29 January 2012


Greg Taylor (ed.) Dark Lore VI. Daily Grail Publishing, 2011.

Every issue of Dark Lore is eagerly anticipated, and the sixth is no disappointment. The twelve essays cover a huge range of the paranormal, the anomalous, and just simply the weird, and all are written with authority.
As a Liverpudlian I was delighted to read John Reppion’s well-researched account of the history and legend of Liverpool’s Calderstones, a group of Neolithic stones, marked with spiral patterns, whose origin is obscure but which seem to have been moved around various sites in a small area, currently being securely hidden away in a conservatory in their eponymous park. They represent a remarkable prehistoric anomaly amongst the modern suburbs of south Liverpool.

A few days ago I gave a brief presentation at the London Fortean Society, telling the story of the Brentford Griffin, a completely made-up cryptozoological phenomenon which has begun to create its own legends and rumours over the past three decades. However, the occasional vague story, literary reference, council-sponsored mural or item of pub gossip that the Griffin has generated fades behind the remarkable growth of the legend of Slenderman, described here by Ian Vincent. First revealed in 2009 as a response to a competition to create a paranormal image, the figure of a tall, elongated man in a black suit, white shirt and tie lurking in the background of otherwise unremarkable photographs took on a life of its own across the Internet and amongst experimental film-makers.

There are several pieces setting out to revise conventional historical analyses: Mark Foster suggests an rational alternative explanation for the so-called ‘Trial Passages’ at Giza, and Greg Taylor presents an astronomical origin for certain key images in ancient Near Eastern art. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince continue their examination of the role played by Hermetic thought in the development of modern science by looking at the early years of the Royal Society and the individuals involved in its creation. Eschewing some of the more sensational speculation on the subject, Mitch Horowitz gives an account of the influence of occultism on significant figures and events in American history, from the Shakers to the New Age movements.

Robert Schoch presents a terrifying picture of the effect of a massive solar storm on the earth, which seems a far more plausible apocalyptic event than any numerical juggling with calendars, and Martin Shough’s exploration of ‘double sun’ apparitions reveals the dual standards which scientists sometimes apply when presented with accounts of anomalous phenomena.

Magonia’s own Nigel Watson recounts the Norman Harrison ‘psychic contactee’ case first published in Magonia; Blair Mackenzie Blake hunts down an elusive alchemist and Neil Arnold investigates the urban legends that lurk in the sewers. The final essay, by Jack Hunter, is a very interesting account of the shift in the way that paranormal events and anomalous phenomena amongst tribal peoples have been reported and experienced by anthropologists.

Scholarly and academic, intriguing, amusing, revelatory and accessible, this volume of Dark Lore is well worth its place on any Magonian’s bookshelf – along with the previous five, of course! -- John Rimmer.

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