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Mysteries of the Unexplained - Calkins

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Genre: Mind, Body & Spirit / Author: Calkins / Hardcover / 320 Pages / Book is published 1982 by Readers Digest

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      18.12.2010 15:27
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      Spooky

      Mysteries of the Unexplained was first published in 1982 and edited by Carroll C Calkins. It's a huge collection of accounts, musings and possible explanations for some of the most enduring mysteries and strange events that have drawn particular fascination over the decades (or even centuries). Ancient prophecies and predictions, the Mary Celeste, UFOs, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, ghosts, and so on. The book is split into five sections each with subsections. 'Beyond the Walls of Time' looks at Prophecies, Anomalies, & Coincidences, 'Unearthly Fates' looks at Spontaneous Combustion, Inexplicable Crimes and Assaults, & Appearances and Disappearances, 'Monsters and More' looks at Monsters (obviously!) and Ghosts, 'The Unquiet Sky' looks at UFOs and Atmospheric and Astronomical Oddities and, finally, 'The Realm of Miracles', looks at Cures and Immunities, Signs and Wonders. This is certainly a fun read for anyone interested in these Arthur C Clarke type mysteries books and at over 300 pages is a big volume too with a lot of information.

      There is a lot of stuff here about people who appeared to be able to predict the future, like Nostradamus and some lesser known characters who seemed to have visions of future wars, technologies and plane or train accidents that then transpired as they had warned. Many of the individual cases highlighted in the book are very interesting and the 20th century ones (man walks into a bar and asks about a train crash that then happened a few days later etc) are quite spooky with a real Twilight Zone quality, whatever the actual truth. We read that, apparently, Pope John XVIII opened an ancient document in 1960 and nearly passed out when he saw how accurately it predicted something or other. The book offers a rational approach to these mysteries and strange events but certainly doesn't profess to have all the answers.

      There are some areas touched on here that don't always feature in these types of books that are quite interesting - like the 'cattle mutilation' incidents commonly linked to UFOs. American ranchers in the desert have cited many cases of strange lights in the sky at night and then finding dead cattle in a rather gruesome state as if parts of them have been deliberately and skillfully dissected and taken away. The theory that ET has popped to planet Earth and nabbed a bit of cattle to study scientifically has unsurprisingly become popular but there are other possibilities. This desert area was used for nuclear testing decades ago. Could the culprits be the US government in helicopters at night secretly taking cattle to test radiation levels and conviently blaming it all on men from outer space?

      The UFO section here is a good one and nicely layed out with a distinction drawn between the different types and shapes of UFOs. Another section I enjoyed related to Bigfoot (Or Sasquatch), Bigfoot being an entertaining if slightly improbable component of the world of mysteries. Bigfoots are supposed to be huge 7ft tall ape creatures who walk upright and lurk in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in big gloomy and dark forests. The only problem with the Bigfoot legend, as fun as it is, is that these furry rascals are rather elusive and no body or skeleton is ever found, something which you'd imagine would have happened by now if they really existed. Despite many recorded sightings (and there are many eyewitness accounts related here that are entertaining, however dubious most of them might be) though the most important and famous piece of evidence for the existence of Bigfoot is a short film Roger Patterson took in the 1960s of what he claimed was a female Bigfoot strolling some distance away across rocks towards the trees of the forest. Patterson's spooky film remains fascinating to read about as you ponder still frames from his footage. Was it a big hoax? The majority would say yes but Patterson's film has yet to be completely debunked and it ensured the Bigfoot myth would live on.

      Bigfoot's ice glazed cousin, the Yeti of the Himalayas, is also interesting to dwell on yet again although for some reason I've always found Bigfoot to be more compelling and creepy than the Yeti. Maybe it has something to do with Bigfoot (apparently) lurking near areas where people live in cabins and caravans rather than a lonely mountain top. Whereas the Bigfoot legend survives through Patterson's footage and various scattered eyewitness accounts, the Yeti legend rests on strange footprints photographed in the snow by expeditions. The book, as most books of this type tend to, points out that the world is more than capable of throwing up a species or two from its more remote corners that we haven't discovered yet, but that the Yeti is a difficult one to prove as footprints in the snow could any animal's prints, rendered strange and large by the sun melting the area left behind.

      The Mary Celeste also has a mention here too which is great because I love the Mary Celeste mystery. The Mary Celeste is the name of a cargo ship that sailed from New York in 1872. It was discovered perfectly seaworthy off Gibraltar a month later. The only problem was that the crew had completely vanished without trace never to be found! There are dozens of theories surrounding this puzzling nautical legend and the book does an excellent job in supplying some of the more interesting ones. My favourite being the theory that a hallucinogenic fungus in the ship's supply of rye bread drove them all mad! Presumably, according to this possible explanation, they all turned on each other and jumped overboard or something.

      All of this though barely scratches the surface of the myriad of mysteries and inexplicable events touched upon in the book. Spontaneous human combustion, frogs raining from the sky, paranormal activity, zombies, voodoo, the Loch Ness Monster, demonic possession, ball lightning, crying statues and much more can found within the pages of this enjoyably eerie and informative book. I think they could have added one more to be honest, based around why the editors of these books always have a C in the middle of their name! The range of pictures and illustrations is well up to scratch too as you delve into the various legends, prophecies and accounts of monsters, ghosts and men from outer space.

      Mysteries of the Unexplained is a lot of fun if you are interested in these types of books and certainly worth considering.

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        28.07.2009 19:25
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        An enjoyable and intruguing read

        First published way back in 1982, 'Mysteries of the Unexplained' is a weighty 300-page tome of encyclopaedic proportions that brings together recorded cases of bizarre and unexplained events from old historical documents and modern newspaper reports to create an exhastive archive of all that is weird and implausible. Accounts of every paranormal and supernatural phenomenon known to man are recounted here, from ancient prophecies, terrifying visions of the future and seemingly impossible coincedences to cases of spontaneous human combustion, inexplicable crime cases and unexplained disappearences of people and things, such as the enigma of the Bermuda Triangle and the vanishing of the crew of the Marie Celeste, as well as numerous less well known cases.

        There is an entire chapter given over to strange creatures and monsters of all forms, including the Loch Ness Monster, giant sea monsters glimpsed by sailors down through the centuries, sightings of the Yeti of the Himalayas and the Sasquatch of the American/Canadian wilderness, as well as tales of ghosts, poltergiests and phantoms of people who appear to their loved ones at the very moment they are killed in another part of the world. Theres a chapter too on unexplained meteorlogical phenomena and strange sightings in the sky, including ball lightning, St Elmo's Fire, rains of fish, frogs and stones, and also recordings of UFOs from sources as diverse as the Bible, 3500 year old egyptian papyrus, early astromy reports, century-old sailor's accounts and modern newspaper and television reports. Unexplained sounds and lights in locations all over the globe are documented too, all of which defy explanation.

        There is also a chapter on Miracles, such a ship's crew who became lost at sea in a lifeboat in the pacific ocean 1500 miles from dry land, only to find a mysterious upswelling oasis of freshwater in the middle of the sea, accounts of acts of levitation, as well as the usual cases of crying statues, stigmata and the like. Most of these are instantly dismissable as hysteria or hallucination, but all make for interesting reading nonetheless.

        Much like Arthur C Clarke's excellent 'Mysterious World' book that was published around the same time, 'Mysteries of the Unexplained' revels in the romantic mystery and awe of the unknown, but tempers this with an attempt to provide rational and scientific explanation to the cases it presents. Some of the stories within are dismissable, whilst others such as spontaneous combustion and the mystery of the Marie Celeste have since been subject to intense investigation and speculation in the intervening years since the book's release, but a great many are simply perplexing, and with thousands of cases presented, all of which are referenced and indexed, the 'Mysteries of the Unexplained' is a fascinating and accessable collection of weird tales and accounts that will fire the imagination of even the most skeptical of readers. It stands to reason that whilst many of the accounts will be false, some will be true, and there's much fun to be had arriving at your own conclusions with the aid of the various discussion boxes that are littered throughout the book beside the numerous illustrations and photographs. In any case, regardless of whether one believes the various accounts or nor they still retain a sense of magic in their telling and remind us that despite the advances of modern science fear and awe of the unknown remains a deep-rooted human trait today just as it has been for tens of thousands of years.

        To borrow the words of the first century philosopher Senca whom the authors quote in their introduction: "Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has in it something for every age to investigate... Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all".

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