Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"Redemption of the Damned" - the two volume collection

“Redemption of the Damned”, "A Centennial Re-evaluation of Charles Fort's ‘Book of the Damned’”by Martin Shough with Wim van Utrecht, in 2 volumes (A4 size) - "Vol.1: Aerial Phenomena"(402 pages) in 2019 and “Vol. 2: Sea and Space Phenomena”(235 pages) in 2021 - together are an outstanding contribution to fortean phenomena research and investigation, and specifically they are among the best books that provide excellent standards of study of UFO and UAP related phenomena. They should be studied intensely by anyone who investigate, research, or are interested in these fields. They are clearly products of great effort and labours of love. I loved reading them and highly recommend them. The utility of these volumes is greatly enhanced with indexes to both volumes being included in volume 2. The pleasures, education and entertainment found in deeply engaging with these publications from Anomalist Books are heightened with repeated immersions and their relevance to modern manifestations should be obvious. Indeed, the influx of people newly engaging with fortean and UFO/UAP mysteries will be richly rewarded if they read these impressive volumes. 

A century ago Fort began his provocative book with the memorable proclamation. “A procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.” Charles Fort was our first ufologist, in that he not only collected reports of strange aerial apparitions, lights in the sky, aerial phenomena and anything odd in the sky, and mysteries in the sea and space, he also speculated about what they were. His speculations about the aerial oddities and other mysteries he collected were often playful, often somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but he was more about stirring up conventional thinking, rather than trying to explain the reports. Hence we were exposed to wild ideas like armies of giant space vampires and “superconstructions” travelling between the planets. While Fort’s “aerial fodder” was mainly from the 19thcentury and American and Euro-centric, they anticipated the popularisation of “aerial phenomena” into “flying saucers” by 1947 and into the UFOs and UAPs of today. 

Scottish based researcher Martin Shough brings to Forts “procession of the damned” his wide eclectic knowledge and intense UFO/UAP research experience, seen admirably in his collaboration with Chris Aubeck in “Return to Magonia – Investigating UFOs in History” (2015). With “Redemption of the Damned” he is ably assisted by Belgian based researcher Wim Van Utrecht, best known for his CAELESTIA project, which sort to find explanations for anomalies, rather than promoting mysteries. 

The authors examined all 82 of the aerial mysteries described by Fort in his Book of the Damned in Volume 1.  They bring a huge amount of research to focus on these “damned” anomalies, focusing on a wide range of contextual material, modern day thinking and a vast amount of data. The result seems at first to be hardly the “redemption of the damned” of the book title, as they come up with convincing explanations for most and possible explanations for the balance that still frustrate certainty.  Some of their explanations might be a stretch, but it’s the detail, the process and the exploration that is laid out, that impresses. 

Thus we see a clear reflection of the UFO/UAP controversy that exists today and here lies the books greatest benefit.  It should be the focus of everybody that calls themselves UFO or UAP researchers and/or investigators to undertake such detailed investigations, with a focus to explain.  It’s the approach I have always used, namely that most “UFO or UAP reports” are probably explainable and those that are not become the focus of ongoing investigation to determine if they are consistently UFO or UAP material. That sort of approach ensures that what remains may probably be our best candidates for determining whether a consistently unexplained phenomenon or phenomena emerges.  

“Redemption of the Damned” reminded me most of Allen Hendry’s 1979 book “The UFO Handbook” in which the IFO (Identified Flying Object) becomes the central message. More appropriately they are an effective calibration of all the aerial and associated mysteries we focus on as researchers and investigators. There is much to fascinate, learn and enjoy in this wonderful study “Redemption of the Damned.”  

“Vol. 2 “Sea and Space Phenomena” from Fort’s Book of the Damned, released in 2021, expands the coverage “to two more categories of anomalous observations”, namely “those made by astronomers, of transient unexplained phenomena on other worlds, of phantom moons and planets and other strange bodies in space; and those made by ships’ crews of mysterious objects and lights seen in, entering, or leaving Earth’s oceans.”  While the volume 1 lent itself to detailed individual treatments and chronological listing of the 82 cases covered, in volume 2 the nature of the case material and the manner in which Fort addressed them, encouraged Martin Shough with Wim van Utrecht to also organise much of this “damned” material by categories.  

So we have in this volume a 5-part organisation: “Worlds that Never Were”, “Stigmata on the Sun & Moon”, “Transient Lunar & Martian Phenomena”, “Fire from the Deep” and “Plunging Fireballs”. Like the first volume, while the authors highlight “there is a residue of cases that not only fail to dissolve under the light of inquiry but even seem to harden,” again “Redemption of the Damned” seems a stretch. However, these is 2 excellent volumes, hugely validate the necessity of examining anomalies, that haunt us, in the past, the present and the future. 

Together both volumes achieve a coverage of the majority of “the most dramatic stories in The Book of the Damnedand all of those most closely associated with the 20th-century “flying saucer” mythology”, as Martin Shough highlights. “Redemption of the Damned” provides seasoned Forteans and new players a wonderful resource that resonates powerfully with contemporary manifestations of the “damned.”  Highly recommended. 



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