Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book: Australia's Strangest Mysteries by John Pinkney



Amazon - $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited
Non-fiction - Paranormal/Disappearances/Unexplained Phenomena

"DRIVER FRANK CLEWER sparked panic in his rural hometown - when he began to leave trails of scorchmarks and flames wherever he walked. 

The Baffling Burning Man's brush with the impossible occurred in September 2005, and was chronicled by TV news crews and hundreds of witnesses. Astonished scientists at the University of New South Wales found that Frank was generating 30,000 volts of static electricity: a charge powerful enough to melt synthetic carpets. 


But somehow he survived the mysterious ''√≠nner fire'' without the slightest lesion on his skin - the only visible evidence of the colossal voltage he'd carried being a charred hole in the knee of his jeans. 
Many media outlets treated the Clewer case as a one-off event. But SHC [Spontaneous Human Combustion] has been inexplicably occurring for more than 2000 years,with one of the earliest recorded events dated 52 BC. 


In this unique book, bestselling author and journalist John Pinkney describes the mysterious history of the' flames from heaven'' -a phenomenon which obsessed even Charles Dickens, who described it in his novel Bleak House. 


Pinkney also presents a new selection of some of the most tantalizing cases he has investigated during a lifetime's research: 


UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCES, from the enigma of the vanishing heiress to the saga of the 'jinxed' ship, which disappeared with 130 people aboard. OUTBACK RIDDLES The desert aboriginals whose astonishing song saved trhe life of a dying woman 4000 kilometres away... the uncanny invasion of Lake Eyre...the monster that guarded an abandoned potato farm...the startling UFO √≠ncursion in Queensland's Isla Gorge. 


MYSTERIOUS DEATHS, including the fate of John Friedrich, 'the man who never was''...;the horror in Sydney's dunes...and the American divers'' diaries of death. 


EERIE PHENOMENA Strange Case of the Shining Crosses...Magazine Foretells Death of JFK...Riddle of the Tiger that Rose from its Tomb...Lost, on a Road Without Shadows. And more.

These pages offer you intriguing insights into some of our planet's most perplexing mysteries."


I fairly recently subscribed to the whole Kindle Unlimited thing. A friend accidentally signed up for their month trial and I am a lemming so I jumped on board too.

It's basically fabulous for someone like me who reads a whole lot and occasionally has trashy tastes that she's not willing to spend real money on. So, for example, there's a whole bunch of books that kind of look interesting but are only 70 some odd pages for $2.99 or some ridiculous amount of money. That's not a good deal. But you pay $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you can read if they're on the Kindle Unlimited library and there are a bunch of them.

And thus my trashy, trashy heart rejoices.

So many ridiculous books, so little time!

Okay, there's some legitimate books on there too, don't get me wrong. I, personally, am abusing the existence of this library in order to indulge myself.

I found Australia's Strangest Mysteries in the manner of all true book nerds who are on an insomniac bender: recommendations. The 'so you read this book, well you might like THESE FIFTY OTHER SIMILAR BOOKS THAT ARE ALSO INSANE' feature is dangerous. Pretty sure this one started at trucker ghost stories and ended in Australia. So.

This book actually turned out to be less ridiculous than you might suppose given the subject matter and the fact that it is most likely one of the self-published variety. Don't get me wrong, I have a deep and abiding love for the fact that people can basically get published now if they want it bad enough without ever having to go through a major publishing house. After all, this is how we got The Martian and that is a glorious piece of science-fiction. However, proof reading is somehow the first thing to go when people self publish and that...that can drag the whole thing down. '

ASM (it's too long to type the whole title out, I'm lazy, sue me) doesn't suffer from the worst of the sorts of errors that come through self publishing. It's not full of typos and misspellings and weird formatting. There are a couple of things here and there, but mistakes get through big name publishers sometimes, so I'm inclined to let a reasonable number of these sorts of things slide.

The stories are interesting, if you're into the weird fringes of reality, though some are less 'weird' than others. One of the later sections is about the possibility of the Tasmanian Tiger still being alive somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Australia, and given how many new species we discover every year, I find that less weird and more a really nice possibility since it would be one less species that humans have driven to extinction.

Lake monster stories definitely fall better into the weird and wonderful category, like UFOs and highways (or other stretches or road) that appear to take people on a really extreme detour into...another dimension, maybe? Most definitely more weird.

The man who was, briefly, slight on fire and leaving flames behind him where he walked? Weird. Very weird. I'm fascinated and horrified at the thought of spontaneous human combustion, because there's no way to prevent or predict it, assuming it's a real thing and not a series of conflated events that bear nothing in common with one another except for fiery death.

My favorite stories out of this book are the mysterious disappearances, though. There's the story of a heiress who lived in squalor in the last years of her life (due to being a spendthrift in her younger years) and apparently just wandered away one day to die. Or the young adventurer back in the late 1800s who went back to get water with which to save himself and the head of the expedition and was never seen again?

I think my absolute favorite story, though, is that of the SS Waratah, a luxury cruise ship that vanished in 1909 with something like 220 people aboard. There's the plain fact that clearly, the ship sank. That is, generally, what happens when a ship vanishes at sea. The fact that they've never found the wreck or any part of it is not even that odd, given the vastness of the ocean, the fact that no one is really sure where it was when it went down, and currents, etc. Recent tragedies have driven home how difficult it can be to find anything lost in the ocean, even when you have a pretty good idea of where it crashed/sank.

The eerie part comes in with the stories of how the ship was considered jinxed from the start (stories that were told even before the ship vanished, cutting off the possibility of this just being people wanting to say that they knew something was wrong). The captain, by all accounts an experienced sailor, urging the ship line to take the ship back to dry dock, that there was something wrong with it that made it unsafe to sail for long; or the prophetic dreams of an engineer that was berthed on the ship but chose to get off and make other arrangements as soon as he could, in spite of the extra cost of the lost fare. His concerns were recorded - he urged other passengers to get off as well, but in the end he was one of the few who survived having sailed on the SS Waratah because he listened to his fears.

What could have happened that the ship was unable to send out any sort of distress signal? Why did the captain choose to keep sailing even with his fears that there was something catastrophically wrong with the ship? In the larger sense of things, why do only some people get these warning premonitions of doom and death? Or do more people get them and we just don't know about it because they never tell anyone else and fail to listen to the warning and take the knowledge of it to their deaths?

Over all, I liked the book. It never goes too in depth to any one story, but gives a detailed over view and more information for some of them. There's never really any answer to any of it, which is why I guess the book isn't called 'Australia's Most Solved Mysteries'.

There's a sequel to this one, Australia's Strangest Mysteries 2, which I'll likely pick up some time in the future. It's also on Kindle Unlimited.

I'm giving this one a 3/5 because I enjoyed it quite a bit and it gave me new fodder for my Marie Celeste-esque obsession.
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