26.6.17

Haunted Britain

Jo Montgomery. Haunted Britain: Supernatural Realms of the United Kingdom. Schiffer. (28 May 2017)

Take a social, historical, and cultural journey of paranormal discovery throughout Great Britain with more than 50 locations for the shadowy and often unexplained world of ghosts and the supernatural. Visit the London Dungeon where an unseen hand in the mortuary room pokes people in the ribs. Journey to the Ancient Ram Inn in Wotten-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, to learn historic accounts of ritual child sacrifice, black magic, suicide, witchcraft, and murder. Find out about the Enfield poltergeist activity that pervades into this century. Discover the tallest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe and one of the largest in the world. Explore time-slips, black dogs and other spectral animals, haunted caves, graveyards, and tunnels. From the ghosts of London's tragic past to haunted manors and ancient barrows, to the wilds of Bodmin Moor and brooding serenity of Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, follow a cultural historian to the strange and wonderful haunted places in the UK.

25.6.17

The Sins of Psychology

Chris Chambers. The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology: A Manifesto for Reforming the Culture of Scientific Practice. Princeton University Press (June 2017)

Why psychology is in peril as a scientific discipline--and how to save it Psychological science has made extraordinary discoveries about the human mind, but can we trust everything its practitioners are telling us? In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that a lot of research in psychology is based on weak evidence, questionable practices, and sometimes even fraud. The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology diagnoses the ills besetting the discipline today and proposes sensible, practical solutions to ensure that it remains a legitimate and reliable science in the years ahead. In this unflinchingly candid manifesto, Chris Chambers draws on his own experiences as a working scientist to reveal a dark side to psychology that few of us ever see. 

Using the seven deadly sins as a metaphor, he shows how practitioners are vulnerable to powerful biases that undercut the scientific method, how they routinely torture data until it produces outcomes that can be published in prestigious journals, and how studies are much less reliable than advertised. He reveals how a culture of secrecy denies the public and other researchers access to the results of psychology experiments, how fraudulent academics can operate with impunity, and how an obsession with bean counting creates perverse incentives for academics. Left unchecked, these problems threaten the very future of psychology as a science--but help is here. Outlining a core set of best practices that can be applied across the sciences, Chambers demonstrates how all these sins can be corrected by embracing open science, an emerging philosophy that seeks to make research and its outcomes as transparent as possible.

20.6.17

Magical Socialism

Alexandra Cotofana, James M. Nyce, Religion and Magic in Socialist and Post-Socialist Contexts - Historic and Ethnographic Case Studies of Orthodoxy, Heterodoxy, and Alternative Spirituality. Columbia University Press. (22 Jun. 2017)

Religion and magic have played important roles within Eastern European societies where social reality and socio-political balance may differ greatly from those in the West. Although often thought of as being two distinct, even antagonistic forces, religion and magic find ways to work together. By taking on various examples in the multicultural settings of post-Soviet and post-socialist spaces, this collection brings together diverse historical and ethnographic analyses of orthodoxy and heterodoxy from the pre- and post-1989 periods, studies on the relationship of religious and state institutions to individuals practicing alternative forms of spirituality, and examples of borderlands as spaces of ambiguity. This volume is at the crossroads of anthropology, history, as well as cultural memory studies. Its archival and field research findings help understand how repurposing religious and magic practices worked into the transition that countries in Eastern Europe and beyond have experienced after the end of the Cold War.

17.6.17

Hitler's Monsters

Eric Kurlander. Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich. Yale University Press (18 July. 2017)

The Nazi fascination with the occult is legendary, yet today it is often dismissed as Himmler's personal obsession or wildly overstated for its novelty. Preposterous though it was, however, supernatural thinking was inextricable from the Nazi project. The regime enlisted astrology and the paranormal, paganism, Indo-Aryan mythology, witchcraft, miracle weapons, and the lost kingdom of Atlantis in reimagining German politics and society and recasting German science and religion. In this eye-opening history, Eric Kurlander reveals how the Third Reich's relationship to the supernatural was far from straightforward. Even as popular occultism and superstition were intermittently rooted out, suppressed, and outlawed, the Nazis drew upon a wide variety of occult practices and esoteric sciences to gain power, shape propaganda and policy, and pursue their dreams of racial utopia and empire.

14.6.17

Touring the Dark Side

Chris Kullstroem. Drawn to the Dark: Explorations in Scare Tourism Around the World. Pelican Publishing Company. (1 Jun. 2017)

Since we were children, images of closed closet doors, darkened basements, and stairways spiraling down into the blackness have terrified us -- and yet, they have fascinated minds young and old for generations. If the unknown holds so much to fear, then why is it that cultures around the world continue to seek out and celebrate the mysteries of the dark? Inspired by a life-long fascination with monsters and fear culture, writer Chris Kullstroem left her job and home to experience firsthand some of the worlds most legendary scare shows. Her travels were conducted exclusively through Couchsurfing, a network that pairs travelers with local hosts at no cost. 

Under the guidance of her hosts and locals, Kullstroem saw it all: attractions like the Day of the Dead, the haunts of New Zealand, and even the legendary Krampus brought to life in the streets of Austria. Chronicled with insightful detail, the book explores why so many find thrills in forms of fright. Each international, eerie enactment evokes a sense of wonder and awe, demonstrating powerful emotions that transcend language and culture to reveal a connection that we all share in our draw to the dark.


7.6.17

Cosmic Absurdities

S. D. Tucker. Space Oddities: Absurd Attempts to Explain the Universe. Amberley Publishing (15 Jun. 2017)

On 4 October 1957, the Soviet Union’s famous satellite Sputnik was launched into orbit, and the Space Age began. Or did it? Sputnik may have marked the beginning of humanity’s physical exploration of the universe, but we had already been exploring it with our minds for thousands of years, often with some very surprising results. To mark the seventieth anniversary of Sputnik’s launch, S. D. Tucker seeks out the strange, surprising and downright silly ideas about outer-space that have arisen throughout history. 

Human beings have always gazed up at the twinkling specks of stars and wondered what exactly they are; the heavens became an inky-black canvas upon which people could project their own personal fantasies and those of the societies they lived in. From tales of crumbling canals and lost civilisations on Mars, to the Nazi theory that the universe was made of cosmic ice, to the mind-boggling proposal that flying saucers were piloted by super-intelligent alien bees with jewels for eyes, mankind has had to travel down a lot of blind alleyways before finding the answers that were needed to initiate the blast-off that finally took us to the moon. 

This entertaining and revealing book explores stories of the stars invented before Sputnik, the Space Age or modern science were even a glimmer in the eye of mankind, and follows through to consider the odd and tenuous theories about space that still exist to this day. Whether you’re intrigued by the notion of singing angels inhabiting the planets, secret houses hidden on meteorites, or alien nudist colonies on the moon, Space Oddities will offer you a sight of the weird, wacky and wonderful world that people throughout history have imagined lies beyond the stars.


2.6.17

The Suburban Millennium

Jane Shaw, Philip Lockley, Neil Quilliam, Mark Thompson. The History of a Modern Millennial Movement: The Southcottians. I.B.Tauris (30 May 2017)

A feverish expectation of the end of the world seems an unlikely accompaniment to middle-class respectability. But it was precisely her interest in millennial thinking that led Jane Shaw to a group of genteel terraced townhouses in the English county town of Bedford. Inside their unassuming grey-brick exteriors Shaw found something extraordinary. For here, within the 'Ark', lived two members of the Panacea Society, last survivors of the remaining Southcottian prophetic communities in Britain. 

And these individuals were the heirs to a rich archive charting not just their own apocalyptic sect, but also the histories of the many groups and their leaders who from the early nineteenth century onwards had followed the beliefs of the self-styled prophetess and prospective mother of the Messiah ('Shiloh'), Joanna Southcott, who died in 1814. Placing its subjects in a global context, this is the first book to explore the religious thinking of all the Southcottians. It reveals a transnational movement with striking and innovative ideas: not just about prophecy and the coming apocalypse, but also about politics, gender, class and authority.