This edition of Dark Lore continues the pattern of presenting articles on a wide range of subjects from different viewpoints. In his introduction editor Greg Taylor comments that some reviewers (not us, I hope) have been rather sniffy about the mix of academic and speculative approaches. He rightly dismisses this criticism and vows that Dark Lore will continue as before.
Amongst the more speculative articles here is a piece by David Luke, examining disembodied eyes, including Tibetan eyeball serpents encountered whilst smoking dimethyltryptamine, and various other over-eyeballed creatures associated with various drugs. This particular piece, I regret to say, went, in the memorable phrase, right over the point on the top of my head.
Three chapters relate specifically to UFOs, all from a Magonia viewpoint. Martin Shough examines the early reports of Kenneth Arnold's experiences and is able to demolish the claims that the 'flying saucer' meme was the result of a careless bit of sub-editing. Shough lays out clearly the sequence of events in the reporting of Arnold's original sighting, and tracks the changes in descriptions presented by Arnold over subsequent years. An meticulous piece of detective work from one of the most painstaking UFO researchers.
Two other UFO-related articles take a specifically Magonia-like approach. Nigel Watson reviews the legends of skyborne ships and arial lands in folklore, specifically addressing the nature of 'Magonia' itself; while Theo Paijmans looks at encounters with folkloric entities in more modern times. He quotes a number of 'leprechaun' type creatures which have appeared to groups of schoolchildren in Dubuque and Detroit, USA, but he appears unaware of the famous Liverpool Leprechauns in 1964. Most remarkably he has uncovered in newspapers of the 1900s, a selection of stories, penned by children, which combine the elements of fairy encounters and early airship reports.
Still in classic Magonia territory, Richard Andrews tries to decode the meaning behind crop circles, or more specifically the motivation behind those who hide codes in the circles they create. His essay demonstrates that just because the crop circles are of human construction, this does not mean they are without mystery and power.
Philip Coppens looks at the possibility of a hidden 'angelic society' influencing the work of artists from the Italian Renaissance onwards, and Eric Davis searches for an occult input to the fictional work of the arch-rationalist H. P. Lovecraft, which has resulted in chaos magicians using his literary devices as part of their occult workings.
Two cryptozoological pieces by Nick Redfern and Neil Arnold present reports, respectively, of mammoths surviving into historical times, and an ambiguous horror in a park in Columbus, Indiana. Elsewhere, Robert Schoch's speculation that the moai of Easter Island were moved by a lost technique of levitation fails to convince, nor does Blair MacKenzie Blake's revisiting the Dogon and the Sirius Mystery.
Dark Lore editor Greg Taylor presents a potentially important critique of Martin Gardner's demolition of the SPR's account of the Mrs Piper trance medium case of the late nineteenth century, involving such psychic luminaries as Frederic Myers and Sir Oliver Lodge. I'm not sufficiently familiar with either the original reports or Gardner's criticisms to be definitive about this, but Taylor's documentation does seem to be convincing.
Mike Jay's 'Man of the Year Million' looks at how H. G. Wells's vision of the future of man gradually changed from an optimistic idea of Darwinian progress to the despairing vision of the last pages of The Time Machine. He covers some of the ideas touched on in Magonia by Martin Kottmeyer with his authoritative Magonia series 'Varicose Brains'.
In all, a well-chosen and interesting collection, justifying Greg Taylor's intention to keep Dark Lore as an eclectic mix of contributions.
[Note: this book is available in paperback, and as a de-luxe hardback edition]