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This has been on my mind recently, the demon in The Exorcist. Then I watched Shudder’s Cursed Films and my curiosity only got worse. The first episode of Cursed Films discusses the 1973 horror film in great detail, including the demon that the film revolves around. His name is Pazuzu from the Assyrian Empire and he gave the entire world a heart attack in his feature film debut.

But there must be more. What is his backstory? Why did Blatty choose him as the antagonist to his novel? Is Pazuzu as vicious as The Exorcist makes him out to be?

Who is Pazuzu?

There actually isn’t a lot of history on Pazuzu. Most stories repeat the same thing. Dating back to 8th Century BC, Pazuzu is a demonic god worshiped by the Babylonian and Assyrian people. Holding a high position in the underworld on account of his father, Hanbi, Pazuzu is more or less considered to be a prince among demons. Although he is a king among wind demons.

He has a slightly more famous brother, Humbaba who appears in The Epic of Gilgamesh. An epic poem that’s regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature and the second oldest religious text after the Pyramid Texts. 

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Although his origins are muddled, he’s believed to be first introduced through Sumerian mythology as a fearsome demon that protected against certain evils. Unlike current portrayals of demons, in Babylonian mythology demons were evil entities that weren’t always evil in nature. They did good as well as bad, a characteristic very similar to the Jinns of Islamic mythology.

Grand duties for a demon

Pazuzu was a complicated guy with a multifaceted personality. He wasn’t opposed to protecting a person every now and then, especially if that person was a pregnant woman. Even though he was a sky demon, his primary domain seemed to be pregnant women and newborns. People would wear his visage around their necks or wrists to ward off other evil spirits including that of his wife, the demon-goddess Lamashtu. Apparently she had a particular distaste for pregnant women.

He also held a certain influence over diseases. He is believed to have been blamed for the spread of malaria and typhoid through Mesopotamia and Northern Persia somewhere around 430 to 424 BC. Despite being the cause, people often invoked Pazuzu for safety against the very diseases he created and prayed in hopes that he wouldn’t bring a famine. The basic logic behind this was, if he can bring sickness, he can also take it away.

The Exorcist

William Peter Blatty’s version of Pazuzu in “The Exorcist” came from a story in 1949 about a 14-year-year old, known under the pseudonym “Roland Doe”, that was possessed by a demon. After numerous failed attempts, a successful exorcism was finally performed by the priest Raymond J. Bishop. Blatty read about the story in a newspaper and got the idea for his novel.

The possession was blamed on an Ouija Board given to Roland by his spiritualist aunt. It was only after the aunt died that Roland began showing signs of possession. Many exorcisms were performed. Some didn’t go well, but in the end, the alleged demon was exorcised to everyone’s satisfaction and Roland went on to live a “rather ordinary life.” The event is covered by Thomas B. Allen in his book “Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism.”

More recent influence

For true crime fanatics, Pazuzu has made a more recent footnote in history by being the inspiration for the crimes of Satanist Pazuzu Algarad, whose real name is John Alexander Lawson. A fan of The Exorcist, Lawson decided to honor the demon by changing his name to Pazuzu in 2002. He then took on the very persona of his namesake, ostracizing himself from society: covering his face in tattoos, filing his teeth down to points. telling people that he regularly made animal sacrifices and could control the weather.

Lawson’s house became a gathering for social outcasts. They came uninvited and stayed for as long as they wanted, like Jesse’s house in Breaking Bad when he had his mental breakdown. The house was dubbed the “House of Horrors”. Inside, people drank animal blood, sacrificed rabbits, performed self-mutilation, and engaged in orgies.

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On October 5, 2014, police discovered skeletal remains in Lawson’s backyard. The remains belonged to two men later identified as Joshua Fredrick Wetzler and Tommy Dean Welch. They both died from a gunshot to the head. Lawson and his girlfriend, Amber Nicole Burch, were arrested and charged with the crime. He committed suicide before he could receive his sentence but Burch was sentenced to 30 years. 

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

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Editorial

Crashin’ in Roswell NM: Road Trippin’ with Jennifer Weigel

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So on my recent road trip to Miami AZ USA for my menstruation art installation, we decided to detour to Roswell NM en route home. To be honest, this was one of the best decisions of my life, up there with road trippin’ from Arizona to San Francisco along CA-Highway 1, and I will go into the details of why here soon.

Some of the signs: Roswell NM including city limits, UFO Museum and stickered parking sign, and Restricted Area from inside the museum
Some of the signs: Roswell NM

Roswell NM USA has totally embraced its alien history of the UFO crash in the late 1940s and subsequent government cover up. The whole town is alien-happy with beautiful hand carved wood totems, murals and statues everywhere celebrating otherworldly denizens of all types, though predominantly the gray aliens of the crash (and their green counterparts). Even the city logo features a flying saucer as the center of the letter “R”. It really is kind of incredible.

Alien crash site photo opportunity at UFO Museum
Alien crash site photo opportunity

One of the biggest draws is the International UFO Museum and Research Center, housed in the wonderful old theater building. This museum details the crash history as well as celebrating aliens in movies and media and examining newer alien sightings and abductions. It is very thorough and includes maquettes, statues, written accounts and an extensive research library, as well as an interesting art collection of various items.

Alien landing at UFO Museum
Alien landing

And there are TONS of fun alien themed curiosity shops. I will give a shout out to the newer Invasion Station north on Main Street where there had once been an old car dealership. I love the quirky nature of this particular store as well as their strong desire to promote local artists. Most of their wares are hand-painted in NM and feature designs by prominent local artists including one of the lead muralists in town (I bought a magnet of his). They also feature really alternative kitsch like KISS and Ace Frehley alien bobbleheads, marijuana and anal references, and such. All in all, our own Haunted MTL’s kinda folks…

Portrait of the writer at the Roswell Visitor Center (Yes even they have aliens!)
Portrait at Roswell Visitor Center

And the city is a huge tourist draw internationally, so you can meet some amazing and interesting folks from all walks of life who have caught the alien bug or at least want to check out all the hype. As a result of the tourism, the residents seem really laid back and accommodating (kind of like Hawaii but not quite as much) and there is a thriving art scene. And it’s totally my kind of art – weird and a little creepy. Anyway, I feel like I’ve finally found my peeps and am eager to return someday.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

If you’re feeling a bit extraterrestrial, I invite you to also check out some of my alien-themed stories here on Haunted MTL: LTD UFOs among us; my Drive-By short story; and LTD Abducted.

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American Horror Story Season 12, Delicate

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Killer Queens, I wasn’t expecting to be back so soon with American Horror Story info. But yesterday we were blessed with a teaser for the intro of Season 12, which we believe will be titled Delicate. 

A still from American Horror Story Delicate first promo.

We are looking at a Summer release for season twelve, but won’t know for sure until June, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s what we know right now. 

First, yes Kim Kardashian is starring alongside Emma Roberts in a role that was written specifically for her. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is that AHS favorites will also be involved. According to IMBD, Charlie Carver, Rebecca Dayan, Cody Fern, Leslie Grossman, Billie Lourd, and Denis O’Hare will be included this season.

AHS Delicate is different from other seasons in many other ways. It’s the first season to ever be written by just one writer, Halley Feiffer. This isn’t a writer most of us as horror fans will be familiar with. She’s written episodes of shows like Kidding, SMILF, and American Crime Story. The last one can at least be seen as a sister show to AHS. 

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As far as I have found, Feiffer has never written horror content. She is now the sole writer for an entire season of the most popular horror show in America. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It’s just not what I would have expected. Most AHS writers are staff writers, actors from the show, or at least people I’ve heard of. So as we don’t have any former work to look at, we can only wait to see how she does. 

We also know what the source material is for this season. It’s a book called Delicate Condition, by Danielle Valentine. This book will be released in August of this year. Which also seemed strange to me. Normally a book would be, you know, published before it inspires additional work.

Even so, Delicate Condition seems like a fascinating story. According to Goodreads, it’s the story of a woman named Anna. Anna is trying to get pregnant but starts to believe that something dark is working against her. Her doctors don’t believe her. Her husband doesn’t believe her. Is she losing her mind?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t deeply interested in this book. And I have to assume that Feiffer and Murphy already have hands on it, to jump to this sort of decision.

By the way, Valentine at least is not an untested writer. Her first novel, How To Survive Your Murder, also made it right on my TBR pile. With a rating of 3.7 out of 4 on Goodreads, I think we can assume Valentine knows what she’s doing with the written word.

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This is all that we know about American Horror Story Delicate so far. What follows are my thoughts and opinions only.

My first thought is that this season is going to be dealing heavily with women’s reproductive rights. This is a topic a lot of us are concerned about right now, as it feels like every day women lose more and more rights to our bodies.

(By the way, if you want to help fight the good fight for body autonomy and get some spooky stories, we have an anthology for that. I have a story in it, as does the horrifyingly talented Jennifer Weigel. All proceeds go to support organizations that help women make their own health decisions.) 

American Horror Story has handled important political issues before. Last season, AHS NYC discussed the AIDs epidemic that went largely ignored in the 80s and killed hundreds of young gay men. They did this in the best way possible, in what this critic believes to be the only way fiction should handle heavy topics. They rooted the issue in a good story. A story that was pure fiction, but also true.

However, this season has a lot of red flags. Never before have I seen the guest star be the main focus so early. Never have I seen any franchise bank so much faith in an all but untested writer, basing work on a book that isn’t even published. And frankly, I’ve never been much of a fan of Kim K, or anyone else who’s famous seemingly just for being famous.

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I’m not rooting for this season to fail just because I don’t like the guest star. If Kardashian is good at this, I’ll be thrilled. I’ll be the first one singing her praises. But when everything we know so far is added up, I’m a lot more concerned about AHS Delicate than I am excited. 

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The Last Drive-In Season 5 Premiering April 21st Exclusively on Shudder!

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They say good things come to those who wait, and boy have we been patient. It has been close to a year since our eyes have indulged a full season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs’, in fact, the season 4 finale premiered on Shudder July 1st, 2022. Since then, we have been able to satisfy our appetites with festive holiday specials sprinkled throughout the past year. Specials such as ‘Joe Bob’s Halloween Hangout’ guest starring horror’s favorite Mistress of the Dark, Elvira (played by the legendary Cassandra Peterson) and ‘Joe Bob’s Ghoultide Get-Together’. Last month was a treat in itself, as we were able to witness Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) marry one lucky couple for the first time on the show with Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine‘ special.

picture of Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy the Mail Girl sitting in lawn chairs on the set of The Last Drive-In. Behind them we see a white camping trailer with red string lights along the top and a bright red and blue neon sign that reads "The Last Drive-In' in the background. Joe Bob is seen wearing an orange collard button down long sleeve shirt and black jeans with snake skin cowboy boots. His hands rest on his thighs as he invites you in with a warm smile. Darcy is seen sitting to Joe Bob's left wearing a mail girl costume with fishnet stockings, her legs neatly crossed over one another. Surrounding the two hosts is an ice box with empty beer bottles and cans resting on the top and an old tube screen television in the front of them.
host Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl on the set of ‘The Last Drive-In‘.

While the current changes in staff at Shudder have left fans questioning whether we will receive a new season of the popular series, I can happily say mutant family, we need not worry. In fact, to our wonderous surprise, Joe Bob Briggs has officially announced via Twitter, season 5 of ‘The Last Drive-In will be premiering April 21st, exclusively on Shudder! One thing that is noteworthy, is unlike previous seasons, it has been reported by 1428Elm that season 5 will be broken up into two parts of five double-feature blood-curdling episodes. Though we have not been provided the official release schedule for the second block of season 5, here is a sneak peek of what we can expect for the first half of the season:

April 21: Season 5 Launch Party!
April 28: Walpurgisnacht Part 2!
May 5: Cinco de Fucking Mayo!
May 12: Mama’s Day!
May 19: Dysfunctional Family Jubilee!

Unfortunately, we do not have an official list of the brand-new double feature films for the first half of season 5 but, with amusing episode titles such as these, one can only imagine what grindhouse-classics will be joining ‘The Last Drive-In’s’ already eclectic list of sloshy goodness. For those impatient mutants eagerly waiting for more hilarious Joe Bob rant-filled commentaries, or those newcomers who’ve yet to experience the magic that is ‘The Last Drive-In‘, all previous four seasons, including past holiday specials are currently available to stream now on Shudder.

If you are just as big of fans of ‘The Last Drive-In‘ as we here at HauntedMTL are, please be sure to follow us on Twitter @HauntedMTL and join us April 21st as we tweet along with Joe Bob and Darcy the Mail Girl for the season premier. As is tradition, we will be hosting live watch parties every Friday with each new episode, including fresh holiday specials. The road to season 5 is upon us…let the countdown begin!

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