2.1.15

Phantoms of War

100 years on, Magonian Nigel Watson examines mysteries from the First World War.

Nigel Watson. UFOs of the First World War: Phantom Airships, Balloons, Aircraft and other Mysterious Aerial Phenomena. The History Press (5 Jan 2015)

Lieutenant R.S. Maxwell took off in his BE2C fighter but saw nothing unusual until 8.25 p.m. when, according to his report: ‘My engine was missing irregularly and it was only by keeping the speed of the machine down to 50 mph that I was able to stay at 10,000 feet. I distinctly saw an artificial light to the north of me, and at about the same height. I followed this light northeast for nearly 20 minutes, but it seemed to go slightly higher and just as quickly as myself, and eventually I lost it completely in the clouds.’

Such sightings occurred frequently during the war. The reasons are fascinating in themselves: the first is that aviation is in its infancy, so light phenomena at altitude are a new experience. The second is fear: for the first time a real threat came from the skies.


21.12.14

The Other Mr Bean

Untangling history, myth and fiction.

Blaine Lee Pardoe. Sawney Bean: Dissecting the Legend of Scotland's Infamous Cannibal Killer Family. Fonthill Media (14 Jan 2015)

Sawney Bean: Dissecting the Legend of Scotland's Infamous Cannibal Killer Family is the first major non-fiction historical investigation to explore one of the most heinous crimes in 16th-century Scotland, the legend of Sawney Bean and his cannibal family. For centuries, the story of Bean and his clan are part of Scotland's folklore.

According to the legend, the family lived in a cave and preyed on travellers. When a survivor allegedly escaped to tell the tale, James I sent an expedition to capture the cannibals. They were supposedly found in their cave with the pickled remains of their victims. But was the story of the Galloway cannibal killers true? Using a wide range of research material, this infamous legend of horror will be taken apart and how the myth became accepted as reality will be explored in detail. True crime author and historian Blaine Pardoe tackles this legend, peeling the truth out of the fable and detailing the influence of this myth on popular culture such as the infamous splatter movie The Hills Have Eyes.


9.12.14

Pagan Roots

Philippe Walter. Christian Mythology: Revelations of Pagan Origins. Inner Traditions Bear and Company. (18 Dec 2014)

In this extensive study of the Christian mythology that animated Europe in the Middle Ages, author Philippe Walter reveals how these stories and the holiday traditions connected with them are based on long-standing pagan rituals and myths and have very little connection to the Bible. The author explains how the church fathers knowingly incorporated pagan elements into the Christian faith to ease the transition to the new religion. Rather than tear down the pagan temples in Britain, Pope Gregory the Great advised Saint Augustine of Canterbury to add the pagan rituals into the mix of Christian practices and transform the pagan temples into churches. Instead of religious conversion, it was simply a matter of convincing the populace to include Jesus in their current religious practices.

Providing extensive documentation, Walter shows which major calendar days of the Christian year are founded on pagan rituals and myths, including the high holidays of Easter and Christmas. Examining hagiographic accounts of the saints, he reveals the origin of these symbolic figures in the deities worshipped in pagan Europe for centuries. He also explores how the identities of saints and pagan figures became so intermingled that some saints were transformed into pagan incarnations, such as Mary Magdalene's conversion into one of the Celtic Ladies of the Lake. In revealing the pagan roots of many Christian figures, stories, and rituals, Walter provides a new understanding of the evolution of religious belief.


26.11.14

All the Graphic Details

The Area 51 story told as a graphic novel. Is this a first for ufology?

Dwight Zimmerman (Author) and Greg Scott (Artist). Area 51: The Graphic History of America's Most Secret Military Installation. Zenith Press. (November, 2014)

The actual history of the United States' worst-kept military secret revealed in graphic format.

Though nearly everyone has heard of it, almost no one has known anything about it . . . until now. Located in the remote Nevada desert near the dry bed of Groom Lake, Area 51 is the most famous military installation in the world that doesn't "officially" exist. In Area 51, author Dwight Zimmerman and artist Greg Scott unravel the real history - minus the aliens and sci-fi movie plots - revealing in detail how for more than 60 years, the CIA, the U.S. Air Force, and aerospace company Lockheed Martin have all used Area 51 as a staging ground for test flights of experimental or highly classified aircrafts.

Scott illustrates the Archangel-12 as well as follow-on aircrafts, such as the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, while author Zimmerman tells the history of how they sprang from the research and development conducted at Area 51. This first-of-its-kind graphic history strips away the fantastical aspects of this mysterious location and establishes the actual, significant history made there.


23.11.14

Storm at Salem

Emerson W. Baker. A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience (Pivotal Moments in American History) Oxford University Press. November, 2014

Salem in 1692 was a critical moment for the fading Puritan government of Massachusetts Bay, whose attempts to suppress the story of the trials and erase them from memory only fuelled the popular imagination. Baker argues that the trials marked a turning point in colonial history from Puritan communalism to Yankee independence, from faith in collective conscience to scepticism toward moral governance.

A brilliantly told tale, A Storm of Witchcraft also puts Salem's storm into its broader context as a part of the ongoing narrative of American history and the history of the Atlantic World.
  • Considers the critical-and often overlooked-political side to the events in Salem
  • Synthesizes the many different interpretations of the Salem Witch Trials and puts the event into its broader context in American history
  • Traces the story through to the present day, and considers the ways Salem both revels in and reviles its witch trial heritage

7.11.14

Evidence for Psi

Edited by Damien Broderick and Ben Goertzel: Evidence for Psi; Thirteen Empirical Research Reports. McFarland. October 2014.

“Psi” is the term used by researchers for a variety of demonstrable but elusive psychic phenomena. This collection of essays provides a detailed survey of the evidence for psi at the level of scientific examination.

Key features of apparent psi phenomena are reviewed, including precognition and remote perception (knowledge of future or distant events that cannot be inferred from present information), presentiment (physiological responses to stimuli that have not yet occurred), the effects of human emotions on globally dispersed machines, the possible impact of local sidereal time on psi performance, and the familiar feeling of knowing who is calling on the phone.

Special attention is given to those phenomena that make it difficult for scientists to get a clear understanding of psi. The body of psi research, while complex and frustrating, is shown to contain sufficiently compelling positive evidence to convince the rational open-minded observer that psi is real, and that one or more physical processes probably underlie observed psi phenomena.


6.11.14

Dead Cert

This looks like a nice collection of Forteana and general weirdness!

Chris Woodyard. Victorian Book of the Dead. Kestrel Publications. (September 2014)

Chris Woodyard, author of the The Ghosts of the Past series, digs through long-buried newspapers and journals, for this fascinating look at the 19th-century obsession with the culture of death. The Victorian Book of the Dead unearths extraordinary tales of Victorian funeral fads and fancies, ghost stories, bizarre deaths, mourning novelties, gallows humour, premature burial, post-mortem photographs, death omens, and funeral disasters. Resurrected from original sources, these accounts reveal the oddities and eccentricities of Victorian mourning. Packed with macabre anecdotes, this diverting, yet gruesome collection presents tales ranging from the paranormal and shocking to the heart-breaking. Some of the stories in The Victorian Book of the Dead

*mourning bicycles, black boudoirs, and sable cigarettes for the up-to-date widow
*a child ghost who beckoned for her father to follow her into death
*black dogs and shrieking banshee who foretold death and disaster
*the widow who fired the undertaker who would not give her trading stamps.
*a corpse that spontaneously combusted in the coffin
*the fiendish parrot who murdered his mistress
*The petrified corpse furniture created by Professor Segato
*visions of the Grim Reaper and the Angel of Death
*the man who lived in the tomb of his wife
*A mourning wreath made from the hair of a murdered family
*interviews with undertakers, post-mortem photographers and morgue attendants And many more tales from the crypts.