Sunday, April 23, 2017

“Read a Damn Book – 026: Unsolved Mysteries”

When I was 12 or 13 years old, my parents got me a book called Mysteries of the Unexplained, which was a hefty encyclopedia of mysteries, coincidences, ghost stories, UFO sightings, and supernatural phenomena. I loved that book, but it presented a less than skeptical approach to most of the topics. The book I’m about to review, in contrast, is thinner than that old classic but much more balanced in its reporting…

Joel Levy – Unsolved Mysteries (2016)

Levy’s book is a well written survey of a handful of unusual topics, including mysterious locations, sightings of strange creatures, unsolved disappearances, and cryptic artifacts. Unlike my old Mysteries of the Unexplained book, this text presents the standard version of each story as well as the skeptical interpretation of the event or phenomenon, as well as the supernatural, conspiratorial or fringe theories in a section called “Far Out Theories.” Topics like “spirit orbs,” which are little splotches of light that show up in photographs, are pretty decisively explained as being caused by the flashes on cameras, but Levy also discusses the fringe beliefs, like that orbs are disembodied spirits or some kind of natural phenomena called “earth lights.” The fringe is still presented, but confined to a clearly marked section.

So if you are a huge fan of supernatural explanations or conspiracy theories, this book might not be your favorite. Also, the topics are covered VERY quickly, usually in four to six pages with lots of large text and photos. The majority of these subjects: Easter Island, Bigfoot, Area 51, Stonehenge, etc., require several books worth of information to cover thoroughly, and Levy realizes this, so he includes a section called “Further Reading” at the back of the book that suggests a number of additional texts that interested readers can look to for more information. And, my last complaint, there are some strange omissions from this book. There isn’t a word about the Great Pyramid of Cheops, or the Crystal Skulls, or Star Children… And WHY, considering the cover has the ALL-SEEING EYE on it, isn’t there a section on The Illuminati???

Overall, there are some interesting stories covered in this book, and lots of photos, which is cool. I like the inclusion of the skeptical explanations along with the wacky theories, as well, and the recent publication date means that the most recent research is usually included for each story. The book, however, is definitely a skimmer, just barely touching on each topic before dropping it and moving on to the next. If you are already a fan of Fortean topics, this book is going to seem too rudimentary, but if you’re looking for a starter text in WEIRD PHENOMENA, it might be worth picking up!

---Richard F. Yates

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