We live in an era of fear, as Frank Furedi points out in his book reviewed elsewhere by Peter Rogerson. Our lives seem to be dominated by scares about food, pollution, crime, sunshine, passive smoking, the air we breathe; almost anything it seems is potentially threatening. It is not surprising then that Albert Budden presents us with a new, all-pervasive and absolutely inescapable scare. We can eat only organic vegatables grown in our own back garden, forsake alcohol and meat, take our children to and from school in armoured four-wheel drive vehicles, cover ourselves in factor-80 suncream anytime we set foot outdoors and wave our arms around frantically making ineffectual flapping movements whenever we see anyone smoking within five hundred yards of us. But it is to no avail.
Our whole environment is awash with electromagnetic waves, from radio and TV transmitters, mobile phones, power plants, kitchen equipment, electric motors and a million other sources of 'electromagnetic pollution'. And short of living our whole lives inside a Faraday Cage (and surely someone is) there is nothing at all we can do about it. Now, lots of people take electromagnetic pollution seriously. It has been claimed in court (unsuccessfully, however) that the presence of high-voltage underground cables in a London suburb led to in increase in cases of leukemia amongst local children. There is even an organisation called the Powerwatch Network set up to monitor and promote such claims. And, on the face of it, it does not seem an entirely unreasonable idea that close proximity to very large currents of electricity might have some effect on human biology.
But that, surely, is the point: very close, very large currents. Budden goes much further than this and seems to be stating that almost any sort of electrical energy can have an enormous effect on biological and physical systems. Not the least of these is a propensity for making humans believe they have been abducted by aliens, quite apart from a purely phtysical phenomena in the atmosphere. These events occur in what Budden calls 'hotspots', where a combination of electromagnetic effects overlap and reinforce each others' strengths. the only problem is that almost everywhere seems to be a hotspot by the author's reckoning.
Besides UFOs, the EM effect also allegedly causes poltergeist phenomena. Budden reexamines the most famous British polt case, at Enfield. Here he finds a wealth of electromagnetic sources: the local railway line, power lines, a reservoir (?), a sub-station in a neighbour's front garden, and the fact that the location is equidistant from Stansted and Luton airports. Now Luton and Stansted are 27 miles apart and both 20 miles from Enfield. If the air control radars at these two airports can produce effects at that distance such as wrenching iron radiators off walls and throwing bricks around rooms, I'll make sure that I use Gatwick for my holiday flights from now on!
The fact is that almost anywhere in Britain, Europe and most of North America, and large parts of the rest of the world, is going to have a high level of electromagnetic activity. I am writing these words at a computer which is pouring out energy, a CD player is going away in the background, electric trains pass every few minutes about a hundred yards away, power cables run to dozens of houses and flats all around me. And I'm sure where you're reading these words it's not much different.
Budden explains this by claiming that some people display electromagnetic hypersensitivity, so EM waves effect them more than others. This may be the case, although it would appear that such an ailment is recognised by very few doctors, and those that do recognise and treat it seem to be clustered around the Breakspear Hospital which features prominently in this, as in Budden's earlier book. EM sensitivity does not however explain the physical, `poltergeist effects Budden credits to EM 'hotspots'.
And this, of course, brings us on to Mr Hutchison and the poltergeist machine, about which I was so scathing in Magonia a year or so back. I had hoped that this book would, as Albert Budden promised me, show positive proof of the effectiveness of this machine, but his account here takes us no further. We are told about investigations by the Max Planck Institute, McDonnell Douglas and Los Alamos, but are shown no evidence of these or their findings. Instead we get more gee-whizz accounts of blocks of concrete bursting into flames, spontaneous metal bending, levitating yoghurt and the rest of it. These events often seem to occur "unexpectedly at remote locations". How inconvenient. On one occasion some potential investors were coming to examine the machine: "On the morning of a demonstration for them it blew one of its own transformers apart" - how very inconvenient.
However, I must not say too much about Mr Hutchison's Amazing Machine, because, as Budden tells us, I will be "haunted for years to come" by my dismissive attitude, "as responses [to my article] from scientists from America, Canada and Europe already indicate". Needless to say I have not seen any of these responses.
Amongst the effects ascribed to EM pollution are the appearance and disappearance of large volumes of water. A number of physical and psychological effects are also apparently caused by EM pollution in hotspots to hypersensitive individuals, including one symptom I found particularly interesting. He describes people suffering from what he calls 'the religiose [sic.] outlook': "Another form seems to be quasi-scientific in theme, and such preoccupations are displayed as a strange non-stop, almost involuntary rambling, usually concerned with how science has taken a fundamentally wrong turning in its history, and how they can correct this with their convoluted theories and outlandish concepts".
Does this remind you of anyone? Answers on a postcard, please. -- Reviewed by John Rimmer. From Magonia 65, November 1998.