17 September 2020

PICTURING MONSTERS

Heather Frigiola. Monsters and Mythical Creatures from Around the World. Red Feather, 2019. 

This is not really a book for the serious cryptozoologist, but it would certainly make a fine present for someone with an interest in the strange fauna that inhabit the Fortean regions of human myth and imagination. It is clearly intended as a ‘gift book’, with its antiqued pages and bright illustrations, but none the worse for that. 

 It is divided into regional chapters, with a historical section for ancient Greece and Rome. Within each chapter the creatures are listed alphabetically, with usually about half a page of description and in many cases a very imaginative visual interpretation of the beast, by Sky Cybele, who has also published a Mythical Creatures Oracle card deck based on similar illustrations. 

The description given for each creature are concise but give a good idea of the legendary and mythological background to the stories around it. The book is particularly interesting in the descriptions of creatures from societies away from the Classical, European and North American traditions, with a comprehensive listing of creatures from the Oceanic world view as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. 

 Although mostly dealing with animals from mythology, some more classic ‘cryptids’ appear, such as the mkele-mbembe, the Amazonian water-tiger and of course the Loch Ness Monster. I rather like the notes about the Australian drop-bear and its aversion to Vegemite and although the griffin appears in the European chapter I am sorry that there is no mention of the creature’s most recent appearances in the ‘real world’.

I would have welcomed a little more information on sources – a brief bibliography is given, and some sources are mentioned in the individual descriptions – but to be fair this is really not that sort of book. It’s not a scholarly work, its intention is to interest and entertain, and it does that splendidly. Christmas is coming, someone will enjoy this book – John Rimmer

14 September 2020

SEEING SEA SERPENTS ON THE SEA SHORE

David Goudsward. Sun, Sand, and Sea Serpents. Anomalist Books, 2020.

I have to admit that cryptozoology is not my favourite aspect of Forteana. Too much of the published literature is either intrepid explorers hacking their way through jungles in search of some cryptid which they never seem to find, or just ‘interesting-if-true’ trawls through the journals of earlier travellers, or the seldom-explored reaches of newspaper files. But this book is quite different.
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10 September 2020

NOT COMING IN FROM THE COLD

Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt. Foreword  by Joseph G. Buckman. Roswell. The Ultimate Cold Case. New Page Books. 2020.

This is an attempt to finally get to the true nature of the Roswell case by putting forward eyewitness testimony and to reveal how the authorities used fair means and foul to keep it secret. They start with putting forward what they think really happened at Roswell during  that fateful Summer of 1947, when flying saucers were the latest craze to sweep the USA and beyond.
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5 September 2020

MAGICAL LIFE

Spenser Kansa. Wormwood Star, The Magical Life of Marjorie Cameron. Mandrake, 2020.

This is the first ever biography of Marjorie Cameron who as an artist, occasional actress and supposed witch circulated in the American Underground art world and film scene from the 1940s-60s. Whilst never being as narcissistic, as say anyone living in Andy Warhol's factory, her self-effacement and mysterious reticence didn't prevent her from being noticed. Cameron was a distinctly odd woman attracted to magic pursuits and all those round her instantly picked that up.
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28 August 2020

NAVIGATING NOWHERE

Emma Gee, Mapping the Afterlife: From Homer to Dante, Oxford University Press, 2020

This isn’t a book about the reality or otherwise of the afterlife, or beliefs about life after death in general. It’s a study of how the afterlife is presented in a selection of classical (and one medieval) works, chosen to ‘represent particular stations in the period from Homer to Dante’. Which is fine as far as it goes – but how far is that?
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23 August 2020

ROSICRUCIAN AMERICA

Steven Sora. Rosicrucian America - How a Secret Society Influenced the Destiny of a Nation. Destiny Books, 2019.

It is mid-August 2020 as I complete this review. I've been thinking a lot about America in these past few months. Here in the UK we get news from there every day, and it's usually not good. These are strange times, with pandemic lockdowns, rising unemployment, economic hardship, violent crime and social unrest in many places, but nowhere more so than the most prosperous nation on earth, the United States of America.
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15 August 2020

A MIRE OF MISERY

Jim Bouck and Robert Long. Foreword by Kathleen Marden. Alien Abduction: The Control Factor. Schiffer Publishing. 2020.

This attempts to be a guide to the abduction phenomena and how to stop the aliens from messing up your life. It opens with this catchy little slogan ‘Don’t be a victim or a pawn; learn the alien ropes and then resist.’ But what the hell are the alien ropes? They are nothing more than the frightening visions of Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs and the rest of the US abduction propaganda merchants.
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7 August 2020

THE RULES OF THE GAME

John Greenewald Jr. Secrets From The Black Vault. Rowman and Littlefield. 2020.

This is a sequel to last year's Inside the Black Vault book from the same author and it is in essence more of the same. So, if you liked that one then you will undoubtedly be happy with the second helping on a broader scope. As before it is a retelling of stories accumulated over several decades by the author of a popular US website 'The Black Vault'.
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3 August 2020

ELVISH LORE AND LIFE

The Lore of Old Elfland: Secrets from the Bronze Age to Middle Earth by [Linda Raedisch]Linda Raedisch. The Lore of Old Elfland: Secrets from the Bronze Age to Middle Earth. Llewellyn, 2019.

The elves have been among us throughout recorded history. Reports of these elusive beings predate Christianity and have been intertwined with Norse mythology, the magical powers and the capricious behaviour of the gods. As with other liminal beings, elves do not have a scientific, objective existence. They have been reported to live mainly within hills or, more precisely, mounds, but human society in general, at least in this day and age, does not recognise such places as the dwellings of humanoid creatures. 
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28 July 2020

ALL TIED UP

Adam Begley. Houdini, the Elusive American. Yale University Press, 2020.

From the beginning, Houdini’s life was surrounded by deception. In an account of his life he said he was born on April 6th, 1863 “in the small town of Appleton in the state of Wisconsin”. In fact he was born Ehrich Weiss on March 24th of that year in Budapest, not arriving in the USA until he was four years old.
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