René Alleau’s ‘History of Occult Sciences,’ 1966

The vogue for illustrated mini-encyclopedias of world knowledge came into its own in the postwar period in the West. The spirit of New Frontier, space-age optimism led traditionally non-educational publishers into the educational field, usually by producing striking, lavishly-illustrated, glossy full-color gazetteers on particular areas of knowledge…

The Music the Machines Make: ‘Systems of Romance’ by Ultravox, 1978

By K.E. Roberts

London’s Ultravox was John Foxx’s band for three increasingly brilliant albums. Their debut, 1977’s Ultravox!, is an uneven but essential distillation of Roxy Music, art-rock-era Brian Eno (who produced, along with Steve Lillywhite), prog, minimalist electronica, and dub. The same year’s Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, on the other hand—a mere eight months separated the albums—is a focused and unsparing gnashing of teeth…

“An Enthusiastic Corporate Citizen”: David Cronenberg and the Dawn of Neoliberalism

By Michael Grasso

The cinematic corpus of David Cronenberg is probably best known for its expertly uncanny use of body horror, but looming almost as large in the writer-director’s various universes is the presence of faceless, all-powerful organizations. Like his rough contemporary Thomas Pynchon and the conspiracies that litter Pynchon’s early works—V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), and Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)—Cronenberg’s shadowy organizations offer fodder for paranoid conspiracy…

The Yorkshire Ripper Tape Recording, 1979

By the summer of 1979, the inhabitants of the north of England were living in a state of barely suppressed terror: for the previous four years, a serial killer dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper had been attacking and murdering women in an area centering around the industrial city of Bradford in West Yorkshire…

Commies, Devils, and Mind Control: How the Christian Right Invented Satanic Backmasking

By K.E. Roberts

Rock and roll was maligned as an “unholy pleasure” almost from the get-go, just as dancing was decried as the “Heritage of Hell” centuries before. After John Lennon declared the Beatles “more popular than Jesus” in 1966, Christian fundamentalists immediately condemned all music that “aroused the lower instincts,” and the smear campaign would last for more than a quarter-century…