Connecting the (Demonic) Dots

Toyne Newton’s 1987 The Demonic Connection isn’t quite a psychic questing book along the lines of those written by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman or Andrew Collins, but it’s regularly cited in Collins’ early work and has much the same atmosphere about it, largely because both The Demonic Collection and the various questing books have similar preoccupations with occult conspiracies at work in the English countryside.

The major difference in approach is that whilst the likes of Phillips or Collins’ questing books go into detail about the little adventures the authors and their colleagues have as they go using the powers of the mind to uncover various mysteries, Newton is much less interested in reporting methodology; with some exceptions, he just dumps the results of his research on the reader, which means it’s unclear to what extent psychic or other unconventional research methods figured into his work.

However, what The Demonic Connection lacks in adventure, it more than makes up for in the sheer scope of its theories. Another commonality it has with the psychic questing books is this tendency to take some local landmark in the English countryside, investigate its alleged mysteries, and thereby spin a yarn which puts that otherwise nondescript locale at the heart of a cosmic conflict.

 

In the case of The Demonic Connection, that locale is Clapham Woods in the South Downs in Sussex. In the 1970s and early 1980s a number of strange things happened in the region; UFO and ghost sightings, disappearing pets, and even a string of mysterious deaths drew the attention of various investigators, including Newton and Charles Walker. Walker had theorised that an occult group might be using the Woods as a ritual site, and posted newspaper adverts to that effect asking anyone with information to get in touch; after being telephoned by a mysterious stranger who arranged a rendezvous at a crossroads in the Woods, Walker found himself having a conversation with a supposed member of the Friends of Hecate, purportedly the coven that uses the Woods for its own dark purposes.

One of the most delightful aspects of the book is the way Newton absolutely takes this meeting at face value. Even if we assume that Charles Walker is not a fantasist who concocted this confrontation for the sake of propping up his stories about the Woods, the fact is that nothing about this meeting would be beyond the ability of a reasonably clever hoaxer to arrange. It’s just as likely, if not more so, that some prankster saw Walker’s advert and decided to mess with him – nonetheless, Newton and Walker decided that the occult theory was correct, and wrote up some articles on the subject which got published in the early 1980s partwork magazine The Unexplained.

(Later, Walker and Newton receive a letter mentioning the Friends, which they assume is genuine on that basis because they hadn’t publicised the name of the group at that point; however, this could just be the same hoaxer deciding to double down on the joke, having read the articles in The Unexplained and realised just how effective their earlier prank was.)

The Demonic Connection seems to be a restatement and expansion of the Unexplained articles, with Newton randomly thrashing about in the general paranormal scene to add additional grist for the mill. From the starting point of “There is a Satanic cult which uses Clapham Wood for sacrifices”, Newton draws in the idea of ley line energy, which in turn lets him riff on the Philadelphia Experiment, Nazi fascination with Bulwer-Lytton’s Vril (naturally, Newton regards Trevor Ravenscroft’s infamously flaky The Spear of Destiny as a meaningful source), Soviet experiments in mind control, and more besides, culminating in a conspiracy to overthrow civilised society completely.

Whilst I expected to come across a lot of 1980s-style Satanic Panic content – all child abuse and heavy metal and all-night D&D sessions a la The Devil’s WebThe Demonic Connection by comparison seems much more mundane. Newton clearly follows the example of Andrew Collins, in that he’s decided that some occultists are evil and plotting to destroy the world whilst some are nice, and the ones he actually meets in the flesh tend to be nice and the ones who lurk offstage and never actually do anything concrete are the baddies – in effect, Newton is pointing to a scapegoat which isn’t there and doesn’t exist, or at least didn’t exist at the time he was talking about. Recent kerfuffles surrounding the neo-Nazi hate group, the Atomwaffen Division, and the ties of key members of it with the absolutely bizarre Order of Nine Angles, suggests that whilst a millennium-old occult conspiracy along the lines that Newton was talking about didn’t exist in the 1980s, Nazi entryism into the occult scene (as spearheaded by the likes of Julius Evola and Savitri Devi back in the day) means that occult Nazi-Satanist conspiracies do in fact exist here in 2019. What a time to be alive.

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