How To Be an Occult Detective

I’ve loved the Occult Detective since I was twelve. That was 1975 and Carl Kolchak was on the television. Mine was a black& white Kenwood. Twenty inches wide and you had to change the channel with plyers. Carl was hunting down the greatest story in the world, whether it was vampires in LA or the Boston Strangler in Seattle. No matter the monster, Kolchak was sure to defeat it and end up with a story that Tony Vincenzo wouldn’t print.

You may love all these crazy ghost chasers too. Dresden and his files. Or Scully and Mulder and theirs. Perhaps you prefer Constantine or even Sherlock Holmes with his Sussex Vampire. There are a lot of them and it can be hard to sort them out sometimes.

Here’s a handy guide to help you identify just what kind of ghostbreaker you have.

First off, let’s be clear and state, there are ghost stories, horror tales, in which a character meets a monster. This does not necessarily make them a ghostbreaker. For that to be the case, they need to meet these criteria:


  • seeks out supernatural phenomena for their own reasons or as the agent of another.
  • must have experiences or knowledge of the supernatural which allows them to see what others miss.
  • uses unusual methods not available to ordinary people.
  • understands both the supernatural and the scientific (usually seeing them as two halves of a single whole) and

(a) differs from a priest or holy man in that he does not operate on faith alone but a bank of careful study.

(b) differs from the scientist in that he can deal with phenomena that defy commonly-held scientific beliefs.

  • may have psychic abilities or supernatural powers.
  • need not be “human”, but usually fights on the side of humanity, consciously or not.

Wow. That’s a few things you need for your supernatural resume. Once you check the boxes on a few of these you end up with one of four types (roughly speaking) or a combination of:

1) a psychic doctor, such as Martin Hesselius or John Silence – a psychic doctor deals with problems as a physician would, with an understanding of supernatural ailments or causes.

2) an occult detective, such as Sherlock Holmes or Jules de Grandin – an occult detective uses deductive methods to solve supernatural-appearing mysteries (either real or false).

3) a psychic detective, such as Moris Klaw or Norton Vyse – a psychic detective uses psychic abilities to solve mysteries -these do not have to be supernatural in nature.

4) a ghostbuster, such as John Thunstone or Silver John – a ghostbuster is a person who specializes in defeating monsters and their human masters or slaves.

Otis Adelbert Kline wrote in “Why Weird Tales?” (1924):

“The types of stories we have published and will continue to publish may be placed under two classifications. The first of these is the story of psychic phenomena or the occult story. These stories are written from three viewpoints: The viewpoint of the spiritualist who believes that such phenomena are produced by spirits of the departed; the scientist, who believes they are either the result of fraud, or may be explained by known , little-known or perhaps unknown phases of natural law; and the neutral investigator, who simply records the facts, lets them speak for themselves and holds no brief for either side.”