Brian Baker

Peter Usborne influenced generations with The World of the Unknown books

The World of the Unknown: Ghosts is a book that sends an electrical current of energy through all of those involved in the paranormal.

It connects us all.

Its cousins, two further books on Monsters and UFOs published by Usborne Books, kept those with vivid imaginations hyperactive.

All three of The World of the Unknown books were published in 1977, two years before I made my appearance in this sphere, but they have continued to be a facet of pop culture and live rent-free in my mind.

They also live in the minds of others. They are the books of our youth on par with Shakespearean plays in high school English classes.

Haunted Magazine” even paid homage in their 24th issue. Reece Shearsmith, who played William Shakespeare in Good Omens, wrote a new foreword for the latest edition of Ghosts and the team at Haunted interviewed him.

For me, it was a book that sent my already overactive imagination into overdrive. I thirsted to learn more about ghosts. A taboo to some, and a curiosity for others.

It was the images in Ghosts — a one-eyed dog, a bear wearing a chief’s headdress, and Captain Kidd in his gibbet — that are seared in my mind. I had that book as a kid. I also wanted the other two, but that dream never materialized.

Still, what Peter Usborne bequeathed to us all through his books, which by proxy were shared through the Scholastic Books flyers sent home from school, was that desire to ask questions; to ponder what existed beyond the known world.

I remember those flyers; flipping through them with great zeal, looking for books on animals and, yes, ghosts. I was raised in a very secular household where organized religion was non-existent, so the exploration of the unknown was not as impossible as lightning in a bottle.

Usborne died on March 30, leaving behind his wife, two children and five grandchildren.

He also left behind a lot of young minds that grew up to explore the paranormal, to ask questions about this mortal coil and whatever happens to us when we finally shuffle off.

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