Dead Names, Dead Dog: A List of Pretenders

Dead Names begins with a historical piece that's quite entertaining.  For those who don't want to pick up the book, here's a synopsis:

Peter Levenda and Andrew Prazsky met while attending the same high school.  They bonded over a love of the occult and the trappings of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.  The draft for Vietnam was in high gear, and medical and college deferments were out, so they chose to declare themselves bishops in their own Eastern Orthodox denomination to be exempted as clerics. Both had family ties to Czechloslovakia, and they noticed that no church from that country existed in the United States.  So, they started the Autocephalous Slavonic Orthodox Catholic Church.

What they didn't know at the time was that, during the Cold War, the Eastern Orthodox denominations in the United States were filled with political operatives jockeying to overthrow the Communist governments back home – or at least to make the most of a life of questionable funds and shady connections.  Clergy were often "wandering bishops," individuals with no congregations and uncertain lineage who swapped ordinations like kids swapping Magic cards.  After a while, Peter drifted away from the scene, but Andrew embraced it in all of its insanity.

Two of the monks associated with the Church, Steven Chapo and Michael Huback, were carrying out thefts from university libraries, walking out with rare atlases hooked under their robes, using a hydraulic press to remove the identifying markers, and selling the works to unsuspecting booksellers. Prazsky found out and they came to some sort of arrangement where they provided him with occult books.  One of these books was, of course, the Necronomicon.

"Simon" borrowed the book from Prazsky and took it to Herman Slater of the Warlock Shop, Brooklyn's premier occult supply store. Slater recognized the name as Lovecraft's and urged that it be published.  "Simon" farmed out to two translators, got it back to Prazsky just before Huback and Chapo were caught and convicted.  Later, Larry Barnes put up the funding for its publication because it had been completed on the date his brother died.

I'll admit, it's a great story.  What we often forget, though, is that a great story doesn't necessarily have to be true.  Some people have already been caught up in the documentary evidence "Simon" provides – newspaper clippings, government documents on wandering bishops, and photographs – that establishes the scene for the book's appearance.  We've seen much of this already, and used it for The Necronomicon Files. Still, none of this material really touches upon the existence of the Necronomicon.  The question is, what new evidence do we have?

Can we see photographs of the manuscript itself?  No.

Do we know where the manuscript is?  Well, no.  When Huback and Chapo were caught, Prazsky burned his whole collection of occult books, supposedly including the Necronomicon.  Not only can "Simon" not prove that the manuscript existed, he provides no evidence of Prazsky's occult book collection.

Weren't photocopies made?  Yes, they were, but they were made on a bad mimeograph machine that faded away, and apparently "Simon" didn't check on them before they did.

Can we talk to the translators?  Oh no.  "Simon"'s keeping their identities a secret.

Did they leave any notes that we could examine?  Well, he doesn't say, so apparently not.

Can we near from anyone else who can give their own version of events?  Not really.  Most of the people involved in the scene are dead, and Chapo's vanished.

None of these are evidence.  Instead, they're excuses for not producing evidence. 

It is true that "Simon" provides more details on the manuscript – that it was many pages, and that it appeared in a box with a European "7" on its label, for instance.  Nonetheless, if we admit the possibility that "Simon" might be spinning a tale, it would be relatively easy to add enough plausible-sounding detail to the story.  What is needed is some outside proof that things were indeed as "Simon" said, aside from a story that he's had plenty of time to polish.  We just don't have that.

Bear in mind, "Simon" has remained mostly silent on the Necronomicon for over twenty-five years.  This was his big chance to prove, once and for all, that he had indeed found the manuscript that he claims will transform the world.  He would hardly hold back the best evidence he could provide that the book did, indeed, exist, to shame his critics and exhilirate his supporters.  Still, nothing new is presented here aside from Simon's unsupported statement.

In addition, the book reveals more of the participants' backgrounds than perhaps he knows.  As it shows, Levenda and Prazsky were involved in all manner of scams, ranging from panhandling door-to-door for personal money to infiltrating, and leading the procession at, the funeral of Robert Kennedy.  Without evidence for the book's existence, we must make a decision based on the character of the participants – and they reveal themselves more than willing to lie and wheedle their way into money.  In telling such stories with undisguised admiration, "Simon" unwittingly undermines his own case.

As he cannot prove the manuscript's existence, "Simon" devotes the second part of his book to creating a plausible backstory that would allow for the existence of the manuscript he cannot show us.  We will spend many subsequent posts there, but I may have one more comment on this…

Published in: on June 16, 2006 at 4:19 am  Comments (5)  

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  1. […] A:  You’ll note that “Simon” says nothing in Dead Names about the behavior and motivations of Corso.  In his very first scene, Depp’s character is meeting with the family of a paralyzed old bibliophile.  Corso grossly exaggerates the value of their collection and picks up its most valuable work – a prized edition of Don Quixote – for a pittance from the unsuspecting family.  He comes across as a very materialistic character with a complete lack of even the “tainted” spirituality of the other characters.  In effect, “Simon” finding a kinship in this character could be seen in light of his previously-noted admiration for figures who act like scoundrels and con men. Once again, it makes you wonder what’s really going on in his head. […]

  2. […] This leaves me intensely disappointed.  If you’re actually going to be a heel and steal from a public institution, you should at least display a certain level of competence about it.  Even Chapo and Huback put some effort into selection, acquisition, and remarketing. I feel that the present administration with its well-oiled propaganda machine has left us with a generation of youth with an impulse to crime but unable to tell a decent lie, destroy a paper trail, or pull off even a small caper without a multimillion dolllar consultant at hand.  Next thing you know, we’ll be outsourcing our crime to India, leaving American workers formerly employed in this lucrative field on the streets and forced to turn to… well, something other than crime. […]

  3. […] practice with the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft, thus inspiring the Simon Necronomicon (yes, yes, two monks and so on) and a great deal of modern magical practice.  Kenneth Grant, in our few interactions, […]

  4. Im currently reading the history that “Simon” has written. I find it very intriguing. I have looked on the internet for many conformations of the things he states in his book. I was a skeptic, but I have yet to find a false piece of information. Yes he doesnt provide pictures of the Necronomicon itself or the other books that were stollen, but if people have the ability or the stomach to believe in the so called God in the Heavens then why is it so far fetched that just maybe “Simon” might actually be telling the truth. He has given ever piece of information, I believe, he could give.

    • It is abvious that the necronomicon was not an ancient manuscript, but an innovation, ceremonial and thelemic approach to sumerian, Akkadian and babilonian spirituality. None the less effective and intriguing. As we know the most influential occult order, the golden dawn, was based in new syntesis by macgregor matters and the forgery of the cypher manuscript, yet this did not stoped the wiccans, thelemites, and modern magick in general tofind value and truth within it. As Levenda has stated elsewhere pseudographia is common among ancient magickal books. Gardner did meet a coven of witches, Solomon wrote a book on magick, Crowley synthetise his religion based on “outside” inspiration and simon wrote a true necronomicon, since these occult practices have one thing in common power, innovation and shameless lies about their origin. So all being fair if anyone does not discard Solomonic magic because is not Solomonic or Wicca because is not true ancient paganism, what moral or ethical right do they have on rejecting Simons (Levenda) rendition on account of its origin? It seems to me that we should check our own interests on the matter and take the little blak book for a ride.

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