When I first looked at the cover of this remarkable book I was instantly reminded of an old TV show called ‘The Good Old Days’, which ran from 1953 until (amazingly) 1983 and was presented in the style of Edwardian/Victorian music hall entertainment.
The show was introduced by an evening suited, white gloved, host cum compere cum interlocutor who presented each act to the suitably dressed audience with a great flourish and in a typically florid manner, saying something like, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, for your edification, enjoyment and delectation may I present a truly perspicacious prestidigitator of legerdemain and flirtatious flummery’. And whatever the act was (in that case a conjuror) duly appeared and did their stuff.
That was my first impression of this absolute gem of a book, and what’s more it does exactly what it says on the cover. It is a work stuffed full of facts that the reader can browse and dip into at random and be guaranteed to unearth some absolutely fascinating nugget of information about one of the many and unlikely subjects it covers.
It is laid out alphabetically in eight discrete and lengthy chapters as a dictionary of the bizarre and unexplained. In fact some of the subjects are so far ‘out there’ that it is unlikely that being alphabetical would be of any help since they are probably unknown to the reader in the first place, and this is what makes it doubly fascinating.
This is a treasury of the strange, the mystical and the anomalous, it is something that Charles Fort himself would have both admired and desired. In these pages are everything from Adam and Eve through Wolves and Werewolves to the lost city of ‘Z’ with everything you can think of, and much you probably cannot, in between.
We find deathworms, mythical monsters, ghosts, mythical lands, strange and anomalous artefacts, fabled lost treasures, alien abductions, UFO’s (yes, them too), minotaurs, magic, boogymen, fairies, dragons and flying carpets. There is also information about some of the truly scary beasts that emerge from Far East legends and there is even an entry about the genuinely enigmatic icon and electric genius that is Nikola Tesla.
One item in particular that caught my eye was a truly fascinating piece about honeybees. The author has unearthed some astonishing information suggesting that bees can actually ‘see’ more in than one dimension. He presents evidence that the ‘waggle dance’ performed by returning worker bees laden with pollen to give directions to their hive mates demonstrates this.
According to the author, a mathematician called Barbara Shipman has developed a theory about a six dimensional mathematical concept called a ‘flag manifold, (no, me neither), and when these objects are presented in two dimensions they are identical to the patterns formed by the ‘waggle dance’.
I would have bought the book for that alone and never mind all the amazing rest of it. I have no hesitation in recommending this work to anyone who has any interest at all in the strange and the bizarre, the forgotten and the fabulous, it’s all here in one scintillating volume: go and buy it NOW!.