Tag Archives: Reviews

Review: When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, & Stanley Schachter

When Prophecy Fails is “a social and psychological study of a modern group that predicted the destruction of the world.” The authors, three professors with the University of Minnesota, are working around the hypothesis that following the unequivocal disconfirmation of a firmly held belief, the group having held said belief will react in a predictable fashion, assuming certain conditions have been met. Specifically, rather than divesting of their errant beliefs, core members of the group may counter-intuitively begin to pursue their agenda even more aggressively and publicly than ever.

This is an interesting theory, and the book opens by providing a series of brief historical examples of cults and religious movements which appear to have followed just such a trend. But as the authors quickly point out, the data available from the historical record lacks the necessary depth to allow for any rigorous scientific conclusions to be drawn. And with that, we move on to the bulk of the text: a direct study of a small group of individuals, at one time convinced that the world was imminently doomed… except for those who would be saved by spacemen riding flying saucers.

The authors initially discovered the group in question through a newspaper article. After some quick research determined that the believers met the necessary criteria to test the authors’ behavioral hypothesis, they commenced direct and organized observation of the group’s activities. And thus, the majority of the 250 pages of the text is dedicated to recounting their entire experience following this little doomsday cult for a period of about two months.

The book does eventually make a decent case in support of the original theory, however I found getting there a bit of a chore. The cult, if you can even call them that, might be of the most pathetic little groups of people with silly beliefs ever recorded. They don’t amount to much more than a small handful of individuals, one or two of whom are delusional enough to think they can actually communicate with spacemen, and a (very) few others who are misguided enough to follow them. The company are often so completely lacking in direction for their cause that the leaders even begin taking blatantly obvious prank phone calls as communications from outer space. We aren’t exactly talking Heaven’s Gate here.

The group was so small that the authors and their hired observers seem to have made up a sizable fraction of the entire body of participants. This raises a number of problems, including the very real and direct involvement of these observers in the events that unfolded. The authors, to their credit, admit in the final chapter on methodology that they were unable to remain impartial in such a small group, and note the areas where they feel they wound up having the most direct influence. (I actually found the methodology chapter to be one of the most interesting in the whole book.) Still one almost wonders if, had the authors and their team not shown up to participate, the movement doesn’t just fizzle out entirely.

Conclusions and validity aside, my biggest complaint may just come down to how dull the majority of the proceedings were. The characters were more delusional than interesting, they were a complete failure as a movement, and the bulk of their story just came across as sad and rather tedious. I understand why the authors jumped at the opportunity to observe a group that met their criteria, but the one they were given just doesn’t make for very fascinating reading. The historical entries in the opening chapter, and the discussion of methodology at the very end, outperformed the entire central story for my money. And while I understand that thorough documentation was at the heart of their methodology for this case study, the entire affair feels, based on substance alone, over-documented.

In conclusion, I’ll give credit for the hypothesis itself being interesting, and for being something of a unique and hard-won study. I’ll also allow room for acceptance that the authors could scarcely conduct such a difficult sociological experiment with perfect scientific rigor. And it’s not really their fault the movement was such a dud. But unless this type of material falls within the realm of your personal scholarly interests, the protracted central story may fail to appeal to the more casual reader.

Rating: 4/5

Review: The Hoopa Project by David Paulides

The Hoopa Project by author and investigator David Paulides offers bigfoot research on a level scarcely found in cryptozoological publications. Paulides dedicated years to interviewing witnesses and visiting locations within the small communities of the Hoopa Valley in California. Hoopa was chosen as a high quality location based on several criteria (explained in the text), and it appears to have payed off.

What really stood out about The Hoopa Project wasn’t necessarily the writing style or presentation. Nor were the individual sighting entries (interviews) particularly sensational in and of themselves. On the contrary, most of the sightings amount to the fairly mundane glimpses or brief run-ins with the mystery creature. What really hits home is how the sum of all the individual puzzle pieces come together to be something altogether more impressive.

Whereas other bigfoot authors generally pull material from anywhere they can find it, The Hoopa Project was intentionally focused on a small geographical area. Stories gathered from people with no connection to one another are often easy to put aside. “If these things were real, people would see them all the time.” Or even, “every town has it’s crazies.” Therein lies the real impact of The Hoopa Project: it’s not a scattering of distant parties; it’s about a large number of people in a relatively small physical space and time. And because the entire study focused on one area, it comes off as a natural environment that a real wild animal (or animals) could continuously inhabit. Bigfoot is not a thing that was seen once in this town and never again. On the contrary, it was spotted repeatedly by people who are essentially neighbors, as any real creature would: coming and going at random. The author turns the whole “no frequent sightings” complaint on its head simply by picking a promising area and sticking with it long enough to produce results.

There is another major element of The Hoopa Project which involved an endeavor to employ a trained sketch artist to draw the bigfoot creature as remembered by several of the best witnesses. This produced some interesting material, also included in the book, with a number of drawings having some fairly intriguing similarities. In the end I came away feeling somewhat critical of the sketch concept. That is not to say I think they were a bad idea, or that I don’t feel the artist chosen did a first rate job, but I did find several areas of concern. The author does not explain in much detail how the sketching sessions actually work (neither traditional criminal nor bigfoot), so perhaps a better awareness of the process may have helped lend credibility to the end results.

Many of the sightings are years old by the time they are finally drawn. It’s a known fact that witness memory is easily prone to corruption from external sources. The mind may alter memories over time without the person ever realizing it, even with something as familiar as other human faces. With huge, intimidating, mystery creatures that aren’t even supposed to exist, it has to be almost impossible to maintain a totally unspoiled recollection of creature characteristics several years beyond an incident. This is assuming that the witness even saw what they think they saw in the first place, considering how stressful and brief and unexpected these events must be.

There is one particular sketch which came out noticeably different from most of the others, despite being from a source trusted greatly by the author. He wonders openly in the text about this disparity, but I think it simply makes my point. It requires no intentional deception for testimony to be faulty, and given the author’s own background in law enforcement, I’m surprised this doesn’t seem more obvious to him. It’s likely as simple as an honest mistake of either the witness’s senses (vision), or memory, or both. And while one sketch makes this possibly more apparent than the others, the reality is it could manifest to some degree in any or all of them.

Further, it’s unclear how qualified a sketch artist with a career of drawing human criminal suspects can be when it comes to accurately depicting wild creatures (humanoid or otherwise). I have no concerns regarding the credentials or integrity of the artist himself, I have no doubt he did the job to the best of his ability, and I have no reason to think anyone else would have done differently or better. But that is not to say I’m convinced that the endeavor is scientifically valid. Was the human element that was so prominent in the drawings in any way influenced, even subconsciously, by the fact that they were drawn by someone with a lifetime of experience sketching humans? Further, is it possible that the artist’s own preconceived notions about bigfoot’s appearance could have subconsciously influenced the end product? Given that the artist interviewed several witnesses a day, and all the witnesses in a short time period, is it possible that later drawings were in any way influenced by the earlier drawings?

As I said earlier, a better understanding of the interview procedure may have helped with mitigating some of these concerns. But ultimately, regardless of both the quality of the artist and the integrity of the interviewees, I’m hard to be sold on the true value of the sketches. There are just too many variables, and of course there’s no way to validate any of the results. A photograph or video may be blurry, but what’s visible is essentially accurate and true, even decades after it was taken. It’s just hard to expect the same of artist interpretations of the aging memories of witnesses, even in the best of cases.

With all that said, I don’t want the issues around the sketches to weigh heavily on the final review. The drawings were interesting, but they are only part of the presentation, and the remaining research methodology really goes above and beyond, and is what makes the book worth reading. You simply can’t find this level of commitment in most other works in the cryptozoology field, and the result is impactful. I’m not sure I can recall any other single work that I’ve read to date which does a better overall job of making the case for bigfoot as a real creature. I’m looking forward to reading the follow up.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Who Killed Hammarskjöld? by Susan Williams

Dag Hammarskjöld was the second Secretary General for the United Nations. A well known political figure in his day, Hammarskjöld was embroiled in a U.N. campaign involving extreme turmoil in Africa when he was suddenly killed in a plane crash. Was it simple pilot error, or a much more nefarious act of international sabotage?

This story, while tragic, does make for fantastic reading as a great mystery of modern history. All the elements for a box office thriller are here: countries in revolution, international spy rings, powerful mega-corporations, mercenaries, and more politicians of dubious moral fiber than you can shake a stick at. And so, down the rabbit hole we go, trying to figure out what, or who, killed Hammarskjöld.

The research presented here is top notch. The author has certainly put in the leg work on interviewing as many of the remaining parties as possible, and has seemingly considered all available evidence and documentation. The resulting story and the surrounding environment are painted in a sufficiently lush detail. Despite minimal prior awareness regarding the relevant times and places, I had little trouble following along for most of it. And it can be a wild ride. Just when you think you have a bead on what “really” happened, the next chapter introduces a new angle and throws you for another loop. There were a few occasions where the huge cast of characters did become a bit overwhelming, but with such a large scale event involving so many players, I’m not sure how much more could have been done to ease the burden for the uninitiated. My hardcover copy also included some nice black and white photo inserts which were a welcome way of giving faces to some of the important names involved. The notes, bibliography, and index are all extensive.

The text reads like a first rate mystery novel, twisting and turning through different people’s perspectives. There are wide ranging claims from various parties that are at times hopelessly in opposition with another. The problem is, all the intrigue is ultimately building toward a climax that never reaches denouement. You forge on, one strand of the story after another, and then suddenly it’s all just over. The book ends abruptly with nary a conclusion drawn.

It would be unfair to penalize the author for failure to solve a case which has befuddled investigators at all levels of government for decades. Some mysteries are just unsolved, and that’s the way it is in the real world. Nevertheless, I’m left feeling that somewhere the book has come up short. Maybe it’s the title, taunting the reader with that impossible question? Or perhaps it’s a matter of structure? I would have welcomed some concluding speculation or analysis. Some attempt to draw all the various facts and theories together into a cohesive picture of which bits are most plausible and which are more likely to be ruled out. Just something, anything, other than immediately walking away from the problem upon completion of the research. A way to feel like all this investigation has at least lead us somewhere beyond the point where we started.

Who Killed Hammarskjöld? should be required reading for any fan of historical mysteries or political intrigue. The author has done a commendable job in thoroughly researching the topic, and in trying to pave the way for a bit of justice for Dag. I just wish, one way or another, there was a more satisfying ending.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Man-Monkey by Nick Redfern

Certain parts of the world are famous for their large hairy hominids: there’s North America, of course, and the Himalayas for the Yeti. Even the isolated Australian continent has its own version of Bigfoot, the Yowie. And while Great Britain may not spring to mind as one of the more well known mystery ape haunts, author Nick Redfern suggests that we should not be so quick to dismiss the British Isles. In “Man-Monkey”, the author takes us on a trip to the European continent, as the tagline reads, “In Search of the British Bigfoot.”

On the positive side, much of the material in “Man-Monkey” is sourced from first hand interviews conducted by the author. The research was a side project of his spanning several years, and he was clearly motivated by a deep personal interest. He was able to visit many of the sighting locations in person, and the paperback text includes an insert of some black and white photographs to illustrate various people and places from the stories.

Unfortunately, for me, “Man-Monkey” never really managed to achieve critical mass. Unlike Bigfoot phenomena from other parts of the world, Redfern’s monsters always seem to avoid leaving behind any convincing physical traces. What we’re left with is a handful of the “momentary sighting of something” types of encounters that, while interesting, don’t really go the full mile in terms of overwhelming evidence. Moreover, the author plays it pretty loose with the variety of strange events to be considered, also bringing topics such as black dogs, ghosts, and shape shifters into the fray. Many of the incidents documented here lack an apparent consistency. The failure to maintain focus further dilutes what is already arguably somewhat sparse source material, and the end result is less of a “there’s a hairy humanoid running around in Britain” type of conclusion, and more of a “people in the British Isles sometimes see odd things.” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it’s all a bit more supernatural and haphazard than you might find in some other literature of the Sasquatch variety. There’s also an ever-present autobiographical element which only really serves to pad out the length, and adds little practical value.

My other gripe is a somewhat questionable editing of the final product. Every paragraph was doubly spaced for no apparent reason. Worse, the author seems to have lost control over his adverbs. This particular foible really became increasingly grating the longer I read. I have never seen the word “duly” inserted so often into a single text. (Though there were others overused as well – that one stuck with me.) I’m sure some readers would probably entirely ignore this, but for me, it detracted from the overall enjoyability.

Technical issues aside, at the end of it, “Man-Monkey” left me feeling fairly unconvinced. It wasn’t a terrible read by any means, but it played more like folklore than rigorous cryptozoology. This might be more of a winner for “locals” (or at least “regionals”) with a personal interest in the places involved.

* For other “regional” treatments of Bigfoot phenomena which I find compare more favorably, I recommend “The Yowie: In Search of Australia’s Bigfoot” by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper and “The Beast of Boggy Creek” by Lyle Blackburn.

Rating: 3/5

Review: The Beast of Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn

The Beast of Boggy Creek by Lyle Blackburn documents the history of a Sasquatch-like creature that has been making appearances in the vicinity of Fouke, Arkansas for decades. Also known as the Fouke Monster, it originally catapulted to fame when it became the subject of the 70s film The Legend of Boggy Creek. Blackburn recognizes the movie, which he first saw as a youngster, as being a significant contributor to his eventual adult interest in cryptozoology. Finding a dearth of solid documentation regarding the monster, the author took it upon himself to pursue the topic and become the beast’s “biographer.”

A biography almost seems to be an appropriate summary for the book, too. The author does not invest heavily into trying to prove nor disprove the reality of the creature. He does include a summary of some common theories in one of the later chapters, and although it’s made fairly clear that none of the suggested debunkings seem to hold much water, the work ultimately shies away from forcing an explanation. The focus is clearly on recording the story for what it is; who saw what, where, and when. Colorful stories abound, and it’s clear that Blackburn has put a lot of effort into getting around and unearthing every scrap of information he could. Remote sites were visited, living witnesses were interviewed, and news reports were meticulously scavenged for details on the creature. He even manages to tie nearly every scene from the Boggy Creek film to the real life event that inspired it. And the end result is impressive to say the least. Every mystery beast should be so lucky to have such a dedicated biographer.

I really loved this book. It reminded me of all the things I enjoy in a good old fortean mystery. There are colorful characters aplenty, and a constant stream of the odd and intriguing incidents that you just can’t help but want to believe. The author manages to hit pretty much every aspect of the story, too. From the history of the location and early sightings, to the infamous film and the resulting monster craze, and many of the locals who wound up at the core of the situation (right up to present day), there’s rarely a dull moment. The writing is clear and accessible and the pace keeps you turning the pages. Blackburn really manages to express his own love of the mystery and the atmosphere surrounding it to the reader, and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Highly recommended. Existing knowledge of the Boggy Creek film is also by no means a requirement. While I’m sure it adds some extra depth for those who have seen it, The Beast of Boggy Creek easily stands on its own merits.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Tracking the Chupacabra by Benjamin Radford

Tracking the Chupacabra is an investigation into the Chupacabra mystery by skeptical author Benjamin Radford. The book takes us through a brief history and exploration of the infamous “goat sucker,” followed by a thorough examination of the core cases that helped entrench it in modern mythology. The author interviews witnesses, revisits old documentation, speaks to various experts, examines the relevant local cultures, and even conducts his own brief trip into the jungle. By the conclusion, Radford finds the evidence for the existence of a Chupacabra to be sorely lacking.

Fans of forteana should not be turned away by the negative outcome. Some skeptical works come off as abrasive, particularly in fringe subjects where “believers” are prone to be ridiculed for their claims. Correctness aside, I find that such an approach detracts from the readability of what may otherwise be a credible argument. Thankfully, Radford avoids appearing unfairly biased in his writing. He makes his case based on first hand investigation, including direct interviews with supposed witnesses and experts in relevant fields such as wild game and veterinary medicine. He even treks deep into a Nicaraguan jungle in search of the creature, which serves to further distance his efforts from those any “armchair skeptics.” My impression after reading was that this work was balanced and open minded, regardless of outcome. Rather than simply rejecting witness claims out of hand as implausible, each case is explored and only invalidated once it can be conclusively shown to be based on false assumptions, incorrect data, or inaccurate reporting. Some of the cultural connections he makes to the earliest sightings are particularly inspired, and are definitely are worth a look.

I don’t believe that I’ve ever so thoroughly enjoyed a debunking as I did reading Tracking the Chupacabra. It’s always a bit sad to see a popular cryptid being taken down a few pegs (the mystery tends to be at the core of the enjoyment), but it’s only fair to give credit where credit is due. The research and presentation here were so complete and seemingly conclusive, that it really is hard to find fault with this book. Radford addresses everything from the local culture that helps birth and promulgate tales of monsters, to regional vampire lore, to the relevant biology and zoology, as well as the role of the witnesses and media. In some form or another, all facets of the mystery seem to be covered.

All in all, possibly the most definitive work on the Chupacabra available, and well worth a read for anyone with interest in the topic.

Rating: 5/5

Review: The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived by Clive Finlayson

The Humans Who Went Extinct takes us on an evolutionary journey through the history and development of modern day humans. Starting from the world of early primates, we go forward to the more recent neanderthals and “ancestors,” and finally onward to the last ice ages and global human expansion.

The book really doesn’t stop to focus on any one chronological period for very long (although if you consider the lengths of time involved, this may not be so surprising). I would describe the basic progression of the chapters as a series of snapshots of evolutionary time. In each segment we hear details on relevant changes in the natural environment, and how this likely influenced species either to thrive and adapt or to die off into extinction. The ancestors and neanderthals each receive their billing along the way, but as is the case with evolution, few tend to persist for all that long. There was not as much attention to the neanderthals, in particular, as I had initially expected based on the title.

I admit there was more than one point in the text where I found myself wanting more. We get tantalizing glimpses into earlier branches of our development, but we’re often left with little detail on the true nature of our progenitors. It’s only with some reflection that one realizes the probable source of the brevity: we as modern humans may simply not know more. After all, as the author points out, our entirety of knowledge regarding vast swaths of history is often based on little more than a few fossilized bones or tools found scattered about the planet. Even our greatest scientists can only learn so much with certainty from so little data.

Also on the topic of what we know versus what we don’t, the author spends a fair bit of energy arguing against some alternative scientific paradigms on human evolution. These other popular theories may be based more on assumptions than proven facts, we’re told. As someone with little background in the material, I often found these paragraphs unnecessary; I had harbored few preconceived notions about our origins. Finlayson’s verbal illustrations of changing climates and the varied adaptation of natural populations all seemed eminently reasonable, so I would have been just as satisfied with a bit less effort at convincing.

Again speaking as someone without a relevant academic background, I can’t help but feel that the text would have benefited from a bit more complementary illustration. The author is quite verbally descriptive of flora and fauna, but with so many scenarios revolving around environmental boundaries, expansion and contraction of habitable lands, and dispersal of species, additional maps and charts might have gone a long ways to making the material more accessible. Some “artists renderings” of the different developmental stages probably wouldn’t have hurt either.

Ultimately, The Humans Who Went Extinct may not be the most riveting text, but it certainly puts the modern human lifestyle into perspective. It’s nothing short of miraculous where we came from; a creature unlike any other the earth has previously seen. It took a lot of time, a lot of luck, and a whole lot of failed experiments to get here. On those grounds alone, this book is worth a read, and probably some follow up contemplation.

Rating: 4/5

Review: The Tunguska Mystery by Vladimir Rubtsov

I had heard of the “Tunguska Meteorite” numerous times via magazines, books, and TV documentaries. It turns out much of that information lies somewhere between unintentionally misleading and flat out wrong. In reality the Tunguska event, which has been researched by top Russian scientists for decades, is still unexplained. Much of this research has been presented in scientific journals, and largely in Russian, leaving many of us in the English speaking west to what we are told by occasional media headlines and poorly researched documentaries. The truth is in fact much stranger and more difficult to resolve than a simple meteorite landing.

The author does a fantastic job of walking us through decades of discovery and research. It’s fascinating to watch, almost independently of Tunguska itself, how the scientific world changed around the unyielding enigma of the incident. From the early days of horseback travel and world wars, right up to the present day of computer technology and theoretical physics, researchers have been studying the Taiga looking for answers. It went from the personal quest of one or two scientists to a major multidisciplinary effort of volunteer specialists.

The author does not force any one “correct” solution or approach to the problem so much as he documents the approaches and attitudes of others, along with their results. He clearly has a higher understanding of much of the science involved (he has worked on the problem himself), but at no point does he lose the layman reader in complexities. He is a champion of good, honest, procedural science throughout. It’s almost maddening how inconclusive the data turns out to be, but in truth, there is no other way to present it. I fully understand how so many great minds can become obsessed with finding the solution.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone of scientific curiosity. It’s an absolutely fascinating natural mystery in and of itself, which may just leave you wanting to book a flight to Siberia to continue the investigation. Beyond that, it’s a wonderful study of a major scientific community evolving and working together (and occasionally, in opposition).

Thank you to the author for opening up and documenting this great mystery for major new populations of the world.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken

Chariots of the Gods is a book needing little introduction. The ideas introduced here launched author von Däniken to a certain degree of fame (and infamy) around the world. The concept of alien gods intervening in the early development of man would live on for decades in the numerous books, films, and documentaries that would follow.

Having been first published over four decades ago, there are parts of Chariots which have not aged well. Some bits are downright depressing: It turns out that not only did we fail to land on Mars by 1986, as was once a “certainty,” but we’ve seemingly given up the quest entirely. The writer’s optimism toward man’s progress, anchored in the early achievements of the space age, simply did not align with a future written by politicians and tax payers. That said, despite becoming dated, a discussion of technology was essentially unavoidable given the nature of the material.

If I have one fault to find with the writing, it would be that the author tends to dwell on the refusal of the scientific community to consider his proposals. He tells us, continuously, how historical dogma is accepted without questioning, and how we must not be closed minded to alternatives. It’s hard to fault the man, as he was essentially predicting (rather accurately) the shunning and dismissal his writing would receive in scientific circles. Still, as the reader, I’m already effectively committed as his audience, and I don’t find it entirely necessary to beat the poor horse quite so badly.

Ultimately I highly recommend this book. The key, I think, is to focus on the questions posed in the content, rather than the conclusions. It’s the questions which are fascinating, and it’s the questions which, more often than not, continue to stand the test of time. How did ancient civilizations query and transport boulders so massive they would challenge even modern machinery? For what purpose were giant structures and drawings that could only be viewed from space? Why did religions spanning the physical earth, and without regular contact with one another, share such similar stories of origin? How did ancient cartographers gain knowledge of seemingly “undiscovered” lands, and ancient astronomers of planets and galaxies only recently observed with modern optics?

It’s amazing how little we know about our own past. Whether or not one is able to buy in to the proposal of visitation by extraterrestrial intelligences being a plausible conclusion, any sufficiently curious person should be taken in by the mysteries which modern doctrine tends to gloss over.

Rating: 5/5

Review: In Alient Heat (The Warminster Mystery Revisited) by John Ries and Steve Dewey

I’ve always felt that occurrences of the paranormal necessarily present us with a cause for study. It’s not that I believe claims of extraterrestrials, for example, are likely to be accurate. Yet many people have had strange experiences in which they firmly and honestly believe, yet which cannot necessarily be explained. This leaves us with the question of how such events -real or imagined- manifest. The truth in any given case may turn out to be physical, psychological, or sociological. Here we have a book which does justice to this line of thinking in the form of an in-depth analysis of a UFO flap over Warminster, England in the 1960s.

In Alient Heat is a rather unique and special offering in the field of ufology. Rather than addressing extraterrestrial claims, or analyzing a list of specific cases in detail, the authors take a primarily social approach. How did the Warminster flap start? Who spread the word? How did the extraterrestrial connection occur? How did the phenomenon evolve over time? What leads some people to see UFOs when other people observe street lamps or airplanes? What role did the media play? We read along as the “Thing” of Warminster morphs from unidentified noise into full blown alien invasion.

The majority of the story comes to revolve around one man, Arthur Shuttlewood. A local news reporter with connections, he becomes increasingly involved in the ufological goings-on as time progresses. After becoming a “believer” in the phenomenon, he winds up promoting and hosting local sky watches, making “contact” with aliens, and eventually authoring several books on the topic from his own perspective. Many chapters are devoted to analyzing the life and times of this man: his experiences, his activities, his personality and character, and so on. The authors go a long way to demonstrate that most of what became known as the flap at Warminster were to be shaped one way or another by Shuttlewood.

The authors sew everything up quite nicely in making the argument that it was the people involved, rather than any physical events, that made the Warminster case what it was. The whole affair gives the reader quite the impression that a similar series of occurrences could explain any number of other paranormal outbreaks around the world.

If I have one complaint about the book, it’s that it honestly just felt longer than necessary. There are only a handful of actual “cases” which are quickly out of the way, and the relatively small cast of characters is easily managed as well. The remainder of the proceedings keep coming back to center on Shuttlewood time and again, often repeating the same assertions previously made (he wrote colorfully if not always accurately; he prided himself on integrity; he was honest and firmly held his beliefs; he was not a hoaxer). I realize that the authors went above and beyond to make a thorough presentation, and they certainly succeeded in this way; I was just left feeling that they probably could have sold me on their thesis in 100 or so less pages than was ultimately used. That said, if you do finish the main body of the text, read the Appendices as well. I found them at least as engaging as some of the later chapters, if not more so.

Length aside, I do recommend this book as a first rate case study of the sociology behind a widespread UFO flap. Dewey and Ries have clearly done their homework, and the entire text is thoroughly referenced. The effort and objectivity apparent in this work is sorely needed in all aspects of paranormal research.

Rating: 4/5