Ivan Sanderson is something of a household name in the realm of paranormal research and publishing. Invisible Residents was my first foray into his writing, and my expectations were fairly high. The topic of Underwater Submersible Objects certainly struck me as intriguing. It’s not something covered as frequently as the more familiar aerial UFO, and with so much of the planet’s surface being covered in water, the possibilities for interesting investigations seemed great. Regrettably, I have to report that this read did not fully live up to my expectations.
First off, the author’s writing style was probably the root of much of my overall dissatisfaction. Sanderson’s prose comes off as particularly long-winded, belaboring even the more interesting of chapters. Not only does he verbally embellish, but he often wanders far into tangents, leaving the reader wondering just where we are, where we could possibly going, and how the current direction is relevant to the overall theme.
Early on Sanderson claims to be of purely scientific mind, giving no quarter the likes of UFO nuts, yet I was not entirely convinced of his rigor. An entire chapter (“A Sixth Mystery”) is devoted a single Colombian artifact which the author states looks like an airplane, thus supposedly proving that the ancients were familiar with modern aircraft. He goes on to present the artifact to several aircraft engineers who confirm that the object does look sort of like an airplane (but also sort of not). At no point does he apparently think to approach anyone in the field of Colombian history or anthropology to discuss more prosaic interpretations of the little sculpture in the context of the people and the culture that created it (or if he did, it didn’t make the book). The chapter reads as if the author had immediately assumed it to represent an airplane and simply sought out corroborating testimony to confirm it. The Egyptians drew plenty of people with animal heads in their day, but it still makes more sense to discuss their culture and artifacts with an Egyptologist; not your local zoo keeper.
Although I chose to single out the above chapter, it really highlights what I felt was an ongoing theme, particularly in the later sections. The author is too quick to make a leap of faith, and treat conjecture as reality. In some points, he appears to string several such leaps in succession, becoming downright hard to follow. Reporting incidences of the paranormal is all well and good, but entering the arena of explanation is always dangerous. I found the final section (Part III) to be the least readable as a whole. Sanderson jumps around from wild guess, to crazy hunch, to bizarre supposition. It’s hard to tell what he’s offering up as fact, what he really believes, and what is just random tangential speculation. Combined with the general wordiness of the entire book, it became a chore to get through the final wrap up, and in my opinion, it greatly detracted from the whole experience. I would have preferred the author stick to reporting events as they happened, and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.
Having said all that, it’s not all a bad read. Certain chapters, mostly early on, focus on unidentified object sightings, ghost ships, phantom subs, and mysterious lights. These are the heart of the subject matter, and what I imagine one would expect from a book on USO phenomena. Aside from the aforementioned verboseness and occasional directional tangent from the author, these parts read well enough.
The book cover of Invisible Residents is boldly subtitled “The Reality of Underwater UFOs.” While I don’t honestly expect anyone can provide the full reality of such a complex subject, I do think it would have benefited greatly from a bit more reality, and a bit less of everything else. What could have been a fascinating look into a rather obscure side of the paranormal was ultimately bogged down by a difficult writing style, a lack of focus on the data, and too much random speculation.