Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Werewolf Book

Over at, you can find my latest Lair of the Beasts column, which is a review of Brad Steiger's new title, The Werewolf Book, a must-read for all fans of hairy man-beasts, a full moon, and silver-bullets!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Spirit Voices

When Anomalist Books' Patrick Huyghe recently mailed me a copy of their newly-published title - Spirit Voices: The First Live Conversation Between Worlds by Mark L. Cowden - I have to confess that, at first, I viewed it with a degree of trepidation.

Not, I should stress, because I had any specific qualms about dealing with, or confronting, the subject-matter, but simply because although I read a lot of books - and write a lot of books too! - on UFOs, cryptozoology, and conspiracy-theories, I have to admit that ghosts, spiritualism, and life-after-death have never really been my thing.

But, since Patrick asked me if I would review the book, and I had said "Yes," I figured I would see what the author had to say. And I'm very glad that I did!

Spirit Voices is most certainly not your average book about chain-rattling spooks, shrieking specters and things that go bump in the night. Rather, it's a very readable, highly engaging, and thoughtful study of one man's quest (Mark himself) to seek out the truth about life-after-death, the nature and heart of the phenomenon, and its reported interactions with our plane of reality.

This is the type of subject that could have easily been turned into one of those horrible, sickly, belief-driven, self-help, "love and light"-style books written by hippie-types with names like "Eagle," "Cloud," and "Dolphin," that I totally, totally despise. Fortunately, there's none of that here - at all.

Rather, what we get is an utterly absorbing study of how Mark - an audio-visual technician from Oklahoma - found himself in Ireland, in 2010, investigating apparent contact from beyond the grave. And when I say contact, I mean precisely that: the capture and recording of apparent conversations with discarnate entities from beyond.

And what particularly stands out for me is that Spirit Voices is as much about the potential for something, some essence, maybe - call it what you will - surviving bodily death, as it is about Mark's very own, and deeply personal, quest to come to terms with the incredible data and experiences that crossed his path during the course of his adventurous trek in search of the truth.

Written in somewhat of a diary fashion (which is a good thing, I should stress), Spirit Voices expertly captures the essence of the investigation, as Mark grapples with such issues as whether or not (from the perspective of Christian teachings) it's ethical, moral or right to try and contact the dead, the profound positive implications for society and science that interaction with the spirit-world undoubtedly provokes, and the effect that exposure to such phenomena - in a conversation-style setting - can have on the individual.

And that Mark has a background in the audio-visual world is a major bonus, too, and particularly so when we see him in-the-field (or in the proverbial spooky old house or haunted castle), utilizing technologies to capture the voices of the dead, rather than simply employing the tired, well-worn tools of some old Gothic novel.

In other words, Spirit Voices - and its many attendant revelations, implications, and discoveries - offers us some hope that death is not the end. And - this being one of the most important aspects of the book - it shows that growing advances in human technology and fringe-science may actually play significant, future roles in contacting the dead, and validating that physical death may not mean literal death.

But, perhaps above all else - and I base this on Mark's very own forthright and refreshing style of writing - Spirit Voices shows the sheer extent to which people can find themselves propelled to new levels of thought, understanding and appreciation of the mysteries of this world and beyond when they address the controversial question that each and every one of us want answering: What happens to us when we die?

Whatever your views on life-after-death, Spirit Voices is an extraordinarily good, solid look at its subject-matter, written by a man who offers us an undeniably personal and near-unique look at a phenomenon that is as misunderstood as it is mysterious.

I will leave you with what I consider to be one of Mark's most important statements in his book. Of the revelations that might await us, he says the day may come when "the world's religious leaders finally accept that there does not need to be one specific explanation for our magical existence, with the copyright holder of this information being the strongest, wealthiest, most agenda-driven organization capable of reaching the most people."

Amen to that!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

John Michell: From Atlantis to Avalon

Paul Screeton has been a busy chap recently. Last week I reviewed Paul's latest title, I Fort The Lore, which is a highly entertaining anthology of his writings spanning the 1960s to the present day. But, that's not the only book Paul has written and had published in the past year.

His 2010 biography of a true character within esoteric circles, titled John Michell: From Atlantis to Avalon, is available from Alternative Albion (an imprint of Heart of Albion Press), and is - I can say for sure - definitive and required reading for anyone with an interest in (a) 20th Century Forteana (British and otherwise), (b) its history and development, and, of course, (c) one of the most significant players within the field - John Michell himself.

I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies (generally on non-Fortean individuals), and the ones I find most satisfying are those that tell the whole story - warts and all, as the old saying goes - rather than simply offering a one-sided, misty-eyed picture designed to portray or project this or that image.

Fortunately there's none of that here.

Rather, Paul provides us with an unbiased, highly in-depth, and near-unique study of Michell, focusing upon the intricacies of his character, upbringing, life, and undeniably-major influence upon British culture, folklore, mythology, and the domain of the unexplained.

Granted, we are specifically told that "this book is not a biography," but my use of the term is meant to imply that it's a definitive study of the man's life. Which it most certainly is.

Where this title differs significantly from many others that might be said to fall into the Biography category, however, is that it's not just a study of Michell and his 76-years (he passed away in 2009). It's also an examination of Michell's astonishingly huge influence on all manner of people, places and events that helped to sculpt and nurture the face of 20th Century Britain and its attendant mysteries and puzzles.

As anyone who knew John Michell, or who was acquainted with him, will tell you, he was more of a phenomenon than just a man - legendary with Fortean circles, incredibly influential, and almost near-magical and mystical in some respects. And I don't exaggerate when I make that latter observation.

Certainly, one can practically imagine a cloaked-Michell striding purposefully across England's ancient greenery early on some summer's morning, before vanishing into an ethereal fog, as the old sun begins to rise, as a Crop Circle forms nearby, and as a ghostly black dog, with blazing eyes, manifests on some old well-trodden pathway.

And, one gets the distinct and uncanny impression from reading the book that Michell seemed practically near-destined to be born at a time that would ensure he met the right people, at the right locale, and under the most profitable of all circumstances, to ensure his considerable place in the Fortean arena, and his ability to spread the word on all-things mysterious and mystical.

Things, therefore, seemed to happen around John Michell, and to those that gravitated towards him - one of who was Paul himself, who first met Michell back in 1970.

One also comes to realize (well, I did anyway) that Michell's introduction to UFOs, to ley-lines, to the world of ancient Glastonbury, and to the culture of the 1960s (whether the growing and developing music scene, drugs and their ability to influence mindset from a positive perspective, and a more open-minded attitude towards sex) seemed to have been the work of some grand designer. If you haven't yet read the book, you may disagree with me. But, read it, and your views may soon change...

And that Michell went on to pen a number of highly influential and controversial titles (check out The Flying Saucer Vision and The View Over Atlantis, if you haven't already), also serves to demonstrate that his time spent exploring and negotiating such realms - and the positive aspects of those same realms, too - was not wasted at all, and also seems to have been provoked by some unfathomable, ethereal, string-puller.

As Paul Screeton demonstrates with insight, with affection, but always with a balanced and careful mind, John Michell was a man who carved a refreshing and illuminating swathe across the British landscape, who - without any apology, and rightfully so, too - provoked radical new thoughts and paradigms, who well and truly left his mark, and who will not be forgotten by those that knew him, or those who came to appreciate his life, theories, ideas and work - which is, perhaps, all that any of us can ever hope to achieve.

If you're in the UK, you can purchase John Michell: From Atlantis to Avalon right here. In the US, click here. And to contact the publisher, go to this link.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Fort The Lore

A couple of years ago, my good mate and self-elected Prime-Minister of the Center for Fortean Zoology, Jon Downes, was inspired by Patrick Huyghe's Swamp Gas Times book to publish a series of compilations of the writings of various players in the Fortean field.

The first (from Jon's CFZ Press) was Andy Roberts' Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal, which was published in 2010. And my very own Space Girl Dead On Spaghetti Junction followed earlier this year. And, now, we're up to No.3: Paul Screeton's wonderfully-titled I Fort The Lore (I have yet to ask Paul if the lore won...).

As anyone and everyone familiar with the writings of Paul (truly, a punning linguist) will know, his style is equal-parts witty, informative, intriguing, and entertaining. Which, when you're dealing with issues of a Fortean nature, is pretty much essential! After all, there's nothing worse than reading some deathly-dull waffle on how many bodies were found at Roswell, the square-mileage of Area 51, or the shagging habits of Nessie. And, thankfully, you get none of that with Paul.

What you do get with I Fort..., is an excellent collection of hard-to-find (in some cases, very hard-to-find) articles from Paul that date from the 1960s to pretty much the present day, and that cover a wide and varied range of what passes for "weird shit."

Whereas my Space Girl... chaotically and wildly jumped from articles on UFOs to Hollywood scandal, music to monsters, and Foot-and-Mouth Disease to the Cardiff Giant, Paul (obviously a far more organized person than me!) elected to split his title into specific, clearly-delineated sections. Ye Gads!

So, we are treated to a fine selection of Paul's writings on such issues as Cryptozoology, UFOs, rock music, urban myths and the media (if you're interested in this issue, you must read Paul's hilarious Mars Bar And Mushy Peas - reviewed here), British folklore (for which, it's abundantly clear, Paul has a deep passion and knowledge) and much more.

Certainly - for me, at least - one of the biggest treats was getting to read (for the first time since I was a teenager) Paul's article for the old British newsstand publication, The Unexplained, on the infamous werewolf-themed saga of the Hexham Heads. It has been years since I even opened my bound-volumes of the old mag, and so to see the article once again - and for a new audience, too - was very good news. For devotees of all-things of a full-moon and monstrous nature, this piece alone is arguably worth the price of the book.

Then, there's Paul's notable - and certain Fortean in the absolute extreme - account of his very own encounter of the "Black Panther" variety as published in The Shaman in 1997. If big-cats are your thing (so to speak) this article should not be ignored.

Want something on UFOs? Well, you have it! Ley-lines, the notorious Van Tassel, and rock'n'roll & aliens abound.

For me, however, the most entertaining parts of the book are those articles that deal with Paul's time spent in the mainstream media - albeit often with respect to matters profoundly mysterious. Paul writes with affection on the years he spent earning a crust in the exciting (well, sometimes exciting) realm of journalism, the tabloids, and the multifaceted band of curious characters that it attracts. Gyrating totty, ever-flowing beer, deep scandal, outrageous entertainment and high-jinks, in other words. And who can resist all that? Not me! And, hopefully, not you!

And where I Fort The Lore really scores is in its definitive "Englishness." Us Brits are a quirky, odd bunch (but in a good way!), and the British Isles are rum indeed. And Paul's book underscores this, as he gads around the nation writing articles on whatever, or whoever, crosses his path, such as Peter McMahon - whose poignant story of true English eccentricity mixed with a dose of deep tragedy and Forteana is a true highlight.

But, you most certainly don't have to be a Brit to appreciate IFTL. Nope! As long as you have a love of high-strangeness, can appreciate the absurdities of the subject-matter at hand and embrace them, and enjoy digging deep into the sometimes-scarce works of Fortean players such as Paul Screeton, then I Fort The Lore will keep you entertained for many an hour.

You know what that means: buy the bloody thing and read it!

If you're in Blighty, here's where I Fort The Lore can be found, and if like me you reside in Obama-Land, click right here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Para-News: Update & Interview

Back in May, I mentioned here that I had just written the Foreword for the first book from Richard Thomas, PARA-NEWS - UFOs, Conspiracy Theories, Cryptozoology and much much more.

You can find a new interview with Richard at Binnall of America, where Henry Baum is asking the questions.

In the interview, Richard makes a very good point that champions of the UFO Disclosure movement would be extremely wise to keep in mind:

"A lot of UFO researchers tend to romanticise what they call 'Disclosure', the day when the world is finally told the truth (whatever that is) about what the US government and others really know about UFOs. I'm more cautious. I think if Disclosure ever really does occur (and that's a big if) we have to be careful that the existence of extraterrestrials or whatever isn't used as a justification to turn the world into a giant police state. Rahm Emanuel said 'You never want a serious crisis to go to waste' and his words sum up the mentality of the globalists perfectly."

And here's the link to the complete Q&A.