Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.
Print isn’t dead, but it can be deadly.
Within popular culture, there exist guides with the express purpose of wreaking havoc and unleashing hell on humanity. While the Kindle, iPad and Nook might have a killer effect on the book industry, these are books that are very industrious at killing.
For instance, in the supernatural comedy series “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil” - now in its second season on cable horror network Fearnet - a group of teens at the Satanist-controlled Crowley High battle the forces of a mysterious tome that grants wishes with sinister twists.
After witnessing the dark powers of the book and the control it holds over the weak and needy, metal head Todd (Alex House), Jimmy the Janitor (Jason Mewes of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”) and a gang of high schoolers become determined to end the "Pure Evil" plague. The result is a series that has the charm and wit of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but with more of a raunchy, at-times awkward humor that appeals to die-hard horror nerds.
But "Book of Pure Evil" is far from the only that sits in the devil’s stacks. Therefore, what follows is a list of the most harmful books of verisimilitude within pop culture that contain information not to be checked out. After all, while reading is fundamental, it can also be fundamentally dangerous.
A creation of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, the "Necronomicon" is a book of spells that first appeared in the 1924 short story, “The Hound.” Purportedly written by the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, it appears in various forms in Lovecraft’s work, but is typically leather-bound with clasps. (Descriptions of it as being bound in human skin are likely confused with a separate portfolio described in the same short story.) An unabridged version exists at the fictional Miskatonic University.
Lovecraft’s "Necronomicon" is perhaps the most famously evil book that inspires entertainment. Many “real” versions of it have been published, including the controversial “Simon” version in 1977 that was accused of inspiring a cult murder.
"The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy"
Although this electronic repository for all knowledge and wisdom suggests any reader to “Don’t Panic” in “large, friendly letters,” there is indeed a good deal of reasons to panic if you consult it.
Introduced in author Douglas Adams’ sci-fi comedy series of the same name in 1978, “The Guide” is riddled with devastating typos, errors and gross understatements. To rely on it is to ensure destruction since most of the editing staff remain on permanent lunch break – even though its advice on towels has proved helpful. Published by Megadodo Publications, "The Guide" itself has a sarcastic tone and looks like a small, thin, flexible laptop computer within a sturdy plastic cover.
"Naturan Demanto/ Book of the Dead"
A cabin in the Tennessee woods is not normally where you may expect to find an ancient Sumerian text with resurrection spells, but so it goes in the 1981 horror “The Evil Dead,” starring Bruce Campbell and directed by Sam Raimi. When Campbell’s crew of twenty-something friends vacation at the cabin, discover the book and accidentally play an audiotape incantation, demons spring forth to cause trouble and kill them off.
While the sequel “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness” were comedy-tinged sequels that referred to the book as the fictional "Necronomicon Ex-Mortis," the "Book of the Dead" was a real Egyptian collection of funereal rites to facilitate a person’s journey into the afterlife and popped up as a magical text in other films, such as 1999’s “The Mummy”. There is also a Tibetan "Book of the Dead."
“To Serve Man” Kanamit cookbook
The danger of “To Serve Man”– from the 1962 “The Twilight Zone” episode of the same name - lies in shoddy, incomplete translation. When the alien race of the Kanamits land on Earth, they do the human race a solid by transforming deserts into oases, ending world hunger, providing cheap energy and eliminating nuclear weapons.
But when one of the Kanamit race leaves behind his plain black, space-leather bound book behind at the United Nations, a group of U.S. cryptographers working to decipher the alien language (and apparently the only ones in the world doing so) give up after decoding the title of the alien book: To Serve Man.
It is only after much of the human race is zipping off to the Kanamit homeworld “paradise” that one lone decoder figures out the book is actually a cookbook that reduces humans into “an ingredient in someone's soup.”
Appearing in the 1998-2006 supernatural soap “Charmed” on The WB, "The Grimoire" is a compendium of evil magic and information. "The Grimoire," which is actually a name applied to textbooks of magic, provides a counterbalance to "The Book of Shadows" used by good witch heroines, the Halliwell sisters. A brown book emblazoned with a skull and upside down pentagram, the Grimoire is a destructive force that can reject the powers of white magic. Even though The CW, the network that replaced The WB, featured grimoires on its current soaps “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Secret Circle,” neither have quite developed the same punch as "The Grimoire" or "The Book of Shadows."
"Book of Vishanti / Eternity Book"
Within the comic book world, the "Book of Vishanti" and "Eternity Book" essentially both operate as the same source of magic. Within the Marvel Comics universe, the "Book of Vishanti" is a golden collection of white magical source currently owned by Doctor Strange that appeared in 1964 in “Strange Tales”. It was dictated to human magicians by the magical collective of the Vishanti and has been possessed by Atlanteans and Babylonian gods. The good spells can backfire with dangerous, even evil, results.
Meanwhile, the "Eternity Book" exists within the DC Comic universe and contains the secrets of existence.
Seen first in “The Demon” in 1972, it is depicted as red with gold clasps and a red seal, and is the personal spell book that once belonged to Merlin. To use it is to know the history of the universe and to gain immense magical powers.
"Grays Sports Almanac"
Seemingly innocuous while on sale at the Blast from the Past antique store in 2015, the "Grays Sports Almanac: Complete Sports Statistics 1950-2000" was used to upset the balance of the entire space-time continuum. Introduced in the 1989 film “Back to the Future Part II,” the softcover, red almanac contained 50 years’ worth of results from football, baseball, boxing, horse racing and more. Used by a time traveler motivated by greed, the almanac can be the key to fame and immense fortune, but also creates a dark alternate timeline. Grays had been publishing sports almanacs since 1923, the 1950-2000 volume was the first to alter reality.