23.11.11

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO: MAGONIA 24, NOVEMBER 1986

The appearance of Magonia 24 heralded a radical change in design and production of the magazine, being the first to be produced on a computer, the now legendary Amstrad PCW8512, with printout on a very noisy dot-matrix printer using a typewriter ribbon. It also marked our final A5 size issue, prior to the last of our numerous changes of format. It also heralded a period of experimentation with a variety of computer programs and production techniques, not all of which were, to say the least, entirely successful.

Most of the issue was devoted to the topic of BOLs , earthlights, fireballs or whatever, a subject which at one time dominated British ufology, but now seems to have faded into the background.

Mike Goss took us through a typically obscure aspect of folklore, with his investigation of the Japanese shito-dama, the ‘spirit fireball’. Like many such legendary manifestations of raw nature the shito-dama appeared to wreck vengeance on any individual or community that had offended it in someway, usually through some act of treachery or betrayal. Mike Goss then went on to demonstrate how similar phenomena have appeared in western folklore, manifesting themselves as ghostly ships or the corpse-candles which could be a warning of death or other calamity.

Spooklights and will-of-the-wisps (wills-of-the-wisp?) were the topic of David Clarke’s piece, which followed on. He noted the way that a quite genuine natural phenomenon became an object of mystery and fear, then generated its own legends, stories and reports, often bearing little resemblance to the original phenomenon. Much like UFOs then!

French researcher Claude Maugé took a long look at Michael Persinger’s ‘Tectonic Strain Theory’ which tried to show a a link between phenomena generated by geophysical activity in the Earth’s crust, and activity in the human brain which generated UFO related experiences. After looking at this in some depth, and with a degree of sympathy, Maugé concluded that “TST (Tectonic Strain Theory) seems to be unnecessary for the large majority of sightings”, but that if Persinger were able to develop his theory and clarift the processes involved, TST might still be able to earn the title of “the best scientific theory of UFOs.”

However, this never seems to have happened, and ufological interest in the subject veered off into fringe ‘electrical pollution’ theories.

Jenny Randles contributed some further information on the sequence of events surrounding Chris Allen and Steuart Campbell’s exposé in the previous Magonia of the man behind the Cedric Allingham hoax, popular British TV personality Patrick Moore. It was something of a (very small) tabloid sensation at the time, but I have no evidence that my phone was tapped as a result!

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