiction. A specialist in supernatural phenomena, Escott investigates a ghost in "The Pot of Tulips" (1855) and an invisible entity in "What Was It? A Mystery" (1859). The narrator of Robert Bulwer-Lytton’s novella "The Haunted and the Haunters; or, The House and the Brain" (1859) is another student of the supernatural who probes a mystery involving a culprit with paranormal abilities. Sheridan Le Fanu's Dr. Martin Hesselius appeared in "Green Tea" (1869) and later became a framing device for Le Fanu's short story collection In a Glass Darkly (1872). For most of its plot, The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of Sherlock Holmes's most well-known adventures, seems to belong in this genre - though in the end the villain turns out to be completely human and mundane, who deliberately created this misleading impression.
The next prominent figure in this tradition was Dr. Abraham Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), followed closely by E. and H. Heron's Flaxman Low, featured in a series of stories in Pearson's Magazine (1898–99), Algernon Blackwood's Dr. John Silence, and William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost Finder. Other supernatural sleuths in fiction dating to the late nineteenth century include Alice & Claude Askew's Aylmer Vance and Champion de Crespigny's Norton Vyse.
Thomas Carnacki may well be considered one of the first true occult detectives, as he combined both knowledge and experience of what he calls “the ab-natural” with scientific deductive method and equipment. The adventures of Carnacki have been continued by a number of writers, including A. F. Kidd in collaboration with Rick Kennett in 472 Cheyne Walk: Carnacki, the Untold Stories (2000), William Meikle in Carnacki: Heaven and Hell (Colusa, CA: Ghost House Press, 2011), Brandon Barrows in The Castle-Town Tragedy (Dunhams Manor, 2016), and others. In addition, writers Joshua M Reynolds and John Linwood Grant have each produced a separate series of stories which follow on from Carnacki's death, and feature occult detectives whose work relates to the original tales - The Adventures of the Royal Occultist and Tales of the Last Edwardian respectively.
Sax Rohmer's collection The Dream Detective features the occult detective Moris Klaw, who utilises "odic force" in his investigations. The occultist Dion Fortune made her contribution to the genre with The Secrets of Dr Taverner (1926), consisting of psychic adventures of the Holmes–like Taverner as narrated by his assistant, Dr Rhodes. Aleister Crowley's Simon Iff featured in a series of stories, some of which have been collected in book form. Dennis Wheatley's occult detective was Neils Orsen.
Though never large, the occult detective subgenre grew to include such writers as Seabury Quinn (with his character Jules de Grandin); Manly Wade Wellman, whose character John Thunstone investigated occult events through short stories in the pulps, collected in The Third Cry to Legba and Other Invocations (2000) and in the novels What Dreams May Come (1983) and The School of Darkness (1985); and "Jack Mann" (E. C. Vivian), who chronicled the adventure of his occult detective Gregory Gordon George Green, known as "Gees", in a series of novels. Pulp writer Robert E. Howard created stories about Steve Harrison, an occult detective, in the Strange Detective Stories magazine. Margery Lawrence created the character Miles Pennoyer in her occult detective stories collected in Number Seven, Queer Street.
Modern writers who have used the occult detective theme as a basis for supernatural adventures include Peter Saxon (The Guardians series), John Burke (Dr Alex Caspian), Frank Lauria (Dr Owen Orient), Lin Carter (Anton Zarnak), and Joseph Payne Brennan (Lucius Leffing).
The occult detective theme has also been used with series characters devised by such contemporary writers as Douglas Adams (Dirk Gently), F. Paul Wilson (the Repairman Jack series), Steve Rasnic Tem (Charlie Goode), Jessica Amanda Salmonson (Miss Penelope Pettiweather), David Rowlands (Father O'Connor), Rick Kennett (Ernie Pine), Brian Lumley (Titus Crow), Robert Weinberg (Sydney Taine), Simon R. Green (John Taylor), Steve Niles (Cal McDonald), Mike Carey (Felix Castor), Mercedes Lackey (Diana Tregarde), Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita Blake), Brian Keene (Levi Stoltzfus), Jonathan L. Howard (Johannes Cabal), and Jonathan Maberry (Sam Hunter). Jim Butcher's best-selling book series The Dresden Files is another well-known example. Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy stories and Dean Koontz's The Haunted Earth are examples in which occult detectives operate in a world where the occult is simply an accepted part of mundane life. Assaph Mehr's Stories of Togas, Daggers, and Magic combine historical mystery detective in ancient Rome with fantasy and occult elements.
A useful recent anthology collecting specimens of the genre is Mark Valentine, ed., The Black Veil & Other Tales of Supernatural Sleuths (ISBN 978-1-84022-088-9), published by Wordsworth Editions in 2009. Earlier themed anthologies include Stephen Jones, ed., Dark Detectives: Adventures of the Supernatural Sleuths (Fedogan & Bremer, 1998) and Peter Haining, ed., Supernatural Sleuths: Stories of Occult Investigators (William Kimber, 1986).
The magazine Occult Detective Quarterly (Electric Pentacle Press, 2016) specialises in presenting a wide range of new occult detective tales set in a range of time periods, with the occasional pastiche of classic figures from this branch of fiction.
In the 1970s, there were a number of attempts at occult detective television series. While not overtly occult detectives, the heroes and heroine of the sixties series The Champions inherited occult powers from a Tibetan lama and used these powers to investigate crime.
Other examples include Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970), starring Louis Jourdan as psychologist David Sorrell; The Sixth Sense (TV series) (1972) starring Gary Collins as a psychic investigator; The Norliss Tapes (1973) with Roy Thinnes as a reporter investigating the supernatural; Baffled! (1973), a British production with Leonard Nimoy and Susan Hampshire vs. an evil occult society; Spectre (1977), starring Robert Culp and Gig Young as criminologists turned demonologists; The World of Darkness (1977) and its sequel, The World Beyond (1978), starring Granville Van Dusen as a man who battles the supernatural following his own near death experience.
The most successful effort of this period was the short-lived television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75), starring Darren McGavin; the weekly series was based on two backdoor pilots (The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler) produced by Dan Curtis and scripted by Richard Matheson, based on an unpublished work by Jeff Rice. Kolchak's adventures have been continued in books by Rice and in the comic book Kolchak Tales. Matheson's Kolchak Scripts have also been published.
More recent examples include: Angel Heart, The Believers, Constantine, The Dresden Files, The Exorcist III, Grimm, Split Second, Lord of Illusions, Penny Dreadful, R.I.P.D., Special Unit 2, Supernatural, Twin Peaks, Vidocq, The X-Files, and Angel (1999 TV series).
The comic book Hellblazer boosted the popularity and image of the occult detective fiction genre and shaped it to its modern form. Many modern examples of the genre such as Hellboy, Supernatural, Grimm, The Originals, and The Dresden Files have been influenced by it, and many imitators of both the series and its character flourished such as Criminal Macabre, Gravel, Planetary, and others. Its elements and style have been used countless of times in other works and many analogues of the cynical protagonist John Constantine have appeared.
Examples of occult detectives in comic books include Doctor Spektor from Gold Key Comics, Hellboy from the Dark Horse series of same name, Dylan Dog from the Sergio Bonelli Editore series, and Martin Hel a character created by Robin Wood. Two Hellblazer writers have gone on to write their own occult detective characters: Sebastian O also at Vertigo by Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis' Gravel from Avatar Press. 2000 AD has featured a number over the years in their own eponymous series: Bix Barton, Devlin Waugh, Ampney Crucis Investigates and Dandridge. The occult detective team of Syd Deadlocke and Doc Martin, featured in Pulse of Darkness and other comics by Chris G.C. Sequeira, also fits into this genre. There is also the comic book series Ruse, once owned by CrossGen and now by Marvel Comics.
Examples in video games include The Black Mirror series, Betrayer, Murdered: Soul Suspect, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the Gabriel Knight series, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy, Memento Mori, Memento Mori 2, Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder, Darkness Within 2: The Dark Lineage, Condemned: Criminal Origins, The Wolf Among Us, the Blackwell series, the Dark Fall series, the Barrow Hill series and Shadow of Memories.
Captain Britain and MI13 is an American comic book series published by Marvel Comics and written by Paul Cornell, with art by Leonard Kirk. The series centers on the fictional British government agency MI: 13, which is dedicated to protecting the United Kingdom from supernatural threats. The main strikeforce is led by the superhero Captain Britain (Brian Braddock), and consists of various Marvel Comics characters that are of British descent or have a connection to the country. The series launched as a tie-in to the Secret Invasion event in May 2008 and ceased publication with issue #15.Cheo Yong
Cheo Yong (Hangul: 귀신보는 형사, 처용; RR: Gwisinboneun Hyeongsa, Cheo-yong; lit. "Ghost-Seeing Detective Cheo-yong") is a South Korean television series starring Oh Ji-ho, Oh Ji-eun and Jun Hyo-seong. The first season aired on cable channel OCN from February 9 to April 6, 2014 for 10 episodes.
The second season aired from August 23, 2015 to October 18, 2015, with Oh Ji-ho and Jun Hyo-seong reprising their roles, and with Ha Yeon-joo playing the protagonist's new partner.Dark Detectives
Dark Detectives: Adventures of the Supernatural Sleuths is an anthology of fantasy and horror detective stories edited by Stephen Jones. It was published by F & B Mystery in 1999 in an edition of 2,100 copies of which 100 were signed by all the contributors except R. Chetwynd-Hayes. The anthology contains 10 stories and a novel, Seven Stars, whose episodes are interspersed among the stories. Several of the stories first appeared in collections, or in the magazines The Idler, Kadath and Time Out.Dylan Dog Books out of series
The rolls out series Dylan Dog publications are not covered by regular series of Dylan Dog, the Sergio Bonelli Editore decided to assisting them in recent years with publications of unpublished stories every year mostly. The list includes the following:
Almanacco della paura (Almanac of fear)Roll annually with the release in April, containing an unpublished story, not part of the regular series, with the addition of reviews of horror movies and magazines
Speciale Dylan Dog (Dylan Dog Special)Roll annually with the release in October, containing an unpublished story, not part of the regular series, of 162 pages.
Dylan Dog Gigante (Dylan Dog Giant)Roll format Extra (30 x 20.5 cm.), With 240 pages, may contain from one to four unpublished stories, not published in the regular series. Has annually with the release in November.
Maxi Dylan DogRegister initially and annually from 2011, six months, with output in February and July. With 292 pages and contains three unpublished stories.
Dylan Dog Color FestAnnual books and, since 2010, six months, in which the stories are unedited and in full color. The authors vary in every output.Comes out in May and August.
One-shotUnpublished stories involving encounters between Dylan and Martin Mystère.Flaxman Low
Flaxman Low is a fictional character created by British authors Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard and his mother Kate O'Brien Ryall Prichard, published under the pseudonyms "H. Heron" and "E. Heron". Low is credited with being the first psychic detective of fiction, and appears in a series of short stories.Folklore (video game)
Folklore is a 2007 action role-playing video game developed by Game Republic and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game is set in Ireland and the Celtic Otherworld of Irish mythology, centering on a young woman named Ellen, and a journalist named Keats, both playable characters who together unravel the mystery that the quaint village of Doolin hides, the mystery that can only be solved by seeking the memories of the dead in the dangerous, Folk-ridden Netherworld.Gravel (comics)
Gravel is the name given to a series of limited and ongoing series by Warren Ellis, illustrated by Mike Wolfer and published by Avatar Press.
A number of different limited series have been published under the Strange Killings banner, all of which centred on British 'combat magician' William Gravel. Most recently these series were republished under the Gravel name, followed by the launch of a new series, Gravel.In a Glass Darkly
In a Glass Darkly is a collection of five short stories by Sheridan Le Fanu, first published in 1872, the year before his death. The second and third are revised versions of previously published stories, and the fourth and fifth are long enough to be called novellas.
The title is taken from 1 Corinthians 13:12, a deliberate misquotation of the passage which describes humanity as perceiving the world "through a glass darkly".Number Seven, Queer Street
Number Seven, Queer Street is a collection of supernatural detective short stories by author Margery Lawrence. It was first published by Robert Hale in the United Kingdom in 1945. The first United States edition was published in 1966 by Mycroft & Moran in an edition of 2,027 copies and omits the last two stories. The stories are about Lawrence's supernatural detective Miles Pennoyer.Peter Saxon
Peter Saxon is a nom de plume used by various thriller authors from the 1950s to the 1970s.Ruse (comics)
Ruse is a comic book featuring detectives Simon Archard and Emma Bishop. Originally published by CrossGen, it was revived in 2011 by Marvel Comics as part of its acquisition of CrossGen titles.The Champions
The Champions is a British espionage/science fiction/occult detective fiction adventure television series. It was produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment production company, and consists of 30 episodes broadcast on the UK network ITV during 1968–1969. The series was broadcast in the US on NBC, starting in summer 1968.The Dresden Files
The Dresden Files is a series of contemporary fantasy/mystery novels written by American author Jim Butcher. The first novel, Storm Front, was published in 2000 by Roc Books.
The books are written as a first-person narrative from the perspective of the main character, private investigator and wizard Harry Dresden, as he recounts investigations into supernatural disturbances in modern-day Chicago. Butcher's original proposed title for the first novel was Semiautomagic, which sums up the series' balance of fantasy and hard-boiled detective fiction.As of 2019, Butcher has written 15 novels set in the Dresden Files universe, plus a number of short stories (some of which are collected in the anthologies Side Jobs and Brief Cases). The series has also been released in audiobook format, narrated by James Marsters. Other works set in the same fictional universe include graphic novels (several new stories, plus adaptations of the first two novels), and The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game. In 2007, a television series based on the novels aired for one season on the American Sci-Fi Channel.The Living and the Dead (TV series)
The Living and the Dead is a British supernatural horror television miniseries created by Ashley Pharoah. The plot revolves around Nathan Appleby (played by Colin Morgan) and his wife, Charlotte Appleby (played by Charlotte Spencer), whose farm is believed to be at the centre of numerous supernatural occurrences.The World Beyond
The World Beyond is the second of two pilots for an occult detective television series. The first pilot, The World of Darkness, also starring Granville Van Dusen as Paul Taylor, premiered on Sunday, April 17, 1977. The World Beyond followed as a sequel on CBS Friday, January 27, 1978.Willoughby Kipling
Willoughby Kipling is a fictional character in the Vertigo Comics and later DC Comics fictional universes, created by Grant Morrison.
Kipling appears in his first live adaptation on the first season of the DC Universe series Doom Patrol, played by Mark Sheppard.Zed (comics)
Mary "Zed" Martin is a fictional character in the Hellblazer series published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. A psychic artist who met John Constantine in a London alleyway, she was recruited by an extremist Christian group called 'The Resurrection Crusade' to bear the Second Coming, which Constantine stopped from happening. She first appeared in Hellblazer #4.
Lists of fictional agents
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