Ten Things About Cursed Objects: The Book


September 15, 2020 — My latest book is out! Cursed Objects: Strange but TrueStories of the World’s Most Infamous Items is both its title and its summary. I thought I’d continue the tradition I started two books ago, with a peek behind the making of the book. So here are ten factoids about a book full of factoids.

1) I can thank Twelve Nights at Rotter House for this book. Quirk Books (Cursed Object’s publisher) showed interest early in Twelve Nights, but it didn’t land there. However, it was enough of an introduction that they learned my dark secret—that I spend my life chasing and writing about oddity. An editor there named Rebecca Gyllenhaal had a concept she wanted someone to run with—a book about cursed objects, and it seemed like a good fit. They then let me own the concept from TOC to epilogue, so you’re still getting a J.W. Ocker book, complete with too many I’s and the inability to take a topic serious for more than two sentences. But this thing exists because of Rebecca.

2) The title I pitched for the book was It’s Cursed, I Tell You, Cursed!. Rebecca sagely insisted on the SEO-friendly Cursed Objects. She was right, of course, and not just for that reason (remember I’m the guy who made up the main word in the titles of his first two books like a jerk, and while I love the term Grimpendium, there’s a thousand percent chance Creepy Stuff in New York would have sold way better). The other reason why its final title is much better is because the book turned into the most complete survey on the topic to date.

3) I had to figure out what the hell a cursed object was for the book. I decided it had to be an object that caused serial harm supernaturally to multiple individuals (and that word supernaturally is important because an object that causes serial harm to multiple individuals is the definition of a machine gun). Next, I ruled out all cursed places and cursed people (not objects). Then I ruled out all haunted objects, unless they acted like cursed objects (most haunted objects act creepily but benignly), and then I also kicked out possessed objects (although many demonologists believe that objects can’t be possessed. Only people can). They also got to stay in the book if they acted like cursed objects. And behaved.

4) This book represents a lot of firsts for my author life. First illustrated book. First book translated into multiple languages. First book concept that didn’t originate with me.

5) Somehow this book received not just a New York Times review, but a great one. But it’s not my first. The already referenced and reviled New York Grimpendium was also reviewed well by The New York Times. I have that page framed on my wall because the next column over is a spotlight on Zacherle, and I love sharing a newspaper page with the late horror host and love even more that maybe he read that little review blurb about my book when he was checking out the piece on him.

6) One of the things that makes me giddy about this book is the full-page illustration of the Black Aggie by artist Jon MacNair. Longtime readers will know my obsession with this story (it was the topic of the first episode of my podcast, for instance). I use the phrase back-tattoo-worthy way too much, but this will be the last time. Because I only have one back to give to cool art.


7) I wasn’t going to write about cursed objects without buying one. And I did. I call it the Cursed Cur. I tell the story in the book, but I just wanted you to know that I still have it. It sits on my shelf of travel mementos in my study, between my grisly Eastern State Penitentiary mug and my vial of Lizzie Borden house brick dust.

8) We cut multiple entries and sidebars from the book for content and layout reasons, from my visit to a cursed rug to an essay on cursed screenplays to the infamous Red Window, but keep your eyes on this site, as I’ll be posting some of that bonus content over the next month and a half.  

9) One of my better ideas for the book happened after the book was done. I created a slide for the presentation I now do on cursed objects (called It’s Cursed, I tell you, Cursed!—natch), showing where the eight most famous cursed jewels are currently displayed around the world. The slide is my own shoddy layout work, but I want to commission it as an illustration.

10) Every copy of Cursed Objects is cursed, but only if you steal it. We included an old book curse inside from back when books couldn’t be mass produced and the individual volumes needed to be protected however possible. In this case, if you steal this book, ravens will gouge out your eyes and you’ll be strung by the neck on the gallows.

So don’t let that happen to you. Buy Cursed Objects now!

 

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You like numbered lists about books? Check out these other two:

Ten Things about Death and Douglas

Twelve Things about Twelve Nights at Rotter House