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3.0 out of 5 stars Phantom kangaroos?, 10 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation's Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures (Paperback)
Loren Coleman's "Mysterious America" is subtitled "The Ultimate Guide to the Nation's Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures". I don't think this correctly describes the book's contents, however. Rather, it's a motley collection of eye witness accounts of various unknown animals and ghostly creatures, interspersed with Coleman's speculations. The chapters are of somewhat varied quality, almost as if Coleman had strung together two or three different manuscripts. The book isn't "bad", but the format probably isn't exciting enough for the general reader. A Fortean nerd might appreciate it better.

Some of the creatures featured in "Mysterious America" are well known from other sources. Who haven't heard of Bigfoot, Champ, the Minnesota Iceman, the "alien" attack at Kelly, phantom panthers and the Jersey Devil? Other bizarre phenomena were news, at least to me. What are we to make of the "phantom clowns" that harass children? Or phantom kangaroos at various locations across the United States? Baboon-like devil monkeys and mystery lions are also featured, as is the Mad Gasser of Mattoon. A list at the back of the book also features phantom ships.

Coleman's concluding remarks are interesting. While the author's late colleague Ivan T Sanderson was a flesh-and-blood cryptozoologist, Coleman was more sympathetic to the idea that there isn't a clear-cut demarcation between cryptids (unknown animals) and paranormal phenomena such as UFOs or ghosts. Nor is there a clear line between reality and fantasy. The paranormal might be some kind of projection of our own subconscious. Coleman also mentions the even stranger speculations of Forteans John Michell and Robert Rickard, about "morphogenetic fields" which make it possible for extinct animals to come back in the flesh. (Something tells me Rupert Sheldrake might not want to be associated with this version of his theory!) Coleman's present position is less clear, but his decision to include "aliens" and other bizarre creatures in a book dominated by cryptids, shows that he still veers strongly towards the more occult explanations. However, he does make several attempts to explain the cryptids in flesh-and-blood terms, for instance suggesting that there may be unknown species of primates or felines stalking the U.S. countryside. I'm not sure if he really believes that, though!

I'm not sure if "Mysterious America" is something to bring with you on an extensive road trip. Rather, it's a work for arm-chair Forteans who like to ponder the weirder sides of our existence. Besides, if America really is populated with devil monkeys, ghost kangaroos and mad gassers, I'm not sure if I want to leave my arm-chair in the first place!
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