Out of the Dark by Brad Steiger attempts to expose the mysterious entities that go bump in the night. The author brings a combination of a strong, dramatic writing style and a lifetime of personal experience to the book. Unfortunately, this journey into the unknown is hampered by a sometimes peculiar selection of material, a lack of good scientific method, and an occasional excess of literary color.
The book starts out with a chapter on the phenomena of ghosts, and at the outset things look quite promising. The author has clear literary flair, and has no problem creating imagery and drama when recounting historical events. Unlike the dry statistical prose so many a scientist has laid to paper, Steiger keeps the reader involved with a lively combination of storytelling and commentary. I can safely say that, despite occasional grievances with the content, the production values kept me reading on.
Sadly, after the first few chapters, the author’s tendency to take a fireside ghost-story approach to his presentation began to feel problematic. In other words, for a work that is intended to be a presentation of fact regarding our world, there was a distinct lack of scientific method or reporting in many cases. For one thing, the book contains a stark lack of works cited… I only recall a couple references to external sources in the whole text. In most cases, the origin of the information is just plain a mystery. In cases where it is either assumed or given that Steiger has investigated himself, there is generally just another colorful story in place of the hard facts you will often find in a serious report of the paranormal. The bottom line is that, although it remains entertaining, much of the book’s content loses its ties to reality when details and references are glossed over.
My other main point of discontent with Out of the Dark is the rather odd balance and selection of material found within. I approached this book having read several previous works that I would consider to be “tours of the paranormal,” and expected much of the same variety of content here. I was only half correct. There were, of course, the requisite chapters on sasquatches, lake monsters, and ghosts, and these were largely addressed very well. Other chapters were more unexpected and often less fulfilling. The chapter on vampires goes off several times on movie monsters and real life vampire cults, none of which are particularly mysterious or interesting in the realm of the paranormal, and yet the Chupacabra was only mentioned briefly. When discussing satanic possession, Steiger gets distracted with the topic of serial killers, many of which don’t even seem to have any claim to being possessed. In the chapter on UFOs, one of the broadest and most heavily reported of the world’s paranormal topics, there were very few actual cases cited. Instead, the author goes off on a tangent regarding his theories on aliens and UFOs.
Ultimately I find Out of the Dark to be a middle-of-the-road experience in paranormal literature. On one hand we have an author who relates personal experiences with above average literary skill. Unfortunately, the sometimes questionable selection of material, the tendency to lose focus, and the lack of a decent scientific method really hampers the finished product. I would not recommend this book to the introductory paranormal reader… I think you can find a more balanced tour of the paranormal elsewhere. I would also not recommend this book to anyone wanting a scientific and factual presentation of the subject matter; there is a bit too much drama here. For the rest of us, Out of the Dark is a decent way to explore some of the less conventional topics in the paranormal realm, and the author’s skill with presentation should keep you entertained.