The Universe Wants to Play

Patrick Huyghe and Dennis Stacy (eds.) The Universe Wants to Play: the Anomalist, Volume 12. Anomalist Books, 2006. 

This issue of Anomalist contains a wide variety of articles, of varying interest to Magonia readers. Alberto Rosales gives examples of some of the truly wild stories out of his humanoid catalogue which is on It is of course anyone’s guess how much of this particular collection represents ‘genuine’ memorates and how much has been made up by journalists and magazine editors, but it points to the complex nature of UFO lore, and how difficult it is to assimilate it to any ready made “explanation”.

The line between memorates and urban legends can be thin indeed, and implicitly this is the topic of Michael Schmicker’s article of ‘Sex, Serial Killers and ESP‘. The main story here is of a 15 year old girl who is picked up by a stranger, who drives her home, and she agrees to go on a dinner date with him, but pulls out because of an intuition, and against her parents objections, and guess what, he turns out to be a serial killer. Of course you might think that you wouldn’t need much ESP to work out there is something dodgy about guys in their 20s who want to date 15 year old jail-bait. The story has all the hallmarks of the typical warning urban legend, warning teenage girls off older men, but the girl swears that to some extent it is true.

Urban legends develop around real events, as witness the history of London ‘outrages’ and moral panics as documented by Hilary Evans and Robert Bartholomew in their ‘London Monster Scares‘, in which Spring Heel Jack meets Jack the Ripper. The line between original attackers, copycats and imaginary crimes becomes very hard to gauge.

Nick Redfern argues that the fringes of ufology and the contactee movement may have a role in stimulating fears about Soviet ‘telepathic hypnotism’ which in turn led to the development of the US intelligence services ultimately futile experiments with ESP.

Other articles deal with how science deals with anomalies, or perhaps how anomalists think science deals with anomalies. These include looks at the research of Rupert Sheldrake, how science reacted to claims of organic traces in meteorites, and the discovery of the ‘hobbit’ fossils in Flores. Jay Walljasper in his examination of Sheldrake claims, as his title says, that he is a ‘Heretic for our Times‘, but despite this and the claim in the introduction by postmodernist philosopher Joseph Felser than science acts against dissidents, as the church did against Galileo, this belief just cannot be sustained. None of these ‘heretics’ have been arrested, imprisoned, still less executed for their alleged heresies, I am not aware that any have been driven from their homes by angry mobs of scientists, had bombs put under their cars, their children ostracised at school, been dragged up before the House Unscientific Activities Committee or anything of the sort. Bad book reviews and a spot of ridicule cannot be compared with real heresy hunting.

If we take the Flores case, which actually involved one of the most dramatic scientific anomalies of modern times, the reaction was anything but widespread hostility, suppression, ridicule etc, differing people hold different views, but the sceptics are in a distinct minority.

Perhaps anomalists sometimes expect the scientific community to behave how they behave, there have been more cases of hostility, suppression, egotism etc. from the anomalists than from the mainstream. Harry Price’s conflicted relationship with just about everyone else in psychical research, which forms the basis for Gregory Gutierez’ study of a photograph which claimed that the medium Rudi Schneider had cheated, is a case in point, for Price’s colleagues suspected he might have cheated out of jealousy of his rivals.

Sooner or later the wilder shores of post-modernism would meet Forteanism, and they do in the introduction to this volume by Joseph Felser, who somehow seems to end up arguing that the claim that the earth revolves around the sun is just another belief, like the belief that the sun goes around the earth. Would anyone make such an argument outside that field? For example it cannot be very helpful to the self esteem of Americans to have the slur of slavery in their past, so they could say the existence of slavery is just another belief, and we can choose to believe it never existed, or Germans can prefer to believe that the Holocaust never happened. At this level post-modern Forteanism is nothing more than intellectual (and moral) nihilism.   -- Peter Rogerson

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