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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Occult messages in fact

I’ve just read an adapted article by Damien Lewis about his latest book, The Nazi Hunters: The Ultra Secret SAS Unit and the Quest for Hitler’s War Criminals (Quercus), and, despite the long title, I’ve concluded it certainly seems worth reading the book itself.

Lewis has had access to a lot of material that was not available last century.

There’s a fascinating passage that had me intrigued too.

At the war’s close, SAS Colonel Brian Franks and SAS Major Bill Barkworth wanted to hunt down those responsible for murdering a ‘few dozen’ of his unit’s men who were captured. They even had to fight their own top brass and the politicians, particularly as the SAS was officially disbanded.  In fact, Franks retained an ‘investigation team’ under the dark aegis of the investigation branch of the War Office, and effectively dodged official scrutiny. They still had to find eighteen bodies…

They were dogged in their search and at one point even set up a Ouija board. An upturned glass was placed in the middle of alphabet cards. The ‘message’ disclosed an airman’s name, where he and a crew member were shot down, captured and made to dig their own grave before being shot. The following day the team went to the defined area. Locals guided them to the unmarked grave site and they unearthed two bodies.  The Ouija session identified the German responsible for the shootings – a Gestapo man, who was subsequently arrested.

Needless to say, when the War Office learned about this occult detection, they were not pleased.

My spy novel The Prague Papers concerns psychic Tana Standish who works for a secret adjunct of MI6, Interprises. It’s set in 1975 and a section of the book also deals with a Ouija board:

Oxfordshire, England

Keith Tyson’s finger trembled but he was unaware of it. He’d heard that some scientists believed the Ouija glass is affected by the subconscious exerting subtle pressure on the sitter’s motor muscles without that person knowing. He didn’t know what to think. Tana reckoned he had psychic leanings, if only he let them out, but he wasn’t convinced.

“Bloody hell, it’s working!” young Wilf Ashley exclaimed, freckled face gaping.

“You’re not moving it, are you, laddie?” Jock McTaggart asked Tyson.

Keith Tyson shook his head. “No.”

“It’s uncanny,” said Alan Swann, the session’s fourth member.

Zigzagging, the glass seemed to be spelling out answers to their questions while Tyson faithfully jotted down the letters selected by the glass.

Then everything changed. The letters were gibberish and the glass didn’t answer any more of their questions.

Yet it was familiar. Tyson had come across that grouping recently.

“Well, that’s our lot for tonight, I reckon,” Alan remarked and took his hand away.

“No, wait!” Tyson snapped. Q-13-ZTL: Tana’s message-coded name. My God, it’s all in code! “Keep at it, for God’s sake!”

Though Tyson was senior to Alan both in age and rank in K-Section, he rarely bothered with such things. The urgency of his voice alone instilled immediate obedience.

Alan replaced his finger on the tumbler.

Again the glass slid over the table.

Tyson could hardly keep track of the letters so mysteriously indicated by the glass.

The tension mounted palpably.

Eventually, the glass slowed.

Finally, it stopped.

Releasing a long sigh, Tyson took his finger away and leaned back on the swivel chair. He threw down the pad. The wrist of his writing-hand ached. He rubbed his brow wearily, leaden eyes leveling on his three associates. “I think we’ve just received a message in our latest code.”

Wilf jumped up from his seat. “You can’t be serious!” Agitatedly, the twenty-four-year-old technician ran a hand through his red hair. “It’s just a lark, a game, isn’t it?” Nobody answered him.

Calmly, his cold blue eyes quite steady, Alan asked in his mellifluous voice, “Are you sure?”

“I’ll just check the ciphers.” Tyson crossed the room, opened the safe and pulled out a thick book. Scanning the plastic pages, Tyson began decoding the Ouija message.

He worked in total silence.

The telex clattered once then was still; nobody moved to consult it.

Their normally tedious weekend duty stint in the Fenner House Communications Centre had suddenly taken on a very weird aspect.


Alan Swann was twenty-nine last month and had been a Royal Navy rating and then a field agent for Interprises almost from the beginning and believed he’d seen it all.

As a young communications rating Swann was as reckless as any other able seaman. However, he quickly learned he had a facility for foreign languages. He picked up Malaysian and Indonesian while stationed in HMS Terror in the Far East.

Then the sheer chance of sharing a Mercedes taxi with Keith Tyson, all the way back from a Sembawang village brothel, changed his life. He got chatting with Tyson and they found they both had a strong interest in languages.

Tyson took him under his wing and they spent several evenings out on the town, down Bugis street, tasting the exotic foods on the street stalls and frequenting the girlie bars while avoiding the attentions of the convincing catamites and transvestites. A place with a heady atmosphere, spicy aromas and Tiger beer.

Some years later, Swann was interviewed by Admiral Sands who worked for the Director of Naval Security (DNSy); his responses and observations actually impressed the Admiral a great deal. And one of the referees he tendered was Keith Tyson.

At the end of his time in the Andrew, Swann was head-hunted by Sir Gerald Hazzard, a friend of Admiral Sands.

Obviously, there were still surprises to be had, Swann thought as he scoured the Comcen room’s shadows. At the opposite end stood the formidable network console, its various indicator-lights flashing routinely, keeping track of their agents throughout the globe. He forced an amused ironic grin.

When Keith invited them in to relieve the boredom, he’d been struck by the absurdity of holding a Ouija session right here in the heart of the Interprises Comcen.

To start with, they’d self-consciously asked questions. What was his grandfather’s middle name? Where were Jock’s brother and sister born? That sort of thing. And, alarmingly, the glass had spelled out some answers correctly. Then the gibberish started.

But, in the final analysis, it didn’t seem to be gibberish.


By the time Keith Tyson deciphered the first paragraph, he felt sick inside. It was about eight years since they’d been lovers, but they were still close, passion replaced by respect, comradeship and something indefinable. He wondered if that quality had anything to do with his receiving Tana’s message.

He wasn’t sure how Alan would handle the news, either. Only a few in the Section had noticed that Alan Swann was hopelessly in love with Tana and had been since their assignment in Elba. Hopelessly, because she didn’t want that kind of commitment. Keith understood that, but Alan wouldn’t or couldn’t.

Unsmiling narrow mouth beneath a salt-and-pepper moustache, Jock stubbed out half-smoked cigarettes repeatedly. He was a bag of nerves since his last mission. It was plain on his face that he knew this astral message was very bad.

At last Tyson put down the pencil and raised his grey eyes. His expression was solemn. “It’s from Tana,” he said. “They’ve got her.”

Alan Swann’s face lost most of its colour as he leaned forward. He queried softly, “Where?”



The Prague Papers –an e-book from Crooked Cat Publishing.
From Amazon UK here

From Amazon COM here

Kobo here

Smashwords here

Apple here

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