High Weirdness By Mail

I was just discussing HWBM with someone a couple of days ago, for probably the first time in a decade, and along comes this amazing retrospective. Plate. Shrimp. Plate-o-shrimp.

Well, there goes my week.

High Weirdness By Mail (HWBM) is a kind of directory of kooks circa 1988, built up during Stang and friends' hobby of collecting kook literature, a listing of hundreds of addresses that a collector could write to and, either for free for for only a little money, receive some authentic weirdness for their trouble. Some of the addresses are of lone kooks, like Brainbeau (p 160), looking for spread their ideas. Some of the them lead to UFO cults like Unarius (p 50), looking for recruits. Some believe Jesus talks to them personally; whether they're viewed as lone nutters or respected televangelists seems to depend only on resources. Doesn't matter, Ivan Stang includes them both. Some are actual hate groups. Many are independent artists, several of which would subsequently hit it big before a wider audience. There are over 320 pages of addresses in the book, and each of them has a short blurb written about them to warn the reader about what he's in for. Most of the addresses, of course, probably don't work now. Here, in a kind of metapost, I visit some of the entries and find out where they are now, or if they still exist.


Tags: , ,

9 Responses:

  1. Oh man, good times: my tiny little liberal arts college had a conniption because I was bringing "hate speech" onto campus thanks to this book. I managed to get the "Aggressive Christianity" people to send me a five pound box of tracts, newsletters, audio- and video-cassettes by writing them and saying I was a "lone Christian student" surrounded by sinners in need of witnessing.

    Might even still have that box somewhere; I should go dig it out and scan it...

  2. arclight says:

    I was thinking about HWBM a few weeks ago. I'm still getting the Lindsay Books catalog (source of Dave Gingery's wonderful 7 volume series on how to build a machine shop from scrap, starting with a charcoal-fired aluminum foundry). Gone are the days when the tinfoil-hatted tract-slingers operated out of their basements and an SASE was your key to secret universe of unmedicated batshittery. Once it was just a handful of frothy dingbats claiming the president was a Secret Muslim Communist Martian Traveler from Kenya with MYSTICAL WEATHER CONTROL POWERS. Now they're everywhere.

    Jeezus, I sound like a hipster.

  3. Ian Young says:

    Back in the day, my dad would mail copies of his "let's set some type and get high" fake religious tracts (e.g.: "Gupta Singh's "The Blues", a revelation of the V'hnd'a Ma'chin Culture") and get letters back. Those were wild days, before the Stark Fist of Removal....

  4. James M says:

    God, the happy memories that brought back.

  5. thielges says:

    I have an entire file of "letters" and various objects sent by Reverend Ewing, the mail order evangelist. Each mailing included a memo describing how others had sent their last $1000 to the reverend only to be later rewarded "many fold" with free cars, houses, cancer therapies, etc.. Each mailing also contained a gimmick: prayer "rugs", holy handkerchiefs, crucifixes, vials of water from the river Jordan, and Jesus nightlights. And of course a donation stub and postage paid envelope which always made it back to the Rev. Ewing headquarters containing wishes but no money.

    Oddly this correspondence occurred about a year before I discovered the Church of the Subgenius.

  6. This really is the best write up I've seen on Mefi in years. I really miss those days of getting high and listening to late night public broadcasts from the CotS late at night. It was the closest thing I had to going to church on a regular basis.

  7. Sheilagh says:

    Seems like the Center for Tactical Magic would suit the mold.

  • Previously