The Cryptoterrestrials by Mac Tonnies

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Cryptoterrestrials

Author: Mac Tonnies

Type of Book: Non-fiction, speculation, metaphysics, aliens

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because it posits a theory that the little green men, I mean grays, are not from outer space but really live on or in Earth and have been deceiving us for years.

Availability: Published by Anomalist Books in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I had planned to do an “Alien Intervention Week” here on IROB, but at some point, I think I realized  that discussing all of the books I read on the topic in the space of one week would kill my spirit for months.  Most of the books spoke of a mindset that challenges my love of the odd, steeped in strange science and spurious proof that if challenged would result in months of unsettling e-mails sent to me from people whose sense reality would make it hard to respond, yet their earnestness would demand a response.  So I am going to spread these books out – it may take me years to discuss the handful I read – so that I can distribute the agony in such a manner that I don’t get emotional cramps every time I need to check my e-mail.

Plus I’m not that “into” aliens as a whole.  Discussing aliens has become not unlike discussing religion for me – a tiresome argument that no one can win. Yet the idea that aliens have intervened in the human race for assorted reasons falls into this category of “fringe” for me so of course I am drawn to it.  So it’s not like I can’t read it even as every bit of my common sense tells me to leave the topic alone.  It’s maddening.

You know how it is.

But this book was a reasonable breath of fresh air where odd theories of aliens meddling with humans beings go.  Mac Tonnies wrote a fascinating book of speculative ideas and  it was disheartening, to say the least, to learn that this interesting book was published posthumously, for Tonnies passed away in 2009 at the age of 34. If you have some time one day, comb through Tonnies’ blog, which I link to above. His ideas on transhumanism are engrossing.

In a way, this book is a perfect example of the sorts of ideas that made me a fan of the odd.  When I was a kid, books on Forteana were not so insistent.  They posited what happened (fish falling from the sky), posited a few potential answers (waterspouts drawing water and fish from streams, or an angry god), and left the reader to wonder and maybe discuss the topic.  Now the book on fish falling from the sky has spurious science to prove a particular point of view, all other points are dismissed, and the discussion becomes entrenched and adversarial.  Tonnies’ book made the fun of Forteana real again.

So Tonnies puts forth the idea that aliens are not from other planets but may be “cryptoterrestrials.”  Humans or near-humans or humanoid-like creatures that live among us.  Those who see little green men or little gray men are not seeing creatures from other planets but instead are seeing creatures that have lived among us on Earth.  Hidden creatures that may or may not be our genetic brethren, but that have nevertheless been with us for millennia.

This is an interesting idea and Tonnies goes about discussing it using a calm erudition that was thrilling (and appalling in a way because he is gone and there will be no more from him).  His prose is very crisp and delivers complex ideas in manageable bites so that readers like me don’t choke.  But I think the best way to show you this book is to give you snippets that resonated with me, examples of an excellent mind and an excellent book.

Strange Creations by Donna Kossy

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Strange Creations: Aberrant Ideas of Human Origins from Ancient Astronauts to Aquatic Apes

Author: Donna Kossy

Type of Book: Non-fiction, aliens, bad science, utter insanity, conspiracy theory, evolutionary theory, whacked theory

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: AQUATIC APES!

Availability: Published by Feral House in 2001, it appears to be out of print, but you can still get a copy here:

Comments: I know absolutely nothing about Donna Kossy aside from the fact that she clearly revels in bizarre ideas and has more knowledge on the topic of strange people and crackpotology than I can safely absorb in one sitting. Just reading the bibliography for this book was vaguely exhausting. I have extraordinary respect for anyone who has read Helena Blavatsky from cover to cover, even if it was abridged. I have similar respect for anyone who managed to make it through Atlas Shrugged in one go. Such people are made of sturdier stuff than I am.

I wanted to read this book because it discusses one of my all-time favorite whacked theories, that of the aquatic ape. As I read, I discovered an entire world of bizarre, unique, unnerving and upsetting theories of the way humans evolved or came to be. In fact, this book made it look easy, reading such dense and lunatic theories and making sense of them, that it was the inspiration for my now-aborted “Alien Intervention Week.” As much as I love the strange, I have my limits.

But Kossy is an intrepid woman and possesses not only the skills to make the most extreme idea accessible to her readers, but is a writer skilled in revealing the humanity and humor in some of these beliefs. I will admit I never want to read the phrase “root race” ever again, but aside from that, I found the surveys of belief in this book fascinating and utterly readable. I was disappointed when, after a search on Amazon, I realized Kossy has only written two books and I already own the other, entitled Kooks. I comfort myself that even though there is no more Kossy for me to read, she led me to some superb and lunatic books. I will totally be discussing Behold!!! the Protong here at some point.

Gods, Genes and Consciousness by Paul Von Ward

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: God, Genes and Consciousness: Nonhuman Intervention in Human History

Author: Paul Von Ward

Type of Book: Aliens, hidden history, alternate history, whacked theory

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Because the book attempts to explain how modern man and culture have been shaped by the intervention of space aliens.

Availability: Published by Hampton Roads Publishing Company in 2003, you can get a copy here:

Comments: I bought this book with the intention of having an “Alien Intervention Week.” I bought five books on the topic and got two in before my inner Edina Monsoon burst forth. (I consider Edina Monsoon to be my id, and have had far too many people tell me I reminded them of her in moments of hyperactivity or boredom.) I read the first book, a tiny little book that was more of a survey and felt heartened. I thought, “Hey, maybe this isn’t all boring crap!” Then I began this book and Edina was not impressed and felt I needed to go and buy some new clothes online and eat some chips and salsa. I read a chapter and muttered under my breath. I played the Ramones at full volume and wandered downstairs to find the vegan gummi bears. I bribed myself to finish each chapter because unless a book is really just an egregious pile of dishonest crap, I have to finish it. This is not an egregious pile of dishonest crap sort of book. It is simply Not Relevant to My Interests. I wasted copious amounts of time between each chapter. I watched Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift videos on YouTube because it seemed a better use of time. I cleaned the toilet. I ate lots of snacks. I told my inner Edina to hush so I could finish the book and when I was finished she said, “Fine! Are you happy? Because I’m not!” I wasn’t either.

But I read this thing and I’m gonna discuss it. Because this is a level of weird that never really interested me that deeply (just one of those things – I cannot read enough about Satanic Panic but aliens don’t do it for me, odd book-wise), I was forced to read carefully to prevent my mind from wandering. Who knows, as I write this I may have some sort of epiphany that I really do enjoy reading about alien intervention. But really, all I know as I am typing is that I sort of dread the Zecharia Sitchin tome I’ve got sitting on my bedside table.

And I have to mention, because it always bears repeating, that when I slip into snark discussing this book, it is not the fault of the author. Paul Von Ward sets out his thesis and uses all sorts of religious texts to draw what to some may seem like reasonable conclusions. In the eternal argument of “made” versus “just happened” I sit firmly in the camp of “just happened.” I don’t think God, gods, or aliens shaped the earth in any manner and am still amused at people who look at the world of 4,000 years ago and marvel that our ancient ancestors could, you know, build stuff like pyramids, as if being human, brain-wise, was really that radically different than being a human now. Humans are marvelous and remarkable. Don’t discount them when it comes to measuring things, cutting things, hauling things and assembling things.

Intermediate States, edited by Patrick Huyghe and Dennis Stacy

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Intermediate States: A Nonfiction Anthology

Authors: Various, edited by Patrick Huyghe and Dennis Stacy

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s an edition (13th, interestingly enough) of articles from The Anomalist, a website that features a largely Fortean collection of weirdness. I discovered this particular edition during a search on Nick Redfern, who is both quite bald and a British examiner of the odd. I loved his book Three Men Seeking Monsters and felt his presence in this book would be an omen of the oddness within and I was proven correct.

Availability: Published by Anomalist Books in 2007, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Despite the fact that I clearly am a denizen of cyberspace, I am old enough and my eyes cranky enough to prefer not to read long, involved stories using a computer interface. This persnickety nature puts me at a disadvantage because I miss out on a lot of really interesting topics but it’s never fun when my eyeballs begin to spasm so I live with it. As someone who loves the weird as much as I do, it is almost shameful to admit I had no idea the The Anomalist website existed. Since I fancy myself a person who, if not an expert on the weird, is at least very familiar with most elements of oddness in the world, it was shocking and gratifying not only to find so much on the site I had never read before (my left eye is twitching, thanks for asking), but also to find a lot of content in this book wholly new to me. I really did order it blind, simply using Nick Redfern as sort of Fortean dowsing stick.

Sadly, Redfern’s article, “The Flying Saucer That Never Was,” was not a huge hit with me, though that is hardly Redfern’s fault. I often do not find the topic of UFOs to be particularly interesting, though that is certainly open for qualification. In his article, Redfern examines an old, evidently cheesy UFO movie and how director and actor Mikel Conrad’s claims of having seen a UFO and the film itself caused the US government to investigate closely Conrad’s claims. Though UFOs and much of the conspiracy around them doesn’t really capture my imagination, weird-wise (in that I can’t recall a single UFO case, like Roswell, causing me to fall off the deep end and read every book on the topic), the article was still amusing.

There were some definite winners in this collection. John Repion’s “Suspension of Disbelief” discussed the legend of a clown in a tub pulled by geese and how it supposedly caused the Yarmouth Bridge disaster of 1845. This research was right up my alley, investigating a small bit of history and determining if it is made of truth or fable. “The Black Flash of Cape Cod: True Heir of Spring-Heeled Jack” by Theo Paijams was entirely new to me. I had not before read of an entity similar to Springheeled Jack terrorizing New England as late as 1945. His research and speculation on who or what the creature may have been were interesting indeed, including the appendix to the article that outlined similar sightings across the United States. Loren Coleman, whose work in cryptozoology made him known to before reading him in this collection, penned “Between Worlds: The Three Nephites,” and while I like Coleman’s work in other places, this article was sort of doomed with me because I tend to find attempts to prove through history points of religious faith tiresome. Even so, it was still an interesting read.

There were some articles that left me largely as soon as I read them. “They Dine Among Us” by Cliff Willett, which was about the eating habits of fairies, did not have much resonance with me. Nor did “Bioanomalistics: A Proposal” by David Hricenak. That is not to say these articles were not interesting or well-written. It’s just that I think that with the paranormal and the Fortean, people tend to have specific areas of interest and topics that deviate too much or dwell on elements that are not relevant to one’s interests will not appeal. For instance, I love tales of Bigfoot and Yetis but sea serpents, not so much. Therefore, “Sargon’s Sea Serpent: The First Sighting in Cryptozoology” by Ulrich Magin just didn’t do it for me, and that reason lies with me, not with the author.

Only one article annoyed me. “In Touch With Other Worlds” by Mark Macy strayed into that area of the paranormal that I like to call “squick.” I label anything squick that in any manner can prey on human emotion in such a way to encourage belief in something that whether true or untrue will not wholly benefit them and may, in fact, lead them down a path of utter delusion. Evidently a man named George Meek invented a “science” called Instrumental Tran-Communication in order to talk to the dead and a device called a Spiricom aids in this end. Voices through white noise on the radio, spirit groups using improbable technology to talk to the dead – none of this is new, yet all of it is deeply horrible to me because not only does the science never make an ounce of sense, but it is so very, very easy to manipulate the sick and recently bereaved into believing all kinds of hokum. Even if there is no profit motive, luring people can be an ego trip so there is always a motive behind this sort of nonsense.

Then it descends into utter madness with a new approach to spirit photography wherein one examines in extremely magnified detail a photograph. According to this article, one can see people in these photographs. In one photo, the extreme closeup of what appears to be a woman’s lower face yields half the head of a different man, according to the author. There is no way to describe how ridiculous this is in words – you have to see these claims in order fully to understand how ludicrous they are. If I magnified a picture of one of my cats’ behinds I am certain you could, if you tried hard enough, find an image of the lost city of Atlantis, a play by Shakespeare or an image of Penn Jillette shitting blood at the ridiculousness of it all.

There is a fine line between wacky research and outright advocacy and no other article but Macy’s crossed that line. And to people more open to these sorts of things, maybe it would be interesting. Me? I’m closed and I hope any person facing or having faced terrible personal loss will not get sucked into this false science promising faith in the unknowable.

Now that I have my complaint out of the way, let me share the article that strangely enough had the most resonance for me. As an atheist American, it stands to reason that I have little interest in my spiritual being. Also, as a person prone to excessive complaining and genuine laziness, I avoid anything that causes me nausea or requires lots of fasting. Therefore it was surprising to me how much I liked and absorbed “Medieval Mysticism and Its Empirical Kinship to Ayahuasca” by Victoria Alexander. Meticulously researched, from both the historical records and Alexander’s own experience, it is a fascinating look at common threads between Catholic mysticism and users of a violent, purgative hallucinogen. It was utterly fascinating to me. My reluctance towards the mystical runs hard and deep, starting from an early age, but I love reading books about the lives of the saints and how some mortified their flesh with self-lashing or starved themselves into states of mental ecstasy. This combination of knowledge I already had with completely new ideas on the similarities of achieving a spiritual state in the presence of one’s god made this a fine article for me, indeed.

Alexander explained her own path for spirituality as she used ayahuasca with a shaman, and the very stringent routine she followed beforehand. Though I know I could never do such a thing, even the nausea, extreme caloric restriction and, frankly, the potential of bad hallucinations seemed worth the discomfort. (And my god, because I am a complete philistine, I could not help but remember the scene from the “Viva Los Muertos” episode of The Venture Brothers when Brock Samson and the Order of the Triad take ayahuasca to interesting results. There was also much barfing, which is always amusing to someone like me.)

All in all, eleven articles and only one I can say I had absolutely no use for. I suspect every lover of the strange, unusual, hidden or just plain whacked-out will find something to love in this collection. I recommend it and plan to buy more of these anthologies in the future.

Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Susan A. Clancy

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens

Susan A Clancy

Why I Consider This Book Odd: I heard a review of this book on some NPR morning program, possibly Bryant Park though I can no longer recall, and the burning need to read this book got ignited. Honestly! A Harvard Ph.D. psychology candidate angered people with her findings in memory recovery in sexual abuse and for her next project branched out to study people abducted by aliens. Gah! I love, love, love it when science gets involved in the odd. But yeah, the whole premise – researching people who have tales of abduction and then explaining how these beliefs came to be – was odd. The book proved more fascinating than odd, but it’s odd enough, believe me.

Type of work: Non-fiction, psychological study

Availability: Published in 2005 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College, it is still in print. You can order a copy here:

Comments: This book was a hoot! I am a sucker for anything wherein I get to read people’s profiles (especially psychological profiles of less than normal people) and this book did not disappoint. But ultimately, this is not a book to groove on the oddness, because Clancy’s explanations of how people really do come to believe they were kidnapped by aliens seem sound to a layperson like me and make for fascinating and not always odd reading. But never fear! The book is peppered with enough oddness to make it worth a read from those who can only stomach the oddest of the odd.

Clancy, whose studies into the repressed memories of sexual abuse survivors, led her into a situation where she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. If she revealed her findings that sexual abuse survivors were susceptible to idea implantation, she potentially diminished the real, horrific impact of abuse in the survivor community. In order to show the sound methodology of her study, she would end up harming people, as well as causing harm in communities where all too many people are not believed. It was a political and social minefield, one that eventually caused her to be condemned by those in her very field.

The trouble she experienced in sexual abuse recovered memories caused her to move on to a different study – how is it exactly people think they were snatched up by space aliens. Her research ultimately will not show a reader of psychology books anything new, as abductees are subject to the same influences that anyone who develops odd ideas experiences: Media, night terrors, a willingness to read Whitley Strieber, group delusion and reinforcement, a personal sense of isolation and a need to belong somewhere and an insistence that the commonality of the experiences proves all play a part in making people think they were abducted by aliens. Actually, Clancy utterly disproves that last argument – abductions must be true because all our experiences are the same – by showing that they are in fact, not the same, varying with vastly different details (in Chapter 4).

This is a book that could have descended into farce and while Clancy has no aversion to humor and writes in an at times sardonic manner, she respectfully shows the rich diversity of those with abduction stories. They cut across age, economic class and sex, never falling into stereotypes of drunk rednecks wondering what happened during that lost period after the case of beer disappeared and coming up with ET and a probe, or kooky new-agers who long for abduction like a lost lover. Even though elements of those stereotypes make up some who spoke of their experiences for this book, the abductees defy stereotype and Clancy respects the dignity of all her subjects, even the ones whose tales are violent and unsettling, even those who evidently stank up her car with their body odor.

Elements of this book were hilarious, often unintentionally so. I still giggle like a schoolgirl at the description one man gave of his abductor, a naked, gorgeous alien with cherry red public hair. Cherry. Red. Pubic. Hair. Goodness. Some of the stories have insane logic in them that makes sense sort of until you actually think about them. Like the woman who saw three lovely women in flowing dresses and decided that after seeing them she needed to maintain a macrobiotic diet. These women were omens. What flowing dresses on pretty women have to do with a macrobiotic diet is irrelevant. Just go with it. This is one of the milder examples of insane logic in the book, logic that makes sense in a way until you choke it down with rational thought. Some are less cute, like the man who believes his children half alien, the product between him and a non-human female, children he cannot see but knows are there. How his wife feels about step-kids in the ether is not known. It’s a short leap from silly logic to bad ideas that are quite malignant for relationships and sound functioning.

Overall, this is an interesting read, but for anyone who has gone through a dark patch in his or her life – failed relationships, death of loved ones, loss of job, loss of health – some of the experiences these abductees endure are similar to the ones that cause many of us to drink, take Xanax, or find the Lord. Belief in UFO abduction numbs the pain or it creates a sense of belonging to something inexplicable but mystical and bigger than you. It was very easy, once Clancy laid it all out, how every one of her subjects made it from point A to point B.

This was a quick, easy read and I recommend it. And do I believe in alien abduction? Like my belief in the paranormal – sort of, but not really. I’m still looking for rational reasons for the weirdnesses that have gone down in my own life. I love the odd, and live it at times, but my higher brain makes it hard for me to buy into ghosts and alien abduction. As always, your mileage may, and probably will, vary. Regardless, this was a fun book that wallowed in the odd and I quite enjoyed it.