The Black Book of Modern Myths… by Alasdair Wickham. Book review

The Black Book Of Modern Myths: True Stories Of The Unexplained by Alasdair Wickham. Century ‘14.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

Oh dear ‘ still on the cover and we’re already in trouble. ‘Modern Myths ‘ True Stories. If something’s a myth, can it be considered true?

Alasdair Wickham is the pseudonym of writer James Buxton: a firm believer in the supernatural and author of horror novels Subterranean, Strange, The Wishing Tree and Pity. But his underlying beliefs make him more than usually credulous ‘ willing to give any of the reported cases the benefit of the doubt, where another, more sceptical, writer might take a couple of deep breaths and a step back.

The main text is interspersed with short, boxed incidents from all over the world. Not only do these boxes constantly interrupt the flow, names and dates are conspicuously missing, making it all but impossible for them to be followed up; and most read as simple folklore, anyway. I have to question their value beyond padding.

Most of the usual suspects are paraded throughout the chapters: hauntings and haunted Hollywood movies, Mothman, the Almasty (which he seems to consider a spirit form rather than a possible relict), poltergeists, wiccans, satanists, remote viewing’ Murder cases are ressurected and considered as ritual sacrifices ‘ an interesting idea he fatally weakens by giving the date of one murder a ritual significance by switching from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian. If the facts don’t fit ‘ change the facts. He looks at the Cornish Owlman appearances and the interest taken by local man Tony Shiels; failing to mention that this is the notorious ‘Doc’ Shiels: fortean prankster and magician. Shoddy journalism? Or a tacit acknowledgement that Shiels’ twinkly-eyed involvement automatically raises more questions than it answers? He takes at face value Soviet claims of successful remote viewing (and remote killing); cites a typically unnamed man from California as being in a ‘loving ‘heterosexual’ relationship with a succubus’ and who has now set up a forum on that bastion of the truth, the Internet’

If your beliefs coincide with Wickham’s uncritical worldview, then this might interest you; if you’re of a more sceptical, fortean mind, then I doubt you’ll find anything new or of interest in this book.

The Black Book Of Modern Myths: True Stories Of The Unexplained by Alasdair Wickham. Century ‘14.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

Oh dear ‘ still on the cover and we’re already in trouble. ‘Modern Myths ‘ True Stories. If something’s a myth, can it be considered true?

Alasdair Wickham is the pseudonym of writer James Buxton: a firm believer in the supernatural and author of horror novels Subterranean, Strange, The Wishing Tree and Pity. But his underlying beliefs make him more than usually credulous ‘ willing to give any of the reported cases the benefit of the doubt, where another, more sceptical, writer might take a couple of deep breaths and a step back.

The main text is interspersed with short, boxed incidents from all over the world. Not only do these boxes constantly interrupt the flow, names and dates are conspicuously missing, making it all but impossible for them to be followed up; and most read as simple folklore, anyway. I have to question their value beyond padding.

Most of the usual suspects are paraded throughout the chapters: hauntings and haunted Hollywood movies, Mothman, the Almasty (which he seems to consider a spirit form rather than a possible relict), poltergeists, wiccans, satanists, remote viewing’ Murder cases are ressurected and considered as ritual sacrifices ‘ an interesting idea he fatally weakens by giving the date of one murder a ritual significance by switching from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian. If the facts don’t fit ‘ change the facts. He looks at the Cornish Owlman appearances and the interest taken by local man Tony Shiels; failing to mention that this is the notorious ‘Doc’ Shiels: fortean prankster and magician. Shoddy journalism? Or a tacit acknowledgement that Shiels’ twinkly-eyed involvement automatically raises more questions than it answers? He takes at face value Soviet claims of successful remote viewing (and remote killing); cites a typically unnamed man from California as being in a ‘loving ‘heterosexual’ relationship with a succubus’ and who has now set up a forum on that bastion of the truth, the Internet’

If your beliefs coincide with Wickham’s uncritical worldview, then this might interest you; if you’re of a more sceptical, fortean mind, then I doubt you’ll find anything new or of interest in this book.