Dead Air: Unboxing Jeff Terry

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photo of Jeff Terry holding a knife
Jeff Terry

I was waiting on my copy of the Gift Edition of The Shining from the Cemetery Dance “Stephen King Doubleday Years Set” to arrive, so I thought I’d search for some unboxing videos so I could see what people thought about it — and to get a closer look at the finished product. One of the first ones I found was by a guy named Jeff Terry.

I hit the play button, and was greeted by some dude in what appeared to be a basement. The wall behind him was of grey brick, and a poster of Pennywise the Dancing Clown leered over the guy’s shoulder. The guy was wearing a black jacket, a set of enormous skull rings, and had a skull-shaped bottle of liquor on the table in front of him. He talked for a minute or two, and then proceeded to open the box containing the book, using one of the biggest damn knives I’ve ever seen.

I was hooked.

I made my way through the rest of his videos, subscribed to his channel, and have been a fan ever since. He’s no longer broadcasting from a basement — now he’s in front of a nice set of bookshelves holding an impressive and beautiful array of limited edition books — but his dry, self-deprecating humor, balanced by his absolute joy at holding a new book, hasn’t changed a bit. That’s what drew me in and made me a fan, and if you check out his channel I guarantee you’ll become a fan, too.

I reached out to Jeff and asked him if he’d be up for a chat about reading, collecting books, and making videos. I think his infectious love of books comes through in this short interview just as much as it does in his videos. Enjoy!

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

photo of Jeff Terry wearing a red jacket and holding a glass of beer
When you see the red jacket, you know it’s a special unboxing.

CEMETERY DANCE: What book or author set you on the path of being an avid reader?

JEFF TERRY: When I was 14 my mom bought a paperback of The Shining from a garage sale for a quarter. She gave it to me and told me it was the best example of how the book is always better than the movie. She told me to read it (skipping over the parts with boobies 🙂  ) and then we’d watch the movie. I was hooked. After that I jumped on Pet Sematary (the paperback had just been released) and then Thinner and then a steady stream of King novels and (Robert) McCammon and (Ray) Bradbury and (Clive) Barker and so many others. I loved the immersion and the escape and the way it helped me examine my own thoughts on humanity.

When did your love of reading morph into a love of collecting limited edition books? Was it a certain book that did it for you?

Again, Stephen King is responsible. I went to the mall one day (remember those?) and went into Kroch and Brentano’s (remember them?) and found a limited edition of a King book I had never heard of: The Gunslinger. It was a super sharp edition with fantastic artwork. I was mostly excited about a new King book. There was only one copy and I didn’t have the money on hand to buy it. So I tried to hide it by relocating it in the stacks next to less popular authors. I came back when I had the money but it was gone. The seed was planted though. I knew about (Donald) Grant and the Dark Tower books and small print runs and fantastic art. I choose to believe it was a good thing that I didn’t get that book then because I probably would have destroyed it. I try not to think about how much it’s worth now.

What’s the first limited edition book you bought?

Surprise, King again. It was years later when I finally scored my first “limited” edition. It was the Grant edition of Wizard and Glass. It really wasn’t a limited edition, it wasn’t signed or numbered. Though technically it was their trade edition, it looked the same to me with that gorgeous (Dave) McKean art. It was limited to me. I think the first actual limited edition I bought was the Artist Edition of Song of Susannah from Grant. Years after that I learned about Cemetery Dance and bought the gift edition of IT and Doctor Sleep and my first limited signed by King, The Dark Man.

Do you actually crack open and read your limited editions, or are they for display only?

I read them. I think that’s the point. Since I’m not doing this as an investment or looking to make a quick profit I want the full HD experience. I want to feel the weight and smell the pages and see the art while I read these books. The best publishers put their love of the work in these editions so the reading experience is heightened.

I looked back through your videos, and it doesn’t look like you started out with the intent of creating a “book channel” on YouTube. What led you in that direction?

I didn’t start out with any intention at all. I really don’t know what the hell I was thinking. And to this day that’s still true. No intention, planning, scripting, collaborating, or professionalism whatsoever. But what helped me narrow in on books and collecting was Nocturnal Reader’s Box. I heard about them in the CD Forum because they were doing Gwendy’s Button Box with a variant dust jacket. I bought that box and stayed on. I got a kick out of the whole subscription box thing. The surprise of not knowing what was in there and how that unboxing would be a fun experience to share with others. Capturing those authentic reactions. That led me to think about the books that I started collecting. About that kid I was in the Kroch and Brentano’s, about how he would have loved to see these books that were out of reach. Ones he missed out on. To give him a chance to experience these as much as possible. I think he’s the one I talk to when I’m looking at myself in the iPhone.

For those new to your channel, are there certain videos you think would be a good introduction? 

My favorite was the one I did for Suntup’s Rosemary’s Baby. But that one was good and therefore different than my other unboxings. Better to start with low expectations. For anyone new to my channel, I’d recommend looking for books you’ve missed out on or wanted to see but never had the chance. The book should be the point. I blather the same in all of them. Though I would recommend avoiding my unboxing of CD’s The Shining. That one is soooo annoying. I gasp continually. And that’s a shame because that book is among my most favorite in my collection.

What’s the story behind the drawing of you that is at the front of many of your videos?

drawing of Jeff Terry opening a boxThat’s a drawing of me by my daughter. She drew it when she was maybe 10 or 11. Inspired by my blather about books (and perhaps as a way to cope with the trauma) she swiped some scrap paper and brought me to technicolor life via marker. I had it hanging behind my desk in some of the very early videos and thought it would be a great intro card. It also inspired the Grammy-award winning* jingle.

*this is an absolute lie

What did the poor Magic Duff Bucket do to get fired from the gig?

He did nothing more than run afoul of my short attention span. Well, it’s really more a combination of me wondering if it was something that just delayed getting to the books and not wanting to wait until I was ready to have a stout to unbox the books (since losing my day job, I’m also unboxing earlier in the day and day drinking + unemployment makes me very uncomfortable). I watch the timer on the top of the iPhone as I unbox and I’m often horrified to see that 5 minutes have passed before I even begin to cut a box.

Early on I got a bit of feedback that’s stuck with me: “more less of you and more of the book.” I loved the broken English take down. And I took the point. People want the books. I’ve been looking for ways to increase the book-on-camera time while still satisfying my selfish need to have fun and talk books with people.

Although, people missed the Magic Duff Bucket, so I’ll be bringing him back.

Do you have a wish list of books you’d like to see released as limited editions?

There’s one that I’ve asked both Jerad at Centipede and Paul at Suntup to do. Paul even included it as an option on his most recent survey (I was probably the only one to vote for it) and that’s The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe. It’s as heart-wrenching as it is horrific — not on the level of The Road but pretty close in my opinion. After that, my wish list is pretty standard: Fight Club, American Psycho, Gerald’s Game, Cabal, Wolf’s Hour (I missed the Subterranean Press edition and I don’t want to pay the secondary market values!), Black Mad Wheel, Blood Meridian, Child of God.

What kinds of opportunities within the collecting/publishing community have your channel made possible for you?

Some insiders have shared info with me. I got to see some sketches for the NRB edition of ‘Salem’s Lot that didn’t happen. I’ve gotten speedy resolution on getting damaged copies replaced the few times that has happened (once with SST I didn’t even reach out to the publisher to complain, the dings didn’t kill me and I wasn’t going to say a word, but Paul Fry saw the video and sent me a replacement anyway!). There are a few times that people have sent me books and shelf-candy for free: from viewers, authors and publishers. I’ve never asked for anything and they were never given in return for anything from me (other than maybe a shocked and heartfelt unboxing video).

Once I helped Paul Suntup with a book announcement. He sent me a clue that I unboxed on my channel to tease the upcoming release. It was for I Am Legend and it was his slowest seller. I blame me. We haven’t collaborated on an announcement since and I don’t blame him one bit. It’s also part of the reason I’m an admin on the Fans of Suntup FB page. The visibility and the recognition as the guy who loves these books tends to spark contagious joy. This might sound corny as fuck, but the best opportunity is the chance to connect people with these publishers. I LOVE IT when people say I discovered Suntup or SST by watching your videos. They thank me even as they blame me for being broke. But they all love it and that feels great.

I know it’s hard, if not impossible, to choose, but — what’s the top book in your collection, the one you prize the most? And why that one?

THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE. There are so many that compete for that top spot. But it would have to go to Suntup’s numbered edition of The Road. That’s my absolute favorite book and Paul has served that work perfectly. The ashes in the story find their way onto the pages. The art by Ryan Pancoast is as raw as the story it’s harnessing. It’s perfection. After that it has to be my lettered edition of Red Dragon. Actually it would be much better to go by publishers because my top 10 favorite books will all be Suntups. From SST: The Listener. From Centipede Press: Falling Angel and Angel’s Inferno. From Cemetery Dance: the signed/numbered edition of Sleeping Beauties. From Earthling: The Thicket. From DRP: the lettered Bird Box. From PS: The Tommyknockers.

What are your future plans/hopes for your channel?

I’d love to get monetized and do merch!! Yeah Jeffingoff hoodies is what 2021 needs!

Content-wise I plan on adding book reviews. And maybe some live streams as I react to new book announcements. I’d like to incorporate some way to alert people before these books sell out. I realized pretty early on that by the time I unbox a book, there’s a good chance that it’s sold out at the publisher. So more often than not, I have nowhere to direct people other than the publisher’s newsletter or website so people won’t miss out on the next release. I’d love it if I could get ahead of the sale and send people to the books before they’re gone. My greatest hope remains the same as it’s always been — that people get a laugh and a look at something they might want to buy and leave my video a little happier than when they started.

Dead Air is a semi-regular Cemetery Dance column spotlighting podcasts and YouTube channels of interest to fans of horror.

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