Max Maxwell's Reviews > Stranger Than Science

Stranger Than Science by Frank Edwards
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Apr 27, 09

bookshelves: pseudoscience
Recommended to Max by: My dad, from beyond the grave
Recommended for: Paranormal enthusiasts
Read in July, 1996, read count: 10+

Is it possible for a man to be swallowed by a whale and live to tell the story? The "scientific" answer is NO—but the correct answer is YES—.
This book is one of my favorite books, if not my favorite, period, book. I have certainly read this book more than any other book; I must've lost count somewhere. I never read it the whole way through in order; I just sortof jumped around from story to story, and as recently as 2006, there were still a few stories I hadn't read. This book is captivating; dazzling; full of wily fun; infused with a sense of childlike wonder, which it engenders in the reader; entertaining to a fault. It's one of the best books of the twentieth century.

Everybody's seen a UFO; according to the stats, one in eight Americans. Of course, the fact that I'm a skeptic takes a little of the fun out of the mania surrounding saucers, but I still get a kick out of it, and I even ran a little blog about the phenomenon a while back. Who knows?

Well, anyway, my biological father was interested in the paranormal just like me, and when he died in 1988, he left a handful of books on UFOs and related phenomena behind, not that I knew this at the age of two. We moved to Grand Manan from the mainland in 1990, and all of my dad's stuff got shoved into a trailer we kept by the barn in the backyard. One day I went out there and found them: Time-Life Books' The UFO Phenomenon , and, smaller in size but much brighter in colour, Stranger Than Science. It was a gold-mine.

If I'm a reluctant skeptic now, as a child I was anything but. Reading stories about UFOs and races of tiny men within the earth, cave paintings of dinosaurs, sea serpents and cursed cars, marine demons and spontaneous combustion, made my otherwise humdrum world come alive with possibility; the fields and woods and junker cars and gravel pits and ponds of our fifty-plus-acre property, where they once were just so, became home to all manner of beast and strange phenomenon. Stranger Than Science was the book that gave my childhood a purpose.

I was not the only person affected thus. Young adult horror author Bruce Coville gave his account in the introduction of his excellent book Bruce Coville's Book Of Spine Tinglers: Tales To Make You Shiver . I don't have my copy with me, so I can only paraphrase, but it went something like his neighbour lent him the book, and he was terrified by the story of the girl who was repeatedly attacked by something she described as a vampire, but that could not be seen by anyone else, save for the tooth marks it left all over her body. She was locked up for insanity halfway through her episode and prison guards said they saw marks being formed on her skin in front of their eyes. This was one of the stories that terrified me the most, because so far as I can tell, it actually happened. He went and talked to his neighbour about it and his neighbour was terrified by a completely different story! That's the beauty of the book, right there, in a nutshell.

Stanton Friedman, the world's, er, leading authority on UFOs, told me that he was also floored by Edwards's storytelling skills, deciding to devote his life to studying the UFO phenom instead of following a more conventional career in physics after reading Flying Saucers: Serious Business .

Anyway, the book is incredible. The stories are either entertaining and false or entertaining and true; either way, they work. Some of them are complete hogwash; for example, "P.S.: A Guest From The Universe?," which posits that the 1908 Tunguska meteor impact was actually a UFO crash, but others are totally true, like "The Treasure in the Well," which centers on the Oak Island treasure. Men as distinguished as FDR poured resources into the futile and ongoing effort to attain this pirate's treasure. My favorite story, though, is "The Cursed Car," owned by Franz Ferdinand. Just look at the opening sentence:
It was an elaborate automobile, and it figured in the deaths of 20 million people before fate finally caught up with it.
If that wouldn't draw you in, what would?

There's also another Maritime connection in the story "The Strongest Man on Earth," about the giant Angis McAskill, a Nova Scotia gentleman who could lift anything... until the day that he lifted a ship's anchor, dislocating his shoulder in a way that led to his death.
He had won the bet—but the cost was excessive. In lowering the anchor, one of the flukes struck his shoulder, throwing his dangerously off balance. The giant managed to avoid being crushed, but the fluke bruised his shoulder muscles—and the career of Angus McAskill faded rapidly.
This story is touching and more than a little sad; but then, so are all of the big-fish stories in this book: if not sad, than capable of invoking one emotion or another with their vivid portrayals of oddball events and people. The tone is honest in its hyperbole and hyperbolic in its honesty. Somehow Edwards manages to say a lot about everyday life in this synthesis of never-befores and never-agains.

P.S.—To the guy below knocking FE for borrowing from FATE magazine, he admits this right in the Introduction of the book!
Especially do I wish to thank Curtis and Mary Fuller for the invaluable permission to use the files of FATE magazine.
WTF?
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