Philip J. Imbrogno. Files from the Edge: A Paranormal Investigator's Explorations into High Strangeness. Llewellyn, 2010.

High Strangeness is certainly not an understatement, as much of the material in this book consists of the sort of stories you used to hear on the fringes of UFO group meetings, and which most people walk away from, having shut their ears several minutes earlier. Imbrogno is either open-minded enough or credulous enough (you pays your money and takes your choice) to document some of these stories.

These range from all sorts of night-boggarts hanging around deserted farms, turn of the 20th century Satanists in haunted mines, a guy who claims to be a 'walk-in' Tibetan Master (a story fairly obviously poached from the notorious Cecil Hoskins aka Lopsang Rampa), all the way to the chap who claims to be travelling back and forth in time, and how he is going to be sent back in time to defuse a nuclear bomb set by a terrorist named Carlos in 2012 (of course). The story comes from 1982 when Carlos the Jackal (remember him) rather than bin Laden was the terrorist bogey of the time.

It is difficult to assess any of these stories, some of those involved may have a variety of not always well understood sleep disorders, others may have serious psychiatric problems and others simply over-active imaginations. Definitely one for those who find the writings of John Keel too tame by half!

Michael A. G. Michaud. Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears About Encountering Extraterrestrials. Copernicus Books, 2007

Those who want a more considered view of controversial phenomena might prefer this title.

A detailed summary of the many views and beliefs about contact with extraterrestrial civilizations, pointing out the many hidden assumptions held by all sides in this debate and covering all aspects from the chances of extraterrestrial intelligence actually occurring to how we should respond if we do have a contact. What emerges from the overview is just how naive many of the people in this field were and are.

Some clearly believe that ETs will be basically Californians only nicer, and it will be just so easy for us to decode their signals and gain the secrets of the stars. Other commentators, especially those from a biological rather than an astronomical background are much less sanguine. As much as anything this survey provides an insight into our own hopes and fears, and changing responses to technology. Recommended to anyone interested in this topic. -- Peter Rogerson.

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