Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown –
The 1980s Book Series That Literally Claimed It Had To Be Read To Be Believed
by Eric Grundhauser
The Mysteries of the Unknown phenomenon began in 1987 when Time-Life Books began to test the waters for a series of books on the paranormal. Time-Life Books, a conglomeration of the two titular magazines, sold books via monthly subscriptions. Their series and titles usually focused on broad historical or utilitarian subjects like The Old West or Home Repair and Improvement, and were mainly sold directly to the consumer via television ads that blanketed the cable and broadcast airwaves. They were the kinds of books one’s dad or grandparents might buy.
Even within Time-Life, the series was nicknamed, “books as furniture,” says Tom Corry, former Product Manager for Time-Life Books, who helped develop the paranormal series and the ad campaign that saw it take off. According to Corry, who is now CEO of his own company, Healthcare Data Insights & Analytics, the roots of the Mysteries series are actually pretty mundane. “We already had a book series called the Enchanted World, and it was elves and fairies,” he says. “It was a pretty popular series.” Having found an audience for these books, Time-Life decided to see what other left-field topics readers might be interested in.
Moving a bit away from the myth and folklore of the Enchanted World, Time-Life began polling its marketing database to see if they could get a little more mysterious and metaphysical. The database was a collection of people who had filled out business reply cards (the company tip emails of the day), or purchased previous series from Time-Life. They responded with “decent interest,” says Corry. “We thought we could probably squeeze a series out of this.”
Source: The 1980s Book Series That Literally Claimed It Had To Be Read To Be Believed | Atlas Obscura
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- Time-Life Books “Mysteries of the Unknown” – The Retroist
- How Mysteries of the Unknown came to be, finally explained … – Meta Filter
- Julianne Moore Was Once In A Time-Life Books Commercial In The Late ’80s… – BuzzFeed
Watch actress Julianne Moore talk about an Out-of-Body-Experience in this vintage television commercial for the Time-Life series…