The Real Truly Live Story of the Cult of Ottis

A long time ago my room mate “Bunkie” stayed overnight at a lake cabin with some friends, and they spent part of the evening watching a documentary about Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. According to the program (as Bunkie recounted it), Ottis was captured after being arrested for indecent exposure while walking through a small town somewhere with a bag over his head, naked—then, just making small talk with the police who had him in custody, started blithely confessing to hundreds of murders he had committed, all over the country, for decades.

Late that night, Bunkie got up for a drink of water, and assuming everyone would be asleep, did not bother to put any clothes on. But one of her friends was awake, in the living room, reading a book, and from then on among that particular group she acquired the nickname “Ottis.”

Years later I was looking through the true crime section of a bookstore and discovered a book about Henry and Ottis that contained the grisly picture of Ottis found at the end of the manifesto. Just for fun, I faxed it to Bunkie at her new office in California, autographed “To BunKy aLL my Love, Ottis.”

My housekeeper then was a sweet, very young undergrad with braces, who was called “Susie Hitler” because she had said she wanted to start a punk rock band. When she saw the picture of Ottis, she was very impressed and waxed a little too enthusiastic over the idea of putting it in a picture frame and making a cult out of it.

In the meantime, I was on an e-mail discussion group for the exploration of personal beliefs, where I first unveiled something like the current text of the manifesto. A couple of the other avowed nihilists in the group subsequently declared themselves Ottis worshipers, and the rest was history.

Ottis Shrine
I put it up on Angelfire in 1994, (a mostly defunct, ad-supported web hosting service), and in 1998 I updated it to reflect the real-life demise of Ottis. In migrating to WordPress in 2017, I changed the graphics and made a few very small adjustments to the text. If you want to see the original, I saved a PDF for posterity. As of 2017 it was still on Angelfire too:

Funny thing about that. As a free web hosting service, Angelfire would delete sites if they hadn’t been looked at for six months. But I’ve gone years without pulling it up. I couldn’t modify it after 1998 because my login account became inactive, and I no longer have the e-mail I registered with, so there is no way to reactivate it. Yet the page there is still alive. So maybe it’s getting occasional hits? After 23 years? They don’t give you stats, so I have no way to know for sure.

And just in case you Kids out there may have missed it: Yes. I have been mounting publicly-accessible websites since before you were born. Translation: Back off, man. I’m a scientist.

So I don’t mean to demystify the Cult of Ottis too much—not like I want to spoil the effect—just hopefully to dispel any lingering doubts the reader may have as to the motives of our founders and the extent to which we may or may not pose a danger to ourselves or others.

—Return to OTTIS.

N.B. Hospital emergency room statistics as reported by the United States Government record over 36,000 injuries from shaving implements in the year 1995 alone. Fatalities from shaving accidents are not separately reported.