Monday, September 17, 2018

Ghostly girl power

Nick Redfern is a British investigator of the paranormal and an author of several books on the subject. He writes from the perspective of a “true believer”. This book, “Women in Black”, is eclectic and could have needed a better editor, but if John Keel is your thing, you may find it to your liking. Redfern is less paranoid on a purely personal level than Keel, but the paranormal encounters described here are definitely “Keelian”, and in some cases, involve Keel himself! Much like Keel and Jacques Vallée, Redfern believes that there is a connection between UFOs and older legends about demons and the fairy, and that UFOs are therefore not necessarily “extraterrestrial”, at least not in the nuts-and-bolts sense of that term.

In his book, Redfern mentions and describes a number of parallels between modern UFO cases and older ghost or fairy stories. Both the “aliens” and the fairy abduct humans, breed “hybrids”, have a weird fascination with human reproduction, seem to like coins and other insignificant items, and act in ways the human observer considers baffling or awkward. The aliens/demons frequently appear as humanoids with unnaturally pale skins and old fashioned black dresses. The notorious Men in Black (MIBs) can't be secret government agents. They are paranormal entities. As indicated by the title, “Women in Black” concentrates on encounters with bizarre and terrifying females acting out the usual MIB script: knocking on doors, terrifying UFO witnesses, behaving strangely, etc. Naturally, the author calls them WIBs.

Redfern points out that there are parallels between the UFO-related MIBs and WIBs on the one hand, and other bizarre phenomena on the other. In Britain, Phantom Social Workers trying to kidnap children have been reported. Some of them were weird women dressed in strange black clothes. Many female ghosts dress in black. The MIBs and WIBs also harass paranormal investigators who aren't into UFOs, including a British subject who was looking for King Arthur's tomb in the vicinity of Glastonbury! The parallels are so striking that it's obvious we are dealing with the same phenomenon, and that it isn't necessarily UFO/alien related.

“Women in Black” contains some information I haven't encountered before. It seems that Truman Bethurum's classical contactee case involving extraterrestrial extraordinaire Aura Rhanes wasn't entirely benign. On two occasions, Rhanes acted in a hostile manner and was dressed in black! It also turns out that Albert Bender, the man who almost singlehandedly started the MIB craze, had a fascination with the dark and occult already before his MIB encounter. As a child, Bender had been attacked by a black-clad witch with a fascination with coins…

Sometimes, Redfern is too much of a true believer for my tender skeptical tastes, as when he accepts two controversial film sequences as evidence for “time travel”, including the black-clad woman seen in a newly discovered clip associated with Charlie Chaplin's “The Circus”. The woman supposedly speaks in a mobile phone (which wasn't invented until decades later), but I think a second look clearly reveals that she does no such thing (the clip is called “Chaplins Time Traveler” and has almost 7 million views on Youtube). That being said, I must say that the evidence for something very strange going on is quite strong. How can people in different cultures and at different places experience pretty much the same paranormal phenomena, down to details, even when they are unaware of the folklore surrounding the fairy (which most UFO witnesses and even ufologists seem to be)? The pattern needs to be explained! At the very least, we're dealing with some kind of a deep seated archetypal fears, seared into our collective unconscious…

My main objection to the book is that it feels badly organized, being essentially a long string of weird and chilly events, not always in chronological order. The synthesis I attempted in this review should really have been done by the author. But, as I already said, those who like Keel's, Vallée's and perhaps even Charles Fort's musings, may nevertheless find “Women in Black: The Creepy Companions of the Mysterious MIBs” within their paranormal parameters.

Three-and-a-half stars.

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