Secrets of the Illuminati,

the lost Ark of the Covenant,

and other mysteries,

REVEALED at last!  



This is the sixteenth chapter of The NEXT THRILLING CHAPTER. Toward the end there’s a cameo appearance by Spitfire—the name I (eventually) gave to a traumatised squab I picked up in the street in April 2022, during the period when I was making the serial. He saw it throught to the end.

     Or she did. (What do I know about pigeons?) 

     His wounds healed. His tail feathers grew in. He learned to fly. His courage did not come easily, but he learned to be independent and venturesome. He stayed with me for nearly ten months, flying out the bathroom window for the last time on February 9, 2023. I wish him well, and dedicate this chapter to him.

     Or her.



What is a secret?


It’s something somebody else doesn’t want you to know.


I don’t want you to think I’m keeping secrets from you, so I’ll let you know a few more things about the serial.


(1) The first chapter of The NEXT THRILLING CHAPTER was given the title The Lost Serial because, while I never forgot Mysterious Doctor Satan or The Fighting Devil Dogs, another serial I saw a few chapters of made an impression on me, though I could later recall only a few imprecise and curiously depressing details:

     People had somehow been transported to another planet, where they were forced to work in a mine. How they got there I couldn’t remember. Maybe some kind of matter transporter, because I had a vague but persistent image of something, inside a cave or a laboratory, which facilitated their arrival on the planet. I associated these details with the kind of depression that sometimes lingers after a dream, because all I really had was a peculiarly horrible memory of being trapped on another planet (in black and white) and having to work in a mine.



It was only when I began doing research on the serials for this project that I recognized The Lost Planet as the serial I’d seen in part, and then forgotten. I was delighted by the discovery, and so utterly charmed by the first appearance of the villain, Doctor Grood, that I adopted him as the brainy sidekick, Doctor Benson, of my rather dopey hero, Bob.


(2) I called my hero Bob, because there were quite a few Bobs in the serials. I cast around for an equally plain surname, and he ended up becoming Bob Wilson. If you’re sharp, you may spot that, in Chapter 9, he comes running out of Wilson Apartments. I like to think that’s where he lives.

     But it was only after he was named, I think, that I wondered if I’d also been thinking of Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of the Illuminatus trilogy, among other things.



(3) The actor who plays Doctor Benson is Michael Fox, who had a long career in television and movies. In 1970, he was introduced to an audience at the University of Southern California School of Medicine as Doctor Myron L. Fox, and delivered a lecture as part of a psychological experiment. The idea was to discover whether his engaging demeanor, as well as a deliberately discursive presentation, would disarm the audience and prevent them from recognizing that what he was saying was devoid of content.

     A significant portion of the audience found him charming and engaging, and there were few complaints. Maybe they were just being polite. On the other hand, while it may be polite not to say someone is talking nonsense, not to notice may be a sign of intellectual debility. In any case, the observed reduction of critical acuity in the face of diverting doubletalk was dubbed “The Dr. Fox effect”... 


(4) ... an appropriate nod in the direction of Fox News, which has proudly served as a conduit for right-wing propaganda, thus ensuring that the democratic ideal of an informed electorate is undermined. In Chapter 3, in the first recap (of a heretofore nonexistent story), the Fox River, in Wisconsin is also mentioned...


(5) ... which raises the question: why Appleton, Wisconsin? It’s the resting place of Joe McCarthy. And the mysterious source of underground heat mentioned in the recap (but never explained) is generated by Joe McCarthy spinning in his grave as some supporters of Donald Trump wonder why they can’t have a system of government like the Russians—or the Chinese or North Koreans. What do we need democracy for anyway?

     Are some Republicans trying to put the most successful Russian Agent in history back in the White House? Or will that turn out to be the same kind of political paranoia that led some to suspect Lyndon Johnson had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Time will tell.

     Or maybe it won’t. Time is sometimes awfully slow to tell. 

     In the meantime, we make up our own stories.


(6) Identification of the villain as code-name “V” in Chapter 4’s recap is a reference to V, a piece of tv science-fiction from 1983, in which evil reptilian aliens pretended to be human beings while they took over the world. Some of the villain’s other names—The Lizard, The Snake, and Doctor S (pronounced Sssss)—underlines the reference.

     Turns out the series was conceived as an anti-fascist parable, but the reference was prompted by its relation to the theory, believed by some, that our planet is controlled by evil reptilian aliens. That this notion bears some relation to the idea that the Earth is under the rule of Satan (who has the reputation of being something of a snake) is probably fairly obvious.

     On the other hand, it’s not entirely a new idea that people behave irrationally because the evolutionary hard-wiring of their nervous systems is, at base, much the same as that of their reptilian ancestors. They rely too much on their reptilian reflexes and inclinations, too little on reason. The triumph of irrationality over reason explains much of human history, and the reign of the reptile is not over.


(7) Chapter 4 also features the first quotation from Caesar’s Column. Its author, Ignatius Donnelly, had an unfailing instinct for subjects now considered to belong outside the scope of respectable scholarship, and has been viewed as one of the pioneers of modern crankiness. In the footnote to Chapter 12, I’ve reproduced a photograph of his workings in The Great Cryptogram, wherein he decoded the secret message left in Shakspeare’s plays by Francis Bacon. His determined effort in this regard has not won him the unanimous acclaim of posterity.

     My interest in Donnelly, as an adjunct to the serial, was motivated by his fictional prophecy of an uprising of the oppressed against a corrupt ruling class, with its ironic parallel to a fantasy that animates some elements among Donald Trump’s supporters today. Donnelly advertised the inescapable justice of the uprising he projected, but didn’t welcome revolution, preferring instead to write his book as a warning. It was a political gesture without an enduring impact.

     And yet, not least because I’ve adopted Norman Cohn’s Warrant for Genocide as another adjunct to the serial, I feel bound to notice something else in Caesar’s Column that does endure. At a period when virulent antisemitic propaganda was being manufactured in Europe, Donnelly developed an idea and an image which coincided with, and may well have contributed to this rising tide in an American setting. The book identifies the corrupt economic aristocracy of 1988 (nearly a hundred years beyond the book’s date of publication) as being predominantly Jewish. In addition, the management of public affairs and governments is controlled by secret meetings of a small council of the wealthiest men: 


“This is the real center of government of the American continent... The men who meet here determine the condition of... hundreds of millions... Here political parties, courts, juries, governors, legislatures, congresses, presidents are made and unmade... The decrees formulated here are echoed by a hundred thousand newspapers, and many thousands of orators.. You are... as if I had led you to the center of the earth, and I had placed your hand upon the very pivot, the well-oiled axle, upon which, noiselessly, the whole great globe revolves, and from which the awful forces extend which hold it all together.” 


Donnelly’s primary target is control of the political process by the power of wealth, and the book is neither persistent nor repetitive in forcing negative Jewish stereotypes on the reader. Nor does it invent a history for a prolonged Jewish conspiracy—to the contrary, it acknowledges the injustice to which Jews had been subject. Yet the image of a corrupt and self-serving secret government in which Jews are implicated is a noteworthy contribution, in the English language, to a fantasy that elsewhere resulted in the manufacture of the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


(8) The enigmatic “blackmail” note in Chapter 6 is a very obscure play on words, based on on a partial pun, and an invocation of Eris, goddess of chaos, disorder and strife. This alone is sufficient to identify the serial, in its entirety, from beginning to end, as a Discordian prank—the Discordians being episkopositional provocateurs organized and directed by the Bavarian Illuminati. As a sample of the monstrosities foisted on the world by these inveritable demons, consider this statement by Robert Anton Wilson:


The worst fate of all awaits those who approach Cosmic Coincidence Control Center without the pentacle of valor. It becomes, in their terrorized imaginations, a gigantic Death Universe inhabited by wrathful Demons... Woe unto these chicken-hearted ones, for they shall suffer for all eternity, within their own gruesome fantasies, in keeping with the Hell Law proclaimed by the late Discordian saint, Ho Chih Zen, to wit, “Hell exists only for those who believe in Hell, and it’s just as bad as they can imagine it to be.” Or, as the sublime Omar Ravenhurst wrote in “The Epistle to the Paranoids,” “If ye lock yourselves up in cages of fear, ye shall never taste freedom.” 


(9) The title of the serial in Chapter 7, Captain Antifa, was not intended as propaganda or provocation, but rather as indicating the clue to a glaringly obvious fact. Regardless of whether or not he has any capacity for political organization, Donald Trump finds attractive the idea of standing at the head of a fascist movement. Why else would he have spent so much time railing, with such obvious anger, against a movement dedicated to anti-fascist action. A more reasonable politician might have said, “We can all agree that fascism is a bad thing, but we take issue with the way these people try to oppose it.” Trump, to the contrary, called them terrorists, suggested they be outlawed, and considered them the enemy.

     His enemy.


(10) The individual identified as Arturo Ui in the recap of Chapter 7 is Jack Kirby, co-creator of the anti-fascist superhero, Captain America.



(11) The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui was Bertolt Brecht’s dramatic depiction of the rise of Adolf Hitler, under the transparent guise of the story of a Chicago Gangster.


(12) Jack Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg. The name of one of the supporting characters in the serial, Simon A. Kurtzberg, is a reference to the comic book partnership of Simon & Kirby (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby).


(13) I lifted the plot for Chapter 14 from an old comic strip featuring The Fox and the Crow.




(14) Since Chapter 16 is concerned with prophecy, I might point out that when Chapter 3 was posted on Youtube, featuring the line, “The war has started in Europe...”, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. This should not be taken to suggest any inside knowledge, or special acuity. I was writing strictly in a historical context, and thinking of the year 1940, when Mysterious Doctor Satan was released.


(15) Speaking of Mysterious Doctor Satan, I might acknowledge an initial impetus given to my serial by a belated fascination with French film-maker, Jean Rollin. He also had a youthful encounter with Doctor Satan, and his repeated references to it offered me an occasion to decide , after half a century—and with no hope I’d be as thrilled as the foolish child I was—that might take a second look at it. It took the excuse of making my own serial, however, to tip me over the edge.

     Rollin is not a film-maker who appeals to everyone, especially not to those with any pretensions to taste—and I can see why; but, even if I'm not reconciled to every aspect of his cinema, he reminds me that cinema can be magical. And I'm not talking about CGI. Shiver of the Vampires was where I started, and it delighted me. Requiem for a Vampire is probably my favourite. 


(16) The epigraph for Chapter 17 simply substitutes the name of Donald Trump for that of Adolf Hitler, and the United States for Germany. Bearing in mind the fanatical religiosity of the original expression of devoted loyalty, it appears to me entirely persuasive. You can make up your own mind.


(17) The theology in the last chapter is derived from the patient and mind-deadening instruction of Herbert W. Armstrong, who warned that the end of the world would come in just a few short years... for over half a century.

     It’s still coming. Maybe tomorrow.


     One last thing, and it’s not a secret. More a confession: 

     The serial is an act of magic. It warns against the coming destruction of the United States, under the direction of those too greedy and self-interested to see the danger of what they’re doing, and at the hands of those prepared to plunge into an abyss in pursuit of a delusion. Yet it’s surely not in my power to predict the future, and it’s unlikely that what I project as the outcome of current events shall come to pass.

     Therefore if I say the worst will happen, it probably won’t.

     It strikes me that’s not so much an act of magic as a piece of superstition, probably as effective as saying if I’m willing to flip a coin until I get three heads in a row, what I want to do will turn out just fine.

     I’m not convinced.