Film, Occult, Witchcraft

Strange Unknown: Witchcraft in 1967

In the late sixties Myron Fass, the renowned American publisher of many cheap pulp magazines and horror-themed comic books, took notice of the public’s growing fascination with the paranormal. The result was Strange Unknown, a short-lived endeavor released by Fass’ Tempest Publications that landed on newsstands in 1967. After two issues it disappeared into the weird archives of forgotten Americana but Foss didn’t stop there. He went on to produce many other magazines in a similar vein such as Ancient Astronauts, ESP, Predictions, and the Official UFO magazine just to name a few of his random undertakings.

The two issues of Strange Unknown were mainly focused on witchcraft and contained various articles covering everything from the history of the witch trials to interviews and pictorials featuring some of the most notorious figures in modern magic at the time.

To celebrate the Season of the Witch I thought I’d share some article samples from Strange Unknown with readers this October. This first batch of articles features one of my favorite witches, the legendary Sybil Leek.

Leek was born in England in 1917 but she moved to America in 1964. She was a minor celebrity during her lifetime due to appearing on various talk shows and she wrote many books including a best-selling autobiography. Leek’s Diary of a Witch made a lasting impression on me after I received a copy for my 15th birthday. Her reputation has been tarnished over the years due to her somewhat conservative and bigoted worldview which occasionally found its way into her writing but she was a product of her times and it’s important to keep this mind if you read her work today.

Leek was my first encounter with a witch, outside of the films, television shows and fictional books I read, and she made me want to own a jackdaw and move to England so I could travel around the British countryside in a gypsy caravan. Unfortunately I haven’t accomplished either of those things yet but Sybil was an important figure that inspired me to start studying witchcraft seriously and investigate other occult figures such as Aleister Crowley so I can’t dismiss her impact. For better or worse, she inspired a lot of other young witches who grew up in the 1970s and 80s but in all fairness we had very few resources back then. Witchcraft had not become the popular cottage industry it is today that allows for a much broader and diverse range of voices to be heard.

Besides Sybil Leek, a few of the other witches spotlighted by Strange Unknown include Monique Wilson, Britain’s new (at the time) “Queen of the Witches” and curator of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, along with the Wiccan High Priestess Eleanor ‘Ray’ Bone plus Alex and Maxine Sanders (aka Maxine Morris) who created their own branch of Wicca known as Alexandrian Wicca. Magazine contributor Elijah Haydeen is also featured but more on him later.

In the meantime I hope you’ll enjoy this look at witchcraft as seen in the pages of Strange Unknown in 1967. Expect more samples from these magazines soon! Bonus: A couple of video interview clips with Sybil Leek that readers should also find interesting.

Interview with Sybil Leek on All Hallows’ Eve in 1963
Clip from a Witches documentary released in the 1960s