Book Report: Strange But True: Mysterious and Bizarre People by Thomas Slemen (1998)

I hoped the book would be a good idea book for historical essays. However, the “But True” part was overstated. Maybe it would be a good book for fiction, particularly science fiction and fantasy, ideas instead.

I guess I should have guessed by page 43, in a piece about Springheeled Jack, where the sentence “But one theory that does fit the facts is the alien hypothesis.” appears. Prior to that, we’ve got some interesting historical anecdotes which might provide fodder for historical research and some “Hmmmmm” essays, but this piece on the English folklore tips the author’s hand: he’s ready to accept the Fortean and the Fate magazinean as “true”.

Well, that’s not what I was looking for in this book. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve read many of the anthologies of the mysteries of the unexplained (Reader’s Digest, of course), but I was hoping for something more, um, proveable from this book. Not (from p311-312, in the chapter “The Green Children” which doesn’t provide much more data than the Reader’s Digest book and lacks the black and white reimaginative photo) “The only credible explanations seem to point to extraterrestrial life or a parallel world.” Not (from p370, the chapter “Doppelgangers”, which comes after the chapter “Vampires” and the chapter about the intelligent life on the moon) “Until scientists can open their minds to the reality of the doppelganger, societies will continue to live in fear of this phenomenon.”

Some of the things prove interesting food for thought and speculation (Was Edgar Allan Poe a murderer? Who was Prester John? What about that song by Reszo Seress?), but ultimately I was a tad disappointed that the material skewed speculative fiction instead of speculative historical fact.

I don’t know how much more I can explain that. I did, however, read the book. Whether fiction comes of it or not remains to be seen.

Books mentioned in this review: