7 August 2011



Paul Screeton. I Fort the Lore: An Anthology of Writings by Paul Screeton. CFZ Press, 2011.

William J. Gibbons. Mokele-Mbembe: Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin Coachwhip Publications, 2010.

Brian Allan. Revenants: Haunted People and Haunted Places. Healings of Atlantis/11th Dimension Publishing 2010.

Rebecca E. Kedger. Hauntings: True Life Sightings and Experiences of Ghosts. Waverley Books, 2011.
Paul Screeton. I Fort the Lore. The punning title refers to Paul Screeton's career as a Fortean, earth mysteries enthusiast, folklorist and journalist covering a period of over 40 years. Much of the material comes from a variety of now obscure and almost entirely unobtainable journals, and charts his gradual transformation from very much a child of the flower power age to his later role as an (almost) sober folklorist. They include accounts of his own personal experiences with UFOs, big cats, a shattering mystical vision and the strange story of the teleporting train.

We are also introduced to quite a range of eccentric characters including a Romany astrologer who predicated that Screeton would die abroad at 53, not very accurate as he is still going strong at 65; a businessman member of the Aetherius Society; a tramp who would only walk in straight lines, and not forgetting John Michell and a clutch of much more obscure authors of delightful eccentricity.

In his final piece, a talk given to a Fortean Unconvention, Screeton compares the reactions of Forteans and folklorists towards strange stories in the press. Forteans tend to see these as examples of true occurrences and find their multiplication evidence of their authenticity, while folklorists see them as legends and their repetition as further evidence of this. Screeton rather suspects that the answer is more complex that either extreme.

William J. Gibbons. Mokele-Mbembe: Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin: A history of encounters with this (alleged) strange animal and of the author's expeditions to find it. The latter provide many examples of the problems that such expeditions can encounter from officious officials to less than pleasant diseases. At the end of all this Gibbons is never actual able to locate such a beast or provide the physical evidence that could help convince the scientific community of its existence.

As with so many Fortean topics all we are left with is eyewitness testimony, Gibbons makes the valid point that local people know a lot about the local area and its wildlife and thus not liable to make dramatic mistakes. Of course the same has been said about things like the Loch Ness Monster, whose paws-and-pelts reality is much less probable than some beast in the jungles of Africa.

Gibbons has complete faith in the existence of this beast, and its status as a surviving dinosaur. The word faith is used quite literally here, because it is tied very much in with his fundamentalist Christian/creationist beliefs. These, and his association with the western missionaries and other organisations who promote them are not necessarily going to enamour him with the scientific mainstream, nor with all sections of opinion in the host countries, where they may regard those Westerners who assume that they are benighted savages who need to be rescued from the clutches of the devil by outsiders, with much the same distaste that radical Islamic clerics are viewed in the West.

Brian Allan. Revenants: Haunted People and Haunted Places. Brian Allan's book describes personal researches into a variety of ghostly and allied experiences mainly from Scotland. The author seems to see all sorts of strange things from faces in photographs to people's faces changing, but there seems little here that could not be explained through a combination of suggestion and eye strain. In addition the 'investigations' like far too many in this field consist of hawking various mediums and psychics around. Such folk always come up with exiting stories, but no-one ever seems to make the slightest effort to corroborate these. Also like many such works it is badly written and very chunky.

Rebecca E. Kedger. Hauntings: True Life Sightings and Experiences of Ghosts. The Kedger volume is better written and is actually readable but seems to be scissors and paste volume compiled from various web sites and filled with vague stories and endless weasel words of the "it is said that" and "it is believed that" variety. -- All reviewed by Peter Rogerson.

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