As with the previous six issues, this latest annual edition of Dark Lore contains a wide variety of contributions, and although not all the articles will be of interest to all readers, everyone will find a great deal to enjoy, appreciate and learn.
Mike Jay opens with a look at the depiction of hallucinogenic mushrooms in literature in the nineteenth century, and asks if Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland really deserves its 1960s reputation as an initiatory work of drug literature.
Blair MacKenzie Blake takes us on an exciting tour around the perimeter of Area 51, the 'top secret' military site in Nevada. This is a place where we are surrounded by signs threatening 'deadly force', followed by sinister guards in armoured vehicles, dodging infra-red security sensors disguised as cactuses, eventually to make our way to spaghetti-night at the Little A-Le-Inn. It seems more than a little odd to me that a Top-Secret site should be surrounded by quite so many obvious signals that it is a Top-Secret site which serve to do little more than attract the sort of people who want to look at a Top-Secret site, that one might think that the real Top-Secret site is actually somewhere else, and is rather less obviously signposted as a Top-Secret site. But maybe that's just me.
Iceland is a country which we now associate mainly with dodgy banking, inconvenient volcanoes and Bjork, but for a few years in the 1900s it became a centre of paranormal activity through the activities of Indridi Indridason, a printer's apprentice in Reykjavik. Dark Lore editor Greg Taylor investigates the claims which surrounded Indridi's career as a psychic an physical medium. This began after he attended a séance with a friend and his wife, and when asked to sit and participate, the table began to shake and move about. Although initially terrified by this, Idridi eventually established himself as a physical medium, creating a whole range of often very violent phenomena, with household utensils and items of furniture being thrown around the séance rooms, as well as levitations of himself and others.
A number of attempts were made by Icelandic researchers and visitors from Denmark to investigate these phenomena, and perhaps prove fraud, but as is the case in most such investigations they proved inconclusive. The investigations and the phenomena came to a halt after just four years when Indrid contacted typhoid fever. Although he survive the illness, he died just a couple of years later at the age of 29.
A couple of pieces deal with aspects of folklore. Richard Andrews investigation of the symbolism of the White Hart explains, inter alia, why so many pubs bear that name, and also brings a little romance to the environs of Basingstoke. Read it and be intrigued. Ian 'Cat' Vincent continues on the trail of 'Slenderman', an artificially created piece of modern cyberlore. When reading this I wondered how the 'meme' of the Brentford Griffin might have developed had it not originated before the development of the Internet.
J.M.R. Higgs 'From Operation Mindf**k [DL's ellipsis] to the White Room' is a ramble through Discordianism, the KLF band, Carl Jung, the Illuminatus Trilogy and Liverpool as the Pool of Life - which it is, of course. I'm not sure we get anywhere by the end of the ramble but is an entertaining journey on the way.
Robert Schoch presents what is to my mind an unconvincing revisionist biography of John Dee, proposing claims that Dee's scryer Edward Kelly did not actually exist, and was basically a cover story to facilitate Dee's own experiments in 'daemonic magic' and magical sexual rituals - the infamous 'wife swapping' episode. Although one might ask that if Kelley was an allegorical figure, whose wife was Dee swapping with? I have to say that my negative impression of this chapter was probably triggered by the statement in the first paragraph that he was born at Mortlake. Although he lived for his most productive years in a house just a hundred yards away from Magonia Towers, he was neither born nor died in the town, and anyone claiming even the slightest knowledge of his life should know this.
(I would at this point draw your attention to the forthcoming inauguration of a plaque to Dr Dee in Mortlake Church on 7th May. It's planned that Damon Albarn, composer of the John Dee opera which was performed last years by the English National Opera, will do the unveiling. Click on the little picture of Dr Dee over on the top right for more details.)
Theo Paijman's article on the Edelweiss Society and the mysterious Rockelstadt Castle, Herman Goering's visit there, demolishes some myths about the occult background to the rise of the Nazis, and reveals curious links to John Keely, the 'perpetual motion' pioneer. It also offers a good pub quiz question: Which European country used a swastika insignia on its aircraft until after the end of WWII?
As always with Dark Lore volumes, something of a luck dip, but one well worth dipping into (and don't forget the special collectors' hardback limited edition. -- John Rimmer