Tuesday, December 21, 2010

True Giants

Countless books have been written about Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Yowie and the Yeren. A significant number of words have been written about the massive, presumed-extinct, ancient ape known as Gigantopithecus. And, more than a few of those words suggest that the many and varied unknown man-beasts that are said to roam amongst us are examples of surviving, relic populations of that very same Gigantopithecus.

But what if something else, something even more fantastic in its implications than the idea that Bigfoot is Gigantopithecus, is actually afoot? That's the scenario we are treated to in the new book from Mark A. Hall and Loren Coleman, True Giants: Is Gigantopithecus Still Alive?

This is a book that, if you're interested in Sasquatch and its hairy ilk, you'll definitely want to read. It may not, however, be the book you're anticipating or expecting. But, as I'll demonstrate, that's a very good thing.

The theory that Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Yowie (the list goes on) are indeed surviving pockets of Gigantopithecus is an attractive one. After all, at least some of the old stomping grounds of Gigantopithecus do broadly correspond to locales from where, today, we get reports of unknown, large apes. So, the theory does seem to make sense - at first glance.

The problem is that, for the most part, while Bigfoot and most of the rest of the hairy man-beasts among us are certainly big compared to the Human Race, they're not that big. Creatures of 7-, 8-, or maybe 9-feet in height are typically what we hear of from those who are fortunate enough to encounter such animals.

But, just occasionally, a rare, rogue case will come along where the witness is certain that the creature they saw is far larger - maybe, rather astonishingly, in the region of 12-to-15 feet in height.

I've heard people say words to the effect of: "Well, sometimes, we see humans reaching 7- or 8-feet, so why shouldn't there be a few over sized Bigfoot?" Fair enough, you might say. But, there's another explanation too: we may be looking at different animals, rather than simply enormous versions of just one type. And, maybe those rare and rogue cases are not so rare and rogue after all! Cue True Giants.

So that there can be no misunderstanding of where they are coming from, Hall and Coleman note their position carefully, and early on, in the book: "These True Giants are not 'Bigfoot,' despite some efforts to make simple comparisons with creatures such as the one seen in the famous Roger Patterson-Robert Gimlin motion film of a Neo-Giant in California in 1967...They are of a different genus of primate."

And it's with respect to this different genus of primate that we get to learn so much about the truly massive Gigantopithecus in the pages of True Giants. The reader is treated to an excellent account of how Gigantopithecus came to be discovered and classified; its place in both zoology and cryptozoology; how and why the assumption has been made that it, Bigfoot and the Yeti are one and the same; and most importantly, why that assumption suffers from some major flaws.

And as the authors detail extensively and authoritatively in their book: a significant number of worldwide cultures tell of huge giants that once lived among us - the 12-15-foot-tall entities, and maybe a few taller ones, too. They were a marauding, violent breed, with cannibalistic tendencies, but who also seemed possessed of a certain degree of intelligence that allowed them to fashion a degree of clothing, crude tools, weapons, homes and dens (very often in caves or underground) and perhaps even primitive rafts and boats.

Of course, much of this flies in the face of accepted wisdom that Gigantopithecus, the True Giant, was just a huge ape. The theory that it could have been something more - something much more - is a controversial one. But it's a theory that Hall and Coleman back up with a wealth of fascinating accounts from times past that encompass Asia, North America, Europe, South America and numerous other places, too. And, in doing so, the authors make a very good, thought-provoking case.

In fact, they are clear on the issue that dismissing Gigantopithecus as a gigantic ape is way off-track: "...the fossils that have been found for this particular giant primate have been attributed not to a giant man but, erroneously, to a giant ape...Some people have suggested that the fossils, known as Gigantopithecus, are gigantic men. We believe that view will one day be proven correct."

And it's with this viewpoint in mind that the pair provide us with some truly fascinating accounts that actually sit very well within just such a scenario. And it's a point of view that provoked a lot of graphic imagery as I was reading the book.

Indeed, one of the things that really hit home upon digesting True Giants is how much of our own history we appear to have lost and forgotten - or that we have simply chosen to relegate to the realm of fantasy. Priceless tales of times long-past when gigantic beast-men roamed the world, perhaps competing with us for food, water, and a place to call home, fill the pages of this book.

But, numerous cases from the last couple of centuries and even up to the present day suggest that these huge, lumbering beast-men have not gone the way of the Dodo, but may still be found deep in the ancient forests, and the hard-to-access, huge mountain peaks that continue to dominate the wilder parts of our world.

In conclusion,True Giants is a book that is as groundbreaking as it is thought-provoking and paradigm-challenging. Hall and Coleman detail a remarkable theory - and a rich history, too - that serves to explain the many and varied accounts of huge, hairy giants in our midst. In the process of doing so, they weave a complex and fascinating story of something gigantic, something definitively monstrous but equally definitively man-like too, and something that has lived alongside us for so long, carefully shaping and sculpting our legends and folklore as it does so.

And, it's very difficult to read True Giants and not come away with a deep sense of regret and loss, borne out of the probability that the full, fantastic history of these Goliath-like man-apes - and their ancient connections to, and interactions with, the Human Race - will likely never be known to us. However, unless or until we do learn more about not just the true nature of Gigantopithecus, but about our fog-shrouded history too, True Giants represents without doubt the best treatment we have thus far on this fascinating and engaging subject.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Alive!!!

Dr. Bob Curran's latest release, Man-Made Monsters: A Field Guide to Golems, Patchwork Soldiers, Homunculi, and Other Created Creatures, is a superb addition to the long-line of titles that Curran has written for New Page Books. And, as you'll immediately understand from it's title, this new one deals with creatures that have to thank (or even curse) us for their existence.

And a wide and varied bunch of beasts they are, too!

As you might guess, we get to learn much about Frankenstein's Monster. But, rather than just looking at Mary Shelley's famous creation in the world of fiction, Curran tells the truly fascinating story of how Mary Shelley may have been influenced by some real-life equivalents of Dr. Frankenstein himself.

Were they scientific visionaries, or definitive mad-professors, complete with the near-ubiquitous Eastern European accents? Well, maybe, they were a bit of both. But this chapter alone makes Man-Made Monsters well worth reading, as it delves into the shadowy and dangerous worlds of body-snatching, medical skulduggery, the mysterious Mr. Pass (you'll have to read the book to find out about that sinister character...) and much more. And, in many ways, Curran demonstrates that the truth of the matter may be even more horrific and Gothic than Shelley's novel itself!

Of course, in a book like this, much attention is given to such creations as the legendary Golem and Homunculi. Curran's study of the two most certainly does not disappoint, and he skilfully dissects and details the legends, tales and mythologies that surround both.

For me, the most entertaining and thought-provoking section of the book was that dealing with so-called "Warriors of Brass." If, having read those words, your mind is thinking "Robots," well you would be right! However, these are not the modern-day, human-like machines that have for so long dominated the genre of science-fiction.

No: here we are talking about secret science, ancient computers, and highly-advanced technologies that may have been in the hands of our long-gone ancestors. From such places as ancient Greece and China we learn tale-after-tale of created-machines that sound astonishingly like complex, modern-day robots built for entertainment, work, and even on the battlefield.

No, we're not talking about anything as near as sophisticated as The Terminator, but we are talking about constructions - fashioned by human hand - that strongly suggest in centuries-past there existed some definitively mechanical marvels that today, unfortunately, are utterly lost to the fog of time.

And, with sections on Tulpas and thought-forms, alchemy, ancient magic, and much more, Man-Made Monsters is an excellent study of its strange-yet-engaging subject-matter. Whether for you, a friend or family member, it will make a fine Christmas gift!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Michigan Dogman

If you have followed the written output of Linda Godfrey and her work on werewolf-style entities seen in the United States, then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of her brand new book: The Michigan Dogman: Werewolves and Other Unknown Canines Across the U.S.A.

Linda has carved for herself a well-deserved reputation as the leading U.S.-based investigator, researcher and author - in a non-fiction setting - of data on such matters, as is evidenced by her previous titles, The Beast of Bray Road; Hunting the American Werewolf; and Werewolves.

And, The Michigan Dogman is a fine addition to Linda's previous titles. You might possibly wonder: what can be said about such matters that hasn't already been said in Linda's previous three books on werewolves, lycanthropy and more? Well, the answer is quite a lot!

One of the chief reasons why Dogman is such an important and captivating read is because we're treated to countless new cases, eye-witness reports, and incidents and testimony - from all across the United States, and the decades, too.

And this is a significant factor: whereas The Beast of Bray Road was very much a regional study of werewolves in one particular part of Wisconsin, Linda's new book skilfully demonstrates that, in reality, these things - whatever they may be - have been seen, and are still being seen, all across the United States. In other words, this is not a localized, regional phenomenon. Rather, there appears to be be something - or some thing - among us that has carefully avoided classification and capture for...well, who knows how long? But, it's also something that pops us just about here, there and everywhere, and appears to be somehow intimately connected with us - which I'll expand upon shortly.

The sheer range and variety of reports makes The Michigan Dogman essential reading for devotees of hairy, fanged werewolves. But, as interesting as the reports, are the notable similarities in the actions, characteristics and appearances of the creatures under scrutiny.

In other words, people from all across the United States - unconnected to, and unknown to, each other - are reporting sightings of what sound very much like the exact same creatures. Typically, they are large, hair-covered, possess muzzles and pointed ears, and have the ability to move on both two legs and four.

Indeed, the sheer number of reports that possess all of these particular aspects is astonishing. And unless hundreds of people are all banding together to hoax Linda - which I do not, for one moment, believe - then we have to address seriously the idea that there are creatures out there that look like the classic imagery of werewolves.

But, is that really what they are? Well, like all of Linda's books, she gets into some fascinating areas of research as she strives to answer that question, which some might assume is a simple one to answer, but I assure you it's most definitely not!

Linda, to her credit, does not shy away from controversy - and when it comes to the Michigan Dogman and its motley ilk, there's plenty of it! Without doubt the most important questions of all are: What are these creatures? Are they even flesh-and-blood, physical entities? Is something far stranger afoot? Are we looking at several phenomena that have been lumped together under one banner?

The curious thing about the Dogmen, as Linda carefully demonstrates, is that they seem to defy categorization. Aside from the fact that there is not - or certainly should not be - any sort of canine animal running around the United States that has the ability to walk, run and leap on two legs as effortlessly as it does on four, this is what the witnesses are reporting. And, even though such a scenario is controversial in the extreme, this still seems to place these creatures in a physical, flesh-and-blood, category - as does the fact that many witnesses have seen such beasts feeding on their prey near the sides of wood-shrouded roads late at night.

But, this is where it gets even more interesting. It's almost as if there are too many cases: it's clear from reading The Michigan Dogman that, on many occasions, the very fact that these creatures are seen goes beyond mere chance. It's almost like they want to be seen - or, perhaps, even need to be seen. Why? Well, we'll get to that soon.

In the same way that back in the 1950s so-called "aliens" were endlessly stumbled upon while they were taking "soil-samples," or how Bigfoot is so often seen crossing the road, so with the Dogmen there seems to be something stranger going on than mere, chance encounters - and we're the unwitting souls and the pawns in a bigger picture that we're not fully understanding, or perhaps not even capable of understanding, just yet.

Yes, the beasts Linda describes seem real - in the way we understand the term - but there is distinct high-strangeness attached to such reports, too, including the locations: bridges, crossroads, and so on. Of course, any student of folklore will be aware that such locations have, for centuries, been associated with sightings of fantastic beasts (such as my own personal obsession, the so-called "Man-Monkey" that haunts Bridge 39 on Britain's old Shropshire Union Canal). But, the majority of the witnesses are not students of folklore - and that's an important issue.

Plus, Linda cites a number of reports where these creatures have been seen near entrance and exit roads to highways - which is surely an upgrading of the old crossroads motif in such cases. As an aside, I'm rather reminded how, in centuries past in my home-country of England, ghostly black-dogs were seen faithfully patrolling old paths and tracks. Whereas, today, Britain's "Big Cats" are often reported seen wandering along railway tracks and on golf-courses. Indeed, as puzzling as it sounds, certain locales seem to attract exotic beasts - if they are beasts and not something weirder.

There are other locations that play a role in such cases, too: graveyards, ancient burial mounds, effigy sites and more. In fact, in reading Linda's Book, I was astonished to find how closely such reports mirror many, very similar, cases from the large Cannock Chase woods of England, near to where I grew up. Again, there appears to be a picture here, but we're seeing it through fogged eyes.

Then there are the attacks: you would imagine that if you were attacked by a six-to-seven-foot tall werewolf, you would sustain some pretty serious damage. After all, haven't we all gone to You Tube, once or twice, and searched "Bear attack" or "Lion attack" and seen the sheer damage that a large, powerful predator can inflict upon a dimwitted human being who thinks it's clever to try and shake hands with a 1,000 pound flesh-eating wild animal?

But, when it comes to the Dogmen, the attacks are always half-hearted - yes, there are a few torn shirts, and the very occasional scratch, but it's almost as if the attack is one of effect, one that is designed to provoke an emotional response in the witness, rather than to actually turn them into a tasty dinner.

So, where does Linda stand on all this? Well, to her credit, she doesn't try and force any particular theory down the throats of her readers. Rather, she astutely recognizes that while the Dogman phenomenon is very real, it's also an issue that is infinitely difficult to resolve. So, in the pages of The Michigan Dogman you will get to learn a great deal about whether or not a physical, wolf-like beast could exist, in stealth, in the U.S. and elsewhere.

You will, however, also learn a great deal about Tulpas - beasts of the mind that thrive on fear and high-states of emotion; about ancient, paranormal Guardian-like creatures - the equivalents of supernatural watch-dogs, perhaps conjured up centuries ago from who knows where, and that still roam the landscape to this very day; about skinwalkers and bearwalkers; about ley-lines and the associations these beasts have with water; and even about ancient, mighty wolves that may not be as extinct as many presume them to be.

If you're already acquainted with the work of Linda (and if you aren't, why not?), then The Michigan Dogman is a book that you'll definitely want to read. And, if you're new to the world of real-life werewolves and this book is your first taster of what it's all about, then you're in for a real treat too!

As a first-class book that offers both numerous cases of a definitively werewolf nature, as well as a variety of thought-provoking explanations to try and explain the phenomenon (or, maybe, phenomena is a better, and more accurate, term), The Michigan Dogman should have pride of place on the bookshelves of everyone interested in strange and unknown beasts, ancient legends, folklore and mythology. You'll find all that - and much more, too - inside its packed pages.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

UFO Down?

Back in the halcyon days of approximately 1996-1999 - when UFOs were all-dominating on the British newsstands, and when Mulder and Scully were the Posh 'n' Becks of the day - much page space was devoted to a strange, previously all-but-forgotten, and genuinely intriguing event that had occurred on a Welsh mountain one dark, winter night in January 1974.

For many people of a "The Truth Is Out There" persuasion (in the 1990s, at least), this curious affair was seen as being nothing less than a potential "British Roswell" - or a "Welsh Roswell" would be far more accurate.

In other words, stories, rumors, tales and a degree of whistle blower testimony collectively suggested that perhaps nothing less than an honest-to-goodness alien spacecraft (complete with crew, no less) had crashed on North Wales' Berwyns Mountains range, and had been retrieved undercover of the utmost secrecy by elements of the British military and government.

And, I have to admit, that at the time in question ('96-'99) I was a fully paid up member of the "I Want To Believe" club, and I gave space to the incident in my books A Covert Agenda and Cosmic Crashes - and I was most certainly not against the idea that E.T. might have really crashed and burned on the Berwyns all those years ago.

However, it was as the '90s breathed their last, that Andy Roberts (to some - including me - a genuine Fortean sleuth, to others a spoiler of ufological fun, and to more than a few, a tool of disinformation agents in the government...YAWN) came along with a preliminary paper suggesting that the Berwyn affair was nothing more than the result of misperception, coupled with a localized earthquake and a meteor shower - on the same night and in approximately the same time-frame.

Of course, the true-believers moaned that Andy was following some nefarious agenda, courtesy of the Men in Black - the dreaded "them," in other words. And, those of a different persuasion gave Andy a collective pat on the back. But, still the Berwyn controversy continued to rumble and reverberate, before sliding back into a degree of obscurity that would occasionally be fodder for TV and radio.

But, today, as we get close to 2011, and with the aforementioned 1990s long-gone, Andy is once again tackling all-things of a Berwyn Mountains nature with his new book - UFO Down? - from the Center for Fortean Zoology's publishing company, Fortean Words.

And, I have to say, that - given the fact that UFO Down? represents the first full-length book on the case - Andy has done an excellent job of finally digging deep into the many and varied complexities of the affair and coming to a satisfying conclusion, which - interestingly - actually leaves the door open to one or two potentially Fortean anomalies having played some sort of presently-unclear role in the case.

But, with that said, this is an excellent study of how and why myths, legends, rumors, friend-of-a-friend tales, unbridled gossip, and good old misperception all played roles in carefully creating, nurturing and molding an admittedly fascinating series of separate events into the tale of a crashed spacecraft from a far-away world.

Easily worthy of a case for Holmes and Watson (and, particularly so given its ingredients of a dark, imposing and windswept mountain-range; little isolated villages; "phantom helicopters" prowling the moonlit skies; claims of deep and dark secrets; and shadowy and sinister Men in Black-like figures said to be roaming the landscape by day and night), the Berwyn story is one that is truly as fascinating as it is one filled with wild twists and turns. All that's missing is a ghostly black hound with glowing red eyes!

Packed with accounts of strange lights on the mountain, an alleged heavy British Army presence, alien bodies recovered at the "crash" site, meteorites, earth tremors, ghost-lights, official files and more, this is a book that anyone and everyone interested in UFOs (and particularly tales of crashed UFOs) should acquire a copy of at the earliest opportunity.

UFO Down? demonstrates how an investigation of such an event should be undertaken, even if the conclusions aren't what some solely belief-driven souls wish to hear. Well, too bad. Andy went to the places, spoke to the witnesses, chased down the government files, and travelled to where the evidence led him. And, if and when someone else decides to do likewise and comes to a different conclusion, then we'll take a look at that evidence in its own right, if and when it surfaces.

But, right now, we have in my opinion a first-class, true-life detective-style story that tells the truth of the Berwyn affair (or, as close to the truth as we're likely to get) and reveals its complexities to the extent that we're able to.

And, to his credit, and as I alluded to earlier in this review, Andy's conclusions don't rule out the possibility of something weird having occurred (in one, specific aspect of the story), in some odd fashion, at least.

The field of book-writing and crashed UFOs is filled with tales of Hangar 18, alien bodies on ice, and extraterrestrial autopsies. UFO Down? is a very different addition to the field of crashed UFO titles, but in a refreshing, welcome and - most important of all - informative and illuminating fashion.

Whatever your views on all things saucer-shaped and crashed, you should buy this book. You will learn a lot - about those aforementioned crashed UFOs, but also about why and how the British UFO research community of the 1990s arguably needed its very own Roswell, and how and why belief systems and eyewitness perception may be the most important facets of certain, challenging, alleged UFO events.


UFO Down? The Berwyn Mountain UFO Crash by Andy "Sinister Tool of the Secret Government" Roberts is published by Fortean Words. It's available at Amazon UK; Amazon USA; and Amazon Canada, and, of course, at all good book-selling outlets.

Ireland's Mystery Animals

A couple of years ago, my good mate, Jon Downes (ye olde Director of the Center for Fortean Zoology) launched an ambitious new project - namely to commission, edit and publish a series of books that would chronicle the many and varied strange creatures of the British Isles.

Up until just a few weeks ago, there were three titles in this series on the market from the CFZ - Glen Vaudrey's Mystery Animals of the British Isles: The Western Isles; Neil Arnold's Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Kent; and Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Northumberland and Tyneside by Mike Hallowell.

Well, I'm pleased to say that there is now a brand new edition to the growing Mystery Animals of... series. This one isn't strictly a county-based book, however, as it covers the whole of Ireland and comes to us courtesy of cryptozoologist Gary Cunningham and surely the funniest (in every sense of the word!) man in Forteana, Ronan Coghlan, who my wife, Dana, refers to as a "lovable hoot"!

I read this book in two sittings, late at night and into the early hours, and while sprawled out on the settee, and I can say for certain that this is an absolutely excellent addition to this on-going series of titles.

What Gary and Coggers have done, is to finally, definitively, and once and for all, offer the reader a comprehensive, in-depth, and very well-written study of the many and varied mystery animals of Ireland that cover centuries-past to the present day.

And a fantastic and weird bunch of creatures they are too! We are treated first to an absolutely excellent study of Ireland's lake-monster sightings and reports - and it's a study that leaves me in no doubt (and, in all likelihood, it will leave you in no doubt either) that these strange and elusive beasts - whatever they may ultimately prove to be - are utterly real, albeit frustratingly elusive.

Whether they are some form of unknown and unclassified entities, giant eels, or something else entirely, Gary and the Cogmeister demonstrate that Ireland has been, and arguably still is, saturated with such beasts.

Graphic reports of close encounters (and, in some cases, very close encounters) with such animals abound in the 168-pages of the book, and the authors also provide us with some little-known and brand-new tales of the lake-monster variety. Truly, for this comprehensive data alone, Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Ireland makes for indispensable reading. And, on a similar issue, you'll also find much to ponder on with respect to Ireland's sea-serpents, as well as tales, legends and folklore of a definitive mermaid variety.

Moving on from the creatures of the deep, we get to learn a great deal about a seldom-covered topic: werewolves and other Irish shape-shifters. This is a brief, but very informative, chapter that tells us much about the rich folklore of Ireland and its attendant belief-systems, and is required reading for devotees of all-things of a werewolf nature.

And if ancient tales of Bigfoot and wild men are your personal cup of tea, well, you will be very pleased, since both are profiled in a section of the book that will fascinate all Bigfoot researchers who wish to have an understanding of the state of play outside of the usual "mystery ape" locales of North America, Tibet, and China.

Of course, mysterious and out-of-place large and exotic cats put in a welcome and significant appearance, as does the Irish wildcat. And: did you know that Ireland may once have been home to a colony of "dwarf wolves"? Well, you do now, and there's no excuse for not finding out all about them, courtesy of our fearless authors.

And, there are sections on animals that seem to be far more paranormal and supernatural in nature than they do flesh-and-blood - a topic that many cryptozoologists shy away from, but that our authors, to their credit, astutely realize are an integral part of monster-hunting.

Finally, no book on the mysterious creatures of Ireland would be complete without a comprehensive study of the Dobharchu or "Master Otter" - a Goliath-sized otter rumored to roam the wilds of Ireland. And, I'm pleased to say, the authors do the fascinating story much credit, and reveal thought-provoking cases, as well as theories relative to the identity and origins of this legendary critter.

With Christmas looming, you should treat yourself (and your friends and family too) to a copy of this new title from Gary and his Royal Cogness, and acquaint yourselves with an excellent study of the animal-anomalies of Ireland.

Mystery Animals of the British Isles: Ireland by Gary Cunningham & Ronan Coghlan is published by CFZ Press. To purchase the book, click here if you are in the UK; right here for Canada; and, here's the link for the USA.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Monsters: The Ultimate Bestiary

If you're into all things monstrous and cryptozoological, I cannot stress enough how much you will enjoy Christopher Dell's book, Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures.

Published by Inner Traditions, this is without doubt one of the best (if not the best) bestiary-style publications that has ever hit the book-shelves - and I do not exaggerate when I state that.

Running at just under 200-pages, Monsters, as you can probably guess given its bestiary nature, has its roots in creatures of times long gone, and demonstrates the sheer wealth of fantastic entities that, for centuries, have dominated our folklore, legends, mythology, nightmares and - just maybe - the real world, too.

So, with that said, onto the content: after an Introduction from the author that delves into what it is that makes us so fascinated with, and by, monsters, and that also focuses on some of the more bizarre and infamous creatures that perplexed, amazed, and even terrified such cultures as those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Medieval Europe, Japan and more, it's onto the dastardly beasts themselves.

Kicking off with a chapter titled Gods and Monsters, Dell introduces us to the Cyclopes - the offspring of the gods Uranus and Gaia; to the Egyptian Anubis; and the Hindu god, Kali.

Creatures of Chaos follows - a section of the book that takes us back to ancient Babylonian legends, including that of the sea serpent-like Tiamat; and then it's on to far more ominous beasts, such as demons and devils, and the way in which they have played key roles in such religions as Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

Monsters of the Underworld feature heavily in the book too, demonstrating the sheer fear that existed in centuries-past of Satan's hordes - which, as the book reveals, took on a veritable multiplicity of forms, none of which look particularly pleasant. Of course, surfacing from the pits of Hell, pleasant is the absolute last way one would expect to describe these terrifying critters!

Monsters of the magical variety have their place in the pages of the book too, including those pesky little Homunculi and - of course - the Golem (both of which, coincidentally, feature in my new book, Final Events, but I digress!).

Devotees of everything dragon-like will be pleased to know that more than 20-pages are devoted to these legendary creatures. Disappointed, you most definitely will not be!

Monsters of the waters, such as sea-serpents, sirens and mermaids come under the spotlight in fine fashion, as do definitive shape-shifters, such as werewolves and the Demon Foxes of Japan.

Of particular fascination to me was the section of the book on the monsters that surface after the sun has set and invade our nightmares. Are such experiences purely internal, or does the sleep-state open a door to nightmarish realms full of all manner of beasts?

Of course, in a book such as this, folklore becomes an integral player: legends and ancient traditions are shown to be important aspects of the development of a number of significant monster-based tales. And, should you be fortunate enough or unfortunate enough (depending on your own, personal opinion!) to come face-to-face with a creature from the outer edge, you're provided with essential data on how to confront and combat them.

For me, the most engaging chapter is that titled Off the Edge of the Map, which focuses on a plethora of truly bizarre "things" (which is the best way I can describe them!) that are as jaw-dropping as they are bizarre.

There is one thing that I have left until last, and that is the very issue that defines a bestiary - and that is, of course, the huge collection of images that adorn the pages of Monsters.

I own several bestiary-type books on strange creatures, but I have to say - in all honesty - that Monster tops them all. The ancient artwork that appears throughout the book is, literally, breathtaking, and ranges from the fantastic to the ominous. Indeed, there are some renditions that positively ooze menace. Others are near-magical and evoke imagery in the mind of far-away lands and creatures of ages long-gone.

Other imagery is near-hypnotic in nature, and for those of you of a nervous disposition, you may find these same images invading your very own nightmares - thus, perhaps, giving these ancient and mighty beasts a new lease on life.

For me, it is the aforementioned chapter, Off the Edge of the Map that contains the most captivating, visual artwork, and which pulls the reader into a world very different to that of the early 21st Century - but one that, I suspect, all of us have an innate ability to connect with at a subconscious, primordial level.

I used the words "I cannot stress..." in the opening sentence of this review, but I'm going to use it again. Indeed, I cannot stress how much pleasure, enjoyment and interest you will derive from not just the text of the book, but from the accompanying artwork too, which is truly fantastic.

If you're at all interested in tales, myths, folklore and more of a monstrous and dastardly nature, then Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures by Christopher Dell is a book you should invest in quickly! As a definitive beastly bestiary, this is nigh-on hard to beat.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Legend Tripping with Jeff Belanger

Jeff Belanger, the author of the new book Picture Yourself Legend Tripping, is someone I've met on several occasions at gigs along the East-Coast, over the last few years.

And, not only is Jeff a guy who is highly knowledgeable on matters of a paranormal and Fortean nature, but he's also someone with a keen wit and a fine understanding of how to undertake an investigation into the realm of the unknown. And, all of this shines through in the pages of Jeff's new book.

Basically, Legend Tripping is a "How To..." guide to the investigation of a whole host of other-worldly, monstrous, alien and ethereal "things" of a supernatural nature.

Written in a bright, humorous, informative and illuminating fashion, Legend Tripping provides background data on some of the most famous - and infamous - mysteries of our world, such as UFOs, alien entities, Bigfoot, spooks and specters, urban-legends, Atlantis, lake-monsters, the Bermuda Triangle, Holy miracles, the Nazca Lines, time-travel, zombies, Mothman and more.

But, things don't end there. What Jeff has done - and in a fine and capable fashion, too - is to also provide you with all the requirements you'll need when it comes to heading out into those spooky woods, haunted houses, mysterious locales, and exotic and mysterious domains.

What do you need to take with you when you seek out Bigfoot? What are the essential items required when you're looking for chain-rattling phantoms? What sorts of equipment, gear, and everyday essentials will you need if your excursion of the paranormal kind is to be a success? How should interviews with witnesses to strange phenomena be conducted? These - and many more - are the types of questions that Jeff asks and, more-than-capably, answers.

Anyone and everyone can learn a great deal from Jeff's advice. However, if you are totally new to the subject of paranormal investigations, but are eager to learn more about how to investigate fringe topics, then Picture Yourself Legend Tripping is a book that should be an essential part of your library.

An excellent, highly entertaining, helpful and insightful look at how one should study the absolute wealth of weird shit that lurks among us!

They're Back In Black!

Yep, it's time to alert you to yet another new title from the always-busy Global Communications company of Timothy Green Beckley. And, it's a very good one that focuses on one of the strangest aspects of the worlds of both Ufology and Forteana, namely those pesky entities that seem forever destined to wreak havoc and mayhem wherever they go, and while issuing dire warnings to anyone who might dare discuss the subject of UFOs. I'm talking, of course, about the Men in Black!

Tim's new book, Curse of the Men in Black, is an excellent addition to the published material on this very creepy facet of saucer-seeking, for several reasons. Number one: we are treated to a full reproduction of John Stuart's 1963 book, UFO Warning.

Originally published by Gray Barker's Saucerian Books, UFO Warning is vital reading for anyone and everyone that wants to acquaint themselves with some of the early MIB data, cases and witness experiences. Truly, they don't make 'em like this anymore! The inclusion of UFO Warning alone makes Tim's new book well worth investing in.

But, that's not all you get. Yep, there's much more that will both fascinate and unsettle MIB fans everywhere.

There's (A) the links between the MIB and the mysterious deaths of certain ufological players, researchers and authors; (B) the Black Helicopter connection; (C) the infamous story of how Tim came to secure a photograph of a MIB back in the 1960s (yes the picture appears in the book); (D) Tim talking about his own MIB investigations and certain, very intriguing case studies; (E) MIB activity in relation to strange creatures and unknown beasts - including a certain legendary critter from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, (F) the occult-driven story of Albert Bender (without who, surely, there would be no MIB) and much, MUCH more, including a bonus, 60-minute DVD of Tim speaking with MIB witness, Johnny Sands.

If you're new to the MIB phenomenon, or want to take a look back at what was afoot within some of the earlier years of Ufology - as well as what it was that got so many researchers and authors so caught up in the MIB puzzle - this book will make great, late-night reading.

Buy it now before the MIB have it confiscated!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crash Go the Saucers!

Just recently, New Page Books sent me a review-copy of Kevin Randle's latest book: Crash: When UFOs Fall From the Sky.

I've met Kevin on a couple of occasions; most recently at the annual MUFON conference in Denver, Colorado in July. And, even though it's fair to say we are poles apart (in some respects, but not all) when it comes to Roswell, a fine time was had hanging out and chatting with Kevin - demonstrating that disagreeing on certain aspects of Ufology does not mean daggers need be drawn!

Well, for some in Ufology, it does. But, I'm pleased to say that Kevin and I were able to amiably hang out, and not get into that pathetic "with me or against me" mindset that seems to dominate much of Ufological thinking.

But, you may ask: what about the book? What do I think of Crash? What should you think of it? Okay, here we go...

First: if, when it comes to UFO crash-retrieval cases you are a wide-eyed true believer who swallows whole just about each and every story of dead aliens; crashed, wrecked and recovered UFOs; and Hangar 18 that crosses your tedious path, then this is not the book for you.

I should clarify: if you are of that very sad and tragic mindset, then you should still most definitely read the book, but you may find that more than a few cherished beliefs fall by the wayside, in the process. The book might even give you a nose-bleed. And, such would probably be mightily deserved too.

If, however, you have a deep, open-minded approach to crashed UFO accounts, but are driven by a quest for the truth (whatever that may be), rather than by a desire to only ever follow that path of a definitive "I Want To Believe" nature, then you'll derive much pleasure, satisfaction and insight from Crash.

So, with that bit of a rant out of the way, onto the book!

Kevin, as just about everyone in Ufology knows, is a firm adherent of the idea that aliens from some far-away world met their deaths in the harsh desert of New Mexico back in the long-gone summer of 1947. And, maybe they did. I may have written a book suggesting otherwise - Body Snatchers in the Desert - but, I have always openly admitted that in the hall-of-mirrors world that is Ufology, truth and disinformation make for very strange bed-fellows of a truly unpredictable nature.

So, on the matter of Roswell, we get what we would expect from Kevin: a solid look at the Roswell affair, but with the emphasis on those witnesses - and their attendant testimony - that collectively push the case down the road to E.T.

However, those of you who assume that just because Kevin is of a "Roswell was alien" approach, also means that he's a proponent of just about every crash case that comes along, it's time to take a pill or two, a few deep breaths, lower your blood-pressure, and calm down.

Aurora, Texas, 1897; Aztec, New Mexico 1948; and Spitzbergen, Norway, 1952 are all summarily dismissed as probable hoaxes. And Del Rio 1950 doesn't come out of this looking particularly glowing either. The near-legendary Kingman, Arizona event of 1953 comes in for some deep criticism, too; even though Kevin admits that this is a case that remains open, to some intriguing degree.

But Kevin is not the evil destroyer of most-things crashed and saucer-shaped that some of you might now have in mind (and if you do, that only serves to demonstrate one of the major aspects of the Ufological field: its utterly ridiculous emotionally-driven pettiness. And you know who you are: you send me crappy emails from time to time, written on your mommy's computer!).

By that, I mean, Kevin concludes that Roswell was not the only occasion upon which E.T. has crashed, burned and been scooped up, body-bag-style, for transfer to some secret locale where it subsequently gets sliced, diced and dissected.

The admittedly very interesting Las Vegas affair of 1962 (if you don't know the one, then buy the book!) gets positive, pro-alien coverage. And Ubatuba, 1957 remains very much an open case for Kevin, and one considered worthy of further coverage, reinvestigation and new study.

As for the rest of the book, well you get a great deal on Stringfield, Kecksburg, Project Moon Dust, and that Needles, California incident of 2008 that practically screams "Remotely Piloted Vehicle!" And much more, too.

So, if you're into crashed UFO cases and you're looking for a careful, unbiased look at the phenomenon in its entirety, then this is a book from which you should come away refreshed, informed, and satisfied.

But if you're someone who is utterly driven by belief systems, and totally rejects the notion that certain classic cases might be the results of hoaxes, misidentification and more, well that's just too bad.

I don't agree with all of Kevin's conclusions, but I do know that Ufology needs more books like this, where the author leaves beliefs at the door, and dissects the phenomenon in an unbiased way and without having to resort to championing certain cases, just because that's what certain shrill screamers in Ufology want to hear.

Sliders: When The Lights Go Out...

When Patrick Huyghe of Anomalist Books recently mailed me a copy of their latest release, Hilary Evans' Sliders: The Enigma of Streetlight Interference, I thought to myself: well, this is all very interesting. But a full-length book on people who seemingly have the ability to affect streetlights as they walk under, or near, them?

Surely, such a subject-matter would be far more suitable for a 10- or 20-page-long paper, not a 192-page book, right? Wrong!

Anomalist Books have carved for themselves a first-class niche in the field of publishing thought-provoking and near-unique titles on anomalies of the mind, the physical world, and those strange realms beyond. And, Sliders is a great addition to A.B.'s ever-expanding list of titles.

So, with that said, onto the book itself. Essentially, as I alluded to in my opening paragraph, Sliders are those people who appear to possess a truly uncanny skill: they can turn off, or turn on, streetlights when they are in their near-vicinity. Sometimes, it seems, this is entirely at random, and on other occasions, there is evidence that the phenomenon - or perhaps skill would be a better term - can be controlled, at least to some degree.

And, to prove his point, Evans provides his readers with numerous accounts - from equally numerous walks of life and backgrounds - of people who are possessed of this curious talent. Clearly, as the author shows, this is a worldwide phenomenon, rather than one solely limited to one locale or one particular person.

The book covers some fascinating areas, and raises important issues and questions in the process: does age play a role in the abilities of the Sliders? Is this something that is prevalent throughout certain families (the answer to this question is: very possibly, yes)? How does the state-of-mind of the Slider play a role in the experience? And: can mainstream science, or alternative science, answer the riddle once and for all, and in all its entirety?

Then there is the spin-off phenomenon that sees some Sliders having the skills to affect checkouts and cash-registers, computers, elevators, traffic-lights, and much more.

Electric girls (I always wanted one of them!) psychokinesis, ball-lightning and much more all come into play in the domain of a phenomenon that is as poorly-understood as it is fantastic and, potentially - if it can be successfully harnessed on a regular basis - world-changing, and perhaps not always in a good way, too.

Of course, a subject-matter like this could become incredibly technical and mind-numbing in nature. Fortunately, however, Evans writes in an informative, enjoyable and, at times, humorous fashion that makes Sliders as entertaining as it is fascinating.

If you're interested in, or captivated by, the mysterious powers of both mind and body, then Sliders is most certainly for you.

Definitely not a book you'll be "turned off" by! Terrible pun, I know...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Lurks Beyond

Jason Offutt's latest offering, What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal In Your Backyard, is one of those unique books that (as an author too) makes me ask: "Why didn't I think of that?!"

Jason has written a book that details his very own investigations into a whole range of Fortean, paranormal, supernatural, cryptozoological and ufological mysteries. You might wonder: "What's so unique about that?"

Well, I'll tell you! There's one thing that makes Jason's book significantly different, and highly original, too: all the cases examined occurred within 100 miles of Jason's home.

By focusing on such a clearly-delineated area, Jason has capably hammered home the point that to look for the mysteries of our world we don't always have to travel to far-away lands and exotic locales. Indeed, sometimes the things we seek are right under our noses.

And, I'm pleased to say, Jason has provided his readers with a wealth of diverse cases, incidents and events that will boggle the mind, provoke intrigue, and perhaps even disturb a few readers.

Particularly fascinating to me is the strange tale of Mike Marcum's time-machine - surely a story that would be ripe for Hollywood! Did the man in question really stumble upon the secret of time-travel? What lurks at the heart of his tale? A curiously enigmatic and unusual account, this is one that will appeal to all - no matter what the ultimate outcome may prove to be.

Of course, Bigfoot puts in an appearance - in the St. Joseph area of Missouri and elsewhere, demonstrating that where there are deep woods, the big and hairy thing is never far behind.

What might, possibly, be Iowa's very own Roswell Incident is detailed in the chapter titled "It Fell From The Sky" and is a tale worthy of an episode of The X-Files. With accounts of unidentified materials raining down from the skies, military investigations, claims and counter-claims, strange lights in the sky and more, this is a little-known affair that will be of deep interest to those with a passion for reports of crashed UFOs.

Also on the UFO issue: Herbert Schirmer's famous 1967 encounter of the alien kind is the subject of an excellent chapter that provides the reader with a good, solid account of what occurred, and with insightful data on what Schirmer is doing today.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg: with countless atmospheric tales of spooks, specters, uncanny events, haunted homes and more, What Lurks Beyond is an excellent addition to the world of paranormal investigative research and writing.

And, it capably reveals the sheer wealth of mysteries that can be found when we go looking for them. Definitely highly-recommended, late-night reading!

Click here to purchase your copy of Jason Offutt's What Lurks Beyond.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


There can be absolutely no doubt that, whereas a few years ago, the leading buzz-words within Ufology were Area 51 and Roswell, today it's Disclosure. That's right: the notion, idea or theory that certain governments around the world are gearing up to slowly acclimatize us to the idea that aliens are amongst us, before finally unleashing the undeniable proof to the world.

Indeed, one only has to take a look at the work of Steven Greer, Steve Bassett and others to see that there is a firm belief that Disclosure - whatever that may ultimately prove to be - is firmly on the way.

Until (or unless!) such a time comes, how can you find out more about Disclosure, what it means, the players in the story, its implications, and where things are at right now?

The answer to that question is a very simple one: you should definitely get hold of a copy of the brand-new book from Timothy Green Beckley (the man churns out books on such an extraordinarily fast basis that I'm convinced he never sleeps - something which suggests Tim may actually be some form of macabre creature of the night; but I digress!).

The book in question is Disclosure! Breaking Through the Barrier of Global UFO Secrecy, published by Global Communications. For those new to the issue of Disclosure, as well as for those who have been following the subject for years, this books makes for essential reading.

For your money, you not only get the book, but you also get a bonus CD that is full of all sorts of Disclosure-based interviews and goodies. As for the book itself: well, it's a dream for Disclosure enthusiasts everywhere.

There's (A) a wealth of material on the British Government's recently-surfaced UFO files; (B) a very eye-opening and informative interview with Steve Bassett (C) an excellent section on the decision of the Brazilian military to make publicly available its very own UFO files; (D) a section on how and why Denmark chose to release into the public domain its UFO documents - and, of course, there's a good analysis of those same files too; (E) a study of the UFO archives of the Australian Government; and (F) a wealth of interviews with numerous sources offering their views and opinions on Disclosure, including former British Ministry of Defense man Nick Pope; researcher Grant Cameron; UFO investigators, A.J. Gevaerd and Antonio Huneeus; and John Greenewald.

Coupled with good, solid data on the UFO files of the governments of Russia, Chile and elsewhere, Disclosure! is a first-class look at how and why government agencies - all around the world - are now declassifying their UFO files, as well as the various theories that have been offered to explain this sudden declassification and (to a degree, at least) open-door process.

Is UFO Disclosure really on its way? Is there an international program designed to prepare us for the alien truth, by feeding us tidbits of other-worldly data on a regular basis, and until we're finally ready to appreciate the big picture?

To learn the answers to these questions and many more, I would strongly urge you to check out this near-300-page book. If you're into Disclosure, it's essential reading.

To purchase a copy of Disclosure! Breaking Through the Barrier of Global UFO Secrecy, click on this link.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mirage Men

Mark Pilkington's Mirage Men is - I don't exaggerate in saying - one of the most important UFO-themed books you'll ever read. That is, if you dare to read the book, and don't shy away from it because it might upset and unbalance your carefully constructed, nice and neat Ufological world.

Whether you are a full-on true-believer in the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), wholly open-minded on what lies at the heart of the UFO puzzle, a skeptic, or a rabid debunker, you should not ignore Mirage Men. Of course, your views on what lies at the heart of the UFO phenomenon - and which of the above-categories you fall into - will play a large role in determining your response and reaction to Mark's book.

Those for whom Ufology is a modern-day religion, and one that offers a form of cosmic comfort, will be shocked, angered and perhaps even disillusioned by what they read. Doubtless, too, there will be a degree of hostility and outright denial on their part when faced with the crumbling of certain much-cherished belief-systems, ideas and (possibly) certain cases that have become classics within Ufology.

Too bad. Ufology, and the people in it, need a shake-up now and again and Mirage Men most assuredly delivers. And if you're someone whose notions on what make a good or bad UFO book are based on whether or not that same book says what you want to hear, then you're lost already.

As for the debunkers: well, on reading the book, they might gain a realization that the issue they confidently dismiss - namely that ET really has visited us, and has crashed and burned - isn't quite as clear-cut and black-and-white as they previously believed.

If, like me, however, you realize that something strange really is going on in our skies - but that it appears to be a blurry mix of classified military projects, official and unofficial chicanery, mind-games, lies and distortions, shadowy figures weaving complex tales, and perhaps, maybe, even a very real ET presence, then Mirage Men will well and truly satisfy.

So, with that said, what is Mirage Men all about? Well, let me tell you. Essentially, the book tells the story of Mark's (and his friend and colleague John Lundberg's) own and very personal search of the truth about the UFO puzzle, and what may be known about the subject at an official level.

After learning about how and why Mark became interested in, and intrigued by, Ufology and Forteana, we get a tutorial on the history of Ufology, and then it's road-trip time.

Things begin in an entertaining fashion as Mark and John anticipate adventures of the Ufological kind in mysterious locales, in desert settings that would have made the likes of Adamski and Van Tassel drool, and at the annual International UFO Convention at Laughlin, Nevada. But, as our Dynamic Duo delve further into the heart of the mystery, instead of becoming clearer, things get much more confusing and distinctly murky. Danger duly rears its ominous head, and a high degree of paranoia and uncertainty seem to take hold of Mark and John.

As they seek out the truth about UFOs and the US Government, military and intelligence community, the pair sinks deeper and deeper into a surreal world that seems to be part-X-Files, part-Parallax View, part-hall-of-mirrors, and ALL VERY FUCKING WEIRD. Throw in a shot of All the President's Men and more than a few Deep Throat-like characters, add a liberal dose of Cold War espionage, and mix it all up into a cocktail of truly mind-bending proportions, and Mirage Men kicks into high-gear.

We get to learn a great deal about some of the classic cases within Ufology - Roswell (of course!); the Antonio Villas Boas/Space Babe affair of 1957; the 1952 Washington, D.C. invasion; and the story of the "Underground Alien Base" at Dulce, New Mexico. Cattle-mutilations and alien abductions also surface - but not necessarily in ways that the ufological faithful might expect.

But, we get to learn much more too: namely, the way in which certain shadowy figures may have been manipulating all of the above events, cases and people (and many more too), for strange, obscure (at first glance, at least) and bizarre reasons, and how the ufological research community has been WELL AND TRULY PLAYED. Mind-control, staged-events, the spreading of spurious UFO tales to hide exotic military hardware, and even outright violation of human-rights come into play.

Of course, the highly disturbing story of Paul Bennewitz surfaces, too (a saga told in full in the pages of Greg Bishop's essential Project Beta), and demonstrates not only the extent to which some will go to protect their secrets (whether of a military, intelligence or extraterrestrial nature - or maybe all three), but how easy it is to manipulate the ufological scene and those that immerse themselves within it - and in the case of Bennewitz, with truly tragic results.

Mark also addresses the Contactee controversy - a subject for which many have no time. But, as I noted in my Contactees book, there is clear evidence that some of the Contactees may have been working with the official world, or may have been manipulated, Bennewitz-style. Mark realizes this too, and provides thought-provoking data suggesting we should look at the whole Contactee movement in a new light.

One of the many highlights of the book is that relative to the relatively recent Serpo saga, and its attendant tales, stories, rumors, allegations and supposedly secret files on crashed UFOs, alien-human exchange missions, and a great deal more. And a character that Mark and John get to meet and hang out with, and from whom they glean a great deal of data, is the somewhat enigmatic Richard Doty - a name that should be familiar to all within Ufology, but one who very few within the field have actually met.

I found this part of the book to be one of the most informative and entertaining, as it is here that the realization hits both Mark and John that what begins for them as an adventurous trip from England to some of the most mysterious and legend-filled locations in the United States, becomes something more. Indeed, it turns into a slightly sinister, paranoia-filled period where neither Mark nor John know what to believe, who to trust, or whether they are being fed a bunch of bullshit, the absolute cosmic truth, or something in between.

Mark and John find themselves slightly lost from their moorings, unsure of what is afoot, and perhaps even unable to get a full handle on whether the US Government really is sitting upon a mountain of crashed UFOs, dead aliens and cosmic conspiracies, or whether it just wishes us to think that's the case.

The fascinating thing is that for all the officially-orchestrated lies, distortions and outright manipulation of the UFO research community that they uncover, for a while Mark and John seem to find their Ufological beliefs actually growing. Is this due to the fact that they too have been firmly played by the powers-that-be? Are aliens really among us? Have UFOs really crashed to Earth? Or is the truth a swirling mix of several scenarios? Well, I'll leave it up to you to seek out the answers for yourselves.

I will, however, say this: one of the key things that stands out from reading Mirage Men is how, why and under what circumstances the UFO subject has the ability to radically transform, and manipulate even, the mindset of the individual - whether that individual is Paul Bennewitz, George Adamski, and even Mark and John.

Personally, I suspect that it is this profound potential for deep, personal change that the UFO mystery offers us that the US Government fears most. It is not so much that UFOs might exist or that aliens could be visiting us that worries the official world. Rather, it is the fact - and officialdom's realization of the fact - that the phenomenon seemingly has the ability to rewire the collective mindset of the populace, who may discard their old ways, give the finger to the old men in suits and ties that run the world, and become truly transformed.

For two men who tried to stay impartial, grounded and open-minded, even Mark and John found themselves affected and changed by not just the phenomenon, but by the people they met, the cases they investigated, the stories they were told, and the surreal pit into which they descended. And, when it comes to the issue of what those in power may know about UFOs, and the reasons behind the manipulation that Mark skilfully describes, that's an important point to remember.

In conclusion, regardless of your Ufological views, beliefs or non-beliefs, you should read Mirage Men - and very soon, too. Something is clearly going on. It certainly involves the movers-and-shakers within the intelligence world, and it is reliant upon the official weaving of complex tales of a UFO nature that seem to be part-truth, part-fiction, and part-distortion as a means to affect and mold belief-systems and more. And, it may involve a very real alien presence too.

To learn more about Mark Pilkington's Mirage Men, click here for the official website of the book, and here for the blog.

To purchase the book in the US, click on this link. If you're in the UK, here's where you can buy it. And, for Canadian readers, here you go.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paranormal London

Neil Arnold's new book, Paranormal London, is an entertaining trip around Britain's swinging capital, and seeks out some of the high-strangeness that absolutely saturates this ancient and historic city. The book is very well written, in a captivating, atmospheric style that is best suited to a dark and stormy night beside an old, glowing fireplace, in a spooky old mansion on the edge of a cold, windswept moorland.

If UFOs are your thing, you'll find intriguing sections in the book on centuries-old encounters with all-things flying and saucer-shaped; and you'll learn much about London-based sightings - in the early years of the 20th Century - of so-called "Phantom Airships" and much more.

Ghosts and paranormal phenomena feature, too, with much emphasis on the notorious and ominous red-eyed and black-garbed Highgate Vampire, as well as Spring-Heeled Jack and similar anomalous assailants of a bygone era.

But, as someone with a deep interest in cryptozoology and unknown animals, I have to say that it was these sections of Paranormal London that so interested me. Neil delves deep into such controversies as the spectral Bigfoot of the London Underground; phantom black-dogs of the typically glowing-eyed variety; the many and varied out-of-place big-cats and exotic cats that call, or have called, London their home (such as the Surrey Puma, the Tiger of Edgware, the Shooters Hill Cheetah; and even spectral big-cats); very thought-provoking accounts of ghostly bears; the strange, convoluted and captivating story of the Brentford Griffin; as well as encounters with dragons and mermaids.

And, I cannot omit mentioning "King Rat," a hideous giant rodent said to haunt the winding, old sewers of London - and a true abomination, if ever there was one!

So, all in all, Neil Arnold's Paranormal London is a definitively spooky, out-of-this-world, and monstrous look at London and its many and varied attendant mysteries that I guarantee you'll greatly enjoy. Indeed, you'll never look at the old winding streets of London in quite the same way again!

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Daintree Diary

If, like me, you're into entertaining road-trip-style books that take you to far-off places, and encounters with exotic creatures, captivating landscapes, and much more, then Carl Portman's A Daintree Diary is the book for you!

Containing a mountain of cool and enchanting photographs, Carl's title is a genuinely engaging look at what happens when he and his partner, Susan, and their friend Angela, head off to the wilds of the North Australian rain-forest in search of all-things animalistic and unusual.

Rather like a combination of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-meets-Jurassic Park-meets-The Crocodile Hunter, Daintree takes you into the very heart of an on-the-road quest for high-strangeness, high-adventure, and high-entertainment!

Written in an engaging, diary-format, Daintree is a book that will be relished by anyone and everyone who can appreciate what it means to live life to its fullest, who can understand the adrenalin-rush that comes from heading into realms unknown on adventure-filled quests, and who has a passion for the stranger aspects of zoology.

Packed with humor, excitement, danger, and mystery, Carl Portman's A Daintree Diary was a book that kept me transfixed from the first page to the very last. I strongly suspect that it will do likewise for you!

After all: how can you turn up your nose at whistling spiders, giant catfish, the Thylacine and more? That's right: you can't!!

Conan Doyle, Houdini & Giants!

Just recently I received in the mail copies of three new books published by what is surely the most industrious Fortean publishing company in the world: Tim Green Beckley's Global Communications. Indeed, it seems to be the case that barely a week goes by (or maybe, even, an hour!) without some new title hitting the stands courtesy of Tim and GB.

And amongst those new titles are those aforementioned three that found their way to my letterbox a few days ago. They are: The American Goliah; The Paranormal World of Sherlock Holmes; and Revealing the Bizarre Powers of Harry Houdini.

I'll begin with The American Goliah. And, no, that's not a spelling-error: even though the book is a study of everything giant and man-like, "Goliah" - rather than "Goliath" - is the wording used in the original 1869 edition of The American Goliah.

Basically, the book is a detailed and fascinating study of a phenomenon that captivated whole swathes of the U.S. population in the late-1800s, when a gigantic, petrified man was "found" at a certain site in the United States. I include the word "found' in brackets, because the subject is one of deep notoriety and chicanery, and is a real roller-coaster-ride-type tale that is filled to the brim with claims, counter-claims, hoaxers, yarns, money-makers, P.T. Barnum (no less!), and tales of giants walking the earth.

I submitted my own piece for inclusion in the book, as did Scott Corrales. And Tim has done a fine job of presenting a fascinating, entertaining and wonderful old tale to a whole new audience. The American Goliah does not disappoint!

Moving on to The Paranormal World of Sherlock Holmes, this is a superb study of the great man himself - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - and his investigations into the world of mediums, life-after-death (a subject very dear to the heart of Sir Arthur), the notorious affair of the photographs of the Cottingley Fairies, ghosts, ectoplasm, seances and a great deal more, too.

Accompanied by a very cool selection of images and photographs, this is a fine study of how and why Conan Doyle became so fascinated by the realms of the paranormal and the supernatural.

And then we have the Houdini book (which, you will be pleased to know, also contains a bonus-CD of Houdini's last seance), that delves deep into the world of the master-escape-artist - who was highly skeptical of tales from the "other-side" - his friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini's exposes of fakers and fantasists, and the nature of belief-systems.

Tim B is to be congratulated for putting into the public domain some old, very-hard-to-find titles that are backed up with new contributions from some well-known names within the field of the paranormal.

If you're even remotely interested in 19th and early-20th Century Forteana, these are all books you definitely cannot afford to miss!

Real Zombies

For just about as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the world of the zombie. Well, actually, I'll confess: largely fascinated by one aspect of the zombie - it's on-screen exploits. In fact, I think I have DVDs of pretty much every zombie movie ever made.

I like the slow, shambling flesh-eaters of Romero's Night of the Living Dead; and I will never forget the atmospheric graveyard scene in the 1966 Hammer Film production of Plague of the Zombies. But, most of all, I love those fast-running monsters of the modern-era of zombie film-making.

Whether it's the real undead of the spectacular 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, or the super-fast fiends of 28 Days Later (who, aren't actually dead at all: they're infected by the devastating "Rage Virus"), they are my kind of zombie!

And: I look forward to the day when some super-plague escapes from a secret underground lab, and spreads among the populace. And, overnight, the world becomes filled with chaos, carnage and flesh-eating ghouls (yes, I know I'm strange...), as society unravels and falls apart, as the fast-runners increase in number, and as the Human Race becomes nothing but a band of scattered survivors (me being one of them, of course!)

But, the slow-walkers and the fast-runners are not the only kind of zombie out there - and this is where we get to Brad Steiger's latest mighty tome, Real Zombies: The Living Dead, and Creatures of the Apocalypse.

Largely thanks to the way in which the zombie has been popularized by Hollywood, there is a tendency on the part of many people to think that what they see on the silver-screen is all that there is to the zombie phenomenon. But, this is actually far from the case; as Brad shows us time and again.

Real Zombies is a superb, extensive and highly detailed study of the zombie in the realm of the aforementioned movies, but also in folklore, legend, mythology, the domains of the occult, voodoo and the supernatural, and - in the final chapters - in the field of conspiracy-theories.

Tribal religions, folk-magic, sacrifice, the ominous raising of the dead, and dark and disturbing real-life mysteries focused upon London's River Thames are only the start of the ominous story. Serpent gods, shadowy goings-on in New Orleans (my wife and I spent our second wedding anniversary there, and I can say for sure that a weird and sinister atmosphere does indeed hang over certain parts of the city), Voodoo Queens, curses, possession and ritual magic all play significant roles in zombie lore and legend.

And, for me, this is what makes Real Zombies such a captivating read: by focusing less on the Hollywood angle, but far more on the little-known - but in many ways more disturbing - aspects of the phenomenon, we're provided with a rare treat indeed.

Wendigos, voraciously-hungry spirits and the actions of deranged flesh-eating lunatics and cannibals are also all parts of the story - a story that is made notable by the fact that it is indeed so complex and multifaceted.

As I mentioned earlier, the final chapters deal with the zombie in the areas of conspiracy and official secrecy. This is a highly thought-provoking part of the book that reveals much pertaining to mind-control experimentation, LSD-based black-ops, Manchurian candidates and the disturbing scenario of jack-booted government types planning to microchip the populace.

All in all, Real Zombies is a superb, and arguably definitive, look at the zombie phenomenon in all its glory and from numerous perspectives. Its place in popular-culture, history, mythology, folklore and present-day society are all placed skilfully under the microscope - demonstrating that as important as the likes of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead most certainly are in zombie lore, the subject is infinitely more complex than many realize.

Like a zombie itself, Brad's book grabs you by the jugular and doesn't let go!

Mars Bar & Mushy Peas

This is a book you have to read!

Paul Screeton's Mars Bar & Mushy Peas (published by Bob Trubshaw's Heart of Albion Press - click this link for more information on the book) is a hilarious, illuminating and superb dissection of the world of urban-legend as it relates to the famous-faces of television, film, the rock music industry, the pop world, and even Fanny Craddock (non-Brits may wonder who on earth I'm talking about here - which is a very good reason for you to get acquainted with the book!).

It's clear from his writings that Paul has a deep affection for, and a fine appreciation of, the whole urban-legend phenomenon - as well as a keen understanding of how and why urban-legends begin, spread and then very often become accepted as the gospel truth. Of course, whether there is any truth to the stories, or perhaps how much, is one of the staple points of the subject and of Paul's book.

This is a very funny and entertaining book, and I laughed out loud on many occasions reading it - and you will, too!

So, what do we find within the pages of Mars Bar and Mushy Peas? Well, let's start with the title. The Mars Bar episode is, of course, that which has become inextricably linked to 60s celebrity Marianne Faithfull who - urban-legend suggests - was once, as the book words it, caught in a "perverted sex act with a chocolate bar".

True? Probably not! But, as with all urban-legends, the story has taken on a life of its own, and is now truly multi-faceted: Jagger & Richards, the cops, the press and more all feature in this saga that is almost certainly destined to never go away; at least, not completely. But, as Paul notes, that's the point with urban-legends: they're tenacious critters that spread and multiply like rabbits!

And, such tales mutate, too: moving on from Mars Bars, we hear other entertainingly amusing stories/legends of unusual items being placed into certain celebrity orifices; including gerbils. Yep, MB&MP gets better and better as the pages turn!

As for the Mushy Peas saga, well, if only it could be true! And maybe, partly, somehow, possibly...it is! Or isn't! Things are never quite clear in the world of the urban-legend. But would we really have it any other way? No, not when it comes to this particularly mushy matter.

This is the legendary story of British politician Peter Mandelson allegedly mistaking a fish-and-chip shop's supply of mushy peas for a bowl of posh avocado mousse. Did he? Didn't he? I don't know, but I do know that the story has more lives than a cat, and that it seems to forever hang around Mandelson's shoulders like a veritable sword of Damocles! It takes a skillful writer to make a whole chapter on a bowl of mushy peas readable, informative and smile-inducing at every gven moment; but Paul manages it! I strongly doubt, however, that he's on Mandelson's Christmas-Card list...

We are also entertained by countless other "if-only-they-could-be-true" stories concerning (in no particular order) TV magician Paul Daniels's wife Debbie McGee and a dog; actress Diana Dors and the tales generated by her real name; the "Paul McCartney is Dead" affair; the Captain Pugwash controversy (a bit of Googling will enlighten you!); the aforementioned Keith Richards and his dad's ashes; an excellent section on Forteana and Charles Fort himself (this chapter, alone, should be firmly digested by anyone and everyone with an interest in urban-legend, the world of the unexplained and the development of stories, tales and mythology); Greyfriars Bobby; the Global-Warming/climate-change controversy, and much, much more.

In conclusion, Mars Bar and Mushy Peas is absorbing, thought-provoking, and deadpan funny in the process. That the author not only has a deep knowledge of the cases that he highlights, but also a fine appreciation of the whole urban-legend phenomenon, makes MB&MP a witty, wonderful and informative title.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Anomalist 14: Electric!

Electricity of the Mind is the brand new volume in the long-running series known to Forteans everywhere as The Anomalist. Indeed, we're now up to Volume 14, and, I'm pleased to say, the quality, quantity and range of topics covered are all as good as ever. I always look forward to a new TA, as they're the kind of title that you can dip into, and read whichever chapter catches your eye first.

For me, it was Aeolus Kephas' excellent and highly-thought-provoking piece that focuses upon two individuals who have most assuredly left a mark on Forteana, non-fiction writing, literature and more: Whitley Strieber and Carlos Castaneda. This is a superbly-written submission that delves deeply into the world of what Kephas describes as the "Literary Shaman."

The author does a fine job of dissecting and analyzing the characters, motivations and body of work of both men; he tackles the issue of fact vs. fiction and how we should interpret their written output; and offers deep thoughts on the profound influence both men have had upon their audiences. Arguably, this contribution alone makes Electricity essential reading.

As someone with a deep fascination for cryptozoology, I read with great interest Chris Payne's piece on the seemingly-never-ending controversy surrounding the alleged continued existence (or not) of the thylacine of Tasmania. Although brief in length, Payne's paper gets right to the point, carefully analyzes the data, and offers a firm opinion regarding the status - and future-status - of the beast. The story isn't over yet. But, as Payne makes clear, it may very well be soon.

Dwight Whalen's contribution concerns a series of aerial apparitions in the skies of Hetlerville, Pennsylvania in 1914 that would have put the Angel of Mons saga to shame - and maybe even did so. I had not previously heard of the Hetlerville sightings - of houses, of children and of angels in the sky, no less - and, so, digesting Whalen's findings on this curious affair was most instructive. Of course, down-to-earth explanations - no, not just looming war-nerves - exist to explain the events. But, in cases like the this, the truth is appropriately very much in the eye of the beholder. But, whatever it was that provoked so much wonder in the skies of Hetlerville all those years ago, Whalen reveals all. A fascinating and little-known slice of early 20th Century Forteana.

Mark Pilkington's History, the Hive Mind, and Agrarian Art, tells the eerie story of the equally-eerie parallels that exist between certain elements of the Crop Circle controversy and the content of a 1973 science-fiction film: Phase IV. Did the film leave its mark on some of the early circle-makers - just like they left their sculptured marks in the fields of jolly old England? And, if so, is this all down to mere chance and coincidence? Or should we consider the possibility that something stranger might be afoot; something that might even have Charles Fort, himself, nodding sagely from beyond the icy grave? Very possibly.

I have to confess that when I saw that Ulrich Magin had written a paper on out-of-place volcanoes, I considered that it would surely be way too dry and academic for such a volume as The Anomalist! But, I was wrong! This is an engaging and captivating piece that looks at the claims of volcanoes spontaneously appearing here, there and everywhere - and then seemingly vanishing without trace. Sounds strange? It is! But, Magin skillfully holds the attention of the reader, reveals a surprisingly large number of such cases, and offers solid explanations for what may be afoot. A fine addition to the book.

As for the rest of EOTM, it's all top-notch, and includes contributions from Theo Paijmans on Forteana and the age of digital-newspapers; Cameron Blount on Peru's Moche and Nazca cultures; Mike Jay on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the realm of the supernatural; and much, much more.

Well worth investing in, Electricity of the Mind makes for great, late-night, thought-provoking reading. And here's looking forward to issue 15!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Strangely Strangely Excellent!

Back in 2001, Paraview Books published a title called Swamp Gas Times - a collection of articles spanning the decades and a variety of Fortean subjects; but all penned by Patrick Huyghe, now of Anomalist Books. In other words, SGT was a good, solid anthology of Patrick's writing for - amongst others - Saga UFO Report; the New York Times Magazine; Omni; Space.com; and Science Digest.

At the time, I thought: what a great idea! Presenting, under one cover, the collective, feature-based work (and, in some cases, the now-hard-to-find work) of a well-known author in the fields of Ufology, Cryptozoology and more would surely become a trend. But, oddly, it didn't. At least, not back in 2001.

Nevertheless, Patrick's book still stands today as a great example of how just such a title should be presented (it was recently re-published by Anomalist Books). And someone else who recognized this is Jon Downes, my good mate at the Center for Fortean Zoology in Devonshire, England.

Indeed, Jon has now taken the bull by the horns, and has launched an ambitious project to publish anthologies of the work of a whole range of writers within the Fortean world (myself included); something that - as with Patrick's book - will allow readers to see a great deal of the early and obscure writings of the author in question; as well as some of their latter-day output, too.

And, the first volume - I am very pleased to say - is now available: Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal: An Anthology of Writings by Andy Roberts.

I first came across the startling phenomenon known as Andy in the 1980s, when Graham Birdsall's UFO Magazine was still a photocopied fanzine-type publication called Quest, when the CFZ was still a dream to Jon Downes, and when the Fortean scene was very different to that of today.

My first exposure to Andy's writing came in 1987 when, while working in Harlow, Essex, I found a used copy of Andy's Cat Flaps (a study of Britain's "Big-Cat" mystery) in a second-hand book-shop, and which I remember reading late one night in my tiny, cramped room, while the infamous hurricane of October of that year buffeted just about everything around me.

Next, for me at least, was Andy's UFO Brigantia: a witty, informative and entertaining mag that Andy published nigh-on twenty years ago and that probably brought him just about as many friends as enemies. But, hell, Andy didn't care. And rightly so.

Anyway, rather than waffle on any longer about the halcyon days of British Forteana, I'll get to Strangely Strange.

Or, rather, first I'll get to the truly shocking cover of the book; which displays what I can only describe as "The Three Stages Of Andy." The front-cover is a photo of the author and his mum, stood on their doorstep, and which shows, I would estimate, a 4-year-old Andy beaming widely. How could a life in Forteana have so warped such a cherub? Future-mystery-seekers: you have been warned!

As for the back-cover, first we see "Stage 2" Andy, looking eerily like Alan Davies' portrayal of Jonathan Creek, in the BBC TV show of the same name. And then it's on to the present-day, where Andy, with white-whiskers, gray-white bandana pulled down tightly on his head and eyes squinting in the sun, rather resembles a baby-seal, just about to get clobbered on the head by some callous Canadian. But, I digress: onto the book!

Strangely begins with a fascinating Introduction from Andy that details how he came to enter the realm of weird shit, and then propels us firmly into the man's world, his writings, beliefs and life. And, a wild, fun, informative and witty intro it is, too.

The good thing about SS, is that it doesn't just focus on one topic, but delves into everything from the LSD culture to Foo Fighters; from the Big Gray Man of Ben Macdhui to animal-mutilations; from the writings of English fantasy author Alan Garner to the works of John Keel - and much more, too. And that's what makes Strangely Strange not just an average anthology, but a very good one: there's a rich variety of articles and papers negotiating decades and topics.

As someone who, as a kid, was fascinated by the literary output of Alan Garner, I was pleased to see that Andy too has a deep appreciation of the man and his classic Thursbitch title. And in Thursbitch - Valley of the Demon? Andy's deep knowledge and appreciation of Garner's work is evident. And, if you aren't acquainted with Garner's books, Andy's dissection is a fine place to start.

We're also treated to the somewhat embarrassing, yet highly-entertaining and instructive piece on the so-called "Cracoe UFO," which was actually nothing of the sort!

"Cracoe" was one of those blots on the ufological landscape that captured the imaginations of some of the north of England's leading players on the scene many-a-moon ago, but that ultimately - albeit not literally - came crashing to the ground. Indeed, it's a cautionary tale that reveals much about belief-systems, perception and misperception, and much more, too. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

The paper on Scotland's Big Gray Man and associated "mountain-panics" is a scholarly one that should be required reading for anyone and everyone interested in the legend of what many interpret - quite wrongly - as a "British Bigfoot." Again, Andy demonstrates how, as with the Cracoe fiasco, the human mind may play an integral role in the Ben Macdhui affair.

Anyone who knows Andy will be aware that one of his great passions is music (or, at least, what passes for music in the Roberts household - he knows I'm joking!), and this shines throughout the pages of the book; particularly in that material which focuses on Andy's very open comments and observations on the LSD culture of the early 1970s, and his exposure to the music of such bands as Pink Floyd and The Incredible String Band. Indeed, the ISB feature heavily in the book, and it's clear from Andy's careful dissection of their work that they had a profound effect on his life, his philosophy to life and much more.

We also get to see much of Andy's early research into the Foo Fighter phenomenon; a fine interview with John Keel (which originally appeared in UFO Brigantia back in 1992); a lengthy report on the notorious "Berwyn Mountain UFO Crash" of 1974, with which so many (myself included!) within 1990s Forteana became obsessed; and an interview with Andy undertaken by Stuart Miller, in which - again - we get to learn much about the inner-thoughts of Andy in relation to the world around him, and realms beyond.

And, it wouldn't be an Andy Roberts anthology without the inclusion of a piece from the man's The Armchair Ufologist. When British Ufology was running at full-throttle in the mid-to-late 1990s, and when the newsstands were crammed with all manner of UFO monthlies (Sightings, UFO Reality, Alien Encounters, etc - now all long-gone to that big Hangar 18 in the sky), Andy decided to get in on the act, too. Thus was born The Armchair Ufologist.

Tragically, what was without doubt the most entertaining UFO rag of that decade had a very short lifespan. But, it will certainly be remembered by all that read it and who appeared in it. Some of us - like me, Jon Downes, and Irene Bott (of the Staffordshire UFO Group) - rolled around the floor with laughter while reading it (albeit not all at the same time, I should stress...Well, not always...). Others, meanwhile, fumed, raged and ranted about how Dark Lord Roberts was bringing Ufology into complete and utter disrepute.

TAU was, essentially, a gossip-style newsletter that focused on who in Ufology was doing what to who else in Ufology; on the alcolol intake at post-gig, ufological parties; and much more of an entertaining and scandalous nature.

And, in Strangely Strange, we get treated to what was (in my view) without doubt the ultimate highlight of TAU: namely, Andy's review of a notorious party that followed the annual LAPIS gig in Lytham St. Anne's in 1999. This is a priceless piece that - if you weren't there in-person - deserves to be read by one and all. You'll never look at Ufology the same way again!

So, all in all, what do we have with Strangely Strange? Well, we have an excellent collection that covers Andy's writings from 1974 to the present day, that treats us to a wide-range of topics, that informs us and entertains us, that reveals to us what it is that makes Andy tick, and the nature of the beast known as Fortean freelance-writing.

This is an excellent first-volume in what is destined to become a great series. Congrats to all involved.

If you're in the UK, you can purchase Andy Roberts' Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal by clicking on this link; and if you're in the US, click right here.