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Second Hand Books

It’s been my experience that whenever I’ve gone to a public library, archives, historical society, etc. to do research on haunted areas or UFOs -- anything to do with the paranormal, it’s best to be very discreet -- lie even -- to the staff. Once they hear that you’re interested in the history of the haunted tavern down the road or what have you, they become very taciturn. Saying I’m a student of anthropology, history or folklore, or a writer, and keeping it non specific, gets me access if I keep it neutral.

(My, but librarians can be snooty, I had one snort -- yes, snort! -- when I was checking out the sequel to Gone with the Wind years ago. Yes, we all know it’s pure trash, chessy, badly written; we know that. Give a girl a break. Anyway, Ms. Snooty Pooty Pants the librarian, I’ll have you know I was an frigging English major and could write circles around you on Tolstoy or Carver or the Beats or Po Mo silliness or the Wife of Bath. Anyway.)

Another thing I've noticed is the way thrift stores sort their books. Everything’s fine when it comes to the usual subjects; cooking, self-help, religion, mysteries, children's. Try looking for books on ghosts or UFos or anything about the strange or paranormal. You might find them shoved anywhere. Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul are notorious for this, at least in my area. You won’t find any specific “paranormal” or “supernatural” or UFO section. Not even a “speculative” section. I’ve found UFO books in the sci-fi section (Streiber’s Communion and the rest of his abduction books are always shoved in there), in the aviation section (well, that’s kind of sort of close) in the religious section; either the Christian section, in with books on angels, or, Satan, and in the New Age section. If they have a “new age” section at all.

I’ve had cashiers comment on the books I’ve bought, as if it’s any of their business. Depending on my mood, I either tell them I’m a writer doing research, which seems to satisfy them, or turn it back on them when I’m asked if I “believe all that stuff.” I ask them if they believe “all that stuff.” Sometimes the answer is “It’s interesting. . .” before trailing off, other times it’s something like “Me? ‘Course not!”

“Real” bookstores usually maintain a neutral attitude when ringing up UFO and paranormal books; occasionally however a comment or raised eyebrow escapes them. I swear, I feel like I’m buying rare erotica or hard core porn when I take a pile of UFO books up to the counter in some places.

Finding those books and magazines like FATE or UFO Magazine is difficult. There are only two places (that I know of) in my city I can buy those magazines. I’ve been reduced to subscribing to them, which is a lot more convenient, but again, there’s an aura of tawdry creepiness, as if you’re up to no good.

The magazine racks in department stores and supermarkets are full of redundant themes; fashion, brides, music, computers, trucks and cars. Oh, and hunting. Puzzles, gossip and that most surreal juxtaposition of glitz and class, horrors and corruption: Vanity Fair. But no UFO or paranormal magazines. (The yuppie/hippie ‘alternative’ grocery store chain, Market of Choice, does sell Nexus, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t stoop and get so low brow as to sell UFO Magazine.)

I don’t expect it to change, just commenting on my observations. Probably those who do the ordering for such things will tell you that fashion, etc. are big sellers, while UFOs, ghosts, and the paranormal are considered “specialized.”

It’d be an interesting study to see how well UFO and related magazines would sell in the so-called ‘mainstream’ market. I do know that the one regular ol’ discount supermarket that does sell UFO Magazine sells out every time; you have to be quick, or its gone.

Well, thankfully we have Ebay.

And I can’t complain too much; after all, (speaking of ebay) I found an autographed hardcover copy, with dust jacket, of George Van Tassels The Council of Seven Lights for sixty-three cents at Goodwill, and sold it on ebay for over $200.00. It took a lot of digging around but it was worth it!

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