Light & Verity

The horror in Sterling’s basement

Yale collects VHS movies from the ’70s and ’80s.

Mark Zurolo ’01MFA

Mark Zurolo ’01MFA

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The atmosphere is already a little spooky in the storage area below the nave of Sterling Memorial Library. Now imagine being locked in there and stumbling on boxes of videotapes with titles like Buried Alive, Psychos in Love, and Blood Feast. They’re there in the name of scholarship, thanks to librarian David Gary and Aaron Pratt ’16PhD, a graduate student in English. “The rise of the VCR and the video-rental store in the 1970s created this distinctive space where a lot of weird movies could get made,” says Gary. Many of them were horror and exploitation films that exist only on VHS tapes. Gary and Pratt wanted to make sure this piece of culture—including the tapes’ cover art, designed to catch attention on video-store shelves—is preserved, so Yale bought a private collector’s cache of some 2,700 tapes from the ’70s and ’80s. “They’re like dime novels,” says Gary. “They show you what people were thinking about through popular culture.”

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