Two lovers gaze into each other’s eyes on a beautiful, warm summer night. The handsome couple has dated throughout high school with both now settling into steady jobs. At long last, the time is right for Jay to pop the Big Question. “Bobbe,” he asks with anticipation. “Will you marry me?” Suddenly, she goes cold. “Oh, Jay,” she replies. “I can’t marry you. I’ve just decided to go to a Convent and become a Nun! (???)” This news doesn’t just come as a surprise to her would-be fiance’ but to Bobbe as well. That’s because, unbeknownst to either of them, Bobbe is possessed by a sex-crazed demon determined to get his beautiful host/victim behind enemy lines so she can become a Nun in the service of Satan. And so lies the premise for John Tigges’ “Garden of the incubus;” a supernatural ‘80s Paperback from Hell that just turned forty.
Last week, I visited an old bookstore about an hour from my apartment. It’s one of those nearly extinct mom & pop stores with old books piled from floor to ceiling. A faint musty, vanilla odor permeates the store with an old lady sitting in the center of it all, cataloging new acquisitions. Although categorized by genre, the books are scattered pell-mell in disorganized stacks. If you don’t mind doing a bit of excavation and have some time to kill, it’s a fun place to go hunting for vintage horror paperbacks. After about an hour, I managed to dig up seven new titles with some in better shape than others. I was raised Catholic and no stranger to the concept of angels and demons so I found myself drawn to this one despite its shabby condition. The last possession story I read was “The Exorcist,” and I’m willing to bet it was a strong influence on “Garden of the Incubus.”
Once Bobbe joins the convent, things immediately start going awry. These incidents include, but are not limited to, deep guttural obscene language wafting through Nun class, Thanksgiving dinner turning into human excrement, and Bobbe throwing up gallons of thick, yellow slime.
Bobbe blacks out with no memory of what she does when the demon takes over. She doesn’t remember the numerous times the demon leaves her body to have sex with her, nor the time it sent her off to bang some truck driver at a cheap hotel – the latter of which causes her to become inexplicably horny every time someone utters the word “truck.”
Mother Superior (Sister Job), on the other hand, knows something diabolical is at hand. She reaches out to the Bishop who, in turn, quickly summons a super-sized Capuchin Priest named Father Balthazar Becker a.k.a. the Exorcist in this story. Father Becker Is a hulking, bald guy with a bushy red beard and an impressive demon-fighting resume that includes going head-to-head with the spirit of Judas Iscariot, himself.
Taking a cue from The Exorcist, he explains to Sister Job the rarity of the Church approving exorcisms in lieu of the world’s modern understanding of mental illness. He also explains how jumping to conclusions could cause more harm than good…until a few moments later when he spies a crucifix with a mangled Jesus and becomes instantly convinced it’s a demon. Of course, he doesn’t say this to Sister Job. Instead, he tells her he “suspects anything and everything as well as nothing (???).”
The book does meander a bit, particularly regarding Bobbe joining the Convent. What could have been covered in a single paragraph goes on for several chapters as Bobbe tells her parents (each one, individually, I might add), consults with her Parish Priest, and finally meets with a former teacher who’s also a Nun. These scenes while well-written are unnecessary. Tigges was Catholic and the extra attention he gives to this topic makes me wonder if he, himself, had lost a close family member to the Nunhood.
Father Becker doesn’t have the same crisis of faith as The Exorcist’s Father Karas but does question why it’s always him stuck battling the forces of darkness while all those other lazy priests get sidelined. Sister Job also has issues; most notably struggling with her leadership skills while always seeking the stoic Father Becker’s approval.
The Demon could have been an impressive adversary had it not been constantly undercut by its unintentionally funny, obscenity-laced dialogue. I’m not going to repeat any of it here but let’s just say he likes the “C” word an awful lot. Eventually, even Lucifer shows up in a fiery (and I do mean fiery) conclusion that takes this story from the sublime to the ridiculous in a matter of pages.
Tigges died in 2008 and would write nearly forty books in his lifetime; almost half of which were religious/supernatural paperbacks from hell. “Garden of the Incubus” is the first in his Trilogy of Terror novels which include “Unto the Altar” (p. 1985) and “Kiss Not The Child” (p. 1988). I’m not sure how these books connect but would certainly read them if given the chance to find out.
Genre: Religious Supernatural Horror
Number of pages: 318
The Message: If you’re an attractive woman who receives the call to become a Nun, make sure it’s really God at the other end of the receiver.
Read it or shelf it? If you don’t mind mixing trash with religion, then, by all means, give it a read!