One of the presents I got for Christmas was a copy of Mail Order Mysteries by Kirk Demarais. It’s a straightforward book with a very simple idea.
Anyone who grew up around comics in the 60s and 70s remembers the ads in them. Toy soldiers, sea monkeys, magic tricks, pranks, incredible devices, dynamic tension, and glasses that let you see through skin and cloth, all were peddled in 4-color glory. Every kid wondered at these amazing ads.
They must have made some money — they ran the ads for years — but I never personally knew anyone who ordered these things. Ordering meant getting one’s hands on the means to send money through the mail, which usually meant parents would be involved, which usually meant the idea would be nixed because the things being offered were junk or a rip-off.
The parents were right, of course, and in our hearts we knew this. But still, the question remained: even if the x-ray glasses were a rip off, what were they? They had to send you something, right?
Kirk Demarais has the answer. This book contains not only the ads, but pictures of what one actually received. At last the secrets of the Magic Brain Calculator, 1001 Things You Can Get For Free book, Cigarette Snow Storm, and many others are revealed. And yes, the X-Ray Spex are the very first entry, no waiting! And the real shockers are the few things that actually weren’t a bad deal!
This book is a must for anyone who remembers these ads, which would be pretty much everyone I know.