16.9.14

Alalysing Conspiracy Theories

Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent. American Conspiracy Theories. OUP USA (September 2014)

We are living in an age of conspiracy theories, whether it's enduring, widely held beliefs such as government involvement in the Kennedy assassination or alien activity at Roswell, fears of a powerful infiltrating group such as the Illuminati, Jews, Catholics, or communists, or modern fringe movements of varying popularity such as birtherism and trutherism. What is it in American culture that makes conspiracy theories proliferate? Who is targeted, and why? Are we in the heyday of the conspiracy theory, or is it in decline?

Though there is significant scholarly literature on the topic in psychology, sociology, philosophy, and more, American Conspiracy Theories is the first to use broad, long-term empirical data to analyse this popular American tendency. Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent draw on three sources of original data: 120,000 letters to the editor of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune from between 1890 and 2010; a two-wave survey from before and after the 2012 presidential election; and discussions of conspiracy theories culled from online news sources, blogs, and other Web sites, also from before and after the election.

Through these sources, they are able to address crucial questions, such as similarities and differences in the nature of conspiracy theories over time, the role of the Internet and communications technologies in spreading modern conspiracy theories, and whether politics, economics, media, war, or other factors are most important in popularizing conspiratorial beliefs.


10.9.14

World Weird Web

Sarah Bartlett. Supernatural: The World's Most Haunted and Mysterious Places. Apple Press (4 Sep 2014)

Something mysterious is at work. For thousands of years, Earth has been haunted by ghosts, menaced by vampires, disturbed by malevolent spirits, and graced by mystical powers. The desire to engage with the supernatural world lures many visitors to haunted castles, UFO hotspots, and sacred sites. In truth, we want to experience spine-tingling moments, feel the mystery, or find evidence of other worlds.

From the barren deserts of southern Peru to the lush valleys of central Europe, the supernatural forms part of the ancient myths and legends of every culture. The much-feared and popularized vampire is found not only in Romania, but also in other countries such as Scotland, Ghana, and the Philippines. Ghosts not only haunt ruined medieval European castles, but also lurk in American cemeteries, roam the Hex River Valley of South Africa, or inhabit deserted towns, battle sites, and islands. Legendary heroes are as numerous in Burma as they are in Greece, and mystical places can be as empowering as Ayers Rock in Australia or as baffling as Aramu Muru in southern Peru.

Supernatural is a comprehensive guide to exploring the Earth’s supernatural heritage and where to seek out a mystical, otherworldly, or spine-chilling experience. Each entry provides an evocative insight into the mystery and story surrounding the site, why it is so fascinating, and what it is like to visit. The restless ghost of Marie Antoinette at Versailles and the sinister legend of the Flying Dutchman are both intriguing and frightful, whereas the lost city of Mycenae in Greece and the ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are awe-inspiring with their spiritual treasures. Precisely researched, the lively text details who or what each mysterious place has inspired in popular culture. Supernatural, invisible forces are all around, and there are some places where a dark presence or mystery can be sensed immediately. Whether searching for a universal mystery or hunting out a ghost, Supernatural provides a wealth of fascinating, accessible places for courageous and curious readers to investigate and explore.


3.9.14

The Last Magician

Examining the era when magic and science began to separate.

Peter Stockinger and Sue Ward. William Lilly: The Last Magician, Adept & Astrologer. Mandrake (2 Sep 2014)

Born less than a year before the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, William Lilly lived during one of the most turbulent times in English history. Like so many of his generation, he had to deal with the plague, was drawn into the madness of the English Civil War and was forced to take sides, and witnessed the regicide of King Charles I. Lilly lived in a time of enormous religious and social upheaval, but his astrology remained the outer expression of a magical world-view, based on hermetic and neo-Platonic principles and rooted in the 16th century.

This book provides the reader with a thorough introduction to the world of William Lilly, the famous 17th century astrologer and magician. It brings together transcripts of his autobiography and of some of his most important works. It also includes Peter Stockinger and Sue Ward's Monster of Ingratitude, an investigative journey offering new insights into the notorious contention between Lilly and the astrologer John Gadbury.


29.8.14

Beyond Copernicus

Going back to basics in examining our place in the universe.

Caleb Scharf. The Copernicus Complex: The Quest for Our Cosmic (In)Significance. Scientific American (9 Sep 2014)

Though the concept of "the universe" suggests the containment of everything, the latest ideas in cosmology hint that our universe may be just one of a multitude of others - a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities. In The Copernicus Complex, the renowned astrophysicist and author Caleb Scharf takes us on a cosmic adventure like no other, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets and beyond, asserting that the age-old Copernican principle is in need of updating.

As Scharf argues, when Copernicus proposed that the Earth was not the fixed point at the center of the known universe (and therefore we are not unique), he set in motion a colossal scientific juggernaut, forever changing our vision of nature. But the principle has never been entirely true - we do live at a particular time, in a particular location, under particular circumstances.

To solve this conundrum we must put aside our Copernican worldview and embrace the possibility that we are in a delicate balance between mediocrity and significance, order and chaos. Weaving together cutting-edge science and classic storytelling, historical accounts and speculations on what the future holds, The Copernicus Complex presents a compelling argument for what our true cosmic status is, and proposes a way forward for the ultimate quest: to determine life's abundance not just across this universe but across all realities.



24.8.14

Black Magic and Bogeymen

The Satanism scare of the late 1980s is well documented. This book explores an earlier episode which will be new to many of our readers.

Richard Jenkins. Black Magic and Bogeymen: Fear, Rumour and Popular Belief in the North of Ireland 1972-74. Cork University Press (1 Sep 2014)

This is an analysis of a popular scare about black magic and Satanism in the North of Ireland between 1972 and 1974. The book gives an insight into a particularly grim period during the early 1970s in Northern Ireland, using an extremely unusual episode - the black magic rumours - as a privileged window onto a world that may now be behind us, but which continues to fascinate many readers. The book provides a fascinating insight into some of the problems and procedures of social history. The author demonstrates that phenomena like the black magic rumours cannot be understood without taking a multidisciplinary approach, taking in perspectives and comparative evidence from anthropology, sociology, folklore and media studies.


21.8.14

Now Where Did I Put That ...?

Daniel Smith. 100 Things You Will Never Find: Lost Cities, Hidden Treasures and Legendary Quests. Quercus (4 Sep 2014)

What happened to Amelia Earhart's aeroplane, Van Gogh's painting of Dr Gachet and the crew of the Mary Celeste? This fascinating book unlocks the world's lost property cupboard and sifts through buried treasure, mysterious disappearances and unknown locations, examining the evidence - and the conspiracy theories - surrounding the world's most legendary lost objects. Who erased the Nixon tapes? Did Captain Kidd really bury his treasure on Rhode Island? Is Lord Lucan still alive?

Ranging from a single gemstone (the Great Mogul Diamond) to hoards of jewels (treasure of the Knights Templar), and from a single man (Australian prime minister Harold Holt) to swathes of people (the Lost Army of Cambyses), via Shergar the stolen horse, the top secret recipe for KFC, the fifth spy in the 'Cambridge Five', the much-coveted Holy Grail and the sunken Tybee Island Bomb, Dan Smith shines a torch into the darkest theories and examines the hidden truth.

A fascinating catalogue of lost things, 100 Things You Will Never Find will take you on a unique quest around the globe and across the centuries, searching for the legendary items that have inspired generations of explorers, scientists and storytellers alike.


13.8.14

American Monsters

Linda Godfrey is the author of a number of well received books on American cryptozoological phenomena.

Linda S. Godfrey. American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America. Tarcher (August 28, 2014)

from the publisher' website: From pre-Columbian legends to modern-day eyewitness accounts, this comprehensive guide covers the history, sightings and lore surrounding the most mysterious monsters in America—including Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and more. Bigfoot, the chupacabra, and thunderbirds aren’t just figments of our overactive imaginations—according to thousands of eyewitnesses, they exist, in every corner of the United States. Throughout America’s history, shocked onlookers have seen unbelievable creatures of every stripe—from sea serpents to apelike beings, giant bats to monkeymen—in every region. Author, investigator, and creature expert Linda S. Godfrey brings the same fearless reporting she lent to Real Wolfmen to this essential guide, using historical record, present-day news reports, and eyewitness interviews to examine this hidden menagerie of America’s homegrown beasts.