“I know, I know. Read the book.”
If you picture a person badgering someone with ghost stories and weird facts until the listener simply HAS to go out and order an expensive set of books to satisfy their curiosity, you and I used to watch the same shows.
Each commercial teased viewers with creepy bits of stories. Some involved ancient cultures and their amazing buildings. Some involved psychic connections without scientific explanation. Some of the stories came from beyond the grave.
The Time Life people present their sideshow of oddities as a perfect companion to the sensible world of business and professionalism in the late 80s. The message? Having a little bit of weirdness is a healthy part of life that you’ve been missing out on. Essentially, it’s the same idea used by Playboy and Maxim magazines, but it promotes cheap thrills through spookiness instead of sexiness.
People did buy these books. I know because I would watch for the in friends’ houses with a vigilance other children reserve for finding candy. If I were left alone with any of these books for any length of time, I would ignore whoever I was supposed to be playing with to read them. Then, I would pretend I wasn’t terrified as I stared at their digital clock that night, trying to work up the courage to go to the bathroom.
From what I remember of re-visiting these books in college, they were mostly based on superstitious folklore and friend of a friend stories. Still they were enough to get my imagination churning. I spent one night a little worried an angry Bigfoot might be peeking in my window. In Dinkytown, blocks away from the University of Minnesota Campus.