Indeed, one cannot begin to imagine the emergence of cinema without taking into consideration the cultural context it appeared in, namely widespread belief in spiritualism, spirit mediums, the practice of seances, ghost photography and mass attendance at fairground houses of horror. The silver screen parted the veil polite society was so desperate to see beyond. The subject of the film need not be macabre, but the very act of sitting together in the dark to witness these flickering apparitions was imbued with an undercurrent of danger palpable (to the point of intoxication) to the highly strained Christian sensibilities of Western audiences.
Yet more thrilling to us now, cinematically, historically, politically and metaphysically, were those tentative excursions into overt depictions of the occult made by pioneering filmmakers like Andre LeBeouff, Gunther Hundertgrass and Theodore String. Accused of everything from fraud and treason to sorcery, their work was either banned by conservative provincial governments or canned by nervous distributors, yet theirs is a legacy that reaches down to us in what today are considered some of the pinnacles of cinematic achievement: Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, Ghost.
In this book I have endeavoured to recreate the times in which these men made their subliminal mark. Our story traces through the lodges of German Rosicrucianism, the Court of Tsar Nicholas, the diplomatic salons of Paris and the universities of England, weaving together the numerous threads that formed occult cinema's (in)visible cloak.