Jean Ritchie's previous book, The Curious World of Cults, expressed some pretty credulous ideas about Satanism, so I was a little wary of this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised, for after a bit of a rocky start it is really quite good. Basically it is a first hand survey of recent developments in the paranormal, especially in the U.K. The field is reviewed mainly through the work of researchers such as Alan Gauld, Tony Cornell, and Robert Morris. Ms Ritchie presents various viewpoints. even allowing the sceptics the next to last word.
Their are some intriguing snippets: Gauld and Cornell have a poltergeist video, but it shows a piece of machinery that moves as someone walks past, and the crucial component is obscured by the date/time indicator on the video. In other cases equipment has the usual tendency to malfunction mysteriously at the crucial moment
Other developments seem less hopeful. Some interest seems to be developing in the USA into another hypnotic regression past-life case. From the evidence presented here it seems to be another bodice-ripper, mini-series type of historical romance. Various experts are .trotted out to say what a lot of research in obscure corners must have gone into its production. No doubt, the historical novelist whose story the regressee read many years ago probably did put in a lot of verifiable historical facts. Many historical novelists are themselves historians, or at least have very competent researchers to do the digging for them. So the fact are there, ready for the cryptamnesia twenty years later.
There is also some reference to physical mediumship. reading between the lines I guess that the author is not especially impressed by what was on offer, especially when a threatened instrumental’ study led to the medium's hasty departure into other fields. The description of events here seems distressingly reminiscent of the sort of "high jinks at a low level" denounced by the late Archie Jarman. Power and manipulation and power for its own sake seems to be the motivation here.
With the two sides in the parapsychology debate represented by moderate figures such as Susan Blackmore and Robert Morris, the violent polemics one has seen in the USA are likely to be avoided in Britain, and slow progress may be possible. Of course, the founders of the SPR thought that 110 years ago; whether we will be much further forwards in another 110 years seems pretty doubtful. -- Peter Rogerson. Magonia 44, October 1992.