Strange Phenomena by Peter Henshaw
2008/ Chartwell Books Inc.-Regency House Publishing Ltd./ $6.95* (Year/Publisher/Price) * = used
255 Pages

The selling point for this work lies most strongly not within the text but within the over 200 color and black and white photographs that accompany it. Vivid and crisp, hauntingly beautiful, and in a few instances shockingly graphic (the aftermath of spontaneous human combustion cases and sky burials), the illustrations effortlessly capture the eye and persuade even the most casual browser to delve further to appease a sense of curiosity and wonder.

The subject matter falls nominally within that esoteric catch-all category of paranormal phenomena, including those perennial favorites of ghosts, UFOs, Stonehenge, Bigfoot and crop circles, yet strays deliciously further afield into ley lines, walking rocks, toad showers, feral children and stigmata. The Nazca lines of Peru, the Egyptian pyramids, the Bermuda Triangle, sea monsters, fairies, werewolves, fire walkers, spectral hounds, levitation gurus, incorruptible corpses and orbs each receive their due recognition. By no stretch of the imagination can this reviewer consider the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef or the Aurora Borealis even remotely connected to anything paranormal, but they, too, are given a few pages. The justification for inclusion lies with the phenomena of their sheer size and scope, while cataclysmic power explains why tsunamis, lightening and other natural forces are discussed.

The topics cover quite a diverse range of ground, yet are grouped relevantly in short chapters. Do not expect to find an in-depth analysis of any of the phenomena's underlying causes or even a satisfying theoretical supposition. That's why these topics entice. They can not (as yet) be explained and if they could, then they would lose their power to mystify. What the reader may expect (and what distinguishes the book from others of the same genre) is a surprising amount of factual data presented in an easily read, breezy tour guide style. Where else might one discover that it rained fish in France in 1973, that Chesapeake Bay is the seventh largest meteor crater in the world, that China's Great Wall is 4,160 miles long, that a Danish church has a silver chalice purportedly stolen from fairies or that tracks attributed to Sasquatch were found in Alberta, Canada in 1811 all between the covers of one book?

An ideal volume for the coffee table or a reception area (rather than worn back issues of American Muscle Cars or Tech Review), this work is a guaranteed ice breaker and conversation starter. One need not subscribe to a belief in the paranormal realm to enjoy it either, although it may pique a desire to research a tantalizing subject more thoroughly via alternative informational avenues, and thus win a convert to the side of the mysterious, bizarre and strange. All one really need do is... just look at the pictures!

5***** of 5*****/ LadyJEM   4/7/10