The Anomalist



The Anomalist Awards
for the Best Books of 1997

  It was a very good year. But you'll be surprised as much as by what you won't find on the list, as by what you do. For example, don't look for The Day After Roswell on this list because we don't recommend it; if the story is true, it's a really badly done book; if it's not...who cares? On the other hand, if you don't have the three pricey volumes of Jerome Clark's UFO Encyclopedia, which we highly recommended last year, be sure to pick up the abridged, inexpensive one-volume edition called The UFO Book: Encyclopedia of the Extraterrestrial. Of course,there is far more to the field of anomalies than UFOs; the topics covered by our award winners for 1997 are wide ranging and wonderful.  

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And the winners are...

America's Bigfoot:
Fact, Not Fiction--US Evidence Verified in Russia
by Dmitri Bayanov

This is not only a real "history" of the Patterson film screenings, analyses, and personalities, done in a down-to-earth, personal style, but an exposť to boot. It is very insightful about the politics of the field from Ivan Sanderson's time through about 1994. It tells how the Russians were able to conduct research--since the 1950s on their "snowmen" and since 1971 on the Patterson film--despite the decades of repression by a very rigid, very nasty Soviet system. But it also deals with the in-fighting among the Canadians, Americans, and English--how Dahinden, Krantz and Napier frequently neglected or forced others to not publish the work of the Russians. You'll also read about how the International Society of Cryptozoology, Richard Greenwell and Bernard Heuvelmans blocked the Russians and other ISC board members from creating a special hominoid subcomittee to study these animals. Obviously, this is only their side of the story, but many insiders tend to think there is a lot of truth here.*Order from Progressive Research.

Real Encounters with Little People

by Janet Bord
Carroll & Graf

I like the clear-eyed approach that Janet Bord takes in this modern examination of fairies. She goes into this intellectually hazardous task truly wondering if fairies are objectively real, semi-real, or imaginary. Then, to find out, she examines the fairy lore of Great Britain and Ireland, delves into Little People stories from around the world, looks at contemporary eyewitness accounts, and tries to unravel the fairy/UFO entity connection. In the end, Bord, who runs the Fortean Picture Library with her husband, straddles the fence--a telling conclusion that shows there may be more to this fairy business than most people realize. You'll enjoy reading this one.

Area 51, The Dreamland Chronicles:
The Legend of America's Most Secret Base

by David Darlington
Henry Holt

Area 51 is the supersecret test flight facility in the middle of the Nevada desert. It was here that the U-2, SR-71 and F-117 Stealth fighter were tested far from prying eyes. All that changed when Bob Lazar--a self-confessed physicist--surfaced, claiming to have helped reverse-engineer a government-captured flying saucer at Area S-4, just south of Groom Lake. Others began trekking to the legendary black mailbox outside the base's borders (and the equally famous Little A'Le'Inn), from where, it was said, saucers could be seen flying almost nightly. If you're not up to your own expedition, Darlington proves an excellent and reliable guide, both to Dreamland's history and current events, and to some of the characters who have made a second career of such stories. As entertaining as it is informative.

The Ultimate Exploration of the Unknown

by Mike Dash

Few dare to take on the whole world of strange phenomena in a single volume and most of those who do fail miserably, presenting us with nothing but a hodgepodge of cases with little thought brought to bear on what it all means. Not so with Mike Dash's Borderlands. Dash, who is publisher of Fortean Times, takes on religious visions, spirit communications, UFOs and abductions, fairies, crop circles, cryptozoology, earth mysteries, and more ,but he does not let any subject get away easily. In the end, Dash grapples with the psycho-social explanation as the best way to understand these phenomena, and tries his best to make it work. "In short," he asks early on, "to what extent are we, ourselves, the phenomena?"

UFOs and UFOlogy:
The First 50 Years

by Paul Devereux and Peter Brookesmith
Facts on File

A wonderfully sane, well-illustrated overview of the UFO phenomenon, its side issues--like ancient astronauts, crops circles and the silver screen--and the folks who study the subject--the UFOlogists themselves. Covers the prophets, crazies, and conspirators, as well as the real investigators and theorists, all in an effort to inject a little self-awareness into UFOlogy. Earthlights are prominently featured, not surprisingly given Devereux co-authorship, but he doesn't insist that this natural phenomenon necessarily explains all UFO reports. And Brookesmith is left wondering at the end just how we could possibly recognize a genuine ET visit to Earth, which just goes to show just how "soft" the UFO/ET connection really is.

China's Super Psychics
by Paul Dong and Thomas E. Raffill

Unlike the United States, China actively promotes psychic research and has developed the psychic abilities of thousands of its people. Some are healing psychics, some are predictive psychics, and some are "regular" psychics--these can only stop cars, walk through walls, levitate, and such! In this book, Paul Dong, a chi gong instructor and noted writer on Chinese forteana, and Thomas Raffill, a translator and consultant, profile the psychics and the researchers, and examine the country's military motives for psychic development. Though it's hard to believe in all the reputed abilities recounted here, the book provides an invaluable look behind-the-scenes at what happens when the world's most populous country takes the psychic business seriously.

The Owlman and Others*
by Jonathan Downes
CFZ Publications

The director of Britain's Centre for Fortean Zoology has produced a delightful, brew-soaked, surrealistic, fortean romp about the sightings of--and shennanigans surrounding--a big, feathered "birdman" reported in Cornwall in the mid-1970s. Despite poor production values, I can't help but recommend this privately printed, spiral-bound, 217-page, illustrated volume, which also happens to deal with the Loch Ness Moster, UFOs, witches, ghosts, faires, and a host of colorful characters like the infamous Doc Shields. *Order directly from the Centre for Fortean Zoology.

Be Careful What You Pray For...
You Just Might Get It

by Larry Dossey
Harper SanFrancisco

Don't be put off my the title. This is not a mamby pamby New Age book. It's about hexes, curses, and spells--the dark side of psychic phenomena--and it's a doozy. Best selling author and physician Larry Dossey ventures deep into the subject of "toxic prayers." His first sentence sets the stage perfectly: "There are sorcerers among us." No kidding. A 1994 Gallup poll found that 5 percent of Americans have prayed for harm to come to others. Life's "little curses" are especially prevalent in sports and--horrors--medicine. Dossey argues that traditional medicine must begin to grapple with the potential harm associated with some of its own practices--unintentional though they may be. A real eye-opener.

UFO 1947-1997
Fifty Years of Flying Saucers*

Edited by Hilary Evans and Dennis Stacy
John Brown Publishing

Frankly, most UFO books are for morons. This one is for the rest of us. UFOs: 1947-1997 looks over the UFO field's first 50 years and asks "What's really going on here?" Contributions come from the creams of the UFO crop: Jan Aldrich, James Moseley, Karl Pflock, Jerome Clark, Michael Swords, Richard Hall, as well as from lesser known names like Eric Maillot and Jacques Scornaux, Wim Van Utrecht, Kim Moller Hansen, yours truly, and more. This book digs deep and unearths many surprises. If you're in the US, order from Dennis Stacy, one of the book's two fine editors (see ad at the bottom of the page). All others should order directly from Fortean Times.

The Extinction of The Mammoth*
by Charles Ginenthal
The Velikovskian

As a special issue of The Velikovskian, The Extinction of the Mammoth is not strictly a book. But its closely argued, often intense, 300-page survey of facts and opinion regarding the still unexplained demise of the mammoth speaks for a library full of books on the subject. Ginenthal covers the historical evidence and views of science on what happened to the mammoth and just when it is likely to have happened. What really did the mammoths in? Ginenthal, being a Velikovskian after all, favors a catastrophist explanation, but even doubters will find his arguments against the current explanations offered by science very impressive. *Order ($24.95) directly from the author at 65-35 108th St., Suite D15, Forest Hills, New York 11375.

The Yeti, Bigfoot & True Giants*
by Mark A. Hall

Mark A. Hall is perhaps the most unrecognized researcher in the field of hominoids. This volume, a revised 1997 edition, is a collection of articles reprinted from his fine publication Wonders, along with a new article just for this work, on the types of primates that account for stories of Bigfoot, Yeti and True Giants. This self-published, 8 1/2 x 11, 116 page work is personal, meticulous, thoughtful and enlightening. Hall lives and breathes the subject and this work shows it. Highly recommended. *Order ($16.95) directly from the author at: Mark A. Hall, Box 3153, Butler Station, Minneapolis, MN 55403.

Advances in Parapsychological Research 8
by Stanley Krippner (Ed.)
McFarland & Company

If you take parapsychology seriously, this volume and the previous seven are for you. The series attempts to document the scientific investigation of the ability of human consciousness to transcend space and time and produce such remote effects like PK and psychic healing. This volumes contains, among other things, a review of spontaneous psi phenomenon by Douglas Stokes, an exploration of the factors that may effect or enhance PK and other psi performance by Loftur Gissurarson, and a review of psychic healing in complementary medicine by Sybo Shouten, which shows psychic healing giving somewhat more positive results than placebo effects alone. An expensive, scholarly volume. Recommended.

Adventures in Time:
Encounters with the Past

by Andrew MacKenzie

Timeslips, or cases of apparent retrocognition, are the most controversial and rarest type of psychical phenomenon. This delightful volume, though short and expensive, deals with a few classic cases of direct encounters with past scenes and events, such as the well-known 1901 adventure in Versailles, as well as some the author has managed to investigate himself, the centerpiece being a 1957 case in which three youths find themselves in a medieval village. Author Andrew MacKenzie, the Vice President of the Social for Psychical Research, looks for answers to these puzzling cases not in science fiction but in the nature of hallucinations and the mysteries of time. Cool.

Shattering the Myths of Darwinism
Richard Milton
Inner Traditions International Ltd

"I accept that there is persuasive evidence for evolution," notes the author in his preface," but I do not accept that there is any significant evidence that the mechanism driving evolution is the neo-Darwinian mechanism of chance mutation coupled with natural selection..." After systematically and objectively reviewing and evaluating the relevant facts of geology, genetics, paleontology, and zoology, Richard Milton concludes that Darwin's paradigm is untenable. This unorthodox conclusion led Richard Dawkins, the noted luminary of the Darwinist camp, to suggest in a review of this book that Milton needs "psychiatric help." Milton has obviously hit a sensitive nerve here, and does a pretty good job of it, too!

Fortean Times General Index:
Issues 1-66*

Compiled by Steve Moore
John Brown Publishing

I can't imagine anyone would ever want to read this book. But for writers and researchers this 300-page-plus index of the first two decades of issues of the Fortean Times is absolutely indispensable. Want to write an article or a book on strange phenomenon in London? Check out the small print on pages 282-3. How about something on weird medical phenomena? Check out page 49 and related subjects. Of course, you'll need the first 66 issues of Fortean Times for this index to be of any use to you. Don't have them? Well you should. But relax, there's still hope for you--you can pick up bound volumes of these issues directly from *Fortean Times as well.

Special Cases:
Natural Anomalies ad Historical Monsters

by Rosamond Purcell
Chronicle Books

This richly illustrated, beautifully produced book is a kind of companion volume to an exhibition held at, and sponsored by, the Getty Research Institute in California several years ago. Rosamond Purcell, an author and photographer, was its curator. What Purcell does here is compare real, often tragic, human anomalies--of size, skin, and otherwise--with our historical notions of "monsters." An eye-opening book.

The Conscious Universe:
The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena

by Dean Radin
Harper SanFrancisco
Most books that try to tackle the entire field of parapsychology between their covers are a pitiful bore. The Conscious Universe is a wonderful exception. Parapsychologist Dean Radin, who has managed to ply his trade in various corporate and academic settings over the years, brings his own quirky outlook to the various facets of parapsychology and constantly surprises with his comparisons (how baseball resembles psi to illustrate replication, for example). Radin's treatment makes psi seem perfectly normal--and real. And quite naturally, as a result, the author finds himself addressing the social, economic and spiritual consequences of the mass realization that mind and matter do influence each other. Superb.

American Elves:
An Encyclopedia of Little People
from the Lore of 380 Ethnic Groups of the Western Hemisphere

by John E. Roth
McFarland and Company

What a surprise this is. If you thought that all elves and other little people stories only come from Europe, think again. This book outlines the beliefs in small humanoids from cultures in the Western Hemisphere--primarily North, South, and Central America. As the subtitle indicates, the book is divided into 380 entries, each one describing those little people that a single linguistic group believes in. The encyclopedia-style entries don't make for easy reading, but what a treasure-trove of material for researchers. Astonishing!

Remote Viewers:
The Secret History of America's Secret Spies

by Jim Schnabel

One of the first books I read in 1997 is still perhaps the best of them all. But to be perfectly honest, I've never been a big fan of Jim Schnabel's books, mostly because the author is usually hell-bent on making himself the focus of his journalistic forays into forteana. But not this time. Here Schnabel gives us an incredible look behind-the-scenes of the US government's various remote viewing projects. This fascinating book not only shows what this technique can and cannot do, but provides an absolutely riveting look at how the intelligence agencies operate. Hands down the best remote viewing book so far. And a bargain to boot. Five stars, thumbs up, and all that stuff.

Why People Believe Weird Things:
Pseudoscience, Superstition ad Other Confusions of Our Time

by Michael Shermer
W. H. Freeman and Co.

We bemoan the lack of skepticism in the face of all the weird stories that bombard us daily. If only "true believers" (of whatever weird subject you wish to name) would check out Shermer's "25 fallacies that lead us to believe weird things." Shermer discusses classic logical fallacies and offers caveats such as "heresy does not equal correctness," "rumors do not equal reality," and "the unexplained is not inexplicable." We can be thankful that Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and director of the Skeptics Society, is more tolerant of these subjects than most skeptics. Bravo.

From Flying Toads to Snakes with W

by Karl P. N. Shuker

A quick, delightful look at nearly a hundred mystery animals, including the hairless African blue horse, the flying cats of India, the winged and feathered snakes of Wales, and a triple-headed river monster from Bolivia. This collection of bizarre creatures, drawn from Shuker's writings in Fate magazine, covers the range from the quite-likely to the zoologically impossible. You'll find lots of material here you aren't likely to find anywhere else. Illustrated, too, and a bargain to boot. Another Shuker winner.

Weird Weather
by Paul Simons
Little Brown

How weird can weather get? Very weird. This book will tell you all about various kinds of freak phenomena and extreme weather--everything from showers of "blood," blue moons, and spontaneous snowballs, to floating cities in the sky, murders induced by hot winds, and forecasting with plants and animals. Real all about it in this excellent book by Paul Simons, a science writer, broadcaster, and TV producer in Great Britain. There's even a peak at the future called "Freeze, Fry, or Flood?" Ain't nature grand?

Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect
by Ian Stevenson
This work condenses a very expensive two volume monograph called Reincarnation & Biology (vol. 1, vol. 2), which is perhaps the culmination of Dr. Ian Stevenson's lifework in the study of reincarnation. Stevenson has culled more than 2,600 reported cases of children's past lives and published detailed reports on about 70. While most such cases are based solely on anecdotal evidence, a few involve birthmarks and birth defects that appear to be directly related to the individual's past life--providing objective biological evidence for the past life claim. Stevenson does not propose reincarnation as a substitute for genetics and environmental influence, but believes it deserves attention for shedding light on the numerous unsolved problems of psychology and medicine. A stunning work.

The Communion Letters
by Whitley and Anne Strieber
Harper Prism
I'm not recommending Whitley Strieber's The Secret School, but I do think that The Communion Letters is a valuable book. Strieber claims to have received about 200,000 letters about the "visitor experience," as he calls it, over the past decade. Here Whitley and his wife collect about 70 such letters. These hypnosis-free accounts from the public are windows into the "visitor experience," whatever that may be. While Strieber has carefully selected those experience that no doubt fit within his vision of the visitor experience, this is as close to the raw material as most people (other than experiencers) are likely to get. These letters show that the experience is far messier than the standard abduction scenario would have us believe. There is no doubt that the letters writers were influenced by what Whitley wrote; that's why they decided to write to him in the first place. Yet, as a sampling from such a large population of cases, there is a wealth of material here to be examined by UFO researchers and psychologists alike. The fact that this experience resonates with so many people seems terribly important. I only wish he had dated the letters and identified the writers in some way, by using their first names, for example, for purposes of identification. "The truth is in here" says the cover blurb, and for once it just may be. But just exactly what that "truth" is, no one yet seems to know.

Deception & Self-Deception:
Investigating Psychics

by Richard Wiseman
Prometheus Books

Let the researcher beware! There is a lot of deception in the field of popular anomalies such as UFOs and psychic phenomena. Richard Wiseman, a practicing magician turned psychologist, and his chapter co-authors, provide an entertaining look at the procedures that can be used to test psychic abilities and unmask trickery during an investigation. The book showcases a wide variety of deceptions and includes complete reports on the physical medium Eusapia Palladino, the Society for Research in Rapport and Telekinesis (SORRAT), psychics hired by police, and Indian psychics. You'll enjoy Wiseman's approach--he's not your typical debunker--as well as his numerous amusing and shocking adventures in the world of psychic phenomena


The 1997 Anomalist Award winners were chosen by Patrick Huyghe with recommendations from Loren Coleman, Dennis Stacy, Marcello Truzzi, and William Corliss (The Sourcebook Project, PO Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057).

The Anomalist, PO Box 6807, Charlottesville, VA 22906


Book Awards 1996

Book Awards 1998

Book Awards 1999