I was 100 pages into this exploration of the dark side of the Midwestern small town when I got frustrated and almost put the book down. I jus
I was 100 pages into this exploration of the dark side of the Midwestern small town when I got frustrated and almost put the book down. I just wanted the author to reveal who the Mad Gasser was and tell his side of the story, rather than make vague suggestions as to his identity while exploring in detail the personal and wartime tensions running through Mattoon. By the end of the novel, I realized that this is precisely what those detailed explorations had done; they revealed exactly who the Mad Gasser was and put a lot of flesh on the dry bones of the phrase "mass hysteria." (In other words scared, ignorant folks en masse believe and do crazy, stupid shit in a panic, which panic is usually self-induced.) As a more-or-less lifelong central Illinoisan myself I found Brown's depictions of those dark undercurrents running often just beneath the nice, "Christian" veneer of small town Illinois life very, very accurate. This book hit me harder than I thought it would (not saying much, admittedly; that it hit me at all is more than I thought it would) and made what had always simply been a fun, spooky story a little more personal and a little more relevant.
You're lookin' in the mirror, small town Illinois....more
I forgot where I initially encountered Mel's hole (though it wasn't through Art Bell orMaybe I read about it in a collection of art by Paul Lafolley.
I forgot where I initially encountered Mel's hole (though it wasn't through Art Bell or his radio show, which I have never heard), but I have been fascinated by the whole hole phenomenon, and not simply the impossible hole itself, ever since.
This catalog from a most unlikely exhibition comprises essays, artworks—many quite good— and a short story, all inspired by this "paranormal land event occurring in radiospace." Meanwhile here is a Washington geologist, debunking the tale-spinner calling himself Mel Waters and showing off a mundane hole that was possibly the basis for Mel's hole. I liked the responses of the artists and writers herein better. Just saying.
New England is up there on the weirdness meter: old cemeteries, crazy epitaphs, H.P. Lovecraft, Pomoola, Dighton Rock, Salem witchcraft trials, StepheNew England is up there on the weirdness meter: old cemeteries, crazy epitaphs, H.P. Lovecraft, Pomoola, Dighton Rock, Salem witchcraft trials, Stephen King, the Bridgewater Triangle, Mary Baker Eddy, the Goshen Tunnel, Betty & Barney Hill, America's Stonehenge, "Ghost Cars," the Moodus noises, Joseph Smith, the Oneida Community, Phineas Gage, the Lake Winnipesaukee mystery stone, Wilhelm Reich, spontaneous human combustion, the Dover Demon, Loren Coleman, the Upton Tunnel, Lake Champlain monster, Gungywamp, Skull and Bones, and Purgatory Chasm. And better writing than many others in the Weird America series. ...more
Missouri evidently doesn't have nearly the level of weirdness needed to flesh out one of these books, because a good number of the topics in this voluMissouri evidently doesn't have nearly the level of weirdness needed to flesh out one of these books, because a good number of the topics in this volume were just not very interesting, let alone "weird." The book would definitely have benefited from a more in-depth look at the religious weirdness in Missouri, from the varied grottos and shrines scattered across the state to the alleged location of the Garden of Eden.
I'm certain that California could merit its own Weird series, but this isn't a bad single volume compendium of Cali's monsters, UFOs, hauntings, roadI'm certain that California could merit its own Weird series, but this isn't a bad single volume compendium of Cali's monsters, UFOs, hauntings, road side attractions, graveyards, ghost towns, new religious movements, and outsider art....more
Despite having hack writer and former Decaturian Troy Taylor at the helm, Weird Illinois—a companion to this volume—makes for great bathroom readingDespite having hack writer and former Decaturian Troy Taylor at the helm, Weird Illinois—a companion to this volume—makes for great bathroom reading. The production values and colorful images more than compensate for Taylor's leaden prose and inane editorializing. I love this book so much that every time I visit my best friend's Chicago apartment, I make time to secrete myself away in the john and hunch over it. I got to wondering what I would think of the book if the writing were as good as the production, and so I decided to check out another book in the series and see.
Luckily, I picked an absolute winner with Haunted Ohio. The writing is great, and not just because I'm comparing it with Taylor's ham-fisted oeuvre. The three co-authors balance a love of a good scare story with a desire to know the available facts about any site they describe; it constantly amazed me how they could debunk a particular legend with one or two salient, documented facts without ever abandoning the joy of repeating the original legend." Who cares if it isn't exactly true?" they seem to suggest, "If you're reading a book of weird stories, you're probably into it more for the chill it send down your spine than for any empirically verifiable facts it may reveal." As mentioned before in the context of *Haunted Illinois,* the production values are superb, and the addition of stories supplied by readers and locals really capture something uniquely Midwestern about these weird people and places.
The sections of the book deal with various weird topics like local legends, ancient mysteries (e.g., the Serpent Mound), fabled people and places, unexplained phenomena (e.g., UFO sightings, Hangar 18, and the ever-popular pancakes from space!), bizarre beasts (including the Mothman), local heroes and villains, personalized properties, roadside distractions (like the Longaberger Basket HQ featured on the cover—it's the building shaped like the giant basket, complete with handles!), haunted places, cemeteries, and abandoned buildings and roller coasters.
A very fun, entertaining, and even (gasp) informative book....more
After watching The World's Scariest Ghosts Caught on Tape one Friday evening a few weeks ago, my interest in "true ghost stories" was peaked and so IAfter watching The World's Scariest Ghosts Caught on Tape one Friday evening a few weeks ago, my interest in "true ghost stories" was peaked and so I scared up this volume.
Harry Price's The Most Haunted House in England is about a classic haunted house, Borley Rectory, which is a staple of many of the ghost and supernatural books I skimmed when I was younger. It is well-written in that competent British school boy fashion, with impeccable grammar, restrained wit, and conservative style.
Price explains how he was invited to explore Borley Rectory, which was built in 1863 by the Rev. Henry Bull and which had allegedly been visited by the ghost of a nun and by a spectral coach drawn by two headless men. Price details the history of the village of Borley and the tales of the haunted rectory; the legend of a nun who was buried alive at the site that would become the rectory for her illicit liaison with a monk; and spooky stories from various sources—those who lived in the house, their guests, and those invited specifically for the task of research into the hauntings.
Sadly, for its status as a classic in the genre of supernatural literature, the book is not really scary. Almost all of the activities described were of the nature of a poltergeist (or Poltergeister, as Price would have it) in the form of mysterious sounds, teleportation of small objects, movement of small objects, and, over a period of several years, the writing of messages and small marks on the walls of the house. There was surprisingly little about the spectral coach and ghostly nun, particularly seeing how these alleged phenomena were what drew Price to the house initially.
The book serves as a documentary history of the alleged haunting, and the author leaves it up to the reader to decide as to the veracity of the stories of Borley Rectory in light of all the documentary "evidence" presented. Many contemporary critics feel that Price and one of the couples who lived in the house (those to whom the mysterious messages were addressed) established this entire story as a hoax. It wouldn't surprise me.
In short, this is a high-quality reprint of a classic, if unconvincing and not very scary, early 20th century monograph on ghosts. The Time-Life Collector's Library of the Unknown is a classy series for those who are interested in the literature of the unexplained, even if only in fun, and this volume is no exception....more
**spoiler alert** I was reading something online about the Earth's "hum" when I came across this fascinating article by engineer and "pyramidiot" Robe**spoiler alert** I was reading something online about the Earth's "hum" when I came across this fascinating article by engineer and "pyramidiot" Robert Bauval . In it he explains that the Great Pyramid was constructed in such a way that it might have translated this frequency into something suitable for human listening; in other words, the pyramid may have been designed to "sing," making it the world's first multimedia monolith. I was so amazed at this revelation that I fired the e-mail off to my good friend, Rev. José M. Tirado, who shares my fascination with both ancient wonders and contrarians. Within minutes his reply indicated that I needed to read a book called The Giza Power Plant.
Although certain that the local library would not have a copy of this oddball book, I was taken aback when the online catalog pointed me right to it and indicated that it was available to request and check out locally. I placed my request, and once the book arrived at the library, I figured out why they were able to get a copy. It turns out that author Christopher Dunn lives in Danville, IL, which is about 45 miles from here, and so the public library owned a copy. My attitude toward coincidences is that they all are meaningful, and so the proximity of the author cemented my desire to read this book.
Dunn begins with a pretty interesting question, one rooted in his decades of experience in manufacturing: why is the Great Pyramid of Cheops so precise in its construction? He explains at some length that the precision found in the measurements of the pyramid, including the surveying and alignment of the base, with variances of less than a hundredth of an inch over a length of hundreds of feet, is beyond the level of precision expected of contemporary construction. As an aerospace machinist with over 30 years of practical experience, Dunn cannot simply brush aside this question; he makes it clear that for the folks like him, those responsible for translating the ideas of engineers into physical artifacts, the standard theory about the purposes and construction of the Great Pyramid just don't hold water.
He also asserts that there is abundant evidence of the use of machine tools at Giza and he shows quite a few images that seem to support his contention. Thin parallel grooves in shaped stone look like the marks left by a power drill. Intersecting curved surfaces in stone bowls indicate the use of lathe-like machine tools, and not easily blunted copper implements and scouring compounds. Dunn marshals some pretty intriguing evidence in his chapter on the use of machine tools in ancient Egypt and discusses the positive responses he's gotten from machinists, engineers, and others involved in hands-on manufacturing. This chapter was probably the most compelling in the book, because it does seem to me, a total layman, that he's on to something.
However, while his ideas on machine tooling in ancient Egypt are pretty intriguing, I found his overall hypothesis--that the Great Pyramid was a vast machine intended to produce power through resonance with Earth's "hum"--a lot less convincing, though no less fascinating. In brief, he asserts that the pyramid was a power plant that converted the Earth's hum into a source of clean, renewable energy. He doesn't just make this up out of whole cloth either; on the contrary, he provides a lot of circumstantial evidence that, if nothing else, does seem to indicate the inadequacy of the current explanation of the pyramid as a tomb. The granite-lined "King's Chamber" with its overlying vaults and entry-way is seen as a sort of "sound box" whose abundant quartz crystals resonate and amplify the humming earth below. The "Queen's Chamber" was a reaction chamber providing a source of hydrogen as a medium for the accumulated energy; Dunn notes the presence of various salt encrustations and a foul smell in this chamber that would be consistent with the presence of acid-base reactions. He even explains the mysterious shafts running up through the pyramid at an angle (a design feature inexplicable to modern manufacturers, since constructing the shafts on the horizontal would have been much, much easier); one shaft acted as wave guide to collect microwaves from space, focused them through granite lens that has been mistaken for a sarcophagus, and sent them out the other shaft as high-powered output.
It's a fascinating idea but it is not without its problems, obviously. Where are machine tools used in the construction, for example? I've seen museum cases filled top to bottom with Bronze Age implements but not one ancient Egyptian Black and Decker power drill. Where is evidence of the power usage (apart from the hypothetical power tools)? How was the power transmitted? (On one page, Dunn shows a bizarre "eye of Horus"-like satellite reflecting the beamed power back down to Earth, but thankfully doesn't really try to explain that.) Why did the human race completely lose its collective memory of this level of advancement?
This was a very interesting book which was incredibly well written (particularly since its writer is from Danville; in his defense, he is English by birth) and very fun to read. Dunn is an articulate voice for the seldom heard perspectives of those "on the ground" in the worlds of machining and manufacturing, and he raises some valuable and not easily dismissed questions about our knowledge of the ancient past....more