In, I think, 1988 or 89, I mailed hundreds of letters to all of the freaky organizations and crazed loners listed in Rev. Ivan Stang’s classic book on oddball culture, High Weirdness By Mail.
I sent the exact same form letter to all of them (“To Whom It May Concern, I am interested in more information about your organization, Thank you, Richard Metzger”) and within a very short period of time—about two weeks—my mailbox was overflowing daily with completely insane shit from some extremely marginal individuals. I used to have boxes and boxes of it. I’m sure that the current tenants of my former East Village apartment still to this very day get whimsical, creepy and outright alarming things addressed to me.
Among the high weirdness highlights were these people in Kentucky who sent me several homemade cassettes featuring some seriously demented (and low IQ) “alien channeling” sessions with “The Commodore” that became more and more paranoid and racist with every tape. This stuff was out there, existing in a parallel continuum of irrationality far beyond anything heard then on Art Bell’s radio show. With each cassette they’d send me—there were dozens sent for my one single letter of inquiry—there would be a crude drawing of their house and an appeal for money so that they could build a “UFO landing lookout” (something that you and I might call it a “porch”).
Equally persistent, but no less nutty, was the curious assortment of incredibly stupid items I received from disgraced TV televangelist Peter Popoff. Popoff—who was exposed as a fraud a long time ago on The Tonight Show and many times since—must assume that the people who contact him are the dumbest people on Earth and for the most part, maybe he’s right. Among the nonsense I got from him were a “prosperity prayer rug”: You were instructed to kneel on the “prayer rug”—a cheap paper poster with a dotted line circle—and put your wallet in front of you and pray for money (for a monetary donation, Popoff would also personally pray to God on your behalf) and a Handi-wipe type thing with supposed “holy water” that would make your debts vanish by supernatural intervention. Or something.
(He’s still around. The last time I saw Peter Popoff on TV, he was on BET and had re-invented himself as a sort of preacher/debt councilor)
High Weirdness by Mail has been out of print for a long time, but a Sub-Genius named Friar Synapse has lovingly recreated the book online, after discovering that nearly ALL of the groups and individuals listed there are still around!
The zaniness is broken down into categories like Weird Science, UFO Contactees, Jesus Contactees, Weird Religion, New Age Saps, $chemes & $cams, Cosmic Hippie Drug Brother Stuff, Weird Politics, Rantzines, Comics, Badfilm & Sleaze and Rudeness & Sex Wars.
You’ve got your slack cut out for you…
Honestly, I must say, spending 3 or four hours writing to all of those kooks was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I highly recommend High Weirdness by Mail. No really, in some ways, it changed my life! Praise Bob!