A Survey of Forteana & Weirdness


This is for sheer fun. Have at it.

In 1939, in London, ex Nazi officer Hermann Rauschning published Hitler Speaks, ostensibly a transcript of conversations he’d had with Adolf Hitler. In them, Hitler reveals he was what we’d now call a Contactee. He claimed to have been in contact, directly, at least once physically, with beings he called the Underground Supermen or just Supermen. He considered them non-human intelligences from outside our space-time dimensions.

Was Rauschning’s book early anti-Hitler propaganda or is it an early insight into the Nazi hierarchy’s fascination with occult contact? Certainly Himmler would have taken such talk seriously. One thinks also of the Foo Fighters, baffling both sides by appearing so suddenly and vanishing so easily.

Even if it were all science fiction of some hair-brained sort the Nazis did pursue advanced weaponry such as the V2 and, beyond that, The Bell (Die Glöcke, whatever it was), and the so-called Sun Gun, a solar-beam to be magnified and directed from Low Earth Orbit.

It would be interesting to conduct deeper research into Rauschning’s book, its assertions, and its sources and origins. Hitler was notoriously straighforward in Mein Campf. Perhaps he was in this one, too.


Mohenjo Daro, Place of the Dead, in modern Pakistan, in the Indus River Valley’s northern region, shows signs of having been at least as big and important to trade as Ancient Egypt was at the time. It also shows signs of having been blasted from above by intense heat, so hot rock vitrified. We need nuclear blasts to accomplish this today. Could a comet or meteorite exploding above deliver such focused energy? Most astrophysicists say no, even as they claim there is no other rational explanation.

Then one looks at the account in Hindu Ramayana. In it we find the account of Ravana, king of a city called Lanka. He was so educated it was said he had “ten heads”, or was as smart as ten scholars. He had high ambitions, though: He wanted to overcome the deva, or deities, those blue beings who’d descended from the sky to teach mankind.

Naturally the god-like beings did not tolerate an upstart well, so his city was blasted during a brief but great war featuring flying craft, vimana, death rays, and other details straight out of science fiction.

Was Mohenjo Daro actually Lanka?

If not, what accounts for the intense, nulcear-blast kind of heat that destroyed the city in an instant.

Only 34 bodies have been found in this large city. Did people flee? Were they vaporized? Aren’t rhetorical questions fun?


In 312 AD, Constantine, at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, claimed he saw a huge shining cross in the sky. He took it as a portent and promised to convert to Christianity if he won the battle, which he did. Among the first things he did was encourage attacks on the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, to destroy what he now considered pagan and blasphemous knowledge.

These petty attacks culminated in total destruction in 391 AD when Theodosius the First, by decree, ordered all heretical and unapproved documents burned. Over a million scrolls, countless other books, slabs of cuneiform tablets, and other manner of written knowledge, science, technology, and literature was destroyed by fanatical crazies afraid of the world.

It is estimated that 95% of all ancient knowledge was incinerated by Vatican policy and decree.

The religion scam sets us always back to zero. We must always start over from nothing and nowhere thanks to the Dark Age loving churches.

One aspect lost were ancient Roman UFO sightings. Recent findings indicate the Romans saw a lot of odd things in the sky. They described them as best they could but seem eerily familiar to modern witnesses. Cicero saw a large “ship” that glowed brightly, then broke into a dozen or more smaller glowing ships. Even Alexander the Great witnessed a “glowing shield” fly down from the sky into a river after shooting beams of light at the enemy to help him defeat them. Alexander organized dives to try to retrieve it, even using his turtle invention, an overturned boat to trap air and allow six men to walk under the water.

Modern investigators agree that there seems to be a variety of EBE visiting us, each with its own agenda. These conflicting aims lead to some of the crazier things we experience.

In May of 2013, the Citizens’ Hearings On Disclosure, held in Washington, DC, featuring many ex Congressmen and ex Senators, various other government and military officials, and scientists of many fields, convened to discuss UFOs. It was concluded by this unofficial but serious, unprecedented hearing, that many species of extraterrestrial life forms are visiting Earth, have been for thousands of years, and pursue conflicting agendas, some perhaps beneficial to us, some not.

Preponderance of evidence, and there is a lot of it, demonstrates that the ETH, the Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis, is legitimate. Study confirmed the visitors and their interest in our technology, especially in our nuclear tools and weapons. Military officials admitted we cannot defend against what ever the UFOs are.

Are we another Ancient Rome, seeing portents of doom in our skies, being helped toward doom by some of the visitors while being defended against doom by others?

Men In Black, the dreaded and much scoffed-at MIB, even get involved in the struggle, although who they work for is anyone’s guess. “MIB? Some are sanctioned. Many are not. Some have no names or designations. Their origins are not usually known.”

That was the conclusion of most investigators.

Yet, as Philip K. Dick warned, “Anything, or evidence of it, can be faked.” So, who’d want to? Who’d have the resources? What would motivate them or make it worth the expense? These questions remain unanswerable to those honestly seeking to find out.

So how far back can this go?

Thorkild Jacobsen, a Norse scholar, studied Sumerian tablets and other ancient writings for fifty years before publishing his book Treasures of Darkness. In it he lays out Mesopotamian tales of their gods and the policies of those gods. It is interesting to note that this book makes the same conclusions as the Citizens’ Hearing on Disclosure, many decades before.

Sumerian writing is the oldest known, by the way.

That old fraud Zecharia Sitchin most likely mined Jacobsen’s valid, scholarly book to fuel his unconscionable confabulations. He did this precisely because Sumerian texts were so old, and so confusing, and so under-translated, due to the few who dedicate themselves to that dead language and its study. He saw a way to sell books and went for it, likely imagining himself another Von Daniken, who contented himself with merely asking rhetorical questions to force scientists to confront certain things they’d refused to deal with sensibly.

Crazy stuff does not stop happening just because crazies elaborate on it or sneering bunker types dismiss it out-of-hand as crazy.

“We need you to take this seriously, whether you believe it or not, because we need your best work to save mankind.”

That’s what some scientists were told. As more culture is destroyed even today by religion scam crazies, we need to keep up the pressure of examining and studying and investigating the reality of puzzling things. Anomalies may lead to huge breakthroughs. The fringe is an edge where the vista opens and new things are visible.


In the 1950s the Pentagon proposed Project: HORIZON. The goal was to set up a manned Moon Base by 1966.

Then came Randy Cramer. Brace yourself: He claimed that, in November 1987, when he was 17, he was awakened by a bright doorway opening in mid-air in his bedroom. Two men came out and pulled him from his bad, telling him he was an interstellar soldier. As it turned out, it was only interplanetary, but hey.

They took him to a triangular ship, a TR-3B, in a hangar, simply by walking through the light door. The triangle was capable of flying Mach 15+, he was told. He was put aboard with 40 or 50 others and told to watch the ceiling, which became a view port showing them Earth and the Solar system, stars, outer space. He was told they’d all been tested during childhood for a number of abilities. The ship hovered over Earth and the commander said, “Take a good look, it’s what you’ll be fighting for.

He claims they then flew two hours to the Dark Side of the Moon where they saw what was called Command Base Luna. Domes, towers, a huge complex like a small city glittering in a dark crater. He was told he was in a secret planetary defense initiative and would protect bases and colonies off Earth. He was then given a contract to sigh for a 20 year commitment.

He signed, and was told he was a DARPA Super Soldier genetically modified and medically enhanced since birth and specially trained in sessions he could not remember. He was then flown to Mars on another type of triangular craft.

He claimed to have knelt and touched the ground of Mars with his gloved hand because he could not believe he was there.

In 1978 Ingo Swann, a Remote Viewer, was taken by limo to an office where a man calling himself Axelrod had him remote view coordinates that turned out to be the Dark Side of the Moon, where he saw a base very much like Cramer claims to have visited.

In 2002, Gary McKinnon, a Scottish teenager, hacked into the Pentagon and NASA files. He discovered military and civilian lists of Non-Terrestrial Officers.

Cramer’s tale now vanishes up its own exhaust plume because he claims that, after 20 years of being a space soldier, he was teleported back into his 17-year-old body in his bed 15 minutes after he’d been taken away. Edgar Rice Burroughs would have nodded and smiled, thinking of John Carter of Mars. Cramer claims his memories came back slowly and in pieces over years, as weird feelings and imagery would come over him.

Truth, fiction, or something between?

Cramer’s story is somewhat Ender’s Game, too, without gay bashing.

How to take this tale is up for grabs. Watch out for space slime, though.


Dugway Proving Grounds in northern Utah’s desert, surrounded by mountains, may be the New Area 51. Better yet, it might be Spaceport Earth. Triangular craft have been seen many times and in 2014 a man named Collins, driving his pickup past the base, saw a huge triangular craft come down and hover over the base. He was so fascinated he pulled over and stepped out of his truck to watch.

It shot beams of light into the base and Collins heard alarms going off. The base was shut down and MPs rushed out of the gate toward him in a Jeep. He got into his truck and took off and they broke off pursuit once he was well away from base, on public roads.

Dugway’s triangles go back to the 1960s. Lights and unexplained lockdowns, often blamed later on leaky nerve gas canisters or what not, such as happened with the Collins sighting, are commonplace in the area.

Military folks who have worked there, along with civilian contractors, are sworn to secrecy on stiff penalties.

Why would Earth need a spaceport if we can teleport? Why use craft at all? If we have Moon and Mars bases, Earth is the worst of the three for launching things. Of course, it is a source of people and other things.

Gaia is dying and a secret push off-planet makes sense. It’s both too fantastic to buy into yet completely logical to contemplate and, when you look at evidence supporting the thesis, ou get uncomfortably close to that preponderance threshold.


One last thing: Babel means Gate To God, or Star Gate. It is estimated the Tower of Babel was 300 feet tall. Impressive, but no big deal these days.

Still, this was considered an affront to the gods, who did not want lowly man peering up over the edge of the bed. We were punished for our over-reaching. Divide and conquer, perhaps. Confused tongues and conflict resulted.

We’re still that way.

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A True Crime Evening


Night predation
Flickers on TV,
British tea
Pleasantly bitter
On the tongue.
Cool air stirs
Patient curtains.
Distant sounds echo.
Dogs bark, engines rev,
Car doors slam,
Words clump for me,
Attempts to catch time.
Moments, impressions,
Sensations, thoughts,
Experiences evanesce.
Breathing calms.
Mind clears from
Drowsy to alert.
Up too late again.
Fast-forward through
Commercial breaks.
Finish the show.
Capture the predators.
Finally get to bed.
Lay back to stare
In a cool dark room.

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/ Gene Stewart – Mon/Tue, 6/7 April, 2015, 00:47 – 77 words, 26 lines

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Finding Your Own Voice In Writing


Developing writers with ambition all want to find their own voices, craft their own styles, and become known as the only source for their particular writing.

Then they grow up and discover that editors hate that and want mostly pastiche of H. P. Lovecraft or Arthur Conan Doyle along with retreads of anything that has sold big before, anything familiar, reassuring, or soothing. No one wants challenged, no one wants to learn to deal with anything new, no one wants innovation, creativity, and style.

Most are blind to style anyhow and read for plot points, and those plot points used had better be recognized from countless other strings of plot points or it’s no go. Most are suspicious of words they don’t use everyday, of sentences more complicated than a grunt, of any kind of metaphor. Abstraction of any kind convinces most readers they’re being had, and that rankles — they resent feeling stupid.

So most writers crash and burn and if they learn anything at all they become commercial fiction hacks cranking out extruded fiction product to the very low standards of the masses.

Why? Because “that’s what sells” and making money is the only reason for publishing, according to publishers.

Thus we see that artistic ambition is corroded, undermined, and thwarted by capitalism, by greed, by the lust for gain, by the demand that art pander in order to profit.

This is why no one is ever happy unless they are an idiot.

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Art & Artist Considered As a Venn Diagram

Brain Burst

About the Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld and even Bill Cosby thing: I’m all for keeping considerations of the art apart from the artist, but when it’s as blatant as MANHATTAN makes it, you’ve got to deal with it. When the artist’s personal flaws begin seeping into and warping the work, (Orson Scott Card for instance), then it’s time for reassessing one’s responses.

Lovecraft’s racism caused a stir recently but it was absurd because he was able to sublimate and transform his ugly responses into brilliant horror fiction. He was never directly racist in his fiction, and in fact some of the interpretations came as a bit of a shock to long-time HPL readers. In this instance, keeping artist distinct from his art is no problem.

Robert E. Howard may well have been a repressed gay. He was certainly a momma’s boy. His powerful, ruthless heroic figures might be seen as overcompensation. Maybe Conan and Bran Mak Morn and Solomon Kane and Costigan would be called homoerotic ideals. Who knows? Point is, once again, Howard did not overtly let his own demons warp his fiction in obvious ways so it remains a matter of academic speculation.

Seinfeld never openly dealt that I can recall with his penchant for underage girls. That was kept in his private life. However, his show was about 90% Larry David anyhow, so to analyze SEINFELD you’d have to deal more with the George Costanza charater, played by Jason Alexander.

Again, Cosby kept his personal darkness out of his act, except of course for that one creepy comedy skit about Spanish Fly. Even then he kept it cute.

Woody Allen, though, in MANHATTAN, actually dives right in, directly using his own compulsions and actions as the material of his script and film, in which he stars no less. Even Hitchcock at least had the savvy to hire Cary Grant to substitute for his frustrated desires and projections.

The novel Lolita comes to mind. Nabokov took flack for it, but I’m unaware of any basis in reality in his own life. No doubt there was some, observational if not experiential, but who knows?

Kubrick’s film LOLITA with James Mason is somewhat toned down and slightly changed from the novel, inevitably. It is more comedic too, less dire. Still, do people accuse of Kubrick of being a stalker and romancer of underage girls, especially slutty, seductive, precocious ones?

Nothing anyone can say will sort this stuff out, and each of us must find our way through the brambles, but remember, as you struggle, the big, loud, simplistic answers are usually bullshit, and might cover things in yourself you don’t want to deal with. Just sayin’.

I’ll keep making the arch pronouncement that Art and Artist are two distinct things, but we all know it’s a Venn diagram with some, and sometimes a lot of, overlap.

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The Madness of Empty Spaces by David E. Cowen, a review

The Madness of Empty Spaces:
The Dark Poetry of David E. Cowen
Weasel Press, 2014, 61p
Introduction by Danel Olson
ISBN: 978-069-233-2962

A Review by Gene Stewart

A poetry collection featuring cover art, front and back, by the poet, published by a small press imprint, introduced by an academic; let’s examine it.

The cover art, in black and white, is moody and evocative. This matches the poetry, which also has the grace to root itself in reality. Some of the poems herein are gritty, others cynical, and a few eerie. All are tactile, realistic, and noir. Not that metaphor is not present. Merely that everything is rooted in everyday things, daily sensations, quotidian thoughts.

A trial attorney, David E. Cowen is rooted in Galveston, TX. His tropes stem from what he experiences and has considered. Evoking crossed purposes, thwarted ambitions, and the dust of lost desires, his work here shares a mood with noir detective fiction and no-nonsense suspense. Tricks are eschewed in favor of concrete correlatives chosen carefully to bring the reader to a grounded, context-heavy realization.

“Seven Hauntings In Seven Storms: Galveston, TX”, a favorite of mine, offers glimpses of murders and crimes at a house spanning the years 1900 to 2008. Each vignette is chosen perfectly to reveal both situation and character. Each syllable carries us inexorably through a hall of horrors. It is like a dirge dancing a macabre with a medieval ballad, all in language plain enough for the crime pages of a newspaper.

“The Choice of the Last Child of Proveglia” shows us a parallel to the notorious Italian death isle, where plague victims were sent to die. Echoes of both defiance and despair captured by murderous intent are offered in counterpoint to a little girl’s insight as aristocrats are ushered toward execution. Passing through doors, led by axemen, she chooses instead of freedom to run toward another door, another axe, and certain death. Is it release? Is it fulfillment?

I read this book in one sitting, mesmerized. The poems kept drawing me back to examine how this was done, why that was cited, what words carried the most impact. “Palmetto Ghosts” gives us a tour of a battlefield long forgotten, a place where spirits mingle with fog in a confused bleat of pain and death. “Prayer to the Killer of Children” makes explicit our cries into the void for surcease and understanding, cries never answered. The titular poem, “The Madness of Empty Spaces” discusses abandonment by theological concepts, ours and the deities we create.

“Gothique” mixes love, sex, and death with predatory chills and false assurances. It is overtly a poem of horror, not merely darkness.

Taken together, this is a consistently excellent collection throughout. Each poem pulls you into a moment, an insight, a world. As they flow together this collection demonstrates a unified effect, if not quite a theme. It gives the impression of a down-to-earth mind perceiving the eyes in the shadows most of us pass by every day. Definitely worth seeking out, The Madness of Empty Spaces by David E. Cowen did not quite make this year’s Stoker Award final ballot, but exposure to it lingers. Find a copy and see for yourself what quality dark poetry is all about.

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To Call the Dark

“To Call the Dark”

Dust between its teeth;
Dessicated unbrushed food
Or simply years of absence
Ignored by apathy?

Condemned house
Taken apart, torn down;
Floorboards revealed
Confusion, surprise, shock.

Details delivered disgust:
Crushed cranium,
Shattered teeth,
Fractured eye sockets.

Violence summed this
Figure of hidden death.
Murder, they whispered,
Those humbled laborers.

Underfoot all those years.
Babies played on this floor.
Mice lived inside it.
Did they eat it hollow?

No other bones, look.
Where could they be?
Hidden in the walls?
Half the workers quit that day.

Demolishing continued,
Costing more time and cash.
No further bones arose.
Her skull remained mysterious.

Across town a grave unnoticed
Contained all but Harriet Alvira Morten’s
Empty little head; her daddy’s words:
If it weren’t attached you’d lose it.

She had, when Samuel Dryden Post
Detached it for his experiments
In arts he considered dark.
He had it for years in a velvet bag

Until his mother found the skull
While finally cleaning his room.
Appalled, she smashed the horror,
Calling it abomination when he got home.

He made a midnight gathering to
Put the pieces under floorboards.
No one knew he slept over her,
Dreaming of what he’d been taught
To call the dark.

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/ W B Kek

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Victorian Now Literacy


Why has 50 Shades of Gray sold like crazy despite everyone of any relevance condemning it as a badly-written, badly-conceived infantile book unworthy of attention?

No one reads for style. Maybe a handful of us, sure, but mostly people read ONLY for plot-points, with a strong preference for a fourth-grade reading level in sentence and scene construction. Keep the vocabulary simplistic, with the occasional big word carefully explained so they can feel oh so smart. Best exemplar is the prose of Arthur Conan Doyle.

This means discussion of quality falls on not only deaf but ignorant ears. Readers do not know what we’re talking about. Oh, good readers do. Literate readers, that tiny group, they know, but the masses who make 50 Shades a big seller have no clue. Tad’s right, it’s not a zero-sum game, it’s just Gresham’s law, is the thing: Bad writing forces out the good writing.

That’s what worries me about the popularity of empty fakes like 50 Shades. ERB did not preclude PKD but Gerald Kersh is already forgotten and Harlan Ellison will be, once he actually croaks instead of taking about it.

What’s sad but true: the best boil off. They become “writers’ writers” and are known in tiny coteries of literate appreciators. Meanwhile the bad forces out the good, there being no room for it, no patience. Exploitative pulp will always sell wider and faster than quality.

So maybe we should stop grousing when sub-literate crap floats. Instead, decide: Are you commercial or serious in your writing? Can’t be both, they won’t let you. Those who mix in quality with popularity are the ones we tend to admire but it’s deucedly hard.

As an example, Dickens is far less sentimentalist than he’s so often charged with being. Yes, he did indeed address the masses in their concerns, and spoke for the common man. However, he did not write down to them. His prose is as eloquent, as high and pure as any; the public back then was far more apt to be largely illiterate but those who were literate were actually up to reading Dickens.

When his installments came out, people who could read would stand on boxes and read the work aloud to rapt listeners. His stories penetrated to the whole society the way addictive mini-series or binge-watched shows do now, despite being “too hard to read” as many modern students complain.

Read the Victorian newspapers, or try to, and you’ll see what I mean about the standards and levels of general literacy having been higher in Victorian times. Today’s readers cannot read the average front page of a Victorian newspaper meant for general consumption.

We’ve lost much by thinning and diluting literacy in order to spread it wider, and now we see the GOP destroying literacy and education so it can rule with impunity.

Back to the debtor’s prisons and indentured servants, etc. Slavery in the mines, child labor, etc. Will this also mean a return to writers writing for themselves and for the people, the readers, by-passing corporate editors and gatekeepers in order to shrug off limitations and controls?

Let’s hope so.

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My Name is Marnie by Tracy L. Carbone Shadow Ridge Press, 2014 trade pb, 245p, ISBN: 978-989-77963-0 cover design by Kealan Patrick Burke

Marnie, Carbone
A mystery ghost story with oomph, crisply written, with sharply-drawn characters, this book is a one-sitter. It pulls you through seamlessly, adding layer, shadowing the tangles, and delivering you to a denouement that has you wondering how it got so complex so fast.

Carbone’s prose is clean. Her approach to scenes is to being in media res and let the actions carry you through. It’s effective, especially when she is dropping hints about the crimes, the ghostly goings on, and the possible reasons for it all.

A compleat professional, Carbone does not let the reader lapse into dull spots or wander off for a cup of coffee. Her story, and the plight of Marnie, is compelling: Fired from her job after her husband is murdered, pregnant, Marnie seeks a place of refuge so she can have the baby and get her shattered life back on some kind of acceptable track.

She finds a lovely cottage in a charming New England village. Almost at once, though, unsettling aspects arise. A deja-vu familiarity with the cottage and town, for one. Her importunate, perhaps crazy neighbor, an intrusive guy who keeps saying upsetting things that make little sense. Dire warnings, hints of hauntings, and a hair-trigger nervous energy make the man seem crazy, yet Marnie senses things that might just confirm some of what he’s saying.

Who is he? Does she know him? Does he know her? Is he a stalker?

Then the little girl shows up. Sad, silent, and misty. The visits are short and spectral, puzzling Marnie. She moves from startled through fearful to curious. What is the ghostly little girl trying to lead her to? What does she want her to realize? A part of her must know. Another, deeper part screams at her to stop, to run, to get away from the deepening shadows.

When the revelations come it is an unraveling worthy of a Hitchcock film and darker than one of Clive Barker’s night frights. This is an enjoyable horror mystery ghost story that deserves to be filmed in 1940s style. Grab a copy at www.shadowridgepress.com or from your favorite small press source.

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Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker Harper trade pb, 2004, 282pp, $13.95 8pp b&w photo insert, ISBN: 0-06-008667-X

Lily Dale by Wicker
Lily Dale, on Cassadagah Lake in upstate New York, is one of those places where a spell has been cast, or conjured. It is a small town, a hamlet or village really, of Spiritualists. Founded in 1879, it is the oldest Spiritualist community in the world. That we know of.

At the time Wicker wrote this book it had a population of 450 residents in the summer, although upwards of 20,000 tourists flocked there. In winter months the place shrinks as registered mediums go elsewhere, usually south, leaving only about half the houses inhabited year-round.

Spiritualism is generally credited to, or blamed on, the Fox sisters, Kate & Margaret, who communicated, they claimed, with spirits who used knockings or table or wall rapping in elementary codes. This began in 1848 when their family moved into a house in Hydesville, NY. Later confessions said these knockings were faked, and those confessions were later recanted, having been issued in order to get money offered them by religious groups opposed to encouraging spirit communications. One’s conscience, or cynicism, must be the guide here.

While it is evident such things as spirit boards, divining rods, pendulums, crystal gazing, scrying, and other means of communing with spirits had existed for millennia — ask the Delphic Oracles, for instance — the Hyde Sisters created a huge public stir and interest in Spiritualism, or the communication with spirits, exploded in popularity. Spirits were generally thought to be the shades of dead people but demons and djinn and other forms quickly got into the act, much to Harry Houdini’s disgust.

Christine Wicker is an excellent, sharp-eyed reporter with a charmingly ironic take on things. Her approach to Lily Dale is part personal quest, curiosity, and assignment. She is skeptical but open-minded and fair, and eventually learns to let things flow without questioning them too much at the time. This helps her experience things she otherwise might have missed.

This is an engaging, amusing book full of wonderful anecdotes, trenchant character sketches of various eccentrics, and a human, genuine affection for her subjects, even as she keeps their claims mostly at arm’s length. Turns out, most of the folks in Lily Dale are highly skeptical of each other, too. Turns out, they are a contented, happy lot, and not nearly as mindless as many would have us think.

Finding ways to be happy in this world, this veil of tears, is not easy, but it can be, if we get out of our own way. Wicker finds this out slowly, and never fully. By fighting and struggling and straining to make her way in life, she made things hard for her. By learning to accept things as they are, and as they come, she was able to relax into a much more productive mode, even though she was never a slacker. Far from it.

We meet so many folks she includes a partial list of characters in the back of the book. She also includes a couple pages of excellent suggestions for further reading, prime among them the work of William James, the famous and ground-breaking American psychologist, brother to writer Henry.

Much of Lily Dale is Wicker confirming, to her own surprise, James’s conclusions from the 1800s, when he was a found of and active in the Society for Psychical Research. Where Houdini found only cynical exploitation of the bereaved, James found genuine flashes of amazing ability amidst the dross of fakery and fraud. He even understood that some genuine mediums learned to fake in order to continue pleasing clients when their natural gifts got tired.

Wicker does not set out to prove or disprove. Her interest is the people. Why do they believe and behave as they do? Does it help or harm them? Is it based on delusions, projected hopes, or is it mere patter, a carny barker’s advertisement for this or that type of ESP? She is also deeply interested in the spiritual impulse in most people. Why do we respond to such things so deeply? Why do some crave it enough to allow themselves to be duped?

These and other questions she raises are serious but the book maintains a generally light, bemused tone. It sprawls among many people she meets, to the point she must remind us now and then which person she is now talking about. Oddly, this lack of overt order doesn’t matter by the end of the book. It was never about portraiture.

Christine Wicker is a hard-core physics devotee. She is a hard-headed skeptic. She is reality-based and grounded in materialism. These flaky folks with their readings are alien to her and she is justifiably curious. She is as unlike today’s cheating, lying debunkers as a poltergeist is from a residual haunt. She is not desperate to dismiss even the discussion of things paranormal, as the debunkers are. She has no fear, no dread, and no mistrust of reality, despite baggage from her religious upbringing, which she readily admits to.

This book was a brief sensation when it first came out but it’s nearly forgotten now in the welter of ghost hunting merchandise flooding us today. It’s well worth finding and reading; check your library or the used books section of your favorite online provider. Skeptic, believer, or anyone else will enjoy this book thanks to its discursive style and level-headed, honest accounts.

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The Demon of Brownsville Road: A Pittsburgh Family’s Battle with Evil in Their Home by Bob Cranmer and Erica Manfred Berkeley mass market pb, 2014 $9.99, ISBN: 978-0-425-26855-1 appendix, 8pp b&w photo insert

Demon Brownsville

Well made book, physically, with a striking sepia cover, soft paper, and clear typesetting. Well-written book; the ghost writer Erica Manfred, an experienced journalist and essayist, does a very good job of delivering Bob Cranmer’s story of a haunting and his response to it in his own distinct voice.

Too good a job. His self-impressed, fatuous bragging, his ego mania, and his narcissism combines with a huge urge to testify about the massive religion chip on his messianic shoulder to make him one of the most repellent liars one could hope to encounter. He makes Holden Caulfield almost tolerable.

In consequence I abandoned trying to ignore Cranmer’s twittery for any meat that might be in the book. Unreadable for anyone allergic to right wing entitlement, religious bigotry, and dumb-ass pronouncements about the paranormal from a typically fearful and willfully ignorant god-yap view. Avoid.

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