In the world of Magonia, the wish “May you live in interesting times” does not have the negative meaning that it is supposed to in the Old Chinese Proverb (whether or not this is in fact an Old Chinese Proverb is a debate for another time), so it is our New Year wish to our readers that they do indeed live in very interesting times full of Magonian strangeness, weirdness and general Forteaness.
It has become our New Year tradition to look back and see which of the reviews and articles published in Magonia Review over the past year have stimulated the greatest interest from our readers. As you might expect, the articles published in the early months of the year tend to dominate, but there are always a few surprises from the end of the year as well and 2018 has been no exception to this pattern.
In tenth place is my review of Kevin Randle's comprehensive re-examination of the Soccorro case, Encounter in the Desert. Randle's tentative conclusion tends towards an ET explanation for the case, but he is an intelligent and experienced investigator and is aware as any sceptic of the problems such a hypothesis throws up.
Ninth on the list is Michael Shermer. Heavens on Earth, the Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality and Utopia. Robin Carlyle takes issue with Shermer's main contention, saying that “For him all religion is simply an invention to fill a longing in mankind for a sense of purpose”. However, he finds Shermer's thoughts on progress and pessimism to be the best parts of the book.
The battle between two giants of invention is recounted in Joel Martin and William J. Birnes' book Edison vs. Tesla - The Battle over their Last Invention, which is eighth in our top-ten list, and was reviewed by Kevin Murphy. It is clear that although Edison may, in the public perception at least, have won the battle, both men helped shape the twentieth century, and despite his talent for life-changing invention, Edison never achieved his last great aim, the 'spirit telephone'.
Our number seven title looks at the liminal world of North American big-cats. Michael Mayes Shadow Cats is a down-to-earth cryptozoological study and catalogue of anomalous feline sightings in the USA, eschewing any psychic or paranormal speculations. Wrapping up his review Gerard Russell concludes: “I was rather sceptical when I first started reading this book, but I feel I am becoming a convert!”
James McClenon's The Entity Letters is largely a review of the SORRAT 'mini-lab' experiments, during which otherwise inexplicable changes were claimed to have been observed on objects inside tightly-sealed containers. Robin Carlyle's review is sixth on our list, and he concludes that although the experiments seem to have been bedevilled by possible fraud and poor design, there may still lessons to be learned from them by serious researchers.
Jenny Randles made a welcome appearance as a Magonia reviewer with her assessment of Eric Wargo's Time Loops. Jenny has herself written two books on time paradoxes, so it is impressive that she finds this title to be “the most interesting and well-argued book about a paranormal topic I have read in years” and which has implications about time, space, and the paranormal.
Number four is my review of Sharon Hill's account, not of paranormal phenomena, but of the people who study those phenomena, the Scientifical Americans of the title. It exposes the sensationalist and sometimes fraudulent nature of many TV paranormal programmes, and although many amateur investigators are sincere in their approach, most are hopelessly ill-equipped to undertake and significant research. She makes an honourable exception for some cryptozoological researchers.
A guest review from Janet Bord takes third place, with her assessment of Simon Young and Ceri Houlbrook's book Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies 500 AD to the Present. This is a study of modern-day, fairy 'experiences', reported by individuals, rather than handed down legends and folktales.
The second place was taken up by Kevin Murphy's review of Jason A. Josephson-Storm's The Myth of Disenchantment - Magic, Modernity and the Birth of the Human Sciences. This takles a topic which is increasingly coming under consideration, the re-evalation of the concept of 'disenchantment', the supposed removal of magical any mystical elements, originally propogated by Frank Weber in the nineteenth century. The author responded to Kevin's review by inviting readers to question him via Magonia Review's comments link, and several did so, receiving a detailed reply from the author.
Number one on our list is not a review, but a summary by Gareth Medway of the so-called Alien Autopsy' Affair tracing its development from a derelict flat in Camden Town posing as a NASA laboratory, to Hollywood stardom. This entertaining account demonstrates yet again how the so-called 'experts' – what Peter Rogerson called the 'Herr Professors' – can be so easily fooled by the simplest of tricks, so long as they confirm what they want to have confirmed.
So we enter a new year, which may or may not – probably not – be the year in which the great revelation about UFOs will take place. I'm a little surprised that no-one has yet found a UFO angle to Brexit, or indeed a Brexit angle to UFOs. But whatever, a Happy New Year to you all, and we'll be around trying to keep you up to speed on all the latest weird and wonderful books that 2019 will undoubtedly bring forth. -- John Rimmer