Non-Fiction Review: Encyclopedia of the Strange by Daniel Cohen


Many years ago, I found of a copy of this enjoyable little book at Recycled Books of Denton, Texas. I bought it, despite not being a believer in any of the things discussed in the book.  I actually have a fairly large collection of books about the paranormal and it always amuses me when people assume that, just because I own them, that means that I believe in them as well.  So, just to make clear, I don’t believe in ghosts.  I don’t believe in vampires or werewolves.  I don’t believe in UFOs.  I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.  I believe in art, love, imagination, and dance.

Now, back to the book:

Just as the title suggests, The Encyclopedia of the Strange a collection of entries about things that most people would deem strange, like the occult and UFOs and secret societies and all of that good stuff.  None of the analysis is particularly in-depth but the entries do provide a nice introduction and an overview to the topics that many would consider to be paranormal.  Fortunately, the entries are written from a skeptical point of view.  One gets the feeling that the author understood that the majority of this stuff was nonsense but he also understood that it’s always enjoyable to read about this stuff and let one’s imagination run loose.

The book is divided into sections, each dealing a with a different paranormal subject.  My favorite section was the Strange People section, which featured entries on Pope Joan, The Illuminati, the Rosicrucians, Cagliostro, and Saint-Germain.  For those who are not into “strange people,” there’s also entries on everything from the Great Pyramid to ancient astronauts to the curse of the Hope Diamond to Atlantis and the Kingdom of Prester John.  It’s an enjoyable read and for the aspiring bauthor looking for inspiration, it’s potentially a valuable tool.

Despite the fact that the book was written in 1987, most of the information felt up-to-date.  (It is obvious that Daniel Cohen wrote about the Illuminati long before the start of their current fame.)  One good thing about ancient mysteries is that you don’t ever have to worry about them actually being solved.  They serve as a Rorschach test of both one’s sense of humor and one’s gullibility.  They can be whatever one wants them to be.

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