I have been writing off and on about an Anomalist named John Pentgram since 1978. He has changed a lot over the years. At first, he seemed to be a Scottish knock-off of Sherlock Holmes in modern times. He even had his own Dr. Watson, in the form of Amos McConnell.
In 2016, I decided to move his home and entire history to South Central New Jersey. This involved a complete re-write of every story and novel, plus the backgrounds of every major character. This would be a major challenge, and I jumped at the chance to create a more real and accurate world for John Pentgram. He still solved mysteries beyond the Borderland, but now he’s closer to where I live.
What’s Out There In The Dark?
I put Pentgram on the shelf for a few years, as I concentrated on other works. I hadn’t written a new story for him in years. Then, on a drive to Florida, a new story hit out of the blue. On the first page of One Room Unfurnished, John’s Mother and vineyard are mentioned. John in turn asks Amos about his girlfriend Allyson Haywood.
The Pentgram Vineyard
Wait, what? A Mother? A vineyard? A girlfriend? It turned out that the Pentgram Family owns a large vineyard at the northern edge of the Pine Barrens. John’s mother, Hayley is the owner and CEO of the Pentgram Vineyard. The girlfriend’s name is Allyson Haywood, daughter of John’s mentor and good friend Nicholas Haywood. All of these ideas hit me as they hit the page. They all made sense, but the biggest revelation came later.
A later story, The Dead Refuse To Lie Down, introduced us to Allyson in the flesh. At one point, John asks her if she were a licensed witch. She said no, not yet.
Witchcraft: A Real Profession
Whoa! A witch? A licensed witch? Here is where John Pentgram’s world veered from ours in a big way. In the America of John Pentgram, witches were not killed in Salem Village in 1692. by that year, they had become an important part of American culture and defense.
From the moment the first colonists landed in North America, the forces of Darkness attacked them. Hordes of Trolls, Goblins, Wild Men, Elves, Kobolds, and other paranormal beings assaulted these first citizens, from Plymouth to St. Augustine, Florida.
The witches, living in every colony, fled Europe where they were being slaughtered for mere existence. Here, with their new country under assault, they stepped forward. The Colonies survived only by the quick and skillful enchantments of the Witches of America.
At first, the Church resisted these actions, urging the citizens to step forward to kill each and every witch on the grounds that they practiced Magic. An uproar by those same citizens convinced the colonial governors to place all witches under the protection of the colonial governments. As long as they did not practice Dark Magic, they would be protected from any harm.
The true test of the American Witches came in 1692 at Salem Village, Massachusetts. Nineteen witches engaged in battle with Derylth, the King of the Elves, and his Para-Human minions. By the time the horde had been defeated, the witches had become heroes of the American People.
Songs, books and plays by the hundred were written and performed in the century after the Salem Witch Travails. The National Witchcraft Headquarters is located at Salem Village. All witches are required to become licensed by age 18. They are a part of the FBI’s Domestic Service. Article VI, Section 6 of the U. S. Constitution specifically details the licensing and protection of any natural-born witches, and that of any immigrants who have gone through the Citizenship process.
National Witchcraft Headquarters
In The Dead Refuse To Lie Down, I threw out a line about Allyson Haywood having her license. That one line created a firestorm of ideas in my mind.
I immediately knew that Pentgram had several friends who are witches, and a half dozen acquaintances. Several of them turn up in The Deadly Mile, which means I have to go back and re-write that one to add in the new histories.
The Pentgram Vineyard employs three witches, one each to protect the property, the personnel, and the products. Witchcraft in the Pentgram family goes back many generations. In fact, one of the witches in Macbeth is a Pentgram.
One small change in one story can cause ripples and seismic shifts in an entire Story Universe. I’m still debating with Hayley Pentgram, John’s Mother, as to whether or not she’s a witch. We’ll just have to see how her story unfolds in the future.
“One Room Unfurnished” will soon be published in the Corporate GothicAnthology from JWC Books coming in Spring 2021.