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.


  1. I kind of freak out when I hear or see anything related to spontaneous combustion. But every time I've actually gone ahead and watched/listened/read I find that the case is sketchy at best. Usually you can find other explanations. And no one ever talks about, like, spontaneous *horse* combustion, you know? It's one of those things that, if it were true, we should expect to see happen way more often and with a lot more diversity. So I can usually talk myself down from being terrified of it. Same deal with ball lightning.

    Of course, when someone gives me the same argument for why ghosts aren't real, I tell them that scientists don't know everything and they should shush about things they don't understand. :D So I'm a bit selective with my rationalizations here.

    Did it say why the captain was concerned? Some of these don't sound like premonitions so much as informed fears - when an engineer and the captain are saying there's something wrong with the boat, there might actually just be something wrong with the boat! Why sail it anyway? Well, why do people drive their cars when they have warning lights for problems they haven't fixed yet, or try to drive home when there's a tornado warning? He probably thought there was a danger but that the risk was low enough that he didn't want to make a fuss if others were saying it was fine.

    I feel like some of that ties into only some people getting premonitions, too. Like maybe neither the captain or the engineer *knew* something was going to happen, maybe the engineer didn't even know why he thought there was something wrong, but somewhere at the back of his mind he noticed something that triggered the dream. I think maybe there's a mix of paying attention, knowledge of the situation, trusting your instincts, and *maybe* sensitivity to psychic cues that goes into these things. I'd expect someone at the high end of all those categories to feel a bit off at the very least, and way at the other end people blissfully unaware, with a lot of inbetween.

    1. True, true, all very true. And yet I am still concerned about people randomly catching on fire from the inside. That seems like a really horrible thing and I aim to fire proof myself somehow.

      Just in case. :)

      Maybe horses spontaneously combust all the time and no one tells us for fear of mad panic.

      Ghosts make a lot more sense than people combusting, to be honest. So. *hand waves*

      The captain's concerns were based on his experience and the fact that the boat was very difficult to balance in the water. He wasn't thinking that it was ghosts or a curse or anything, he apparently thought that there was something structurally wrong with the ship. But every time they had it in dry dock no one could find anything wrong.

      Still, there are stories from people who sailed on the ship before it vanished that have it listing very heavily in storms. The captain thought that he had it balance well enough with some cargo to sail it back to England and then he would try getting the owners to take it out of the water and find the problem, but obviously he did not since it sank somewhere.

      The engineer had dreams of being sucked under by the...wake? the drag of a large ship sinking beneath/around him long before he got on board. He convinced himself that they were ridiculous fears, and then when he was on board he experienced the listing and other problems that convinced him that the dreams were actually premonitions of something about to happen to this particular ship.

      And then the dreams came back, but that can obviously be attributed to him being on the ship and knowing that there was something very wrong with how it was sailing. I think the engineer felt worst because the daughter of a friend of his was sailing on the ship and she refused to take his advice and vanished with the ship.

      You're right, people are stupid. LOL.

      I'm iffy on the whole actual psychic thing, but then you have a situation like this where at least one person had dreams that, in retrospect seem prophetic. Long before he knew about the rumors of the ship being cursed and without knowing that there were problems mechanically and physically that could have caused his instincts to be set off.

      So what does all that wind up meaning?

    2. I was thinking about this while waiting for the bus this morning. And I wonder how often people have "premonitions" about ships that *don't* sink. Like it seems really weird in retrospect and someone might think "wow I totally knew this would happen I must be psychic" but what if they're just paranoid and tend to forget all the times they're wrong about a disaster happening?

      One of the podcasts I listen to (I *think* it was History Goes Bump but not quite sure) had someone talking about a sometimes-psychic friend of hers. One time she called to warn about an accident that had already happened. Spooky! Another time when the interviewee's son was traveling in NYC, she called and said she had a vision of him on the ground having been hit by a car. So the son came home and nothing happened. Did she have a real prediction, or did she know traffic in NYC is terrible and that was a possibility, so the family assumed it would have come true if he hadn't come home? She did say that the friend isn't always right, but that the times when she is make them take her word seriously. I wonder what the percentage is. If you predict something terrible will happen every time *anything* happens, will the ones where you're right stand out more so people are afraid to ignore you even though you're wrong 70+% of the time?

      I'm not really sure. I don't know stats on this. And I don't want to sound like I think psychic phenomena definitely doesn't exist. I've experienced some weird stuff and I think *something's* going on there. Just not sure anybody has as good a handle on it as they think they do. And for everyday people who haven't worked to develop it at all, my guess would be that at most a premonition is a tiny psychic cue backed up with a lot of mundane contributions they don't notice.

    3. Probably pretty often, now that you mention it. This reminds me of the phenomena around people who pray for parking places and such. Confirmation bias, I think? They only tend to remember the times when a parking place was available after they prayed, forgetting the more numerous times when a parking space didn't immediately appear after their prayer.

      I fall into the camp that psychic stuff isn't real. And yet I believe in stuff like this. I am contradictory.

  2. Interesting post and comments!

  3. If you're at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogmas . . . that we *must believe* to get to Heaven . . .

    We list it on our website > > >

    The Dogmas have in fact ... been hidden from you.

    > > Abjuration of heresy to enter God's Catholic Church >

    The Catholic God knows . . . what we think and believe . . .

    Catholic writing of Romans 1:21 >
    "They ... became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened."

    Catholic Faith (pre-fulfillment) writing of Job 21:27 >
    "Surely I know your thoughts, and your unjust judgments against Me."

    The fact that "islam" is not a religion is on Section 113 of the site. Mohammed in the "koran" wrote exactly the opposite of the Old Testament Prophets.

    Proverbs 30:4 > "Who hath ascended up into Heaven ... what is the name of His Son."
    koran - maryam 19:35 > "It is not befitting ... Allah that He should beget a son." (There's no "allah")


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