The Hamlyn Book of Ghosts in Fact and Fiction was the first in a four-volume series by UK publisher Hamlyn. The other volumes, which I’ll post about separately, are The Hamlyn Book of Horror (1979), The Hamlyn Book of Mysteries (1983), and The Hamlyn Book of Monsters (1984). All but one were written by Daniel Farson (Bernard Brett wrote The Hamlyn Book of Mysteries), and all featured spectacular wraparound cover art by Oliver “Zack” Frey.
The series was probably prompted by rival publisher Usborne’s The World of the Unknown series (see here and here), first published in 1977 and aimed directly at the paranormal-obsessed youth market, although Hamlyn had been dabbling in the subject for many years: of particular interest is 1971’s Witchcraft and Black Magic by Peter Haining, a well-written overview featuring surreal, nightmarish illustrations by Jan Parker.
Ghosts in Fact and Fiction is not quite as garishly illustrated as Usborne’s All About Ghosts, though Hamlyn would ramp up the intensity for The Hamlyn Book of Horror. Usborne responded in kind—or maybe it was simple coincidence—with their Supernatural Guides (1979), three of the most delightfully gruesome introductions to occult subjects ever published.
Writer Daniel Farson led quite the eccentric life. He started his career as a journalist and appeared on several groundbreaking, investigatory news programs in the 1950s and early 1960s. He abruptly quit television and left London in 1964 to become a full-time writer. His 27 books include biographies (including one on his great-uncle, Bram Stoker), several memoirs of bohemian Soho (of which he was a contributing rake), travelogues, and two horror novels. He also wrote a volume for Aldus Books’ A New Library of the Supernatural called Vampires, Zombies, and Monster Men (1976), and a volume for Smithmark’s Great Mysteries series, Mysterious Monsters (1980).
Special thanks to The Cobwebbed Room for an excellent entry on the Hamlyn series, including full artist credits and contents lists.
(Images via Flickr and Pinterest)