Gateway Drug

In 1974 I was an 8 year old kid living on the northeast edge of my maternal grandparents’ farm. There was Turkey Creek and a copse of woods behind us, and a rolling horse pasture beyond that. Down the road, maybe a quarter mile, was Little Pipe Creek Cemetery and a thick woodland that hugged the stream, cutting a course through fertile farmland. Little Pipe and Turkey merged back in those woods, where a twisted willow loomed sickly and menacing.

1974 was a big year for me, shaping the person I am today in a lot of ways. I’ve been trying to put my finger on the “gateway drug” that led me into a fascination with the occult, paranormal, and fortean topics. Between Kolchak, In Search of Ancient Astronauts, Night Gallery, and Sybil Leek showing up frequently on the television, and a steady diet of comics like Dr. Strange, Tower of Shadows, Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Doctor Spektor, Witching Hour, and Marvel Spotlight on the Son of Satan, it’s little wonder.


But I think the kicker was a book purchased through the Scholastic Weekly Reader that always made the rounds in elementary. It was called Earth’s Hidden Mysteries: Accounts of Mankind’s Unsolved Puzzles by Carl Cohen and illustrated by James Kersell.

Earth’s Hidden Mysteries introduced me to the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, The Oak Island Money Pit, The Winchester House, and various other enticing mysteries.

I was, as they say, hooked, and hooked for life it seems.

It was not long after that I discovered Unseen Forces by Manly Palmer Hall in my paternal grandparents’ house, stored away in an old trunk that had belonged to my great-grandmother. It was there in the midst of books on astrology and hex signs, and tracts on aligning crop harvesting with the moon phases and planetary positions.

I guess it was in the blood…

Discovering Black Easter by James Blish, The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley, and The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish in the town library sort of sealed the deal, but I think it might very well have been Earth’s Hidden Mysteries that sent me down that road.

I haven’t looked at that book in decades, but I’m sure it’s still on a shelf in my den. I may just have to pull it out and take a stroll down memory lane. I think I owe that author a tremendous debt.

He woke me up…

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