Strange Stories Amazing Facts, and how Reader’s Digest is an American Treasure

I’ll never forget the time my dad got this book in the mail.  He handed it to me when I was a kid and said, “you’ll like all the interesting stuff in here.”

He was right.  I actually never did quit reading the thing.

Consider it a Ripley’s Believe it or not, with the exception of the Ripley’s penchant for oatmeal filler, balderdash, falsehoods, hoodwinks, hoaxes and speculative snipe-hunts.

The book is simply a compilation of intriguing information– It became a conduit for trivial mysteries–some of which capture the imagination even to this day. Written in a prose and accompanying photos that seems to have a gasp of the ethereal in it, I could not pull myself away.  Here is where I first absorbed things about:

  1. The eerie and almost convincingly-supernatural coincidences between the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.
  2. The treasure presumed to be secreted in a sub-aquatic cavern on Oak Island.
  3. England’s most haunted house–The Borely Rectory.
  4. The mysterious fate of famed spy, Buster Crabb.
  5. Cryogenic preservation of corpses for medical research.

And literally hundreds of other things, such as the visions seen by Dante, People claiming to be Ananastasia, the Tsar’s daughter, and even alleged theophany-as-popes–claiming to have the stigmata on their hands.

Chalk it up to formatting, but the breathy writing would have me up late at night, speculating . . . wishing I could jump on a plane and start hashing out the facts.

It would be many years later, when social media and internet would ruin the trivial–when some chunk of one-off information wasn’t dashed against the rocks of the instantaneous–that the Lincoln Kennedy thing would become a frequent flier with nearly everyone.  There was a day, right through my twenties, when I could quote the writing on that point of intrigue, and hold an audience captive, because they’d never heard of it.  Now, Oak Island has it’s own TV series with a small cadre of also-ran Goonies trying to find the treasure. Ghost hunter programs clog up the Travel Channel, and, well . . .  Google allows the pajama-clad grouch to mic-drop conventional wisdom ad nauseum.

So what does one do with this information?  I remember reading a book on the writing process once.  In there was a suggestion that if you wanted to dig in to the gargantuan task of describing a fictional town–to really paint a picture–that one technique would be to start describing a lone brick on the corner of a building, and then pan out from there.

This book could launch a thousand other books.  Each story is the flashpoint for novels, investigative endeavors, or historical deep-dives.  I imagine the Lincoln/Kennedy thing could be extrapolated to lengths previously unimagined–simply because its been a hermetically-sealed story by itself.

Now I’m going to have to get it back down off the shelf.  I might just have an idea.

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