Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Something is Out There

Something is Out There by Julie Miller and Grant Osborn is a very accessible introduction to some of the best known cases of Australian mysteries.

Miller and Osborn take the reader through a variety of haunted locations and UFO “hotspots”, introducing some of the people whose lives have been affected by strange personal encounters with the unexplained.

These phenomena can be annoyingly elusive, rarely (if ever) leaving convincing, tangible evidence. Mostly the only evidence available is the testimony of witnesses both past and present.

This book is divided into three main sections in which Miller and Osborn look at Ghosts (Supernatural), UFOs (Ufology) and Strange Creatures (Cryptozoology) with a mix of anecdotes, folklore and personal experience.

The book combines material gleaned from other sources with some of the authors’ own investigations. Their personal investigations include interviews with witnesses and researchers, and their experiences on some of the increasingly popular commercial ghost tours in various parts of the country, from Port Arthur in Tasmania to Picton NSW.

I’ve had my own experiences with strange phenomena. Those experiences don’t fit a rational, scientific worldview but I know they happened. But even from this “insiders” perspective I still maintain a distinct desire for accountability when it comes to extraordinary claims. Too often in these matters subjective experience and personal opinion are presented as fact, with little or no justification.

In parts I felt Miller and Osborn were a bit too accepting of some of the testimonies they presented. I am particularly sceptical of the testimony they give of “psychics” in researching haunted sites. Their subjective impressions help to pad out the lack of real experience or evidence, overshadowing and replacing genuine, though rare, ghostly activity at a particular location.

The only exceptions I can recall to this open acceptance are mild allusions of suspicion directed towards the number of Rex Gilroy’s* claimed sightings of anomalous creatures, and a couple of doubts expressed about the validity of “orbs” in photos. Although, regarding the latter, their doubts didn’t prevent them from illustrating the book with their own photos of “orbs”.

“…while we are sceptical about orbs as a manifestation of spiritual entities, we can’t help but ponder the size, brightness and intensity of these particular anomalies. Did we capture the little boy ghosts at play?”

A lot of what is covered in Something is Out There has been dealt with more extensively by others, but newcomers to these mysteries are given plenty to increase their appetite. Extensive bibliography and end notes provide more than enough leads to seek out more for themselves.

* Rex Gilroy is one of major characters in Australian cryptozoology. Credited with being the first to bring attention to the Yowie, the Australian cousin of Bigfoot, Yeti and Sasquatch. His early work inspired many of todays investigators.


I thank the publishers Allen & Unwin for providing a review copy of this book.
For further details see:

Something is Out There


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