Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Panic! At the Publisher

If you were a reader between 1975 and 2006 and were into things like fake IDs, conspiracies, drugs, weapons, and overthrowing the system by any means necessary, then you were aware of a publisher called Loompanics Unlimited.

Loompanics was like the crazy cousin of Paladin Press, which actually acquired some of Loompanics’ titles when the company went out of business in 2006.  Paladin always had a very serious air about it.  (That company, which published many books on how to kill people, stopped sending me books to review  for my ‘zine because my ‘zine was too radical.  Picture that for a second.  The company that published Put Him Out! – The Combative Use of Improvised Weapons called my ‘zine too radical.  If you are interested, you can get the DVD version of that book here.)  Loompanics’ works were just more fun.

Loompanics published books like Dirty Tricks Cops Use: And Why They Use Them, Techniques of Burglar Alarm Bypassing, Practical LSD Manufacture and The Construction & Operation of Clandestine Drug Laboratories.  Don’t they sound like a good time?  Yes!  Of course they do!

I own more than a few of Loompanics’ odes to personal freedom.  They are equal parts amusing, thrilling and terrifying.  Back before the Internet taught every jackass how to make a bomb, Loompanics was one of the few places one could turn to … and then you actually had to crack open a book.  You couldn’t just watch a Youtube video.  You had to use things like bookmarks and such.  It was a crazy time, kids.

I miss the publisher.  I mean, Paladin is fine, but its crowd is so survivalist that you can’t help but think of militias, Christianity and vague interpretations of the Constitution.  Loompanics’ crowd was the Yuppies and the chaos mongers.  Paladin’s crowd flies a Don’t Tread on Me flag.  The Loompanics bunch burned flags.  There is a distinction.

There was a time Google and Amazon wouldn’t let Loompanics advertise its goods on their sites.  The books violated their policies.  We all know what barometers of morality those two companies are, but their refusal did shed light on a problem Loompanics had – people were afraid of it.  They weren’t afraid Loompanics would topple the publishing industry, however.  They were afraid of what Loompanics was publishing.  The books themselves were dangerous.  (Yes, the FBI looked into the company.  Luckily, the Feds’ interpretation of the Constitution is not vague.)

Google and Amazon are still here, as is Paladin.  None of them, however, are half as fun as Loompanics used to be.  After all, what other publisher could set you up to be tweaking on homemade meth while carrying a fake ID when you firebombed a bank with personally made explosives?  None … at least not while making you smile.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I have always sought out high weirdness when it comes to books.  Whether it is old Nazi propaganda, medical tomes on parasites that run riot throughout the body, or books on communism written by crackpots, if it’s odd, I’m interested.

Many moons ago I visited the Occult Emporium, which was located in Allentown, PA at the time.  I had always heard rumors about the place, and my initial reaction (other than that it was tiny because it was basically set up in the basement of a building) was of glee.  Scattered amongst the candles, Tarot cards, newspaper articles about people dumb enough to shoplift from the store, and Aleister Crowley’s helmet (which I touched despite the warning sign), were books and pamphlets on the occult.


I was drawn to these things like a goth to a black eyeliner sale.  Books on Satanism, witchcraft, identifying demons (as if one really needed to do that) and astral projection begged for my hard-earned money.  There was one little pamphlet, however, that really caught my eye.  I held it.  I looked through it.  I didn’t care about the price, though it was a pittance at $2.50.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t a standard paperback.  I wanted it and had to have it. 

How to Shrink Heads?  Its title a question.  Its question a promise.  Its promise peculiar.

I can, if forced, justify my purchase of it by saying I’m a writer and it is research material.  That isn’t true, though.  It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  Yeah, I’m a writer, but the pamphlet is just so damn cool that I had to have it.  Not for research purposes, but for the holy-shit-I’m-learning-how-to-shrink-a-human-head factor.  They don’t write a Dummies guide for that.

You wouldn’t buy it?

Of course not!  What would be the point?  What would you do with it?  How often would you read it?  Who cares?  It’s a pamphlet on shrinking human heads!  You can’t find that at Target.  You don’t stumble across it at a yard sale.  It’s not the type of thing you see every day.  In fact, my copy is the only one I’ve seen, period, and I’m always looking weird shit up on the net.  What’s not to love about that?

I bought it and never looked back.  Incredibly, it’s not the oddest ephemera I own, but it is one of the more interesting.  Conversation starter?  No.  Anything that tells you how to shrink a human head is really a conversation ender.  People learn you have that sort of thing and instantly change the topic to  something less anti-social like anal bleaching.  I’m not disappointed.  I understand.  Anyone who doesn’t want to discuss shrinking human heads isn’t someone I really want to talk to anyway.  I do, however, have something I could use them for …