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from the letters of Dr. A. Normal
- It seems to be, in my compiling this Encyclopaedia of Occultations, I have found that there are a large number of figures throughout history who deemed themselves Occult Detectives. Now, I have no idea if any realize the redundant nature of the term - 'occult' meaning hidden, while to 'detect' means uncover that which is hidden - but that title does seem to have the ring of phantasmagoria about it. In fact, most of the men seemed not to believe in the occult wholeheartedly, but rather to amuse themselves in casting rational explanations for mysterious events. To make this even more amusing, a number of them actually did believe in the occult and this would often lead to quarrels between those who believe and those who did not.
- Nevertheless, 'occult detecting' did not attract the most stable of men. Most were either extremely rich and bored or barely sane. Some were scarred physically, while most were scarred mentally. For those not supplied with neverending funds, they took other jobs, such as doctor or reporter, while at the same time keeping their occult detective status. Oftentimes, this led to them being viewed as "freaks". Perhaps relatedly, despite their fervor in the pursuit of the occult these 'detectives' rarely made consistent study and documentation of the phenomena they encountered a priority.
- These Seekers of mystic truths intrigue me. Perhaps I shall write a book on them one day. However, for now, I shall set aside that and get on with my encyclopedia of eclipses.
- Yours truly,
- P.S. For some reason, when these occult detectives band together, they appear to have a pithy slogan of some sort.
In other words: A detective who investigates Supernatural mysteries.
Like traditional fantasy
genre, occult detective fiction also contains magic and supernaturality, albeit in a more contemporary time and setting. It may even be like Dungeons & Dragons
in a modern city like New York. The most common image of an occult detective is that of a Trenchcoat Brigade
, as long coats
are the most popular and badass item in the occult detective's arsenal. May or may not be Blue Collar Warlock
. The protagonist of a Vampire Detective Series
tends to be this.
See also The Hunter
, whose occupation is to hunt the paranormal.
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Anime and Manga
- Yuugen Kaisha: Dective Karino, of U Division, and Ayaka Kisaragi of Phantom Quest Corp.
- Asou Daisuke, the main character of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory.
- The Spirit Detective, Yusuke Urameshi from Yu Yu Hakusho.
- Ayase Yue in Mahou Sensei Negima! became one after the Time Skip.
- L from Death Note. Although the supernatural isn't his pros in the story, he still nonetheless fights supernatural foes. He succeeded in the film version.
- Muhyo & Roji, the main characters of Muhyo & Roji: Bureau of Special Investigators. Neighbors are skeptical at first, but initially come to reply on them, particularly Nana the reporter and early client. Nearly all rival characters or villains are also occult detectives, eldritch abominations, or some combination of the two.
- Rosario + Vampire features the Newspaper Club, who do on occasion investigate supernatural occurences. Since all the students attend a Monster academy (ecept for Tsukune, the normal highschooler pretending to be a disguised vampire or other creature) most of the culprits are fairly obvious and much of the real plot centers on harem-based romantic comedy.
- Dylan Dog, a penniless nightmare investigator ("L'indagatore dell'incubo") who defies the whole preceding horror tradition with a vein of surrealism and an anti-bourgeois rhetoric.
- Marvel Comics had an entire agency of these in the 1990s series Nightstalkers. It was called Borderline Investigations and was run by Frank Drake, Blade, and Hannibal King.
- Dr. Occult from The DCU. He debuted in New Fun Comics #6 in 1935. He was a supernatural detective, whose detecting style was very much in the style of Sam Spade, only with supernatural abilities. He was assisted by his butler Jenkins in one adventure. His girlfriend/partner called Rose Psychic appeared in his first adventure and then returned again later in the series.
- Hellblazer: John Constantine, who also started the most common occult detective look, the trenchcoat.
- Hellboy, more or less — he investigates occult occurrences, despite being one himself.
- Cal Macdonald from Steve Niles' Criminal Macabre, as well as series of novels. Cal takes illicit drugs, and befriends a network of ghouls to assist him in his cases. Policemen do not really care to be involved with Cal.
- Ambrose Bierce from the Stanley And His Monster mini-series in The DCU, who was himself created as a Captain Ersatz version of Constantine, along with others such as Rasputin and Willoughby Kipling; It's since been established that the four of them (Constantine included) pretty much do the eact same sort of work as one another, and Kipling has met and compared notes with Constantine.
- Dr. Terrence Thirteen, a.k.a. the Ghost-Breaker, investigates and debunks seemingly-occult events. He has been appearing in DC Comics on and off since the 1950s, originating before DC formally combined all its titles into The DCU, and the fact that he is now pursuing his debunking career in a world that contains genuine superpowers and supernatural beings is frequently lampshaded.
- Usagi Yojimbo:
- Usagi occasionally acts in this capacity, like when he frees the town from a ghost of fallen general... by assisting him in finishing his Seppuku.
- Recurring character Sasuke the Demon-Queller, who's much more experienced at this.
- The characters in Caballistics Inc., a strip appearing in 2000 AD. Cabbalistics, Inc. was formed when Department Q, a Ministry of Defence department originally created in the 1940s to combat Nazi occult warfare, is privatised by the British government.
- Hieronymus Borsch by Danish comic creator Mårdøn Smet is a Funny Animal example — though a decidedly adult one. Imagine Disney creators making a comic for Vertigo.
- Doctor Strange ... sometimes. He has a number of artifacts which make this much easier, particularly the Eye of Agamotto.
- Sara Pezzini from Witchblade. While she gets to fight against countless demons, monsters and supernatural creatures lurking inside New York, everybody at the NYPD thinks she just happens to be a detective who gets too many weird cases.
- The Goon, although he's more of a thug whose "detective work" usually amounts to "beating information out of zombies and redneck werewolves."
- Zatanna: Zatara can be this on occasion, either investigating odd events involving magical creatures, or being asked in by cops who know when things go out of their realm and into theirs.
- Played with in Sherlock Holmes. Basically everybody but Holmes thinks Lord Blackwood actually has magical powers, but Holmes remains devoted to logic. "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth", and all that.
- Indiana Jones is an adventurer rather than an official detective, but he uses his skills as a historian and archaeologist to find MacGuffins that are almost always occult in power. the Holy Grail, the Sankara stones, the Ark of the Covenant, the Crystal Skull, etc.
Temple of Doom resembles an occult detective story the most, with the theft of the holy Sankara stones, the perpetrators being an evil cult who brainwash people by forcing them to drink a liquid, one of them harming Indy by harming a doll of him, etc.
- John Constantine is definitely an occult detective and an exorcist to boot, a demon hunter...
- Dr. Zimmer, from Kiss of the Vampire, is an expy of Abe Van Helsing.
- David from Haunted 1988 investigates ghosts though he doesn't believe in their existence.
- The League of Gentlemen: Mark Gatiss' character Lucifer Box turns into one despite a straight first book. In his sequel suddenly he's stopping Satan from manifesting on earth.
- The Thomas Carnacki stories by William Hope Hodgson. Some of Carnacki's cases are not occult at all; it is Carnacki's trick that he is open to both possibilities.
- Dirk Gently is a subversion, as he doesn't believe in the occult or paranormal; to him it's just an elaborate con. He is repeatedly frustrated to find his cons coming true, however.
- Harry D'amour from Clive Barker's The Last Illusion, The Great and Secret Show, Everville, and the forthcoming The Scarlet Gospels, in which he gets to uh, "detect" Pinhead from Hellraiser. Good luck with that, Harry.
- Kim Newman's works include several:
- Sally Rhodes, heroine of "Organ Donors" and The Quorum. In one story it mentions she trained under D'amour.
- The agents of the Diogenes Club, including the psychic Richard Jeperson, his also psychic assistant Vanessa, and the non-psychic but handy-to-have-around Fred Regent; in an earlier period of the Club's 'history', the detective role is taken by Edwin Winthrop and his assistant is Catriona Kaye.
- Winthrop also appears (along with Newman's vampire heroine Genevieve) in a small role in The Big Fish, in which a hard-boiled pulp fiction detective (who enjoys reading hard-boiled pulp fiction) investigates a case that mixes organised crime and the Cthulhu Mythos. His actual name is never revealed, though he does bear a striking resemblance to Philip Marlowe from the novels by Raymond Chandler. (Word Of God has been ambiguous about whether he's actually Marlowe or just some guy with a similar shtick.)
- Several of Manly Wade Wellman's recurring characters; Judge Pursuivant and John Thunstone are two of the more prominent.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. With the added twist that not only does he know that all the occult stuff is completely real, but he also cheerfully uses it to blow stuff up. He provides the page image for a reason, and in recent books he's more of a magical cop, having joined the White Council's wardens. He provides the current page image because, aside from maybe Abraham Van Helsing, he is possibly the best known.
- First a detective, then a cop, now a supernatural knight, warden, and by all indications, Chosen One.
- The Hollows: Morgan, Tamwood, and Jenks though Rachel tends to do more fighting than investigating.
- An awful lot of Nancy Drew's and The Hardy Boys' investigations appear to be supernatural at first, although they generally wind up busting smugglers or industrial spies or whatever.
- Many of HP Lovecraft's protagonists could be thought of as "non-professional" Occult Detectives, in that they are highly educated, academic types (geologists, folklorists, librarians, 90% of them from the Miskatonic University) with at least a cursory knowledge of cults, dark legends, occult practices and that terrible old book in Armitage's library. Most of them get thrown in the midst of some terrible supernatural happening, usually with less than great results.
- Repairman Jack, although not technically a detective, keeps running into spooky stuff he must protect his vigilante-for-hire clients from. Fortunately he's getting pretty good at it, and packs more heat than most of the above examples.
- In the Simon Ark short stories by Edward D. Hoch, Simon looks to be an ordinary man in his sixties but claims he is actually over 2000 years old, a Coptic priest who travels the world looking for evil—specifically Satan. It is said that he is cursed by God, that when Jesus carrying the cross wanted to rest, Ark refused him and in turn has never known rest himself, doomed to wander the globe forever. However the immortality element is not played up in any way and is just incidental. The Simon Ark stories have supernatural themes, although the crimes in them are always found to have been committed by mundane means.
- Harper Blaine from Kat Richardson's Greywalker series, who actually was a qualified P.I. even before she began having supernatural experiences.
- Foucaults Pendulum is a darkly satirical Deconstruction of this trope.
- Anita Blake: In addition to raising the dead, she's a Federal Marshal, and consults with the local police force's preternatural task force.
- Felix Castor: An exorcist rather than a detective by trade, but he usually ends up having to solve some mystery or another.
- Subverted in Eater of Souls, a period mystery set in ancient Egypt. While the crime turned out to be the work of a mortal serial killer, sleuth/spymaster Lord Meren pursues it under the presumption that something supernatural could be to blame, even going so far as to remind his son to wear protective amulets while investigating.
- Inverted in the Garrett PI novels, as Garrett is a Badass Normal from a world where the fantastic isn't hidden at all, and he frequently discovers that a crime had been committed for completely mundane reasons, even if its methods of commission were magical.
- Lord Darcy (although he exists in a world were magic is real and is fully understood).
- The protagonists of The Longing of Shiina Ryo may become this, depending on their sensei's mood.
- Nelly Rapp in the Swedish childrens' book series Monsterakademin. She works for a secret society, and while her title is "monster agent" she rarely does anything violent and often acts more like an occult social worker — Dark Is Not Evil, and some "monsters" mostly need help. She is a Kid Detective because the Academy starts training very early.
- The Titus Crow series of books by Brian Lumley, in which the protagonist enters the world of H.P.Lovecraft and kicks ass.
- DCI Nightingale, and Detective Constable Peter Grant, from the Rivers Of London books, are official Occult Detectives.
- Sunshine has the Special Other Forces (SOF), which deals with all paranormal threats and crimes. Fully-funded, non-secret government agency as the book is setting is The Unmasqued World.
- In James D. Macdonald's Bad Blood series, Freddie Hanger fights supernatural dangers with a research-and-deduction-oriented method.
- Mercedes Lackey's character Diana Tregarde isn't officially a detective, but a Guardian's job description includes finding out whether the Bad Stuff Going On is mystical, and ending it if it is.
- Seabury Quin's Jules De Grandin defended New Jersey from monsters and mad scientists.
- The Twenty Palace Society tries to track down spell books and monster summoners.
- Diana Rowland's Kara Gillian series features a detective for a small-town Louisiana police department... who summons demons and ends up dealing with assorted arcane threats to said town.
- The title character of the Mediochre Q Seth Series, among other jobs, hunts down and catches illegal monster-slayers for a living.
- A group of Dutch childrens' book writers called Het Griezelgenoodschap wrote two Choose Your Own Adventure-style books featuring a boy who takes over his uncles business of being a private detective specialized in supernatural problems, like demons and vampires.
- The titular character of Skulduggery Pleasant. He's a living skeleton with magic who basically works as as P.I. for magicians. When he's not busy saving the world.
- Theodore "Teddy" London, star of at least eight books by C. J. Henderson (though the original six were published under the name Robert Morgan), used to be a normal private investigator, until he discovered Fate had chosen him to be the latest to bear the mantle of "The Destroyer", the one man chosen to stop Q'talu, an extra-dimensional Eldritch Abomination that's trying to break into our world. Since then, he has confronted vampires, werewolves, ghosts and the devil himself... though none of them are exactly like the myths that inspired them.
Live Action TV
- Agents Mulder and Scully of The X-Files. The show largely consists of their special FBI unit (that is, just the two of them) investigating bizarre, inexplicable things. Very frequently what they run into does involve the supernatural, or mutants, or aliens, or especially the government conspiracies.
- Lost Girl has succubus Bo reluctantly becoming an Occult Detective, who specializes in cases involving the fae.
- Sapphire And Steel, if you stretch the definition to include nonhuman entities investigating other nonhuman entities.
- Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) more the Noughties remake than the original 1969-70 series; there the cases were more usually normal crimes... it's just that one of the detectives was a ghost.
- Angel. It's the entire premise of the show, although it occasionally riffs on Angel being better at battling evil than actual detective work. At one point he's reduced to hiring another private detective with a Friend on the Force, his own police insider having left the show.
- Averted in Pushing Daisies, where the hero is an investigator with a superhuman power, but all the crimes he investigates are non-occult, though still incredibly weird.
- Fringe: Special Agent Olivia Dunham, along with Mad Scientist Walter Bishop and his son Peter, doesn't really investigate "occult" stuff, but rather incredibly strange and bizarre incidents.
- The Section 13 Case Files has an entire secret division of NYPD officers to investigate the supernatural. Some members of their ranks aren't even human.
- In Supernatural brothers Sam and Dean, and other Hunters are dedicated to hunting down supernatural menaces.
- The Chicago Police Department had an entire division devoted to supernatural investigations. It was designated Special Unit 2.
- The characters of Kamen Rider Double investigate strange happenings as caused by Dopants, humans-turned-monsters by use of Gaia Memories, giant USB sticks from the centre of the Earth. The show is technically science fiction, but it's soft enough to be considered Urban Fantasy, particularly considering how much Shoutaro is concerned with being hardboiled.
- Grimm. Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt of the Portland Police Bureau learns he is descended from a line of "guardians" known as "Grimms", charged with keeping balance between humanity and the mythological creatures of the world, called Wesen.
- Dark Intruder (a failed pilot movie for the TV series The Black Cloak) was set in Victorian Era San Francisco. It featured Leslie Nielsen (of all people) as a (seemingly) happy go lucky playboy who solved Occult-related mysteries in his spare time.
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker (and the later remake) featured Carl Kolchak, who kept stumbling over supernatural doings. In the original series, he usually ended up working alone, and there were never any witnesses when he finally defeated the Monster of the Week.
- Lord Zimbabwe, the protagonist of Ectoplasm is a "walker in the ether", or occult investigator.
- All the PCs in Call Of Cthulhu are "investigators" of the Cosmic Horrors, of course.
- PCs can also have such occupations as Police Detective, Private Investigator and Parapsychologist. Although some campaigns feature PCs stumbling across the occult, others have them actively investigate it from the word go.
- The Call of Cthulhu card game also has The Agency, a faction made up of police and government investigators of strange happenings. They're the ones most likely to be trying to punch out Cthulhu. Sometimes, they succeed.
- Hunter The Vigil has the Null Mysteriis, or: The Organization for Rational Assession of the Supernatural. The other organizations are more interested in hunting and destroying the supernaturals than uncovering facts about them.
- Ravenloft: Rudolph van Richten, an Expy of Van Helsing.
- One of the pre-gen characters in the Iron Kingdoms quick-start adventure is Eilish Garrity; Arcanist/Investigator, knowledgeable in matters arcane, mundane and forensic while still able to blast someone's face off at twenty-paces. He's also a subversion of Armor and Magic Don't Mix thanks to his suit of tailored plate armour.
- Gabriel Knight, the titular character in the Gabriel Knight series of adventure games, who investigates murders related to things such as Voodoo, Werewolves, and Vampires.
- Despite the subtitle of 'Phantom Detective', Sissel of Ghost Trick originally subverts this. It's only in pursuit of his own identity and murderer that he solves the multitude of mysteries around him. And all of them turn out to be related to his identity anyway.
- Phoenix Wright of Ace Attorney isn't occult himself (nor, technically, a detective), but his assistant Maya is a spirit medium who channels her sister Mia. In the second and third games he also carries a Magatama, a device that lets him see the 'locks' around people's hearts when they keep secrets.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, after Agent Ben and Agent Jerry had investigated a number of bizarre phenomena for the FBI, they were promoted to the status of a "paranormal taskforce". Jerry despises the situation and pines for the days when he was a "real cop", and not stuck investigating Fish People reports in Innsmouth and similar such nonsense.
- Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name centers on the cases of the eponymous Hanna, paranormal investigator, and his new, somewhat decomposed, partner. These cases do not always turn out well.
- Agents Wolf and Cranium of El Goonish Shive are this, each being a Captain Ersatz of Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, respectively.
- In the Flare webcomic, Lady Arcane's aunt wants to start an occult detective agency.
- In the Spare Keys For Strange Doors universe, these are called "specialists".
- strange investigations has a detective taking over the family business and a secretary that should be dead.
- Global Guardians PBEM Universe:
- Charles Carr, perhaps the foremost occult detective and investigator in the setting. No real mystic power to speak of, though he has a strange way of being able to affect mystic creatures with mundane attacks when such actions are needed. He got into occult investigations because of an encounter with a truly horrific demon when he was a child. He is known in the mystic community as a knowledgeable scholar of the occult, and as an effective exorcist and monster-fighter, to the point that most supernatural "monsters" fear encountering him when they wouldn't otherwise fear a high-powered superhuman.
- Nicholas Chandler, age 14, is perhaps the only "monster slayer" more feared than Charles Carr. At age eight he used a baseball bat to kill a menacing spirit he still considers as "the Boogeyman" to this day. Nick is considered the "creepy little kid" in his neighborhood, and is distrusted by parents and children alike... until the children come to him telling stories of strange things bumping around their windows at night. He lives with his parents, and has said he wants to be a museum curator when he grows up.
- Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Gang. Well, sort of. They try investigating, but they mostly just run around. Only Velma really searches for any clues.
- Invader Zim's Dib considers himself a paranormal investigator. Several other paranormal investigators appear throughout the series with varying degrees of sanity.
- Martin Mystery: Martin and his stepsister Diana work for the covert organization "The Center", which secretly protects the people of Earth from extraterrestrial and supernatural threats.
- Charles Fort bordered on this. He wrote several satirical books on news stories from around the world that were ignored by Western scientists. Many of the supposedly "impossible" phenomena he wrote on, deemed too ridiculous to warrant inquiry by mainstream scientists, later turned out to be true - for instance: blood-red rains, fish and frogs falling from the sky, and ball lightning.
- David Icke has made a career out of researching the British Royalty, the Trilateral Commission, the Council for Foreign Relations, and the Bilderburg Group. He concludes that the movers and shakers behind international banking and governments are in fact suffering-eating reptilians from another dimension. In his defense, no one has ever held the Baron de Rothschild down for long enough to take a DNA sample, and Nancy Pelosi does appear to be a lizard.
- Psychologist Ian Stevenson was so impressed by the claims of illiterate Hindu children in India that he devoted the rest of his life to studying Near-Death experiences and Reincarnation.
- John Lilly was a medical doctor and psychoanalyst who patented many inventions including the sensory deprivation tank. He began to experiment with long periods in the tank, causing vivid hallucinations(?) of communication with extra-terrestrial entities. He began to experiment with
LSD Ketamine (a dissociative aenesthetic, as opposed to a hallucinogenic) and was firmly convinced he could talk with dolphins. The movie Altered States is based on his life and experiences, and Wonko the Sane from the Hitchhiker's Guide is an Affectionate Parody.
- James Randi, a scientific skeptic and former stage magician, describes himself as an 'investigator' in the occult, paranormal and supernatural (which he collectively refers to as "woo-woo"). He claims that up-to-date, his search for true woo-woo has been unsuccessful.
- The Thule Society is a secret cult of the Nazi that dealt in finding "occult" ways of winning World War II. They didn't help much.