Over the weekend, HB tipped us off to an early silent film series devoted to occult themes, The Mysteries of Myra. The people responsible for doing restoration work on the film claim that their research suggests that Aleister Crowley served as an “Occult Magic Consultant.” We got to see the DVD release they’ve put together which collects restored film footage with static pages of script and production stills inserted to cover lacunae. The http://www.mysteriesofmyra.com/ site states:
“THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA was the first film to portray occult and supernatural phenomena in an up-to-date and realistic fashion, as opposed to in fairy tale/mythological style. Its heroine, Myra Maynard, is plagued by a wide variety of metaphysical assaults by the corrupt Black Order, a secret organization which uses magic, curses and any supernatural means possible to achieve its ends. In this case their desire is to murder Myra Maynard as they did her two sisters before her in order to gain control of her inheritance. Myra is defended by Dr. Payson Alden, the movies’ first paranormal investigator, who uses scientific means to try to defeat the evil cult. Alden is played by Howard Estabrook who, after this serial, quit acting to become a well-known screenwriter.
“What exists is surprisingly involving and sometimes actually still scary even today.
“Paranormal-investigation and ghost-hunting pioneer Hereward Carrington was the primary consultant for the production, which includes scenes showing characters doing automatic writing, crystal gazing, and using astral bodies, and much more. MYRA was also the first film to ever depict what is now known as a “satanic cult,” (the Black Order), as inspired by Aliester Crowley’s Golden Dawn society [I wouldn’t put Crowley to have based a “Black Order” on the Golden Dawn which he’d departed from some years before]. Yes, this really is what people have drawn from ever since.
“The final episode is one of the earliest existing examples of a Frankenstein-like monster being depicted on film, 15 years before the Universal picture featuring Boris Karloff.
“The transfer of the original footage is from 35mm and excellent in quality, sometimes exhibiting signs of decomposition.
“These episodes have been painstakingly restored from stills and existing film footage, according to the content of the original scripts. An update to this DVD may be offered later if additional content is to be restored or re-created but you may order this DVD now, which contains all the existing restored content worked on up to this point.”
The original novelization of these films has also been published. Again, the http://www.mysteriesofmyra.com/ site states:
“The long-lost original novelization by real-life paranormal investigator Hereward Carrington [an associate of Crowley’s] and pioneer serial screenwriter Charles Goddard (author of THE PERILS OF PAULINE, THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE, and many more early chapter plays) of the most horrific and captivating serial ever made–in fact, the only one that ever fully dealt with the supernatural. Myra Maynard’s family is cursed by the devil-worshipping Black Order and she is marked for death by black magic on the eve of her eighteenth birthday. Dr. Payson Alden, the movies’ first psychic detective, uses science to try and defeat the cult’s evil spells, and is assisted by his friend Haji, a Hindu mystic. During the course of the 15 episodes of the serial [Crowley was in the U.S. during the time of the writing and filming], the clairvoyant Myra is assaulted by, among other supernatural menaces, astral demons, a fire elemental, even a “thought monster” brought to life by the malicious will of fifteen men, Levitation, crystal balls, automatic writing, mediums, witchcraft, a golden idol come to life, and many more bizarre elements which made movie history also figure into the story to make this a truly fascinating series that you will not want to miss.
“You will see scenes in this serial that for years people have thought first appeared in DRACULA or FRANKENSTEIN–MYRA beat them to the punch by 15 years as well as defining the “black-robed cult members performing magic rituals” movie motif which soon afterward appeared in serials such as THE MYSTERY OF 13 and THE TRAIL OF THE OCTOPUS and hasn’t departed from cinema screens yet!
“This is a series that cinema historians SHOULD have written about for years and Forrest J. Ackerman SHOULD have played up bigtime in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND along with all the Universal horrors as it influenced all of them. But since it was not made by a major studio or re-released, and most of the Wharton films burned in a fire long ago, nothing was thought to remain of it. Well, we are changing that! Finally, after 94 years, THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA is reconstructed here in its entirety. Now, with 180 original photos from the serial, dozens of pages of incredibly rare “extras” including cast biographies, behind-the-scenes and publicity photos, and promotional items, and even unpublished photos from the unreleased “Voodoo” episode, banned by W. R. Hearst as too shocking for public viewing, you will be able to experience THE MYSTERIES OF MYRA as it was originally released, with numerous photos from each chapter all present to match the action. This is a VERY special project worth far more than the asking price and the KING KONG spider scene and LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT put together, due to the rarity of the groundbreaking and extremely influential material contained in it which no serial fan, classic horror aficionado, or classic cinema fan will want to miss. This isn’t just one amazing lost scene, it’s 15 episodes of phantasmagoria that’s been hidden from view for almost a century. Will the publication of this volume change the way people look at classic serial and horror cinema history? YEAH. IT WILL. So be one of the first to own this treasure, to be available only at the Serial Squadron website. We look forward to offering this amazing volume of original material which will be a treasured addition to your cinema history and movie serial library.
“With color cover and black and white interior, 400 pages, spine about 1”, heavily illustrated with over 200 ultra-rare and sometimes full-page original photographs, introduction by Eric Stedman which provides observations and additional information about the restoration of the story and pictures, and many “extras” such as a 4-page history of the Wharton Studio, its cast and production personnel, and a behind-the-scenes production photo and memorabilia album.
“Produced by the Mysteries of Myra Restoration Team, with original material from private collections, the Library of Congress, British Library, Princeton University Firestone Library, and Ithaca-Made Movies of Ithaca, New York, where the serial was originally filmed.”