A sample of recovered artifacts in Lapine, Pennsylvania after the catastrophic flood of the Allegheny Valley, 1957

Photograph from the forthcoming book and exhibition, Strange Devotion, by Jacob Koestler and Michael McDermit, archival pigment prints, various dimensions



Water-logged pages, from the personal journals of Lapine resident Ida Song

14 July 1929

The walls of this room are aglow with all the colors of the rainbow. These colors are, to me, the most nourishing morsels within the content of consciousness. This morning, a hare stopped in the swaying clover and said a prayer to the rainbow: my beautiful daughter brings peace to this valley—and no more rain.

30 January 1930

Caput galeatum is literally, the ‘helmeted head’. A birth caul* is a sign of good luck in many cultures—for no object could be more imbued with superstitious potential than a piece of birth-associated human tissue—and it’s been said that the bearer is blessed with the inability to drown. A baby might be born with an amniotic helmet so effective that when his mother tries to bathe him, he rides the surface of the water, and if forced down, comes up again like a cork. I’ve heard of many families selling cauls to sailors for a good amount of money. Oh Lord, that I might have been blessed with the membranous hood, that I might have kept it on my person for all those years, leading me to the moment, just before he set to sea, to have stuffed it in my husband’s uniform.

Photograph from the forthcoming book and exhibition, Strange Devotion, by Jacob Koestler and Michael McDermit, archival pigment prints,
various dimensions.


Religious tract, “The New Diluvialism,” authored by W.H. Clark, circa 1931

HERE IS PORTRAYED A SEQUENCE OF EVENTS (the shortest navigable distance from man to God): (1) the knowledge of God (2) degraded by the transfer of His attributes to created things, resulting in (3) the worship of images of these things, and (4) the corruption of religion through belief in naturalism: (1) In 1925, I came to the vast coal fields of Pennsylvania, where my observation of deep drilling confirmed long-standing suspicions that there existed a meaningful geological column, and within the effluvium evidence of the geologic record corresponding with the Biblical record, and my then-theory of the MISTIO and the TWO CONES. (2) I also observed and encountered MAN’S ARROGANCE on full display, as the lack of respect for the geological column, its history, and the confines of physics bestowed through the Divine were apparent around nearly every turn. (3) The warning bells I sought to sound, on the ritualistic marches through town square and into the valley beyond: “HEAR YE! HEAR YE! THE VALLEY IS FATED!” were so ignored that it seemed that calamity was not only invited by the wealthy elites, but courted as the rooster puffing up his red comb in front of the hen house. (4) I was initially run out of town under the guise of filthy words such as charlatan, false prophet, and blasphemer. And so, I set out to save as many souls from the waters as I could, and through some strange devotion*, this lonesome town in this lonesome valley is where I settled.

*Strange Devotion is a multimodal art book and exhibition by Jacob Koestler and Michael McDermit that exhumes the Appalachian Gothic tradition to examine the often-misunderstood nuances of past and present life in the Rust Belt and Appalachia. The book exists in intertwining parts—photographic essay and fictional narrative—that explore themes of overgrowth, hidden-in-plain-view peculiarity, and macabre banality, while still honoring the abundance of natural beauty and the complexity of lives lived within the ancient rolling hills and valleys. The concurrent two-person exhibition will feature unique photography and text-based artwork.





15515 Waterloo Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44110

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