Perhaps it's being in a post-9/11 world, but much of what Selzer describes as "terrorist chic" has nothing to do with terrorism. Maybe in the late 70s...morePerhaps it's being in a post-9/11 world, but much of what Selzer describes as "terrorist chic" has nothing to do with terrorism. Maybe in the late 70s it was different - Weathermen, SLA, etc. But today, kids fighting in CBGB's or a rock show with violent imagery is nothing special.
While the subtitle is slightly more accurate, the book isn't about violent crime or violent acts - instead it is about psuedo-S&M and rape themed advertising campaigns for clothes, S&M clubs, the "decadence" of Studio 54, CBGB's and similar locales. Basically, Selzer does investigations into what he classifies as "violent" subcultures (how psuedo S&M and disco dancing are "violent" is beyond me) and describes it all with a haughty "I'm above all of this" sneer.
He's determined to find punk, S&M, disco and other "vices" of the 70s pretentious and ridiculous, and his descriptions of the clubs, the people and the events follow suit. While it's interesting as an exploration into these subject from an 'on-the-scene' perspective, the author seems far less interested in reporting and far more interested in puffing himself up. Good for some names and the interviews (including one with resident CBGBs punk Helen Wheels) but not a very good read in general, unless you consider disco dancing and S&M to be horrible blights on society.
One might say that about disco dancing, sure, but S&M? Good clean fun.(less)
Jack Parsons was clearly a fascinating man. A chemical wunderkind, Parsons never attained a college degree, but his work with chemicals helped the Uni...moreJack Parsons was clearly a fascinating man. A chemical wunderkind, Parsons never attained a college degree, but his work with chemicals helped the United States to - pardon the pun - get off the ground in the world of rocket science, as well as win the later space race. Unless you believe the moon landing was all shot in a studio in Arizona, I suppose.
Parsons also had a far less scientific side to his life. He was greatly enamored of Aleister Crowley's doctrine of Thelema (Greek for "Will") and a devoted student of the occult. [Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons] is a biography that explores "both Jack Parsons" - the occultist and the scientist.
Parsons is obviously a fascinating subject. It's hard to beat the premise of: famous, brilliant rocket scientist liked "sexual magic" rituals and attempted to invoke the Whore of Babylon into the World. And while Carter's (a pseudonym) writing won't win any awards, the subject itself makes for compulsive reading.
Parsons declared himself to be the Anti Christ (among other names) and according to Carter, he was passionately against the "phallo-centrism" of Christianity which, he like Crowley, considered to be one of the worst developments in human thought.
Unfortunately, while Parsons is a worthy subject, Carter's writing, the shortness of the book and the inclusion of two fairly useless chapters on the history of the OTO and of Enochian (anyone who is interested in occultism probably already knows these tales by heart - and who else but occultists or fans of occultism would want to read a book about an occultist?) make the text feel more like a collection of notes taken to outline the book rather than the book itself. The chapters on OTO and Enochian could have been made into appendices instead of interrupting the flow of the biographic material - ditto for the lengthy parts of the Babalon Working.
This is far from the definitive book on Parsons though, one hopes, one will appear one day. There's another book, called Strange Angel, about Parsons which I have not read. Perhaps that one will be better. The most enjoyable part of the book is the ever-entertaining Robert Anton Wilson's great introduction. It's a shame that RAW didn't write this book. While it would probably have been less objective, it certainly would have been a lot more FUN.
If you can get past the dry prose, you'll be rewarded with a sketch of a man whose life could easily have compromised a much larger volume. Aside from Strange Angel, which I haven't read, this is the only book about Parsons that I know of. I recommend it, but with reservations. It's not the greatest book in the world, but it's only one of two that I am aware of and Parsons' life story is quite interesting unto itself.
For those who hate $cientology, Parsons was involved with Hubbard before Hubbard started attacking Our Lord Xenu. The Co$ wanted to ensure that Hubbard was presented in a positive light - fortunately, regardless of the Co$'s involvement, he comes across as just the sort of pathetic, worthless con-artist scumbag that he was.(less)
There's some quote I stumbled across on the Internets once before, from the Simpsons - to the effect of, "It's funny because they're serious about som...moreThere's some quote I stumbled across on the Internets once before, from the Simpsons - to the effect of, "It's funny because they're serious about something so ridiculous."
Thus, this book.
While Goodrick-Clarke's book on the Occult Origins of the Nazi movement is still on my to-read list, this book is basically a sequel to it. Where the first book focused on the Nazi party in Germany, this book focuses on later neo-Nazi groups. The first two chapters consist of brief historical run-downs of the neo-Nazi movement in the US and in the UK.
Then, the author takes us on a tour of Neo-Nazi movements around the world (primarily in the Americas, England and, to a lesser extent, Germany itself). What began as an occult and eugenics fueled attempt to get rid of "social parasites" like Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, etc. and ended with the suicide of the "Fuhrer" in his bunker gains new life in the crazy world of New Age Occultism in the Extreme Right.
While Goodrick-Clarke does not exclusively deal with 'esoteric' and 'occult' subjects (there are chapters about far less metaphysical things like black metal and Nazi punk bands such as Skrewdriver) much of the book is in fact about an almost insane cornucopia of beliefs regarding the Nazis that have sprung up after their defeat.
The book itself has no real unified whole except to examine the Neo-Nazi movement in the years since the defeat of the Axis - essentially, each chapter can be read on its own without needing to refer to earlier chapters in any way except to figure out the various acronyms of Neo-Nazi groups, most of which are given in the first two chapters.
Much of the world of Nazi occultism is based upon interpreting pre-existing through a Nazi world-view.
For example, the Hindu ideas of cyclical ages and gods manifesting in humans are given new twists. One example is the Kali Yuga. While Kali Yuga can be viewed as basically analogous to other views of "the end" (Ragnarok, the "days of Noah" in Christian apocalyptic doctrine), A Neo-Nazi named Julis Evola based it upon the "evil" Jews and "degeneracy" in modern society.
Instead of cruelty, avarice, lust and other common motifs of social decay in the eyes of religious authorities, they see the breakdown of society through a more political lens. Communism, Democracy, the loss of a strict social hierarchy, the divine right of Kings, revolution, etc. are instead the signs of the Kali Yuga. Jews, of course, are behind all of this in order to destroy the noble Aryan world and to render gentiles powerless when the Jews decide to take over the world.
Savitri Devi continued with the Hindu line of thought, but added other aspects to it - of course, the Aryans are the conquerors of the Dravidians in India and Vedic theology was seen as the only pure form of paganism left (many Neo Nazis reject Christianity because they see it as both egalitarian and Jewish in origin... both ideas which are, in my estimation, rather ridiculous). Therefore, both during the original Nazi era and in Neo-Nazism, the Vedic Hindu religion is often esteemed as the true religion of the Aryans. Savitri Devi originated, among other things, the idea that Hitler was immortal, and more than that, that he was an Avatar of the God Vishnu.
Another major thinker in the book, Miguel Serrano, combined Marcionite gnosticism (which holds that the god of the Jews is little more than an evil half-wit who is ignorant of the True God - naturally, since Jews serve this figure, Jews are devil worshipers!) with Hitler Avatarism and Evola's Kali Yuga ideas, and his own unique views on Hinduism (seeing the Heil Hitler salute as a Yogic position) in a truly bizarre Hitler and Nazi mythology. That isn't all, though, as he was also a fan of the idea of an eternal Hitler, who lived in a Nazi UFO outpost in Antarctica. Despite his disavowal of Christianity, he saw Hitler as an almost Christ-like figure - the God-Man who was opposed by the ignorant (and, of course, by the Jews) and was defeated, but who still lives and bides his time to re-conquer the world.
In a lot of ways, Serrano is the "star" of the book to me, simply because his Hitler and Nazi mythology is so immense and so bizarre.
The book is not perfect - as I noted, it can easily be read more as a series of essays on individual subjects rather than as a complete whole.
Another fault I found was that, when discussing Heathenry, Norse Neo-Paganism and skinheads, the author seems to be relying less on his own research and more on the research of others.
Even worse, there is little attempt to differentiate between Heathens, Germanic/Norse neo-pagans and skinheads who are NOT racists and NOT neo-Nazis and those who are. There are plenty of people who practice Asatru and Vanatru or various forms of German paganism and heathenry who are opposed to the bastardization of their religious path by Neo-Nazi goons. Ditto for many skinheads who like the fashion and Oi! music, but know that the culture originated from British fans of rasta, the Rude Boy subculture, etc. and are absolutely opposed to the Neo-Nazi elements as well.
Nevertheless, it's essential reading if you're interested in the metaphysical beliefs and underground culture of modern-day Neo-Nazi groups. This book covers the whole gamut, from black metal to Christian Identity, from British racist movements and their origins in the National Front and other groups to the world of Neo-Nazi Satanists.
It's a fascinating, hilarious and disturbing read. Despite my only giving it three out of five stars, I highly recommend it.(less)
In many ways, Rebel Visions could almost be considered a "sequel" of sorts to The Ten Cent Plague. While Plague dealt with the furor over the comic bo...moreIn many ways, Rebel Visions could almost be considered a "sequel" of sorts to The Ten Cent Plague. While Plague dealt with the furor over the comic books of the 50s - the classic EC horror comics, the crime comics, the detective comics, etc. - and the establishment of the Comic Code Authority, Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975 deals with what happened when the kids who read comics in the 50s did when they grew up - and decided that censorship and appeasing authority was neither in their best interest nor capable of holding up their own creative visions.
Comix were, simply put, underground comic strips that were printed in underground, radical 60s magazines (such as The East Village Other, the Berkeley Barb and Good Times) and collected in cheap but accessible comic-books that were likewise underground and sold on the street corners by the creators, publishers, etc. or otherwise in "Head Shops," the sorts of stores that carried underground papers as well as drug paraphernalia.
Rosenkranz covers a lot of ground in this book, from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s. The book is ultimately a narrative driven oral-history. Oral history books (such as Please Kill Me and The Other Hollywood by Legs McNeil) never contain narrative - this book does, but it does so pretty sparsely. Rosenkranz sets the scene and describes some of the action, but interviews with the comix creators themselves generally gives the reader a sense of "how it was" through the eyes of the artists and publishers themselves.
Like much of hippie culture in the 60s, Rebel Visions centers primarily around San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district and the Greenwich Village of New York City (although it is based more upon SF than NYC) and gathers a large number of artists in its pages, from the obvious (R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Vaughn Bode) to artists who found their way to comix from other forms of art - the most interesting being Rick Griffin, who started doing psychedelic posters and for the rock bands of the late 60s Haight scene comic cover art for a surfer magazine, made his way to comix, then converted to Christianity and used his artistic talent to make comix about his newfound faith.
The tale itself is compelling, and it is interesting to see how all of these mad geniuses conspired together to create a new world of comix, and charts the rise and fall, as well as the maturing, of the genre. Early comix were largely written by men and naturally covered things men liked - sex, beautiful women, violence and drugs, often in the same strip. The flaws of the comix scene - such as giving very little respect to women - are also made clear.
The book also reproduces frames from a variety of comix sources on almost every page, from covers of underground magazines to clippings from some of the more controversial - and misogynistic - comix like Wonder Wart-Hog and Crumb's infamous Joe Blow (as well as other, less controversial ones, of course). The inevitable fallouts from these comix, such as womens'-only comix, formed by ladies like the talented Trina Robbins who were tired of being dealt such a bad hand by the male comic artists, and the eternal threat of the police and morality squad harassment, are also covered.
The only thing that keeps it from getting 5 stars is that the book is somewhat strangely put together - many artists are introduced in sidebars that do not connect to the main text - and so it can be somewhat confusing. Fortunately, there is a list in the back of the book containing the names of all authors covered with their most important works listed and, of course, an index.
For those interested in a chunk of history from the 1960s that is often ignored, this is a great book, as it is for those interested in the counterculture, the history of comic books from the early strips to modern-day graphic novels. I highly recommend it. (less)
New York is known as the City That Never Sleeps, and Caldwell certainly makes an excellent case as to why that appellation is so valid.
He starts off a...moreNew York is known as the City That Never Sleeps, and Caldwell certainly makes an excellent case as to why that appellation is so valid.
He starts off at the very beginning of the new colony (known then as Fort Amsterdam), each chapter exploring a new, important decade or period of time. From bars to gangs to prostitution to the lives of the upper-class verses the lives of the lower-class (and their respective entertainment and venues) to the affect that technology had upon the New York Nightlife, Caldwell covers it all... at least up until a point.
While everything pre 1950s makes for compulsively readable classic about the American city to end all American cities, Caldwell runs out of steam around the 1950s, and even a bit before that. The Beatnik movement is only sparsely covered even though their world of jazz night-clubs certainly is worthy of research. The 1960s are almost completely glossed over, as are the 1970s and 1980s.
While the previous chapters had gone into depth about all manner of groups and their entertainments, from political bigwigs in Tammany Hall and its pseudo-secret society predecessors to Yiddish theater of the late 19th century and the speakeasies and jazz of the 1920s and 30s, the 60s and 70s are only covered by two major events - Stonewall and disco (primarily disco and the gay New York citizen). Caldwell himself is gay, and it makes sense that he would be interested in this subject, but there are other books devoted to both topics. His sudden focus on the gay movement is jarring and feels out of place with the tone of the rest of the book. Discos, for example, catered to straights as well as gays (and the only disco he gives much coverage to is Studio 54; while it was important in the history, there were dozens of other discos and clubs dotting NYC's landscape at the time and the focus given to it strikes me as a bit lazy, as everyone and their brother knows about th rise and fall of Studio 54). Glaringly absent in the 70s, especially, are the nascent hip-hop and punk scenes. Both were culturally important, but both are largely ignored. Gang life is likewise largely ignored, with a mention of the notorious Capeman murders to suffice. How one can have a book on NYC nightlife without mentioning the great CBGBs and Max's Kansas City is beyond me.
The book ends on an anti-climactic note, in post-Guiliani Times Square, with Caldwell visiting a strip club (a straight one, mind you), where Caldwell observes the sadness and desperation in the eyes of all participants.
I would definitely recommend the book for anyone interested in the nightlife between New Amsterdam and the 1930s. For anyone interested in events after that, another book is clearly needed.(less)
Generally, the people who discuss this book are either conspiracy nuts who believe the government is spying on them through their cereal or something...moreGenerally, the people who discuss this book are either conspiracy nuts who believe the government is spying on them through their cereal or something equally crazy, fundamentalist Christians who are eager to prove that Satan is out to get everyone or professional skeptics who have an axe to grind against the former two and a desire to look very smart and very clever on top of it.
I had read this book back in my high school days, but only remembered some bits and pieces from it (crazy death cults and serial killers are two subjects I'm very interested in).
What surprised me is that, despite the ensuing years of seeing the above three groups fighting over this book, Terry's book is actually very lucid and down-to-earth for the most part.
While his knowledge of 'the occult' is lacking (he's one of those people who doesn't really grok that there are plenty of benign groups out there that use Tarot cards and like Crowley and the OTO, despite the fact that there are also a bunch of weirdos and cranks) his study of the Son of Sam case is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the ineptness of the police department at digging deeper than just surface level (something that has happened time and again, including within this book, repeatedly). The public was terrorized by the ".44 Caliber Killer," and once they caught Berkowitz (who admitted to being the ".44 Caliber Killer"/"Son of Sam," that was enough for them. As long as they had someone to blame it on - and as long as the streets were quiet again - they didn't really care if it went any deeper (although to be fair, many cops DID... but the brass tended to squelch them).
Admittedly, Berkowitz was behind the at least a couple of the killings. Neither Berkowitz nor Terry try to deny that - it would be foolish. However, the fact remains that the various composite images made by witnesses and surviving victims are radically different was ignored. The reports of weird cars in neighbourhoods shortly before the murders was ignored. The witness of a woman who saw Berkwotiz wandering around and driving around shortly before another shooting - thereby requiring that Berkowitz be "The Flash" in order to wander around, drive around AND get back in time to fire shots at the victim was ignored. Even the fact that the various letters from "The Son of Sam" obviously didn't come from the same person was ignored.
Terry draws a line from Berkowitz to alleged friends of his named the Carrs who were involved in some sort of cult (and were murdered shortly after the Son of Sam murders) all the way to places as far-flung as North Dakota, Los Angeles and Houston - as well as Long Island, New York.
While ordinarily, people react negatively to so-called "conspiracy theories," the men who flew the planes into the WTC were part of both a "cult" and members of a "conspiracy." "Conspiracy theory" has been degraded to simply being a buzzword, associated with people who believe that UFOs killed JFK and similar stuff, despite the fact that any theory that links three or more people together, is quite frankly, a "conspiracy theory."
Despite the bad rap the book gets from the skeptics - and the embracing of it by crazy fundies and crazy tin-foil hatters alike - Terry doesn't really focus hugely on so-called cults. While he refers to some (such as the notorious Process, the so-called Chingons, a cult centered around Yonkers, etc.) the book is more about dope than the Devil and if any cult is truly involved, it would appear to involve Scientology moreso than Satan.
Drug deals gone bad, kinky homosexual murders, crazy cults, porn-and-dope addicted vaudeville producers, music celebrities and low-level pushers are all caught up in the net that Terry uncovers.
While it's tempting to write this off as, yes, a conspiracy theory, the fact remains that it is entirely possible that groups with stations across the country are involved in drug-smuggling and dealing and Terry suggests motives behind the Tate-Labianca murders that make far more sense than the "Beatles told me to do it" theory of Vincent Bugliosi (to be fair, Bugliosi was stressed for time and had to get a conviction on Manson - he had plenty of other theories, some of which support Terry's, but the police's refusal to look beneath the surface of a crazy story - like Burkowitz's dog - hindered much of it).
If nothing else, it's an intriguing thought. I, for one, based on personal research I've done on cults in So Cal, tend to think Terry is on to something - whether his entire hypothesis is true or false - but even if just some of it is true, a whole lot of sickos need to be headed to jail... although most of them are probably long since murdered anyway.
A lot of the book is speculative - while Terry is right to protect his sources, often his 'sources' are the only ones with any worthwhile info. It is entirely possible that they were mistaken, or lying, or any number of things, although Terry does regularly verify their claims against information that he, as an investigator, tracks down.
My biggest qualm with this book is that it was written in the mid 80s and some of the figures - such as "Manson II," aka Willie Metzner - are now safely behind bars. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is a newly updated version of this book or not. Considering everything involved, I think there should either be a sequel or a very updated version to trace what's been going on since the book finished. Internet research has shown that some people, such as John Kogut, were exonerated through DNA evidence, although of course the book, written at the time he was confessing to a rape and murder of a teenage girl, doesn't talk about this at all.(less)
Jesus the Magician was written in 1978 by a man named Morton Smith. Smith, far from a house-hold name, was a highly educated, but controversial Biblic...moreJesus the Magician was written in 1978 by a man named Morton Smith. Smith, far from a house-hold name, was a highly educated, but controversial Biblical scholar - and books like this indicate why.
It isn't that the charge is new - indeed, the Gospels contain references to Jesus being a magician as early as Mark (written ca. 70 CE), in Mk. 3:20-30. The typical enemies of Jesus, the Scribes, claimed that he "had a demon" named Beelzebub, who was apparently the leader of the demons in Hebraic mythology at the time and that it was through this power, and not that of God, that Jesus accomplished his miracles.
Smith notes early on in his book that the miraculous events in the Gospels, while certainly difficult for most modern-day people who see no evidence of 'miracles' on the level of Jesus' healing of the sick, raising of the dead, etc., are crucial aspects of the story. Too often, he notes, people who seek the 'historical Jesus' simply interpret him on a secular and materialistic level. It isn't that Smith gives credence to the healings and resurrections as actual events in history; rather, as he notes, the Jewish mindset was decidedly mythological and filled with spirits and miracles. Further, a magical undercurrent certainly existed, with romances involving King Solomon and his alleged powers over spirits and demons in circulation. In his Antiquities of the of Jews, Josephus goes into great detail about this legend.
Once pointing out that the miracles must be dealt with, Smith decides to look at the 'other side' of the coin. We've heard about Jesus' miracles being from God... but non-Christians, Jews and Romans alike, had their own view of where Jesus got his powers. Thus Smith begins citing evidence from the Gospels and later Talmudic writings that are alleged to refer to Jesus as a deceiver and a magician, and continues citing evidence of a similar view about Platonists and Pagans in the Roman Empire.
There's no question that this was a common explanation for Jesus' power by those who did not believe he was a Messiah or a god. Much attention is paid not just to the evidence in the Hebrew and Roman writings, but also to magical texts and papyri that have fortunately survived, some of which cite the Jewish god and Jesus himself in attempts to gain magical powers. Smith then outlines what the ancients considered to be evidence of supernatural powers, from necromancy to the binding of a god or a spirit by its "true name."
There is little doubt that both Jesus and the Jewish God (names ranging from Ioa, Saboath, Adonai, etc.) were used at least somewhat for magical purposes, and great results were often claimed from their invocation. The Gospels likewise make reference to this when the disciples find people using Jesus' name to cast out demons and sicknesses. They come to Jesus, worried and wondering about this, because the people who were using Jesus' name were not people that the disciples knew. They were 'outside of the flock' as it were. Jesus comforts them with, "For he who is not against us is for us." (this is all related in Mk 9:38-40. Interestingly, a very DIFFERENT position is taken by Matthew in Mt 7:21-23, wherein Jesus rejects those who have done things in his name if they have not done "the will of my Father in Heaven.")
I find that the book falters, however, when Smith tries to relate the Gospel accounts to depictions of magicians in various sources, from the magical papyri, the satires of Lucian and others and the life of Apollonius of Tyana. In other words, he tries to find evidence in the Gospels that can fit Jesus to the mold of the standard stereotypical "magician" in Greco-Roman society at the time.
Certainly comparisons can be drawn, but what Smith ignores is the fact that all of these writings came after Jesus had long since passed away. Despite Christianity being a small cult (here used in the neutral sense, such as a "cult of St. Peter" rather than in a negative sense, such as "The Jonestown cult") in the Roman Empire, Christianity itself was very well known and practiced by all manner of people, from ascetics to libertines, from what would become known as the 'orthodox' to the Gnostic.
All of these groups, along with the Greco-Roman equivalent to hippies who think they can combine Buddhism and Wicca without compromising at least one, would certainly use Jesus' name. The 'orthodox' and the 'heretics' would use it just as much as those who simply took various names of power and used them.
It isn't that I reject Smith's hypothesis. In fact, I think it explains quite a bit, especially in the beginning chapters, and I think that he has proven that Jesus WAS regarded as a 'magician' by many and treated as such. But comparing the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life to later accounts of other magicians (the aforementioned Lucian satires, Apollonius of Tyana, etc.) does not allow for the very real possibility that Jesus had gained prominence as a magician in certain circles and that the Gospels were used much later to FORM pictures a magician, rather than the Gospels themselves CONTAINING such comparisons.
To put it into a more modern context, it is akin to taking a Kung-Fu movie that Quentin Tarantino borrowed from for the Klll Bill films and deciding that the similarities indicate that the earlier Kung Fu film was either copying Kill Bill or that Tarantino was involved in the production of both!
It doesn't logically follow. Unfortunately, the evidence that Smith presents is actually much later (often by a century or two) than a 70s Kung Fu film verses an early 00s Tarantino flick, making the possibility of crossover from the old to the new much more likely and much more difficult to trace.
That being said, I really enjoyed the book and I recommend it - come to your own conclusions, certainly! Smith makes a very good case until the last couple of chapters, when it becomes more polemic and less evidence-based. It isn't Smith's fault that we don't have more evidence, of course - but the attempt to prove that there are remnants of Jesus AS a magician (or in the same mold as a magician) ignores the dating, as do many other attempts to claim that Jesus was like Mithras, etc.(less)
Spiritualism is one of the earliest uniquely American spiritual movements.
While today, with such high-profile 'mediums' (of often dubious legitimacy)...moreSpiritualism is one of the earliest uniquely American spiritual movements.
While today, with such high-profile 'mediums' (of often dubious legitimacy) such as Sylvia Browne and John Edwards, Spiritualism has become an ingrained part of American culture. Speaking to the dead is its own industry, with Browne alone churning out book after book that are eagerly purchased by her fans - it seems hard to believe that it wasn't always this way - but it was not.
Barbara Weisberg's book follows the often tragic lives of the unlikely founders of what would become known as spiritualism. Neither skilled showmen nor experts at deceit, spiritualism was instead founded by two teenage girls, Margaret 'Maggie' Fox and Catherine 'Kate' Fox, who lived in upstate New York state. The young girls began reporting curious rappings in their presence, rappings which were thus explained as being performed by spiritual entities. What began as a curious tale of the spirit of a murdered peddler that communicated with the girls (reportedly, a corpse and a peddler's bag was found, long after the girls had passed away, underneath their parents' house when they began receiving these messages) soon snowballed into a full-scale craze, drawing both avid enthusiasts and skeptics seeking evidence of trickery in equal numbers.
Unfortunately, as Weisberg's book displays in detail, the Fox sisters were against more than just skeptics - stifled by social expectation of what constituted womanhood, increasing fame and the stress thereof and, perhaps most tragically, very bad luck in the sphere of romantic relationships.
The sisters' lives ended with them angry at their older sister Leah, whom the sisters accused of exploitation and personal tragedies leading to early, alcohol-related deaths.
Weisberg offers no answers, which is appropriate in my opinion, since both the sisters' actions are often contradictory (Maggie becoming a staunch Catholic and renouncing spiritualism, only to have a change of heart a year later, for example) and the subject of 'speaking to the dead' being a strictly supernatural, and thus unprovable, phenomenon. Weisberg offers her own opinion of the sisters and the phenomenon, but there are few polemics in the book itself (her opinion is offered as an afterword), simply an exhausting, if tragic, narrative that focuses on the facts.
I would highly recommend this book, especially to those interested in curious religious movements in the US, feminist history and Spiritualism itself. While it can be dry in places, the humanity of the women, and the social situation surrounding them, is brought to life.(less)
Theories as to man's origins have always been varied. It's one of those perennial questions that humans seek to answer, but can never truly find an an...moreTheories as to man's origins have always been varied. It's one of those perennial questions that humans seek to answer, but can never truly find an answer to. While in the past, this question was given an answer in the form of creation myths, that varied from culture to culture, science has made such myths largely impossible to take literally.
While most scientists support Darwin's theory of evolutionary change in all creatures over the span of many, many centuries, not everyone is so happy to adopt evolutionary theory - and if they are, thy are not necessarily ready to adopt it in the form Darwin postulated.
This book is a guide, of sorts, to some of the weirder ideas out there. The mangling of ancient near eastern mythology and astronomy has led to some to believe that we were in fact created by 'ancient astronauts,' a theory that gained a large audience in the 1970s with books like Chariots of the Gods? and others.
Others take evolution, but put a twist on it. White European males are the ones who did (and still do) this. Their evolutionary theories are often based upon a perceived fundamental difference of the races - not surprisingly, these theorists often view the white European as the pinnacle of evolution, with other races (especially Africans) as being 'naturally' primitive and closer to 'animal' than 'human being.' Others proposed an evolution that saw some groups (mostly white Europeans) as being the pinnacle of evolution and other groups (often other races, the sick and the ignorant) actually 'devolved' and are 'devolving' even further. This concept was put to entertaining use by the 70s and 80s band DEVO.
As a subset to these racist 'scientific' theories is 'eugenics,' which is also explored.
Others are more inclined to simply take the creation myth within Genesis literally rather than metaphorically, and thus become creationists. Relying on a false understanding of evolution and a devotion to the Bible as God's literal Word, creationists are more mainstream than the other groups and being both well-funded and politically supported are both in the public eye more often and more able to spread their beliefs through large publishing companies, elaborate films and television programs and even museums, whereas most of the other groups are on the social fringe.
Other weird theories, such as the so-called 'Aquatic apes,' the Yeti-based crossbreeding ideas of Stanislav Szukalski and New Agey theology round up the last chapters of the book, and while they haven't received the sort of attention that the others have, they're equally as interesting - and strange.
Fans of the paranormal, the varieties of human belief, SubGeniuses and fans of 'High Weirdness' will all be interested in this book.(less)
This so far is an excellent book on freedom verses government and military intervention upon that freedom. While the subject at hand is the 68 Chicago...moreThis so far is an excellent book on freedom verses government and military intervention upon that freedom. While the subject at hand is the 68 Chicago Democratic National Convention, the messages and political truths illustrated by the story are timeless.(less)