I’d never heard of Sam Lewis before I saw him read from The Midnight Mountain at a racist gathering in Nashville. An event similar to conventions held for comic book or horror movie fans. And if Lewis hadn’t been murdered in an alley behind the run-down strip-mall where the conference was held, I wouldn’t have written a word about him, other than maybe a brief mention in the article I originally planned to write about the conference itself. But he was killed. Just minutes after I saw him walk off the small stage erected inside that vacant, crumbling storefront.
I arrived at a strip-mall lurking behind an interminable parking lot which fronted on Dickerson Road, a piece of Nashville that had so far escaped the gentrification and development that was transforming the rest of the city. As I drove past the row of empty plate-glassed store-fronts, I saw the only tenants were a fly-by-night Pentecostal church in a former Rent-A-Center and a store advertising proudly and repeatedly that everything inside was a dollar. I chose a parking space near the farthest corner of the complex. I could see a group of men with uniformly shaved heads, smoking cigarettes in a tight huddle by an overflowing trash-can next to a store with its windows completely covered by brown butcher’s paper. As I got out of my car, their talking stopped and they turned to watch me like a murder of albino crows.
Members of the racist underground, with good reason, distrust strangers, but I knew they wouldn’t get any warning signs from the black t-shirt and jeans I was wearing, an outfit I chose in order to avoid attention. I wasn’t sporting any secret signs for them to identify but I wasn’t raising any red flags either and…you know…I was white.
I walked around the edge of their circle and opened the door to the papered-over store, which revealed a bleak commercial space with cinder block walls painted black from top to bottom, and a carpet the color of a campfire doused the night before by cheap beer. The space was big enough for a stage to be set up in the back, with maybe a hundred seats in front of it, while folding tables covered with books and racist paraphernalia lined the walls on the other sides. A cordial electronic bell chimed when I entered, followed by a bored demand for the ten-dollar admission fee. I paid my money to a twenty-something with her hair dyed bloodshot-red on one side and goth-black on the other. She stamped my left hand with a smeared double lightning bolt and I started to understand just how fallen this pocket of reality I’d walked into really was.
I milled around the edges of the room, avoiding eye contact when possible, and browsed through some of the items on offer. Each table was themed around a different subject. One table had Holocaust denial and revisionism, with old copies of Willis Carto’s Spotlight magazine and books like The Myth of the Six Million. The next table featured Nazi Esoterica, with the writings of Julius Evola and Sevitri Devi featured. There was also a table of (acknowledged) fiction with books like the apocalyptically racist, Turner Diaries and the xenophobic Camp of Saints. And of course, there were copies of The Midnight Mountain by Sam Lewis displayed prominently with a handwritten placard propped next to them, letting attendees know the author would be making a personal appearance today for a reading, and to sign any book purchased at the event.
The mimeographed program I’d been handed told me the reading was scheduled to begin in about an hour. I picked up a copy of his book and added it to the small stack I was gathering. It’s rare to have immediate access to materials from some of the smaller, underground racist printing presses, so I wanted to get what I could for research.
I walked up to the register to pay before the reading started and passed a man wearing what looked like a very authentic SS long-coat, which smelled like a mutilated cow rotting in the sun. He was currently discussing the merits of a book on Nazi torture experiments with a bespectacled man sporting a Hitler mustache. I don’t want to suggest the room was filled with only freaks and oddities. Of the several dozen men and women milling around the space, most looked like normal people you’d pass on the street every day. They wore blue jeans, sundresses, one person was even in a suit and tie. The sartorial normality just added to the dissonance.
After paying, I took a back-row seat away from the clusters of attendees starting to fill the front rows of seats. The stage itself was a temporary structure with a black runner velcroed around the edge to cover the metal skeleton underneath. A wooden lectern was set front and center, it looked like something straight out of Sunday service, and I mean that literally, you could see the discolored outline of a cross that must have been attached to the front panel but had been pried off. More empty folding chairs lined the back of the stage. Various flags were tacked to the wall behind the platform including the Nazi Wermacht and Luftwaffe banners, an SS double-lightning-bolt, and the Aryan Nations emblem.
The most esoteric flag was hanging to the far right, smaller than the others, all black with a single character in the center that resembled an uppercase ‘P’ with a straight line bisecting it just under the hump. I had run across it a couple of times in my research and recognized it as belonging to a quasi-legendary group called the Phineas Priesthood. A group that doesn’t exist in any real manner. No membership dues, no clubs, no meetings, no leaders. Supposedly, you self-select as a member…by spilling the blood of the enemies of the white race. It took its name from an Old Testament character blessed by God for murdering a mixed-race couple. It took on greater importance when the police found it carved into Sam Lewis’ chest just a few hours later.
The emergency exit behind the stage clanked open and the late afternoon sun poured into the store, a burnt orange the color of heated stove coils which cut through the sickly green of the overhead fluorescence. A column of joyless-looking, aged men paraded up the stage stairs to the cheers and applause of the gathered attendees. They were followed by a younger man in his mid-thirties, heavy-set and walking with his head down, face hidden behind a bushy beard and thick, black-framed glasses. Despite his size, he gave the feeling of trying to pull away from the here and now, that he wished he was somewhere else. He sat in the chair farthest to the right, underneath the Phineas flag in fact, and stared down at his lap, focused on the stack of books and journals clutched in his white-knuckled grip. That was Samuel Lewis.
After the group took their seats across the rear of the stage, one of the men, balding but with a sturdy handlebar mustache, walked up to the podium and tapped the microphone to test it. He gazed out over the crowd with a welcoming smile and raised his hand to signal for quiet, motioning everyone to take their seat.
“Thank you all for being here with us today,” he began in a deep baritone, “it’s so nice to be among a fine group of motivated Aryan warriors in a space free, if only for a little while, from the Jews and the n—-rs and the whole ZOG rabble!” Here the crowd jumped to its feet and burst into joyous cheers of affirmation. I stood and gave enough of a show of applause to not be noticed by those around me. “For those of you that don’t know me,” he continued, “I’m Gordon Childs and I’m the organizer of this get-together. It makes me proud to see the energy and the dedication that each of you brings to our cause, especially the young people here.”
He spoke for several more minutes, his voice continually rising and receding until his final crescendo of damnations against “the Jewish lies of equality of the races, socialism, the homosexual agenda, the feminist revolution, and every other devilish lie that has sprung from their Satanic minds.” He then pivoted to talking about Lewis, who still had not looked out at the crowd: “Mr. Sam Lewis here has written a book, ‘The Midnight Mountain’, published by our good friends at Retrograde Press [a white nationalist publishing house]. I hope all of you have picked up a copy of this wonderful book because I’ll tell you, the first time I read it, it felt like coming home, the world he created is a refuge from the nightmare we see around us every day. As soon as I finished it that first time, I simply went back to page one and reread it. Hell! Just talking about it makes me want to read it once again. So, I’m gonna have Sam come up and read us a little bit from his work, to give you just a taste of the radical truths they contain. Come on up Sam! Let’s give him some applause folks!”
Lewis finally looked up and stood, giving a quick side glance to the audience as he walked to the podium where he was jerked into a bear hug of a handshake by the beaming Childs, who then took a seat on the stage, leaving Lewis alone, front and center before the expectant crowd of hate-filled believers. He placed his books on the podium, opened a copy of ‘Mountain’, and cleared his throat to read.
The writing-style of ‘The Midnight Mountain’ is not much better than your average pulp-horror novel. The history of the world is posed as an occult struggle between the forces of light and dark. The appeal of the novel, for its intended neo-Nazi audience anyway, is how it excuses the darkest and most deranged of Nazi-Germany actions as completely rational and beneficial. The most cruelly inspired invention claims that the Holocaust was not an attempt to destroy the Jewish people in general but only certain powerful Jewish magicians before they could complete their chthonic rituals and open the gate to their Lovecraftian Jehovah in the void beyond the stars, which Lewis calls by the Kabbalist term, the Ein Sof. Since they don’t know the true identities of these sorcerers, it’s decided that only a policy of mass extermination could have any chance of destroying their intended targets.
In another chapter we learn that Hitler’s disastrous choice to attack Russia only came after the Soviets denied his Stormtroopers access to the route by which they planned to attack Mt. Sinai in Egypt, the same mountain from which Moses descended with the Ten Commandments. Those sacred tablets are recast in Midnight Mountain as ritual and rules of purification needed to open those same gates and bring about world enslavement. Hitler, Lewis writes, only negotiated peace with Russia originally, in order to obtain access to a rear approach across the Black Sea-Caspian Steppe, in hopes of surprising the Jewish-Allied forces.
Lewis paints the entire Second World War as a cover for a deeper, truer occult war against the Jews. Hitler is portrayed as a martyr, a savior of mankind, who gave his life and condemned himself to eternal infamy as a genocidal monster to purchase for man another thousand years of existential safety from monstrous Jewish gods. Lewis even manages to imagine a peaceful end for Hitler, who is finally informed that a lone, heroic colonel in the Ahnenerbe, has killed the last remaining high priest just in the nick of time. Once Hitler receives the news, he gladly takes his own life, dying with words of victory and peace on his lips.
For a racist audience, it was a thrilling story that became one of the biggest sellers in white nationalist literature. They don’t believe in the literal truth of the novel of course, at least those semi-connected to reality don’t, but that’s really beside the point. It became essential to their movement by providing a pop culture context for their philosophies, it was their own Davinci Code, their own Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and the novel’s power within the white nationalist community is obvious when one looks at the proliferation of clubs dedicated to its alternative world.
Whole communities of role-players have grown around the characters Lewis created. Annual conferences are held in secluded campgrounds where members stage complete reenactments of the novel in an immersive environment. Elaborate sets are populated by historically costumed participants. There are even groups of members who volunteer their time to create non-player characters, essentially, they form the group of background Nazis and Jewish persons that fill in the world around named characters of the paying participants. Retrograde Press proudly advertises ‘Midnight Mountain’ as their best seller, even outpacing Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries. More alarming, ‘Midnight Mountain’ has led to a resurgence of Holocaust denial and revisionism. Not that the book changes the lack of evidence or the specious arguments presented by deniers, it just…emboldened their claims, gave them something to rally around with more insistence and persistence than they possessed before ‘The Midnight Mountain’.
“They told me I could pick from anywhere in the book to read to you,” Lewis muttered as he flipped to a page, “so I figured there’s no reason not to start at the beginning. No need to get fancy with it [a half-smile flickers], so I’ll read from Chapter 1: In the Bunker…”:
Hitler danced a graceless shuffle across the cracked concrete floor as Eva walked into bunker study, the heavy iron door, painted forest green, complained about her entrance with a low groan. Hitler manically slapped his black leather shoes on the floor in a rhythm only he could discern.
“My Darling! What are you doing?!” Eva shouted.
“A goddamn cockroach!” he yelled back at her, as he nearly collided with the far wall, trying to crush the bug before it made the safety of a crack in the corner. “This bunker is nothing but dust and goddamn roaches! I’ll be glad to have an end of it!”
“Sweetheart…dear heart…husband,” Eva crooned in a tender voice as she sat on the small couch tucked away in the opposite corner, “come sit with me. Let me hold you.” She patted the cushion next to her softly with her newly ringed hand.
Hitler, panting from the exertion, gulped air and walked across to her, sweeping his greased hair flat across his brow and smoothing his rumpled jacket. As he untwisted the blood-red band on his jacket’s arm, he couldn’t help the resentment he felt at the sight of the swastika on it. For so long it had been his hooked cross to bear for this ungrateful world. Now…here in his bunker…in the end, he was only tired and sad. He was only ready to lay his burden down. He only needed word that his soldiers had succeeded in their plan, needed to know that all of creation, this world he hated and loved with the same fire, was safe for just a little longer. He fell back onto the couch and over into his wife’s lap. He felt her cool hand on his forehead and was happy for her company as they waited for news of the attack on Mt. Sinai.
The clock ticked on the wall and time passed slowly until there was a sharp rap at the door and a young SS officer entered the room with a heel click and a ‘heil’. His pale blond hair was a severe contrast with his crypt-black uniform. Hitler jerked upright from Eva’s lap and struggled to finish buttoning his jacket, but his trembling hands made it difficult and she reached out to help him like a mother with an impatient child.
“Mein Fuhrer, I have been ordered to bring you a status report from Reichsfuhrer Himmler. He reports that Operation Black Sun is underway. Operatives have made entry into the Jüdische Militärbasis on Mt. Sinai. He also confirms that the SS Zauberkämpfers have begun their astral attacks from Wewelsberg to increase the time our strike group will have to stop the opening of the gateway.”
With that the officer saluted once more and left the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Hitler sat clasping his hands between his knees for a few moments after the soldier left, head drooped in thought, then he roused and pushed himself up off the couch. Eva watched him walk to a metal desk, where he sat down and pulled a large black case in front of him. He undid the silver clasps on the lid and opened it to reveal a reel-to-reel tape recorder He reached into the drawer next to his leg and pulled out a circular canister that held the recording tape and he looped it around the twin spokes. He grabbed a small microphone from the side of the machine and flipped a silver switch which started the smooth roll of the tape. He spoke.
“They have always been there, as long as mankind has known the Light and the Dark. The world was formed around them in the void, they give the Earth its spark. Mankind has called them many things, Heaven and Hell, Scylla and Charybdis, Yin and Yang, Jew and Gentile, Ark and Grail, on and on. The Ahnenerbe calls them Mt. Meru, the Midnight Mountain, and Mt. Sinai, the Jew’s Mountain. Of course, they’re not mountains, not in a strict sense, they’re closer to whirlpools, convergences, wellsprings of power which flow out to meet any that would search for them. And I did search as a young man in Vienna. I studied and I struggled to understand the ways they could be accessed. Under the guidance of great men like Liebenfells and List, I discovered the dark truth hidden in the heart of human society. A truth known to the Cathars and the Yezidis, those devil worshipers of the desert, it’s the truth that the Jew knows and has known since they squirmed through into this world on their demonic bellies. The god of the Jew, their Jehovah, is only a symbol of the darker forces trying to enter and enslave our world. I warned the Volk of the societal poison that world-wide Jewry represents but that’s also only a symbol that disguises the truth. It obscures the reality of the danger posed by the Jews and their Ark, from a people not ready to understand the truth.
I live only long enough to know, to hopefully know, that my life’s struggle has not been for nothing. I expect the world to never understand why I have done what I’ve done. I expect the world’s hatred. Even if my commandos can stop their dark rites on Mt. Sinai, the Jewish-Bolshevik propaganda machine will still rule their empires. But I will have snatched from them their chance to open the dark gate and allow their Elder gods into our world, a chance that only comes once every thousand years, so even in my defeat, I will leave behind a thousand-year Reich and the forces of the Grail and the Midnight Mountain will have the living space of another millennium to prepare for the next cycle of the Kali Yuga.”
The local stations picked up the story of his murder. Besides the violent nature of the death which usually warrants a blurb on the five o’clock news, it leaked out that the body had a symbol carved onto its chest. There were even rumors that the FBI may have been alerted due to the ritual aspect of the killing. No mention that he had been killed directly after giving a reading at a racist gathering, no mention at all that he was a writer, and certainly no indication of what the symbol on his chest indicated. I doubt the police had any idea. The alley was in shadows when the detectives finally arrived. I answered their questions along with everyone else as we stood just outside the area taped off around the body. I could see Lewis laid out on his back, his unclosed eyes staring into the dusky, incarnadine sky. His shirt was ripped open and rivulets of blood seeped from the Phineas symbol across his pale chest and flabby stomach. In the twilight, the blood looked black.
I soon discovered there’s very little to the life of Sam Lewis aside from his writing. He wasn’t married, no kids, not even a known address. He didn’t have a Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter account. Aside from his brief author bio on Retrograde Press’ website, mentioning his birth in Nashville and his membership in the International Order of Stage Magicians, he had no online presence whatsoever. All I had were my notes from the convention and his book. From those I wanted to build a picture of Lewis, to understand why he wrote ‘The Midnight Mountain’ and just as importantly, why he was murdered.
I found a few posts written about him in the racist corners of the internet. Most discussed and analyzed his book, very little was devoted to the man himself and the most agreed upon piece of information was that Lewis avoided talking to almost anyone…ever, and was extremely private. Apparently, he was also a heavy drinker – almost anyone who mentioned seeing him in public, saw him reading alone in the back corner of some Nashville dive-bar.
After that, I lost him. I didn’t know who his family or friends were, I didn’t know if he had any. I didn’t know where he lived or where he wrote. I tried contacting his publisher for information but they never responded. About a month after his death, I even submitted an open records request for a copy of the death certificate. I had hoped it would give me some biographical information, what I didn’t expect was a brief letter from the Department of Vital Statistics stating they had no record of a man by that name passing away on that date. So, all I learned was that I didn’t even know his real name.
I could trace a winding, tangential path here, one which involved connections in the office of records and coroner’s office that finally put me back on his trail, but I’ll save time and jump forward to the point where I sat in a small, somber office, bare to the point of minimalism, except for a walnut desk with a library lamp on it that cast a yellowish glow on a stack of files and a black-leather copy of the Torah laid open beneath it. The lamp was the only light and left the rest of the office in the bruised shadow of oncoming dark filtering through the frosted windows behind the desk. On the wall to my left was an ornately framed print of Rembrandt’s ‘Moses with the Ten Commandments’.
“So sorry to keep you waiting,” the serious but kindly looking man apologized, as he opened the door to the office and circled past me to his desk, “but there is a grieving family that needed reassuring about their son’s preparations.” He was wearing a suit so black in the inked light, that its edges formed an event horizon around his small frame.
“No problem,” I said. “I just appreciate your meeting with me Rabbi Strosberg.”
“Please, George is fine by me,” he gave a welcoming smile as he sat down and started shuffling some paperwork, peering through tiny glasses that sat on the end of his nose. “So, what is it I can do for you?”
“I wondered if you could look at a picture for me and tell me who the person is,” I explained as I pulled a photo from a manila folder in my satchel. It was an enlargement of Sam Lewis’ author photograph in the back of his book. It was the only picture I could find of him. I slid it across the desk so Strosberg could see it.
“Oh! Yes, I know this man. This is Samuel Levin.”
“You’re sure of that name?” I pressed.
“Of course, I’m sure. I helped bury him not a month ago.”
“This man,” I tapped the picture for emphasis, “is buried in this cemetery?”
“Yes,” a puzzled look crossing his face, “his mother came to us last month and asked for our assistance to prepare her son for burial…I’m sorry, but I don’t understand these questions, why do you care where he’s buried”
“But this is the Jewish Cemetery.”
“And?”, he replied, baffled. “Mr. Levin was Jewish, so were his parents and his parents’ parents. That’s what we do here at the Chevra Kadisha, we help Jewish families bury their dead.”
– He was patient enough to show me the gravestone. It was simple, just name, dates, and a Star of David etched into the surface. I didn’t tell the rabbi why I was interested, I couldn’t. I also had so much more to go on, so much deeper I could dig into his life, starting with talking to his mother. But again…I couldn’t. Maybe I’m a bad journalist, maybe I don’t have the required aggressive instincts, but there was no way I was going to visit someone’s mother after their death and let her know that her Jewish son’s book was beloved by a whole new generation of racists and anti-Semites. That simply can’t be the right thing. So, it’ll end here, by that tombstone marked with an ancient tribe’s holy symbol and a bodied buried with its mysteries… (to be continued in the upcoming issue)
David Chad Hindman is an attorney and public defender in Nashville, TN. Besides writing and his family, he is committed to the struggle for equal justice, compassion, and dignity for all on a daily basis. His work has previously been published in Eclectica Magazine.