Monthly Archives: July 2006

Review: Strange Highways by Jerry D. Coleman

Overall, Strange Highways was a decent read; however I have some problems that bothered me throughout the book.

First of all, this book is deeply in need of a good editor…or at the very least, a decent spellchecker. The book is literally filled with obvious typos and grammatical errors. It really kills the flow of some stories when the eye is continually being distracted by these mistakes. Some sentences don’t even make sense when read, so it seems hard to believe anyone actually took the time to proof read the book. Even the table of contents randomly stops listing page numbers half way down the page!

Next, many of the paranormal stories in the book actually revolve around Mr. Coleman’s own purported experiences. At first glance, this isn’t a bad thing, as it would seem to provide some fresh material for the reader. As I progressed through the chapters however, I became more and more suspicious each time he revealed a first hand experience from some point in his life. I am a believer in at least the strong possibility of paranormal events, and am a regular reader of this type of material. Despite this, I can safely report that I have never actually had any type of paranormal experience, be it cryptozoological, extraterrestrial, ghostly, etc. (Nor have any of my friends, that I know of.) Yet it appears that Jerry Coleman has had these experiences regularly, throughout his life; as have many of his friends. Hardly a chapter in this diverse book seemed to pass without a first hand account! Now I can accept if someone is unusually receptive to ghosts, or believes they’ve been abducted by aliens, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could experience the diversity of paranormal phenomena Mr. Coleman claims to have experienced. It seems everywhere he went in life a random paranormal occurrence fell upon himself or a friend! I have no reason to call him a liar, but it certainly seemed suspicious after awhile.

My third criticism of the book is that it attempts to be very diverse, yet does not evenly address any of its topics. The entire text is less than 200 pages, despite the fact that many of the topics within have been the subject of thousands to millions of pages of research over the years. It would take a real effort to compress that kind of information into a useful summary of each topic, and unfortunately Strange Highways did not succeed. Topics are simply addressed very unevenly. For contrast, I will use a book I thought provided an excellent overview of various paranormal topics: John Keel’s “The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings.” In Keel’s work one gets a very broad and thorough (although superficial) treatment of all the topics. By contrast, Strange Highways is completely hit or miss. Coleman chooses to skip discussion of the phenomena themselves, and plunge right into his random collection of stories.

Finally, there is a distinct lack of structure or scientific method in the information presented. There is very little done in the way of references for material, or documentary quotes or photographs. When you read some works on the paranormal, they’re well documented, as you would expect a scientific report to be. Strange Highways reads more like campfire tales…they may be true, but there’s little in the way of proof short of the words themselves.

I will give one upside to this writing: some of the material does seem fresh to me. Since it’s based primarily on some of Coleman’s own experiences and/or interviews, it makes sense some of these stories are not to be read elsewhere. You don’t have to worry about being hit with the same old rehashed tales for the umpteenth time here.

So in summation, there are certainly better books available. If you already have experience with a given topic you’ll be better served choosing a book focusing on that topic. If you’re new to the paranormal you won’t learn much here, as there is much more storytelling than discussion of the actual phenomena. I recommend this book only to pad the collections of avid readers of the paranormal who may be looking for a couple fresh tales.

Rating: 2/5