17 January 2010


Dark Lore. Volume IV, edited by Greg Taylor. Daily Grail Publishing, 2009.

There are some good things in this issue which should be of interest to Magonia readers. For new material, the prize goes to 'The Newhallville Terror' by Theo Paijmans, which looks at some previously forgotten Spring Heel Jack type stories from the USA.
SHJ might almost be Magonia's mascot, for it was interest in that character that caused John Rimmer to get in touch with me 40 years ago; and our much missed colleague Roger Sandell wrote his first piece on the subject for Flying Saucer Review back in the early 1970s.

The historical roots of modern mysteries are covered by several writers. Neil Arnold who traces the history of the protean chupacabra or goat-sucker of Latin America, through European and even Arabian root stories of vampires and blood suckers, which have taken multitudinous forms, Arnold makes it clear that this is not, to any great extent, a some paws and pelt (or scales) creature which can be caught in a trap, but a creature of the dark imagination, changing its form as it migrates from culture to culture. Nigel Watson in a piece on the MIB traces their origins in spy stories circulating around the time of the airship epidemics of the early 20th century.

The ufological theme is continued by 'The Emperor' in a further examination of the roots of early ufology in the cultures of the science fiction and what is often called the cultic milieu. His studies are increasingly showing that the hard division between East Coast nuts-and-bolts ufology and West Coast contacteedom is rather fictional, and in reality there was much greater permeability between them. Only with the publication of major biographies of many of the central characters of this period is this likely to be clarified much further.

The folkloric roots of cryptozoology are explored by Richard Freeman, taking the case of Japan where are a whole range of supernaturals are known by the generic label Yokai, some of which manifest as what would now be called cryptids. This is an area that is not well known, if at all, in the west, and though Freeman evokes rather silly notions such as tulpas, an interpretation in terms of cultural tradition is entirely probable, in which cryptids are secularised supernaturals.

There is a straight forward and uncritical retelling of the story of Lurancy Vennum, 'the Wateska Wonder', and her alleged possession by her deceased neighbour Mary Roff. The non-spiritualist is likely to suspect that there is far more behind this story than these true believers' accounts relate, and that the real story is likely to be a good deal more interesting that the standard one.

Nick Redfern explores the interest of the US 'intelligence' services (though stupidity services often seems a better name) in the use of animal ESP, including at least one particularly revolting use of a kitten which we will not distress our readers by rehearsing.

There are several archaeological pieces which are rather off topic for Magonia, although the story of Joseph Williamson the Edge Hill mole takes us back to our Merseyside roots. There is a sceptical piece on an alleged Egyptian helicopter, and reasonable fairly mainstream pieces by Filip Coppens, John Higgs and Robert Beuval, while Greg Taylor's piece on the obelisks erected in Georgia giving rather authoritarian messages for the future can perhaps be described as tomorrow's archaeology. (Which perhaps might warn us that archaeology we take to evidence of a particular culture might actually be the work of some tiny dissident group!).

There are only two barmpot pieces in here, a wild piece by Blair MacKenzie Blake on Rennes le Chateau which makes the claims of Dan Brown and company positively staid in comparison. (if I say it appears to revolve around a secret society of cannibalistic Cathars I think you get the gist!)

Then there is poor dear old Robert Schoch. The words 'out of your depth' have rather different connotations between being out of your depth in nice tepid, clear, spring water, with some ability to swim; and being out of your depth in a fetid sewer swimming in human shit and surrounded on all sides by rabid rats. It is the latter into which Schoch has fallen. It is the completely mad world of Romanian Neo-Ceauscescuist conspiracy theory. In this the Dear Leader and Great Conducator was not brought down by the fact that even his own party were sick to the guts with him, and decided to give more than a little help to the fermenting popular revolution - possibly with the aid of the decaying remnants of the Soviet KGB - as is generally supposed, but by the wicked forces of the west, using amazing psychotronic weapons, in order to enfeeble the Greater Romanian Fatherland. Suffice it to say, if Schoch had actually set out to ensure that no-one ever took him seriously again, he could not have done better. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

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