Lorn Macintyre. Pitmilly House ‘Poltergeist Manor’: Terrifying Paranormal Events in a Fife Mansion House. Priormuir Press, 2011

This little pamphlet is an example of how a ghost story can be used as the kernel around which a local history can be constructed. In it Lorn Macintyre briefly tells the story of this now demolished house and the families that lived in it. It is illustrated with period illustrations.

Those looking for the sensational ghost story or stories suggested by the title might rather disappointed though, for the ghost story as such takes up only a scattered seven out of the 25 pages of text. It seems in some ways to be a classic poltergeist story involving breaking and moving ornaments, things disappearing and reappearing, along with the more alarming experience of hot coals ‘appearing’ and setting fire to curtains, this latter apparently being blamed for a fire in March 1940, which led to a £400 insurance claim (a huge sum of money at the time).

It is difficult to know what to make of this as there are no detailed contemporaneous sources, such as letters or diaries written at the time, and there is no full listing of the house’s occupants, plans, information as to how accessible it was to outsiders and other such information that is needed to make a reasoned assessment. It certainly seems as though the previous owners who had either lived in or rented out the house for a good many years, did not have any such experiences.

In some ways it is untypical of poltergeist cases, as many of these tend to be centred around what could be characterised as “problem” or “dysfunctional “ families, while in this case they would appear to be the epitome of middle class respectability. Of course, as the case of Marianne Foyster of Borley shows, appearances can be deceptive! -- Peter Rogerson

Bernardo Kastrup. Dreamed Up Reality: Diving Into Mind to Uncover the Astonishing Hidden Tale of Nature. O Books, 2011.

As a result of his experiences in meditative states, Kastrup concludes that mind is the ultimate bedrock of reality, that there is a reservoir in which the experiences of everyone are encoded, that this is somehow connected to ‘The Source’ (?aka God), and that reality is somehow created by the collective action of everyone's imagination. Like many such works, it is not clear whether Kastrup accepts that a universe existed before humans or other conscious creatures evolved, and neither is it clear where non-human animals fit into his schema. It should be noted that from time to time he does treat aspects of the external world, such as human brains and computers as though they are really existing entities. Ultimately unconvincing. -- PR

Brian Haughton. The Encyclopedia of Paranormal Powers: Discover the Secrets of Mind Reading, Mediums and More. David and Charles, 2010.

Despite the rather garish presentation and a series of simplistic exercises written by another hand (presumably Carly Beckerman who is listed as responsible for “additional text”), the main text of this book by Brian Haughton is well balanced and gives both ‘believers’ and ‘sceptics’ points of view, and covers a wide range of paranormal claims. He gives examples of various personalities who illustrate the various different possible phenomena. About the only major omissions are treatments of apparitions and mental mediumship. -- PR

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