The Anomalist



The Anomalist Awards
for the Best Books of 1998


Every year we seem to like more and more books. That's the good news. The bad news is that we can't handle all the reviews ourselves, so we've asked some our our favorite experts to help us out. Each review is now bylined. Here's a guide to the reviewers:

  • Loren Coleman (LC) is a cryptozoologist and the author of two forthcoming books: The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide and Cryptozoology: A-Z. His website is The Cryptozoologist.
  • Tom Van Flandern (TVF) is an astronomer and author of Dark Matter. His website is MetaResearch.
  • Patrick Huyghe (PH) is an editor of The Anomalist and its webmaster.
  • Dennis Stacy (DS) is the other editor of The Anomalist, and was for many years editor of The MUFON UFO Journal.
  • Marcello Truzzi (MT) is a Professor of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University and the Director of the independent Center for Scientific Anomalies Research (CSAR). He specializes in the sociology of deviant belief systems and, through CSAR and its journal Zetetic Scholar, has sought to academically legitimate an interdisciplinary science of anomalistics.

As a convenience to our visitors, you may get more information about--and order if you'd like--most of the books on this page order by simply clicking on the title (exceptions noted with an asterisk).Your order will be processed by . . .


And the winners (alphabetically by author) are...

Seeing Red*
by Halton Arp

Prepare to have your universe turned upside-down. Arp, who knows the extragalactic sky perhaps better than any other living astronomer, builds his case against the customary interpretation of redshift methodically and shows that redshift must have some cause other than velocity. He suggests that the redshift of matter is an inverse function of the age of that matter. As much as one wishes to resist this conclusion, Arp shows case after case that conforms to it. In this 306-page tour de force, Arp will have you doubting what you thought you knew of the large-scale structure of the universe. And as if the implied revolution in cosmology were not enough, your view of the professionalism of scientists and academics in general and of astronomers in particular, will be another casualty of your reading. In the end, Arp wonders how many other uncertain assumptions might exist in other areas affecting our daily lives about which we are innocently overconfident. That is perhaps the most sobering thought of all.(*Ordering information.)--TVF

UFOs & Alien Contact:
by Robert Bartholomew and George Howard
Prometheus Books

Jacques Vallee's landmark (and controversial) phenomenological analysis of human-alien encounters, Passport to Magonia, was published in 1969. In effect, the UFO field has waited damn nigh on three decades for a follow up. Happily, it's now here, in the form of UFOs & Alien Contact. This survey, by Bartholomew and Howard, of a century of claims of encounters with aerial ships and beings focuses on the narrative content of such accounts--apart from the issue of whether such claims are objectively verifiable or not. (The authors believe they are not.) Individual chapters are devoted to the 1897 American Airship wave, the New Zealand Zeppelin scare of 1909, the British UFO panic of 1912-13, Sweden's 1946 ghost rockets, and other UFO outbreaks, including the modern one, which began in 1947 and shows no sign of ceasing. The icing on the cake is a 100-page Appendix of more than 200 cases of "Reported Communications between Aliens and Humans."--DS

North America's Great Ape: The Sasquatch*
by John A. Bindernagel
Beachcomber Books

A serious ecological and biological treatment. Bindernagel relies heavily on the reports of Bigfoot and Bigfoot-look-alikes to put together an identi-kit of what these animals look like and how they behave. Bindernagel feels there is ìsufficient evidence to treat the Sasquatch as a bonafide member of the North Americaís spectrum of large mammals.î I am struck by Bindernagelís down-to-earth and welcome insights, but when Bindernagel includes Eastern USA material, he runs into trouble. Something entirely unrelated is going on out here, be it folklore, different animals or what. Despite such missteps, I found his book complete, thorough, and interesting. The insights from a wildlife biologist's point of view are superb.(*Order from Beachcomber at 1-800-487-1494.) --LC

Alien Abductions*
by Peter Brookesmith
Barnes and Noble

UFO abductions don't easily lend themselves to dispassionate treatments. Think of past titles such as Philip Klass's UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game, to David Jacobs's The Threat. Only a handful of titles have managed to walk the minefield between the two extremes, and the latest of these is this engrossing read by England's Peter Brookesmith, who teamed up last year with countryman Paul Devereux to produce UFOs and Ufology: The First 50 Years. Evenhandedness, however, doesn't necessarily equate with unopinionated, and in the end Brookesmith comes firmly down on the side of abductions as a psychological, as opposed, to a literal, physical phenomenon. Even so, Brookesmith admits, that leaves more than a little to be explained -- about everything from the ultimate nature of hypnosis to a full understanding of the inner workings of the human mind, effectively as alien a landscape now as it ever has been.(*Available through

Electric UFOs
by Alfred Budden

I have long thought that UFO experiences and the like are not entirely the product of the imagination and that something outside the witness is responsible for triggering them. Electric UFOs is Buddenís third attempt at elucidating his theory that the electromagnetic pollution of the environment is responsible for a wide range of paranormal phenomena such as alien visitations, missing time, hauntings, and out-of-body visitations. While Budden theory is unlikely to convince the "true believers" in ETs and spirits of the death, I think Budden may be on to something. Right or wrong, the theory is well argued and worth a close look. Recommended.--PH

Conversations with Eternity:
The Forgotten Masterpiece of Victor Hugo

Translated with a Commentary by John Chambers
New Paradigm Books

Few people are aware that while in exile on the island of Jersey, the great French writer Victor Hugo channeled thousands of messages from the dead. "This emotional experience lasted for over two years," writes Martin Ebon in the introduction, "and the record of its exalted nights and days is certainly a unique document, as well as a glimpse into the subconscious of an egocentric, frustrated genius, seeking to crash through the barriers of human communications. . . And--who knows--it may even be that Hugo succeeded." This book translates a good deal of Hugoís channeling into English for the first time. Stitching it all togetheróand providing the much needed history and perspective--is John Chambersí brilliant running commentary. Quite a surprise, quite a delight.--PH

Unexplained : Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences and Puzzling Physical Phenomena
by Jerome Clark
Visible Ink

This new, second edition of The Unexplained is an extensively updated, completely revised version of Jerome Clark's earlier informative first edition. Filled with new entries and different photographs, Unexplained is not a trick, but a treat; it's like getting a whole new book from Clark. If it's not a bestseller, I'll be shocked for it combines the explorations of curious topics for the novice with some in-depth analyses for the anomalies and Fortean audience. Highly recommended. --LC

Biological Anomalies: Birds
by William Corliss
Sourcebook Project

This is the seventeenth in the series of "Catalogs" and the sixth within its "Biological Anomalies" sub-series by the extraordinary compiler of serious (that is, primarily academically respectable) scientific anomalies, William R. Corliss. As with the other volumes in this series, Corliss has meticulously and systematically classified and then analyzed these hundreds of stray misfits in the scientific literature. These books are a gold mine for scientists, Forteans and even science fiction writers, and are indispensable to any serious anomalist. This large (nearly 500 page) survey of avian anomalies covers literally all scientists have found out of theoretical line in birds including oddities of morphology, behavior, genetics, bodily functions, fossil record and unusual faculties. As with all of Corliss's works, full references and an amazing depth of scholarship are displayed in every section. (*Order from Sourcebook Project, PO Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057)--MT

Aliens in America
by Jodi Dean
Cornell University Press

Dean, a political scientist at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, provides a cultural analysis of our current "alien" fixation within the context of sociology, psychology, political science and media studies. Now stop yawning! Yes, the language does descend into gobbledygook at times, and I'm not sure about paranoia being the defining feature of American life, but with half the world willing to believe any conspiracy or alien abduction story that comes across the pike, and the other half of the world simply dismissing and ridiculing such stories off hand, Dean demonstrates the uncertain nature of "reality" and why this business is all, well, so "alienating." It's refreshing to have an academic attempt a literate and insightful overview of this whole "alien" thing without taking the easy way out. Thumbs up.--PH

Wonders and the Order of Nature
by Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park
Zone Books

One undeniable component of our interest in anomalies is a sense of wonder. Turns out this passion for wonder has a history. Two historians of science trace for the first time the limits between the believable and the unbelievable, the possible and the impossible, using texts, documents, and images having to do with monsters, gems that shine in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions and other marvels. Their story begins in the mid-12th century and ends well into the 18th century, when wonder and wonders faded from prominence in elite circles as a favorite object of contemplation and appreciationóat least until recently. Do wonders appear because they contradict and destabilize or because they round out the order of the world? A beautiful book.--PH

Shadows in the Sun
by Wade Davis
Island Press

The Harvard ethnobotonist best known for his investigation of the zombie phenomenon in The Serpent and the Rainbow here relates his encounters with the "larger world," some of which have shattered the rigidity of his scientific perspective. His trips through the weirdness of nature and culture takes him to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, a Malaysian rubber plantation, and the Sonoran desert of Arizona (where he sample toad venom), among others. "Just to know that nomadic hunters exist," writes Davis, "that jaguar shamans yet journey beyond the Milky Way, that the myths of the Athabaskan elders still resonate with meaning, is to remember that our world does not exist in some absolute sense but rather is just one model of reality." Davis is a scientist open to all things bizarre.--PH

The Search for the Giant Squid
by Richard Ellis
Lyons Press

One gets the feeling that Ellis has been bitten by the cryptozoological bug in a big way, for while doing research over the years, he seems to have fallen in love with the Kraken, the legend that would be discovered to be the giant squid. Today, Ellis is passionate about Architeuthis, and his book is the first to pull together all that is known about these now barely known sea monsters. Thirty-five drawings, some by Ellis, who is an internationally known marine life illustrator, and thirty photographs, many pulled from little viewed archives, dot the book nicely. The end effort of Ellis's research and passion for the Kraken is a detailed and well-written natural history of the giant squid. A significant contribution to cryptozoology. --LC

From Other Worlds:
The Truth About Aliens, Abductions, UFOs and the Paranormal

by Hilary Evans
Readers Digest Books

This late-in-the-year arrival by frequent Anomalist contributor Hilary Evans (his "So You Want to Materialize?" graces the current issue) would be worth the price of admission if only for the color plates which decorate virtually every page. Add in a thoughtful text comparing aliens with other alleged entity encounters (from ghosts to the Virgin Mary) and the bargain is more than doubled. The concluding chapter, "Observers and Operators," reiterates the increasingly obvious: that despite the last ditch efforts of some abductionologists to sustain a "standard" abdution scenario, there simply ain't no such animal. Both the experiences and entities encountered vary too widely to accommodate any kind of classic, textbook abduction. Granted that, one is left wondering how far the aliens have to travel to get here. From Other Worlds suggests that the distance isn't all that far.--DS

The Deep Hot Biosphere

by Thomas Gold

Gold is a troublemaker. Every five years this highly respected Cornell University scientist ventures into a new field of researchóbe it zoology, physics, astronomy, or whateveróand proposes an outrageous theory that gets all experts in the field hopping mad. Sometimes he is proved wrong, but usually he's right. In this new book, Gold proposes that the entire crust of the Earth, down to a depth of several miles, is populated with living creatures. (No, we are not talking about the Hollow Earth here.) This theory, which says that the probably greater and certainly most ancient part of the biosphere is deep and hot, is supported by a good deal of evidence. The theory of a hot deep biosphere holds revolutionary implications about the origin of live on Earth and the prospects for extraterrestrial life. A stunner.--PH

Great Feuds inScience: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever
by Hal Hellman
John Wiley and Sons

This survey of ten major science debates, ranging from the seventeenth century's Galileo versus Pope Urban VIII to the twentieth century's Derek Freeman versus Margaret Mead, reveals the all too human side of science. Whether it be Newton against Leibniz, Johanson against the Leakeys, or geologists versus biologists, Hellman nicely documents the pride, greed, jealousy, religious and patriotic elements that are part of the emotional background in debates we usually see presented as mere forward steps in the march of reason. Anomalists can take great solace from some of these past battles, especially that won over his theory of continental drift by Alfred Wegener against just about everyone.--MT

In the Domain of the Lake Monsters:
The Search for the Denizens of the Deep*
by John Kirk
Key Porter Books

Rarely does a cryptozoological book come along that I find I'm grabbing every other day, but John Kirk's new surprise, In the Domain of the Lake Monsters, is certainly finding a place on my "frequently used books" shelf. How the guy was able to pull off squeezing nine years of such good bibliographical and field research into one volume is a wonder. Kirk's writing style is open-minded, skeptical, informational, and good-natured. It's been a fun book to read. And now it's become a trusted reference work.(*Order from the B.C. Scientific Crytozoology Club.) --LC

The Aliens and the Scalpel:
Scientific Proof of Extraterrestrial Implants in Humans

by Roger Leir
Granite Publishing

Paradigm-changing, well-documented, and in accord with the principles of scientific method--that such criteria would be met by a book on the subject matter of "alien implants" was, to put it mildly, unexpected. This book is an easy read because it is done in the anecdotal style of a personal diary, starting with Leir's professional career as a friendly neighborhood foot doctor. He describes his evolution to his present status as the only surgeon to surgically remove implants from the bodies of individuals who claim to be alien abductees, then to have those implants analyzed by professional laboratories. The actual biopsy reports, pathology reports, and metallurgical analyses on laboratory letterhead are reproduced as appendices at the book's end. What I read in this book is evidence that cannot be dismissed by the criteria of scientific method. I, for one, will now be paying close attention to future developments.--TVF

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits
by Carol Mack and Dinah Mack
Arcade Publishing

Bravo. Playwright Carol Mack and her daughter Dinah have tackled the flip side of the way-over-done angel phenomenon and produced a book on that great variety of subversive spirits known as demons. A medieval estimate had that there were 7, 405, 926 demons in the world. The Macks necessarily are highly selective. They categorize the demons by habitat, as "the nature of the habitat seems to shape the nature of the spirits who reside within," so that "Water" contains such creatures as Mermaids and Mbulu, "Mountain" contains Tommy-knockers and Tengu, "Forest" contains Oni and Bori, "Desert" contains Palis and Mamu, and "domicile" contains Nisse and Changelings, and "Psyche" contains Id and the Shadow, among many others. As one with a passion for illustrated field guides, I found this book irresistible--PH

The Ultimate Time Machine
by Joseph McMoneagle
Hampton Roads Publishing

Joseph McMoneagle was a remote viewer in the government's now-defunct STARGATE program and is widely regarded as one of the world's best. His previous book, Mind Trek, was a highly personal examination of how he came to be a remote viewer and what it means to be one. In the first half of his new book, McMoneagle explains just what can and can't be done with remote viewing then in the second half uses the technique as a time machine. He travels thousands of years back in timeóto the very origins of humanity--and a thousand years into the future. Aware that "predicting the future is an intentional act of creation," McMoneagle gives more than 150 specific explicit presents on world population, aging, religion, technological developments, and dozens of major changes to laws customs and practices to the year 3000. Who knows how much of this will turn out to be true, but if it can be done, I'd put my money on it that McMoneagle is the one who can do it. Fascinating.--PH

Dancing Naked in the Mind Field
by Kary Mullis

"When something unusual happens," writes Mullis, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry (for the invention of the polymerase chain reaction, which redefined the world of DNA and genetics), "a scientist worth his thick horned-rim glasses and shoddy clothes gets moving." Mullis certainly does. He tackles astrology, parapsychology, as well as more conventional science topics like global warming, poisonous spiders, and the HIV virus. He is certainly not afraid to challenge the authority of scientific dogma. Mullis may not be the most eccentric Nobel Prize winning scientist, but he is certainly the most outspoken. How many other Nobel laureates have openly described their possible encounter with aliens? Mullis does. Picture Hunter Thompson as a real (good) scientist and you'll have a good portrait of Kary Mullis. His book is playful, often funny, and always provocative.--PH

The Cosmic Serpent
by Jeremy Narby

Anthropologist Narby lived two years among the Ashaninca people in the jungles of Peru and was astonished by their claim that their expert knowledge of plant chemistry had its origins in plant-induced hallucinations. Narby ends up accepting the idea that hallucinations could be a source of verifiable information (heresy!) after finding that these indigenous peoples had known about, and drawn, the double helix structure of DNA for millennia (science discovered it in 1953). He concludes that the genetic information at the heart of each cell may (somehow) transfer specific knowledge to a drug prepared consciousness (wow!). Narby may be skating on thin ground at times, but his story makes one wonder about the connections between consciousness and molecular biology. An intriguing blend of science and mysticism.--PH

The Science of Aliens
by Clifford Pickover
Basic Books

The prolific (see also his excellent Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen) and highly imaginative IBM computer scientist has produced one irresistible book. If there are aliens, what would they be like? To answer that question Pickover draws on a wide variety of material from science, science fiction, and the UFO literature, though he's clearly stronger on the first two than the latter. And alien looks are by no mean Pickoverís only concern. His chapter titles give a good feel for his wide ranging treatise: "Alien Senses," "Alien Sex," Alien Travel," "Communication," and "Weirder Worlds." (If you're interested in his chapter on "Life at the Edge," I would recommend you also take a look at Life on the Edge: Amazing Creatures Thriving in Extreme Environments by Michael Gross for a more in-depth look at this subject.) His look at "Alien Abductions" is rather weak, unfortunately; his skepticism toward the UFO subject clearly hampers his imagination in this regard. (He should have read my book : The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials!) But all in all, The Science of Aliens is one wild, weird wonderful romp.--PH

Free Energy Pioneer: John Worrell Keely
by Theo Paijmans
Illuminet Press

Over a century ago, an American inventor by the name of Keely discovered a mysterious source of free energy and proceeded to build some 2000 machines that ran on this mysterious force. But because his breakthroughs never materialized, many thought Keely a charlatan. This new biography clearly demolishes this image of Keely. So was he crazy? Maybe. Visionary? Maybe. A man of the times? Absolutely. Keely was one of many pursuing unconventional lines of research and this biography ends up surveying an amazing period of history. My good friend Hilary Evans calls this "a magnificent contribution to anomaly literature." He's right: well done, Paijmans!--PH

Skeptics and True Believers:
The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion

by Chet Raymo,
Walker and Company

Astrophysicist and science columnist Raymo argues for a form of rapproachment between science and religion in which he claims that though miracles can be explained, their explanations are themselves a sort of miracle. Trying to produce a common ground between modern theology and science, he argues that both sides can complement one another and that antagonism between science and religion may be unnecessary. In the course of his discussion, he includes much about alleged pseudoscience and his general and his stance is skeptical, but his approach lacks the stridency of the scoffers (the True Disbelievers), and his attempt to build bridges between disputants is admirable. The book is somewhat of an antidote to the extremes on both sides, and therefore should be welcome for most anomalists.--MT

The Fortune Sellers: The Big Business of Buying and Selling Predictions
by William A. Sherden
John Wiley & Sons

This is mainly a provocative expose of the booming (now about $200-billion) business of predicting the future. Not limited to (but including) what we usually think of as the marginal and occult "fortunetellers," Sherden concentrates on the far more significant and respectable "fortunesellers" found in mainstream society, including those in meteorology, economics, invention, technology assessment, futurology and organizational planning. Much of this is revealed to be pseudoscience (at best) and fraught with phony expertise. Aside from its intrinsic merits, this volume is important for anomalists in providing a base line and set of comparisons against which to understand predictions from less orthodox theorists.--MT

Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness
by Carole Silver
Oxford University Press

Carole Silverís survey of the little peopleóthe fairies, elves, and mermaids, as well as the changelings and vampires, brownies and goblins the likeófinds that the Victorians took these strange and secret people very seriously. The Yeshiva University English professor then probes these beliefs to get at some hard nosed issues of the times such as racism, colonialism, patriarchal oppression. The notion that fairies had such a profound impact on the British between 1798 and 1923 will no doubt annoy some scholars to no endóand that, subject matter aside, is certainly one reason we were so attracted to this very entertaining book in the first place.--PH

Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain
by Alison Winter
University of Chicago Press

This lively social history of the impact of hypnotism on mid-ninteenth century Britain not only chronicles the activities and remarkably widespread interest in mesmerism but deals extensively with how and by whom the boundary line between real and bogus science got drawn (and perhaps misdrawn). It takes us on a tour of mesmerism's path through medical school, parlors, the popular press and even carnivals. The anomalies of hypnosis remain with us today, and this very readable yet scholarly study is a wonderful introduction to the topic.--MT


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Book Awards 1996

Book Awards 1997

Book Awards 1999