I am not a student or a fan of Occultism. Its workings are too theoretical, too elevated for my plebeian tastes, which are better suited for the practical: how to make puff pastry or play the piano. Besides, I could barely cope with the seasonal changes in the Lutheran liturgy when I was a church organist. Memorizing lengthy rituals with wand and knife and doing chemistry lab experiments in fancy dress seems a dubious occupation for one so notoriously unmethodical as myself.
Despite my lack of sympathy with occult rites, the following story still Grips. At the end of the tale I’ve added some contemporary reviews of The Adventures of a Modern Occultist, the book from which it is taken and a query about the author. You can draw your own conclusions as to its plausibility.
In 1912 I attended the course of lectures on psychic science given at a sub-school of the University of Jena. A fellow-student there gave me a letter of introduction to Gottlieb Bentlemeyer, a professor of law at one of the Hanover Hochschulen and an ardent student of black magic.
At that time he had rooms in the Wiesenstrasse and had in his charge one or two private pupils whom he was cramming for their necessary examinations. One of these lads, a youngster from Stettin, in North Prussia, was his assistant in the necromantic art, and was a most highly gifted sensitive or hypnotic subject.
It was not until we had had several ordinary séances and he had shown me some astounding experiments in the externalization of sensibility and clairvoyance under hypnosis that I deemed it fit to mention the subject of necromancy.
We were at that time in the Hanover Museum and had been examining an exhibit of “Qualapparat” — racks, winches, and torturing-irons of various descriptions. It was our discussion of the possible sending of the spirit of his assistant, Walther Kraus, under hypnosis to psychometrize these vile memorials of a brutal past that raised the subject. We came to the conclusion that the experiment would be extremely hazardous, but Bentlemeyer kindly offered to attempt to call up the spirit of one or more of the men who had used these things.
“It will not be an easy task to find them,” he said, “but being men of blood it may be possible to find them by means of the blood elementals.”
It took us three days to make our preparations, for although Bentlemeyer had an excellent and systematically arranged cabinet of magical requisites, one or two things had to be procured.
His association with the Hochschule enabled him to obtain fresh blood through the agency of one of his medical colleagues.
We rehearsed the ritual carefully, in order that there should be no fault, and I must confess that I prepared myself for the ordeal with considerable trepidation. His ceremonial of evocation was slightly at variance with accepted French practice, but the discrepancies were not material and appeared to have crept in during the time of King Frederick Wilhelm of Prus-
sia. Bentlemeyer informed me that the original MS. in German and Hebrew had been in the possession of the celebrated Steinert. [Steinert was the chief adept in the Society of the Illuminati. See Essai sur la Secte des Illumines, Marquis de Lachet.]
It was a clear autumn night with a perfect moon; the air had a touch of frost in it and the great town of Hanover was quiet and still.
Bentlemeyer was already in his robes when one of the pupils admitted me. I changed into the necessary garments, took the rod and girdle which he had lent me, and placed the snake-hilted poniard in its belt sheath.
The circle of evocation had been marked out in chalk on the floor. The prepared candles burnt in the angles of the pentacle and the saucers of salt and the elements were in their appropriate places. The sorcerer stood within his circle of protection facing the small tripod brazier in which was a brazen plate glowing over the frame of a small spirit lamp.
I took my place within the enceinte of a similar diagram, and on a couch, lying between us, was Walther, the assistant. The candle lights burnt in the draughtless atmosphere, the dull yellowish flames standing up without a flicker, sending their faint tail of black smoke toward the ceiling. Beyond the confines of our protective circles was a grotesque bronze bowl or shallow basin. Bentlemeyer removed the black velvet hood that covered it and the filmy crimson surface of fresh blood gleamed in the light.
At a sign we began the chanting of the preliminary invocations to the guardians of the gates. The room was sonorous with the great Hebrew names, and from time to time a fresh pinch of incense on the brazier would send a wreath of pungent fume across the room. The boy on the couch breathed heavily, loosened the restriction of his garments, and soon subsided into a definite state of trance.
From invocation we changed to the ritual of evocation. And before the echoes of the first summons had died down, a cold wind seemed to burst out in the very heart of the room itself, making the candles flicker and the shadows flit and dance in arabesques across the low ceiling.
I felt for the poniard at my belt and drawing it from its sheath held the naked blade ready. [Elementals cannot face pointed steel. Probably because the latter concentrates radiations of psychic force from the human body which are destructive to them.]
The second and third utterances of the words of power intensified the effect and the boy moaned pitifully.
Bentlemeyer signed to me with his rod to look toward the blood bowl.
The surface of the liquid was being slowly agitated, strong swirls and broken wave motions appeared on the surface, sluggish, iridescent bubbles floated for a while and burst, and at last the whole body of fluid within the bowl was in a state of violent agitation.
The sorcerer bent to a vessel on the ground and threw upon the brazier some new essence — not an incense. The smoke wreathed itself above the brazier, then seemed to take shape like a pillar and curve toward the blood bowl.
Slowly yet distinctly the vapours clustered above the blood and slowly took semi-human shape. Incessantly they changed and melted — now limb-like, here betraying the outline of a demon face, there a pillared, smoothly working trunk.
From the bowl came a noise like cats’ tongues lapping and now and then the bowl itself would tilt and move a fraction of an inch or so about the floor. For a moment we watched this monstrous manifestation in silence. Then the sorcerer resumed his ritual and bound the spirits present to do his bidding to the spell of the Three Known and One Unknown elements.
“What are your names?” he asked, and the elemental demons or spirits speaking through the trance-bound boy gave them.
“Who is your leader?” There was a momentary hesitation, and then a spirit answering to the name of Amalik assumed the leadership.
“Have you been a mortal?”
“No, I was never mortal. I was an earth-spirit, serving the priests of Odin till the Cross came.”
“What brought you here to-night?”
“The Blood Libation and the summons. What do you want of us? We wish to depart.”
“You are bound to do my bidding by the words of Might. You may not go. I want you to find for me the spirit of one of the men of blood who used the torture instruments in the Museum.”
“I do not know the men.”
“I command you to seek them. I command all of you by the powers that are mine to seek and bring them.”
For a moment there was silence, broken only by the laboured breathing of the boy. Then he spoke again.
“I have found one, Masters.”
“What is his name?”
“He is to answer my questions himself. Where did you live?”
A new and harsher voice issued from the boy’s lips.
“By Sachsenhausen, near Augsburg.”
“In the time of Charles the Fifth of Spain.”
“Were you one of his torturers?”
“No, I served Count Anton of Tornen.”
“Who were your victims?”
“Criminals, bandits, and Lutherans.”
“When did you die?”
“When — not where?”
“At Muhlberg— killed in the battle of Muhlberg.” 
“Where are you now?”
“Why ask? I am in a lower state.”
“Do you revisit this sphere unless summoned?”
“I am always here, but you cannot see me.”
“Where are you usually?”
“By the slaughter houses.”
“Do you move from place to place?”
“Yes, I follow the Scharfrichter (heads-man). [In Germany capital punishment is still carried out by the headsman, who beheads with a sword.]
“Are you bound to?”
“No, I like it.”
“Can you show yourself to us?”
“I do not think so. Help me and I will try.”
“How can we help you?”
“Place that bowl of blood at the northern corner of the pentacle.”
I must have started to move forward, for Bentlemeyer shouted at me to keep still, and I realized in a flash that I had nearly been trapped into going beyond the protection of my circle.
The boy began to chuckle horribly and then suddenly choked. Before our eyes his face became empurpled, his eyes seemed to start from his head, and the tongue protruded. His legs kicked and his hands beat feebly at something solid — impenetrable — but invisible, that poised in the empty air above him.
“Stop it, for God’s sake!” I cried to Bentlemeyer.
My voice awoke him from the creeping paralysis of terror that was mastering him, and raising the scroll of the ritual he recovered himself by an effort of will, and uttered the words of the spell of release.
A swirl of icy cold wind seemed to sweep about us, and I stabbed at the invisible grasp that seemed to be plucking at my garments. Two of the candles went out and the windows rattled violently in their frames. Then with frightening suddenness the manifestations ceased.
The boy was gasping for breath once more and the terror had passed.
Not until the last of the valedictory phrases of the ritual had been said did either of us dare leave our stations. Then both of us, shocked and terrified by what we had seen, went over to the boy Walther.
He was deeply entranced yet, breathing heavily; the colour had not yet ebbed from his face and on his brow were beads and runnels of perspiration.
Bentlemeyer made a few passes, breathed on his eyelids, and brought him round. But there on his uncollared neck was the dark, bruised imprint of strangling fingers.
• • • • •
This experience was phenomenal. We examined the room carefully afterwards and came to the conclusion that the couch on which Walther was lying projected at one corner over the circuit of the diagram that should have protected it. The identity of the spirit we could not determine. Whether it was really the spirit of the executioner or torturer, whether it was merely an impersonation by a demon elemental, or what particular denizen of the realm of evil it was that came to the summons and the blood bowl I cannot say.
I learnt later that Bentlemeyer was, despite his learning and his professional standing, a man of notoriously evil and depraved life. There is no doubt that our experiences that evening thoroughly startled him. A brother student of proven reliability told me later that Bentlemeyer had assured him that he could and did evoke evil spirits, and evoke them to execute malicious tricks upon his confreres in the professional world…. The Adventures of a Modern Occultist, Oliver Bland, 1902
Excerpts from contemporary assessments of Bland’s book:
This valuable and profoundly interesting book details the author’s researches into the debated fields of Occultism and Magic, and opens up and entirely new vista for the average reader. Evening Star [Washington, DC] 12 April 1921: p. 11
Of “The Adventures of a Modern Occultist,” by Oliver Bland (Dodd, Mead & Co.), not much can be said. A candid reviewer could hardly escape relegating it to the “freak” order of literature. Dr [Hereward] Carrington’s “Psychical Development” [which called Bland’s book “interesting.”] has the advantage of its author’s scholarly attainments, and a prolonged research in many phases of psychical phenomena, but the “Adventures” (rightly named) of Oliver Bland, possess little interest and less value for the reader. It is not that there is any law of literature or life that forbids one’s excursions into “Black Magic,” “Powers of Incense,” “Drugs and Perfumes,” “The Astral Light,” Sorcery,” and heaven knows what! But that the author does not seem to throw much light upon his chosen themes! Springfield [MA] Republican 13 January 1921: p. 8
The Adventures of a Modern Occultist. By Oliver Bland. New York. Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920. Although this is intended to be a serious book, the author has such a charming, imaginative style that the reader is constantly tempted to think he is perusing some of Mr. Algernon Blackwood’s tales. The author’s standpoint is a bit confusing. He properly finds fault with the spiritualists for assuming that only good spirits communicate, and that the next life is a happy summerland. But where shall we place a man who, on the one hand, believes in the possibility of evoking lemurs and elementals (p. 102), in the existence of the N rays (p. 193) and in the raising of the dead (p. 219); and, on the other hand, denies the existence of incubi (p. 162) and spirit photography (p. 184)? …This book has no value for the psychical researcher, but anyone who wishes a pleasant hour in the region of the possible (or impossible) will find the Adventures worth reading.—Prescott F. Hall. Journal of Psychical Research Vol. 15 1921
A note about the author of this piece, Oliver Bland. Despite TAOAMO being widely reviewed and Bland being quoted in the press as an “author, thinker, famous seeker after knowledge, who made a study of the subconscious workings of the brain,” I can find nothing personal about the author, either in my reference books or online.
I’ve seen a note in a dictionary of pseudonyms suggesting that Oliver Bland was a pen name for H[ugh].B[ertie].C[ampbell]. Pollard, who was a British journalist, intelligence officer, and firearms expert. In TAOAMO, Bland writes: “In 1913 a well-known student of occult matters announced this theory of Protective Vibrations.” He footnotes this statement with “Capt. Hugh Pollard was the author of this theory. His monograph was never printed, but typescripts of his sensational lecture before the members of the now defunct Odic Club were circulated to certain interested parties. He tells me that he had previously spent an interesting night at a haunted house. He was in the company of Mr. Eliott O’Donnell and obtained a puzzling and unsatisfactory flashlight photograph of the manifestation that occurred on that occasion.”
Is this reference Bland/Pollard’s little joke?
A review of Pollard’s The Secret Societies of Ireland, Their Rise and Progress, is found in The Theosophical Quarterly for 1921, suggesting he had some link to the Theosophists. But can anyone confirm or refute that the two men are the same person?
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.