Things go missing every day, from car keys and wallets right up to Boeing 777 airliners. It should be of little surprise, then, that official dossiers and files are among the items that hands cannot be laid upon when such things are required. Modern bureaucracies number staff in their tens of thousands, so it is with scant surprise that the public hears of information being lost and mislaid. Also, with vast amounts of data circulating around our planet every second, is it really any wonder that not every file is on hand?
That is the subject of this tome by the industrious Nick Redfern. He takes us on a tour of the most glaring conspiracy theories in popular culture and looks at attempts to obtain the official files kept by government agencies. We not only get taken around the more cosmic and outré concepts, such as UFOs and Roswell, but also such down-to-earth events as the death of Marilyn Monroe, the “Squidgygate” tapes, Watergate and WMD information (or lack of it). The part looking at the death of Dr David Kelly also rightfully reminds us that there are some mysteries that should still be investigated and kept in the public eye. There is a helpful introductory section explaining the various levels of security and how this may be accessed (if at all).
This is quite a sweep, and Mr Redfern does this in his usual fashion. His prose is accessible and entertaining, making the information open to most readers, and the subject matter is eye-catching. It is also helped by the inclusion of both a thorough index and bibliography. It is also quite remarkable to write a whole book about something that is not there, as it were. The point is that the files concerned are said to be unavailable, lost or destroyed. When it comes to the section about MK-ULTRA, the destruction of the relevant files is a good part of the tale, and this is told in such a way that makes one despair of ever getting to the bottom of the CIA’s mind-control experimentation and perpetuates the suspicion that governments may be keeping much more from us. There is also the almost obligatory chapter in contemporary books of mysteries concerning Aleister Crowley, which is not to say that it is bad, just fashionable.
All in all, this is an entertaining and an absorbing read. Nick Redfern piques the readers’ interest and draws one into these tales of non-existent documentation. There is some information that may be new to the experienced fortean seeker after the odd and hidden, but quite a bit of it will be familiar to just such an audience. However, due to the clear writing style and logical sections, it would be a very good primer to the world of mysteries for someone starting out in the universe of the strange. -- Trevor Pyne