“The Devil Had Worshipers Long Before Lenin”: The Occult Spy Novels of E. Howard Hunt

By Michael Grasso

In his series of “Peter Ward” novels, published by various paperback houses (Signet, Dell, and Fawcett) between 1965 and 1971, Hunt conjures an agent with a pedigree strikingly similar to his own: Ivy League-educated (at Brown), possessing both a mysterious past involving disastrous CIA ops gone wrong and a burning desire to see himself accepted by the clandestine Washington D.C. power structure…

Theory and Conjecture: ‘In Search of…’ and the Golden Age of Paranormal TV

Last week, a story came across the We Are The Mutants news desk that inspired equal parts hope and dread: a reboot of the classic paranormal documentary series In Search of… is in the works, appropriately hosted by 21st century’s Mr. Spock, Zachary Quinto. I like Quinto well enough, and appreciate the sentiment of trying to resurrect probably one of the most important television shows from my youth. But of course I’m extremely skeptical about how well it will recreate the oddball outsider art aesthetic of the original series…

Kids Discorporated: ‘Sixth Sense’ by Larry Kettelkamp, 1970

Hundreds of books on various psychic phenomena—both surveys and how-to manuals, sometimes both—were released throughout the 1960s, as the paranormal, especially ESP, began to be taken seriously by academics and the American and Soviet intelligence communities. What makes Sixth Sense notable, apart from a convincing cover illustration, is that it’s essentially a kid’s book…

Sticks and Stones: ‘Dowsing and Archaeology’ and ‘Site and Survey Dowsing,’ 1980

These two odd little volumes were discovered a few months ago in an antiquarian book shop in Canterbury, UK. Published by the British Society of Dowsers in 1980, Dowsing and Archaeology and Site and Survey Dowsing collectively offer a few dozen short articles, culled from the annals of the Journal of the British Society of Dowsers over the half-century leading up to 1980. As the book titles make clear, these articles take dowsing past its usual folk magic remit of finding sources of water and into territory usually ceded to archeologists or metal detectorists: finding ancient objects and the outlines of ancient structures…

The Paranormal Peninsular: Mondadori’s ‘Guide to Legendary, Mysterious, Unusual and Fantastic Italy’

Being home to the Roman Catholic Church means that much of Italy’s spectral pomp and terror of the incomprehensible is already spoken for. The remaining quota of mystery and conspiracy is filled out by the country’s myriad crypto-political shenanigans and unsolved crimes. Despite the obsession of the Etruscans and ancient Romans with the shades of their ancestors, the Italy of the the ‘60s and ‘70s was an altogether more pragmatic place…

Misbehaved Monsters: ‘The Amityville Horror’ by Jay Anson, 1977

There are two Amityville horrors: the first happened in the pre-dawn hours of November 13, 1974, when 23-year-old Ronald Defeo Jr. shot and killed his father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters while they slept. He confessed to the murders the following day, and during the trial told the court that “voices” told him to do it. The second happened when a young couple, George and Kathleen Lutz, moved into the former Defeo residence…

‘UFO Drawings From The National Archives’ by David Clarke, 2017

A recent spate of books have sought to analyze the visual culture of 20th-century ufology. 2016’s Flying Saucers Are Real!, which featured the archive of science fiction writer and amateur UFO material collector Jack Womack, offered richly-drawn, full-color images of UFO culture from every decade of the phenomenon. What Flying Saucers Are Real! did for American ufology, David Clarke’s UFO Drawings From The National Archives does for the United Kingdom…