Everyone knows that the 1970s was a very “interesting” decade. An era of druggy, sexual excess that saw the “Me Generation” do their collective thing, no matter how far out that sort of behavior would have seemed just ten years earlier. But it wasn’t just that sex, drugs and rock and roll went mainstream in a big way in the 70s, the occult was so… well commonplace then that the likes of LOOK magazine would publish entire issues on the subject, with Anton LaVey as the cover boy. Even the normally staid women’s magazine McCall’s published a quite remarkable (and lengthy) round-up article on not merely “new agey” or culty belief systems, but the more “evil” side of things as well. TIME magazine had a 1972 cover story declaring “Satan Returns.” (First TIME was wondering aloud if God was dead, now this!)
But if you REALLY want to get across the point of just how far the occult craze penetrated American popular culture at the time, look no further than the Man, Myth & Magic publication. Originally sold as a newsstand magazine in the UK, Man, Myth & Magic: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural was reformatted by the publisher for the US market as 23 hardback volumes with a 24th being the very detailed and cross-referenced index. Exorcism. Indian snake charmers. Astrology. Voodoo. Weird ghostly voices appearing on tape recordings. Witchcraft. Cargo cults. Nostradamus. Alchemy. Hypnosis. Tarot. Demonology. Aleister Crowley. Norse gods. Buddhism. ESP. UFOs. Zombies. Paganism. Telekinesis. Drugs. Rituals. Stonehenge, etc. You get the idea. But as sensationalist (and DARK!) as the trappings of the publication generally were, the editorial was scholarly, even academic, and lavishly illustrated in full color.
But what most people don’t recall (but many will) is that Man, Myth & Magic was actually sold in drugstores and supermarkets. It was also heavily advertised on television with a commercial featuring the demonic face you see above, painted by Austin Osman Spare. Imagine that! (Actually you don’t have to imagine anything, the commercial’s embedded at the end of this post).
This… happened! Although I was far too young for it at the time, I can vividly recall a huge display in the cereal aisle (natch) for Man, Myth & Magic at the local Kroger in my hometown of Wheeling, WV. If it got as far as a podunk town Wheeling, with a very large in-store display to boot, that’s a pretty good indication of what sort of distribution they had for it. Note at the end of the TV commercial they mention that you can buy it at the Walgreens chain, indicating that Walgreens was probably underwriting part of the cost to air the spot.
This would, of course, NEVER happen today, but back then? Man, Myth & Magic was sold next to the Count Chocula!
Man, Myth & Magic was been reprinted as a 21 volume set, although it’s still relatively easy to find complete sets of the first edition. I put a complete set together for about $75 in the 1990s and utilized it heavily in my Disinformation TV series as you can see in the second clip. You can read more on this clip and the “Satanists” seen below, here: