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The Getting Spooked Reading List #1
Some Bookshelf Recommendations for the Non-Hardened Cynic
While Getting Spooked has, since its inception 10 months ago, focused primarily on supernatural psyops and the intersections between the paranormal and the parapolitical, I am not a total skeptic of the phenomena that has haunted this place we call home. As such, to celebrate the recent milestone of 1,000 subscribers, I am putting forth a list of recommended reading that falls on the more Fortean side of things—the books that made the paranormal an attractive subject before I was the hardened cynic I am today. Visit the Manifest(uf)o for other writing that has influenced my current, more paranoid trajectory, but below are a few of the books that first solidified my interest in these fringe subjects.
Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned: The Collected Works of Charles Fort (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008)
It was appropriate that Charles Fort was the subject of my first book because his writings had an immense impact on my approach to writing and research as well as some aspects of my life more broadly. Fort’s always-entertaining writing style combined with the multitude of strange reports of unexplained phenomena from pre-1930 history makes it obvious why his books have been mainstays in realms of science fiction, the paranormal, and all-around fringe culture. As Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels would write in Morning of the Magicians:
Charles Hoy Fort is full of exciting theories, all tinged with an element of the bizarre. He sees science as a highly sophisticated motorcar speeding along on a highway. But on either side of this marvelous track, with its shining asphalt and neon lightning, there are great tracts of wild country, full of prodigies and mystery.
While some might consider Fort to be a contrarian, (and he could be at times,) Fort also emphasized a more practical suspicion for everything in science, society, and culture. While Fort vouched for letting the mystery of life wash over oneself, I think his writings also teach readers important methods for reaching truth—not accepting an assertion at face value simply because of authority or outward credibility. Of course, all of the bizarre snippets of otherwordly occurrences which Fort carefully recorded are a hefty bonus in their own right. Fort’s books are freely available at the website of Mr. X, Consulting Resologist here.
Christopher Josiffe’s Gef!: The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose (Strange Attractor Press, 2017)
Subject of a movie dramatization coming out this month, I want to get ahead of the hype and assert that Christopher Josiffe’s 2017 examination of the bizarre case of Gef the talking mongoose is the obsessive and thorough investigation that every paranormal event deserves. Set in a rural farmhouse on the Isle of Man, a family’s rather boring life is changed suddenly by the presence of a sometimes-invisible talking mongoose. You heard that correctly, no innuendo here. This entity named Gef declared himself “a ghost in the form of a weasel” capable of haunting the family with “weird noises and clanking chains.”The husband, wife, and teenage daughter have a tumultuous relationship with what the papers called “The Dalby Spook” and Josiffe catalogues the ordeal from beginning to end being sure to include theories about the absurd haunting and analysis of its influence throughout cultural history—an influence which is more pronounced than one might first suspect. Whether ventriloquist hoax or genuine haunting, Gef! is a phenomenal read for anyone interested in strange tales or the minutiae of parapsychological studies between the wars in Britain. Available from Strange Attractor Press here.
John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies (Tor, 1975)
Utilized regularly in this newsletter’s “That Charming Man” series, Keel’s 1975 book is a well-regarded classic of paranormal literature for a reason. Always giving the impression of an intrepid reporter in his gonzo-journalistic narratives of high strangeness, Keel tackles bird creatures, men in black, and Lanulosians that have made themselves at home in mid-1960s West Virginia. Reading in some ways like a pulp fiction novel, I was captivated from my first exposure as a preteen and find new elements to unpack with each subsequent reading. It is somehow simultaneously an accessible introduction into the realm of the paranormal and like being tossed into the deep end of the weirdness pool. While Keel takes the more Fortean “any answers considered” approach, he was also my first introduction to soft parapolitics, wondering if the CIA was funding “malicious mischief” in Point Pleasant at the time.I would recommend The Mothman Prophecies as an all-around wild ride and the closest thing to a paranormal phenomena “beach read.” Available from the Internet Archive here.
Barbara O’Brien’s Operators and Things: The Inner Life of a Schizophrenic (Silver Birch Press, 1959)
I was made aware of Barbara O’Brien’s captivating tale of sudden onset (and eventually disappearing) schizophrenia while researching Richard Shaver and the Shaver Mystery. Within its pages are the most weirdly coherent narrative of experiencing a schizophrenic break that I can think of, making one wonder if it were actually fiction. Regardless, O’Brien’s memoir is a fascinating read. She is able to recall with precise detail the events surrounding her particular “influencing machine,” a gang of “hook operators” who use a peculiar mutation to essentially control human beings completely, O’Brien included. She writes: “Schizophrenics, long before writers dreamed up science fiction, had—as they still have—a consistent way of developing mental worlds filled with Men From Mars, devils, death-ray experts and other fanciful characters.”Likewise, Operators and Things was released at one point by Ace Books, a publisher of pulp SF and other sensational titles, and it reads just as easily as those might. However, there is a poetry to O’Brien’s self-analysis of her schizophrenia and the ordered system that suddenly comes to light—a madness with reason and rhythm. While relatively unknown now, it contains literary qualities befitting of more seminal memoirs. The book is available in its entirety here.
Thank you for reading Getting Spooked. If you’ve liked what you’ve read, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Doing so gives you access to archived articles and supports the continuation of this research. Thanks to Luke Marshall at the Things Observed podcast for having me on recently to cover a variety of topics this newsletter has explore. That episode is currently available on Luke’s Patreon page and will soon be available to free listeners. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions, comments, leads, recommendations, paranormal stories, etc. You can find me on Twitter at @TannerFBoyle1 or on Bluesky at @tannerfboyle.bsky.social. Until next time, stay spooked.
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Pauwels, Louis and Jacques Bergier (trans. Rollo Myers). The Morning of the Magicians. Rochester: Destiny Books, 1960. Page 118.
Josiffe, Christopher. Gef!: The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose. London: Strange Attractor Press, 2017. Page 51.
Keel, John A. The Mothman Prophecies. New York: Tor, 1975. Page 101.
O’Brien, Barbara. Operators and Things: The Inner Life of a Schizophrenic. Los Angeles: Silver Birch Press, 1958. Page 165.