Steve Dewey and Kevin Goodman. History of a Mystery: Fifty Years of the Warminster Thing. Swallowtail Books, 2015.

Steve Dewey and Kevin Goodman are the two people who may reasonably claim to be largely responsible for the resurgence of interest in England's greatest UFO flap, once virtually forgotten except for a few hard-core old-timers.
Dewey's In Alien Heat (2006) and Goodman's UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact (2007) were the two titles which kick-started the revival, along with Goodman's 'Weird Wiltshire' events held in Warminster over the August Bank Holiday - that traditional highpoint of the Warminster skywatching year - in 2008 and 2009, and the post-pub skywatches that followed on Cradle Hill. Ironically, it was attending one of these events which finally persuaded me to close Magonia as a print magazine and to continue it in the form of the Magonia Review.

Dewey's Alien Heat is a broad historical account of the Warminster years which looks closely at the social and cultural aspects of the events, and sees Warminster as a part of the sensitivity of 'Deep England' and in tune with the 1960s revival of a pastoral mysticism represented by the rediscovery of the mystical landscape by writers like John Michel, Stonehenge, the New Age Travellers, and the explosion of interest in leys, landscape mysteries and Arthurian legend. Of course all this was studiously ignored by the 'establishment' ufologists who fetched up in the town - at least in much of their published work, although rumours abound of muscularly scientific investigators sitting within patterns of candles on the various hills around the town.

Goodman's Cradle of Contact is a more personal account of his own discovery of the mystery in 1976, a few years after the height of the phenomenon. Much of it is centred on the Fountain Centre which continued the Warminster legend and moved it into a more occult direction. Here Goodman has experiences which lead him to conclude that whatever social and media dynamics there may have been shaping the events, there was something genuinely strange at the core of the Warminster Mystery.

These personal approaches have been largely set aside in this historical account of the events. It is largely chronological account of Warminster from the proto-phenomenon - The Thing - in 1965 to the end of major ufological interest in the topic in the early 1980s.

At first the phenomenon was ill-defined, just accounts in the local newspaper of disturbing noises, and rumours of odd happenings. Many of these rumours seem to have centred around the rather enigmatic figure of David Holton, described as a surgical chiropodist, but also as a "naturalist, amateur geologist, homeopathic practitioner and medical herbalist". Many of us who hung around the UFO world at the time came across similar characters!
Holton crops up forty years later in 2005, writing to Shuttlewood's old paper, the Warminster Journal, claiming that he had started the Warminster Mystery - which he said should have been called the Crockerton Mystery after the village where ha apparently cooked up his plans - as a psychological experiment. He seems he was certainly behind the tales of flocks of birds falling from the sky, and crucial to moving the 'Thing' from an auditory phenomenon to being experienced as something in the sky.

Dewy and Goodman's account gives us an overview of the media coverage of the phenomenon, describing not only the newspaper reports but also details of the TV and radio coverage of the mystery. Here I would add one criticism: the book is enlivened by a number of reproductions of interesting newspaper articles but no details are given of sources or dates. Perhaps this could be rectified in a future edition?

As well as the sightings from 'civilians' much of the phenomenon depended on the actions of a number of local 'faces'. Most prominently of course Arthur Shuttlewood, but when his presence faded as his health declined characters such as John Rosewear, Ken Rogers and Peter and Jane Paget of the Fountain Centre stepped into the vacuum.
This Fountain Centre started to become the main focus for visitors after Shuttlewood's departure from the scene, and the enthusiasts' interests moved from a 'nuts-and-bolts' ufological level to a much more mystical and occultist standpoint, encouraged by the wayward movement of Shuttlewood's later books. This trend was perhaps one of the causes of Warminster being expunged from British ufological history for almost thirty years.

The most famous image linked to Warminster is the so-called 'Faulkner photograph' which was the centrepiece of Shuttlewood's major splash story in the Daily Mirror in 1965. Long suspected to be a hoax it emerged in 1992 that it may have been concocted by staff at the Warminster Journal to trick the then editor. However the authors have managed to track down the alleged photographer, and Faulkner's latest account puts a different spin on the story. I'm sure, as the saying goes, this one will run and run. Another notorious photographic hoax, not entirely unconnected with MUFON/Magonia, is also touched upon.

You should read Dewey and Goodman's individual books for deeper and more personal accounts, but History of a Mystery is nicely written, easily devoured in one session, has a useful bibliography and a convenient time-line of the 1965 reports, and makes the perfect introduction to the Warminster affair, managing to be both open-minded and objective. -- John Rimmer.



Brian D. Parsons. Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist. lulu, 2015. (Second edition)

Michael Newton. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide. McFarland, 2015. (Reprint.)

Brian Parsons in an accomplished investigator who has been involved with a range of anomalous phenomena for twenty years. In Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist he explains the techniques of investigation and warns how to avoid the pitfalls involved in such work. Although the book specifically concerns cryptozoology much of the advice given applies equally to subjects such as ufology or ghost investigation.

He begins by considering one VERY basic question: is cryptozoology actually a science? He explain that cryptozoology certainly involves using the scientific method, and hunting for unknown species can produce scientific discoveries, but concludes that currently cryptozoology cannot yet be considered a true science. This however does not preclude it from being conducted in a scientific manner.

Although cryptozoology is an international pursuit this book is largely written from the perspective of an American researcher and there is an emphasis on Bigfoot and out-of-place big cat sightings, but this does not prevent it from being of value to investigators in Britain as well. In fact his discussion of the North American scene introduces the important distinction between out-of-place animals and the truly anomalous.

A particularly valuable chapter is his discussion of the techniques for interviewing witnesses, giving them the space to fully describe their experiences without either using leading questions, or to limit their responses to a series of yes/no answers. His advice to researchers to ask questions involving events beyond the immediate experience resembles John Keel’s advice that ufologists should find out what witnesses had for breakfast, although Parsons explains the reason for this rather more clearly than Keel ever did!

His analysis of the difference between science and pseudoscience is good advice for fortean researchers generally, and he makes it clear that witnesses' reports can be critically analysed with having to call into question their honesty.

There is a section on the sort of equipment that a cryptozoologist might wish to take with them on investigations, which in some cases is more appropriate for the North American researcher - Britain gives little scope for trekking through deep forest in search of an out-of-place big cat - not in Surrey, anyway! However, the important point which he stresses is that simply using scientific equipment does not make you a scientist.

The book concludes with some examples of investigatory notes and interview questions, but these are not intended as a tick-box exercise, and the methodology behind them is fully explained.

In all an excellent little introduction to cryptozoological research, which would repay reading by those involved in other areas of anomaly research.

A massive paperback of nearly 600 pages and weighing in at over 3lb (1.3 kg) the Encylopedia of Cryptozoology is a contrast to the Handbook’s slim 175 pages. With over 2700 entries the book cannot be described as anything but comprehensive, but many of the entries are just a few lines of uncorroborated and uninvestigated sighting reports, and in some ways they are comparable to the shorter entries in Magonia’s INTCAT listings of ‘entity’ cases. The sources given do not trace back to the earliest available account as with INTCAT, and are usually just a reference to a generally available published source. In many cases it is unclear just how close the version shown here is to the original account.

Nevertheless, for anyone seeking a reference to the broadest possible range of reported cryptids this is an extremely useful guide, with a substantial bibliography for further literary exploration.

As always when confronted with encyclopaedic listings of out-of-place, mysterious and dubious creatures I look first for a reference to the controversial Brentford Griffin. It is indeed here, but the compiler seems too eager to accept the stories put around by some interested parties that it was a crude hoax. If indeed it was a hoax, it was anything but crude!

Both these books will be of great interest to students and potential students of cryptozoology, but I think Parson’s Handbook will be of more immediate value for those seriously interested in direct involvement with the topic. -- John Rimmer.



A lot of weird stuff in the papers lately. I thought this might be of interest to our readers, from the Bath Chronicle, March 27, 2015. Thanks to the ever-informative Angry People in Local Papers website. In the final paragraph Dr Robert Salmon from the University of Durham seems to have nailed it. 
Solar eclipse killed my sheep, says Gloucestershire farmer

A farmer from Gloucestershire reckons two of his sheep were killed by the solar eclipse.

Rob Taylor found two of his flock of around 250 ewes dead in one of his fields, which he believes is down to electromagnetic radiation blasting from the phenomenon.

Mr Taylor believes his sheep died on Wednesday - five days after the eclipse - due to a lack of calcium in their blood.

The farmer, who operates 200 acres at his farm in south Gloucestershire, said: "I was walking through my field and saw that two of my sheep were dead.

"I tested them and my results show they died from acute hypo-calcification of the blood. It was brought about by electromagnetic radiation flooding back down to Earth immediately after the eclipse. I thought the eclipse would, of course, change mineral levels in livestock, but I did not think that it would be fatal."

Mr Taylor has spent the last 27 years studying supposed effects of radiation from the Sun on livestock.

During the BSE crisis in the 1990s, Mr Taylor had a number of his herd diagnosed with 'mad cow disease'.

Mr Taylor runs 'Earthing Therapy' - an alternative website based on unreported effects of minerals on livestock. His website states that he researches "the inherent deficiencies in the trace minerals copper and selenium, that affect the pastures." Mr Taylor also reckons mineral toxicology can be rapid and irreversible.

He said: "The specific relationship between anti-oxidants, derived from these minerals, free radicals and the operation of the natural detoxification systems within mammals, are so critical for both their physiological and psychological well-being. "It is this through investigating this particularly complex, dynamic and confusing area of research, that I have come to study the way in which the body adapts to environmental change and the nature of intolerance syndromes, such as chemical and electrical sensitivities."

But since Mr Taylor does not have accurate calcium level readings in the sheep that died before and after the eclipse, actual scientists would struggle to back up his theory.

Biologist Dr Robert Salmon, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Durham, said: "Without much more empirical scientific research and a large amount of data, this does not seem likely, otherwise scores of sheep across the country may have died.

"The circadian rhythm of the sheep could have been disturbed by the eclipse, but that could be tested by putting a bag on its head during the day and seeing if its calcium levels dropped."



Another important piece from the Spiked website on the dangers of so-called 'recovered memories'. Anybody who is familiar with the alien abduction scenario and the 'Satanic abuse' panics will recognise the dangers of bringing this sort of evidence into criminal cases. Spiked comments: "The unprecedented media frenzy over Savile, succeeded by wild accusations about VIP paedo-murder ‘rings’, should have flagged up to any intelligent person the obvious dangers of accepting tales of woe from long ago, uncritically. But this has not happened".
In fact it now seems that people who have attempted to look critically at these issues are themselves coming under attack and being driven from their jobs.
Susan Clancy was a cognitive psychologist working at Harvard who was subjected to hate mail and a student boycott after publishing her research on false memories which demonstrated the dangers of taking them at face value. Her mentor at Harvard suggested that she move to the less politically troublesome field of recovered alien abduction memories.

The full article can be read here:

Peter Rogerson's review of Susan Clancy's book is here:




Jack Zipes. Grimm Legacies: The Magic Spell of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy Tales. Princeton University Press, 2014.

Think of the Brothers Grimm and what associations come to mind? Fairy tales, 'Cinderella', 'Snow White' ... Disney?

That's it. In this book Jack Zipes, an American scholar and serious academic, explores the legacies of the Brothers Grimm in Europe and North America. Zipes has an axe to grind and particularly takes issue with the infantilisation and 'Disneyfication' of the Grimms' tales in modern culture, despite the fact they did themselves produce many 'small editions' specifically for children. As a former Professor of German at the University of Minnesota, and accepted as probably the world's greatest authority on the Grimms and fairy tales in general, Zipes is well qualified to redress the common perception of the brothers' published works.

Who were the Grimms? Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) were German academics, cultural researchers and authors who made it their life's mission to collect and publish folklore and folk tales. Their father, a lawyer, died suddenly of pneumonia in 1796, plunging the whole family into poverty and crisis, and causing the brothers grief and tribulation for many years.

Being destitute forced them to rely on each other and excel in their studies, both graduating from the University of Marburg with the best grades in their years. While at University they developed a curiosity about German folklore, which grew into a lifelong dedication to collecting and recording German folk tales from the oral tradition, as handed down from generation to generation and from stortytellers. Their first collection of folk tales, Children's and Household Tales was published in
1812. Having vowed to work with each other for all their lives, for some years they worked as librarians, which did not pay well but allowed plenty of time for research.

Apart from their well-known collections of stories for which they became famous, they also spent a great deal of effort until the end of their lives to produce a definitive German dictionary. The first volume was not produced until 1854, and the whole project never reached completion.

Grimm Brothers Monument at Hanau
Between 1812 and 1857 they revised and re-published their collection of stories many times, increasing the the number of stories from 86 to over 200. At first they recorded these folk tales exactly as spoken in the oral tradition, which they published in 1812 and the second volume in 1815. Jack Zipes has translated these editions into English, in his book The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition, which has received great critical acclaim as it presents the original versions of the stories without any embellishment. That embellishments were continually added to the original stories, particularly by Wilhelm Grimm, is proved by comparing original manuscripts with later work. In some cases the final version of a tale may be twice as long as the original.

One example of modification is seen in the tale 'Rapunzel', where the prince has a sexual motive for visiting the princess in the tower and impregnates her. The princess, being pregnant, asks 'Mother Gothel, why are my clothes becoming too tight? They don't fit me anymore'. No, this is not a case of obesity but pregnancy, and this element was removed from later versions for reasons of taste. In 'Little Snow White' and 'Hansel and Gretel', mothers were changed into stepmothers, because for the Grimms mothers were sacred.

Here in England, the 1812 edition of Grimms' tales was translated into English by Edgar Taylor, and published as German Popular Stories in 1823, and in 1826 he published his translation of the 1814 second volume. Zipes regards Taylor's translations as separating the fantasy elements of the stories from the cruel or profane elements, with the addition of Christian principles, to widen the popular appeal of the stories. Zipes explains how Taylor directly influenced the Grimms' policy on the format of the stories: "It was only after they received a letter and a copy of German Popular Stories in 1823 from the young Englishman Edgar Taylor that they clearly began to alter the tendency of future editions ... by creating the Small Edition and taking greater pains to address a general bourgeois reading public. In this respect, Taylor's sudden appearance in their lives - his letter and book came out of the blue - represented a momentous occasion that caused the Grimms to rethink their 'marketing strategy' and how they might better guarantee the reception of the tales." (Page 44)

So here we have the vital clue to understand how Grimms' tales were eventually aimed at children!After all, even when somewhat sanitised, some tales such as 'Little Red Riding Hood' or 'Hansel and Gretel' were considered to be 'cautionary tales' for children, serving as warnings about the consequences of disobeying one's parents, or general naughtiness. Others were repositories of cultural history, as well as being for enjoyment and pleasure. There is something of the longing for Utopia or Paradise in fairy tales, which is of course why they can appeal to adults as much as to children.

Even in the 'Disneyfied' versions of the Grimms' tales in America, with which we are so familiar, and which Zipes decries in his erudite scholarly manner, some of the original themes survive sufficiently to fire the imagination. Dumbed-down to appeal to a middle-class consumerist society, still the characters and subject matter contain the threads of magic and witchcraft, violence, danger, and death, and the struggle that is needed for good to triumph over evil. If the Grimms, particularly Wilhelm, continually polished and refined the stories, why should not Disney take it to yet another stage of development? This is how culture develops, but the important thing is to be aware of the authentic roots, as Zipes reminds us.

Finally, how about the Grimms' legacy in Germany itself? In his chapter 'Two Hundred Years after Once Upon a Time: The Legacy of the Brothers Grimm and their Tales in Germany', Zipes tells us that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, German national identity was linked to the Grimms, and the Nazis recommended that a book of the Grimms' tales shoud be in every home. But as in all things German, since 1945 there has been something of an aversion, or, at least, a re-evaluation of anything cultural that was linked to the Nazis, and there has been a tendency 'to turn the tales into kitsch'.

If there's one thing we can be sure of in consideration of the original folk tales that the Brothers Grimm collated: kitsch it ain't! -- Kevin Murphy.



Peter Bebergal. Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. Tarcher, 2014.

Music, it has been said, is the only art that engages our entire brain. Whether this is true or not, it can certainly reach into us and touch emotions in a way that other art forms may miss. It is something that can surprise us by reaching into our memories in an abrupt and unexpected fashion to resurrect past times and moods. Especially in this day and age, music now accompanies us from the cradle to the grave, a permanent soundtrack to our lives. It has become a constant in a changing world; something to console and comfort when other things shift around us.

Rock and roll derives from that modern subset of music that was born from African-American slave beginnings, merging gradually with mainstream popular music via vaudeville then going on to shape the dominant genres of music consumed by the majority of the listening public. Therefore jazz, coupled with the timely invention and spread of radio, record players and talking pictures, exported the fledgling art form worldwide in the period between the two world wars. Consequently, musicians everywhere picked up and recorded their own take on this new phenomenon. After the Second World War, aspects of jazz and other popular music, combined with the still novel electric guitar, fused to bring rock and roll as we know it to the world stage.

It is mainly from this period onward that Season of the Witch looks at rock and roll, and how otherworldly forces may have shaped it. Time is spent looking right back at both the African and African American origins of the music that was the grandmother of the rock we know today. The relevance of religion, again from the paganism originating from Africa and American Christianity of the time, is examined for the effects that it had on the chrysalis of slave music. There is then quite a leap to what we can start to see as the beginnings of rock and roll proper, as it were. From then on music is examined so as to note the effects of the liminal upon it.

The author has quite a way with prose. His emotional investment in this subject shines from the enthusiasm and intensity on the page, making this a book that will whisk the reader along in its wake as the spirit of the bands and musicians is almost poetically, and most vividly, evoked. His analysis of the ‘Crossroads’ legend that was woven around the influential blues musician Robert Johnson, who was supposed to have sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads in return for remarkable guitar playing skills, is looked at in as much detail as can be gathered together, given the paucity of information about a founding myth of the Blues. From then on he turns his eager gaze to most of the major groups and musicians, bringing the same level of exuberance to each of them. Not only does his coverage of the bands and individuals convey his zeal, but also his involvement in investigating the occult movements and personalities whose otherworldly influence moves and touches the music makers is just as strongly pursued.
It has to be remembered that this is a personal odyssey for Peter Bebegal, and it’s a subjective account in some ways. However, there has obviously been a large amount of research, which is impressive, considering the scope and range of the work. There is a decent index and end notes, as opposed to numbered references in the body of the text. If your interests lie in the direction of magickally-affected popular music then you could do a lot worse than to read this avid and entertaining book. -- Trevor Pyne.



Robert Davis. The UFO Phenomenon: Should I Believe? Schiffer, 2014.
Compared with the two other UFO books I have recently reviewed, this one looks like an oasis of common sense, in that the author does not try and bludgeon you into believing in the spaceships. He provides an overview of various types of UFO reports and the various theories that have been evoked to explain them. His central position is that while the anecdotal reports are intriguing, there is nowhere near the kind of clear scientific evidence that would be needed to persuade the scientific community of any exotic explanation.
Though Davis has a somewhat sceptical head, his heart is clearly on the side of the aliens or some such, though he might be persuadable that novel natural phenomena might generate some reports. He also shows the usual American lack of detailed background knowledge of European Ufology. Thus we get cases like Trancs-en-Provence and Bentwaters quoted as examples of high quality evidence for anomalous phenomena, without any notion that local ufologists have found multiple problems with them. Davis also refers to a variety of ufological data-bases, without realising that these are nothing more, as they stand, than collections of folk stories.
Davis has quite an ambitious research plan for Ufology, not only does he propose that the US Congress or the UN should set up such a body but that it should, among other things:
  • Assemble a multi-disciplined team of renowned scientists to test various hypotheses.
  • Arrange international collaboration.
  • Ensure representation on leading international scientific committees and agencies.
  • Centralise a newly developed UFO data base to compile and analyse existing and future evidence on a global basis.
  • Train UFO investigators.
  • Publish research findings in established scientific journals and at international conferences
Hmmm. The sense of déjà vu is quite overwhelming, see for example:

Of course none of this is going to happen, it might just have done forty or fifty years ago, but won’t now. Even if such a study was undertaken, financed by some Silicon Valley billionaire, it would either be biased from the start by the agenda of the funder, or would come to conclusions that ufologists don’t like and be accused of being part of the cover up.
Furthermore some UFO theories such as the ETH fall into the category of “not even wrong” in that they are too vague and flexible to test. The ETH, as I have pointed out many times, could only become a scientific hypothesis if we had independent knowledge of the nature and powers of the ETs to test against UFO reports.
This is really what ufology is now; at worst the promotion of pseudoscience or wild conspiracy theories, or like this, at the better end, rehashing the naïve hopes of the students of the 60s and 70s. -- Peter Rogerson



Trevor Greenfield (ed.) Witchcraft Today – 60 Years On. Moon Books, 2014.

Trevor Greenfield (ed.) Paganism 101: An Introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans. Moon Books, 2014.

Richard Metzger (ed.) The Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. Disinformation Books, San Francisco, 2014.

These books are similar, in that all are collections of essays by different authors on contemporary occultism. Witchcraft Today – 60 Years On, which refers to Gerald Gardner’s 1954 book, is 180 pages long, whereas The Book of Lies, which is primarily about Aleister Crowley (from whom the title is borrowed, and who resurrected the old spelling of ‘magick’), is much larger, 352 pages with small print in double columns.

It is now six decades since the appearance of Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, which sold 5,500 copies. To those not familiar with publishing, this might not seem many, but actually very few books sell more than 5,000 copies. He originally intended to call it New Light on Witchcraft, and included a lot of material on yoga, which his editors deleted as irrelevant.

The sensational point was his claim that witchcraft was still practised, albeit on a very small scale, when most people assumed that it was extinct, if it had ever existed at all. But Gardner’s biggest influence was by way of a work that he never published – the ‘Book of Shadows’, which contains a set of witchcraft rituals, and has now been copied worldwide. The various contributors to 60 Years On discuss the diverse offshoots, ‘Alexandrian witchcraft’, derived from Alex Sanders, the ‘Seax Tradition’, which is based around the Saxon deities Woden and Freya, the feminist Dianic Tradition which naturally is for women only, and so on.

There has also been a widespread revival of Paganism generally, witchcraft being just one aspect of it. Greenfield has assembled an even larger group of contributors, 101 as his title indicates. These include Druid, Heathens, Goddess Followers, and there are discussions of Deities, Nature, Ethics, Afterlife, Ancestors, Ritual, Magic, Healing and Celebrant Work.

Jack Parsons was a prominent rocket-fuel scientist, and certainly the only disciple of Crowley to have a crater on the far side of the moon named after him. He died in an explosion in his laboratory in 1952. An explosion in a rocket-fuel laboratory should not be too surprising (it was rocket science), but his ‘Scarlet Woman’ Marjorie Cameron, who went on to star in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, “always believed that Howard Hughes was somehow behind it.”

The connection of H. P. Lovecraft with Crowley is tenuous: in his Supernatural Horror in Literature he discussed Leonard Cline’s novel The Dark Chamber, which mentioned Crowley. Erik Davis observes that “while most 1930s pulp fiction is nearly unreadable today”, Lovecraft has a ’cult’ status, with a curiously literal dimension. Fans are not content to read stories about weird otherworldly entities, Cthulhu, Hastur, Nyarlathotep, and the rest of them, but often invoke them in magickal ceremonies. This is an interesting example of how a piece of fiction takes on a life of its own. To this day the London headquarters of Santander Bank, which is located in Baker Street, employ a secretary to answer letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Even more remarkably, the city of Verona employs several secretaries to reply to letters sent to Juliet by lovelorn women.

Allen Greenfield looks at the influence of Crowley on Wicca, based upon his research into unpublished documents. As he observes, there are Crowley borrowings in the Book of Shadows used by Gardner. In consequence, “I think Aleister and Gerald may have cooked Wicca up.” The problem with this hypothesis is that the Crowley borrowings, on close inspection, all turn out to have been taken from a 1919 volume entitled the Blue Equinox. Notably, Crowley’s Book of the Law is nowhere quoted at first hand, only at second hand, which proves that he was not personally responsible for the Book of Shadows. -- Gareth J. Medway.