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Dr. Mike Dash
Random House 1998. Illustrated.
Borderlands is a
work which examines a wide variety of paranormal and "Fortean" phenomena. It
concisely discuses (among other subjects) anomalous precipitation (from
fish-falls to "blood" rains), encounters with demigods (ranging from Castor &
Pollox to the Blessed Virgin Mary), cryptozoological creatures, ghosts &
poltergeists, psi abilities, UFO's, SHC and earth mysteries.
The wide scope of Borderlands makes it a good first reference work of the "paranormal". It's chapter on UFOs details much familiar material, but manages to cover most aspects of the subject. As a whole, the work is both reasonably informed and fairly up-to-date. However, on the downside, Borderlands does not contain an index (but does include a considerable list of references).
Mike Dash admits the majority of these events can be rationally explained, but also accepts that - even after critical examination - a small residue of puzzling incidents remain. He also concedes that the physical evidence for most anomalies tends towards the scarce and ambiguous. As a consequence, he discuses the possible reasons for this, ranging from such occurrences having a ultraterrestrial source to other (more prosaic) possibilities.
For UFO enthusiasts, two chapters are of particular interest. The first, entitled "Hoax", (surprisingly!) discusses instances of fabricated paranormal phenomena. The second, "Answers From Inner Space", examines the various physiological explanations often cited to account for apparitions, possessions and Close Encounter experiences. This covers a variety of subjective effects, ranging from hallucinations, fantasy-prone personalities, temporal lobe epilepsy, hypnosis, false memory syndrome and hypnogogic hypnopompic states.
Dash finds all the "popular" explanations for the various paranormal, fortean and cryptozoological phenomena examined in this work inadequate. Although sceptical of the "traditional" explanations, he also finds solutions based solely on psycho-social or physiological factors equally wanting. It is the author's opinion that a combination of unusual mental states and cultural expectation lie at the root of many of these happenings.
Borderlands comes to two important conclusions. Firstly, the book demonstrates that cultural expectations often has a profound effect on both the interpretation and form of anomalous happenings. It also states that there no such thing as a consistently inexplicable - or explicable - anomalous phenomenon. Theories which advocate one specific effect as the explanation for Every UFO (or apparitional, or Bigfoot) event always encounters instances which it can account for only with great difficulty. The author believes that only a multi-paradigm approach is likely to prove viable in the long term.
Although Borderland's critical attitude may not be to everyone's liking, the majority of critical paranormal/UFO researchers will examine the precepts and ethos of this work with interest. Given the masses of junk on both UFOs and the Paranormal which clutter up most bookstores, it is good (for a change) to encounter a popular work covering this subject in such intellectual depth. Dr. Dash is to be congratulated on producing this considerable tome, which documents the diverse happenings existing on the borderlands of consensus reality.
Verdict:- Recommended - a good overview of this topic.
originally published in BUFORA BULLETIN No.8: January-February, 1999).
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