Sunday, July 15, 2012

Witnesses to the Unsolved

A few weeks ago, I was sent by Patrick Huyghe of Anomalist Books a review copy of their recently-published title, Witnesses to the Unsolved: Prominent Psychic Detectives and Mediums Explore Our Most Haunting Mysteries by Edward Olshaker, about who we're told:

"EDWARD OLSHAKER is a longtime freelance journalist whose articles and commentaries on current events and historical issues have appeared in History News Network, The New York Times, The Gainesville Sun, and numerous other publications. He broke the story of Florida prisoner John Merritt’s alleged wrongful murder conviction and quest for DNA testing and a new trial. Witnesses to the Unsolved was an Independent Publisher Book Awards finalist and a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist."

As readers of my books and and blogs will know, I don't do much research and writing in the fields of (a) life after death; and (b) ghosts and specters - the main reason being that I get tired very quickly of reading tale after tale of "ghostly nuns," "phantom monks," and haunted houses.

There's nothing wrong with such things, but they just don't catch my attention in the same way that Cryptozoology and Ufology do. So, for me, at least, I tend to restrict my reading on such matters to those books where I feel something new and significant has been added to the controversy - rather than those releases that just churn out tale after tale of supernatural terror with the minimum of comment or analysis.

And, fortunately, Witnesses to the Unsolved does not fall into this latter category. Rather, it is a refreshingly different, informative, open-minded and highly thought-provoking book.

As its sub-title makes clear, Olshaker's work is a study of psychics who have used their skills and talents to try and resolve a number of deaths, all high-profile, many shrouded in deep mystery, and a great deal - in varying fashions - linked to swirling conspiracy, cover-up and political intrigue.

Before I get to the subject-matter as a whole, I should stress that one of the chief reasons I enjoyed the book was because it's written without any attempt to force any particular views, theories, ideas etc down the throats of the readers. It's researched, written and presented by a man - Olshaker - who is clearly fascinated by such issues and who presents his data in level-headed, journalistic fashion.

So, with that said, what of the contents? Well, the first thing to note is the excellent Foreword from paranormal authority, Colin Wilson, which really sets the scene for the stories that follow and offers the reader a fine insight into what makes a psychic detective.

Then we're on to Olshaker's Prologue, which is a solid and unbiased summary of the phenomenon under the microscope, and which is then followed by the author's background section on the various psychics whose case-studies are related, including Robert Cracknell, the author of The Lonely Sense, and Janet Cyford, who penned The Ring of Chairs: A Medium's Story.

Now to those case-studies: For me, the most fascinating section of the book was that dealing with the controversial and mysterious deaths of CIA men, William Colby (in 1996) and John A. Paisley (in 1978). This is a fantastically involved and intriguing part of Witnesses to the Unsolved, which suggests the truths behind the deaths of both men - allegedly, at least, both on/in the water and both steeped in controversy - are very far removed from what the public and the media were told.

Were the bodies of the men found even those of Colby and Paisley at all? What dark secrets of an intelligence-based nature were they in possession of? Questions like these are asked - and answered - as the psychic detectives get on to the stories.

Political intrigue runs deep too: the seemingly never-ending saga of Vincent Foster, big-money and Bill Clinton gets the psychic treatment and opens up a real can of worms - as does the affair of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and a certain, highly suspicious plane crash, which is also addressed at length by our team.

The death of Kurt Cobain - as well as those of other significant figures in the Grunge music scene of the early 1990s - is discussed, along with theories relative to suicide or something else.

Also deeply fascinating - but highly disturbing, too - are those matters our psychics find when they pursue the truth concerning (a) the controversy-filled deaths of certain environmental activists; (b) people that had sought the truth about American POWs who may have been left behind in Vietnam; (c) Martin Luther King; and (d) the extremely strange and unsettling matter of the "Markle Massacre."

The latter is truly one of those almost sinister "you couldn't make it up"-type cases that Olshaker tells in skillful and notable fashion.

Of course - just as with the CIA's so-called "Remote Viewers" - the findings of the psychic detectives will be viewed by many as hard fact, by others as genuinely unsolved mystery, and by some as opinion and theory.

But, the important factor is that Olshaker does not demand you accept this or that. Instead, he carefully offers the cases, data, victims and investigators and - when that is all done - succeeds in making a strong case that the conclusions of the various psychics (who are as much the focal point of the book as the deaths under the microscope) should not - and indeed, cannot, be dismissed.

Something weird and significant does appear to be going on. And it may very well concern messages from the grave relative to nothing less than cold-blooded murder.

Coming across rather like a real-life study of the so-called "Pre-Cogs" of Minority Report (albeit from the perspective of deaths that have occurred, rather than ones that will occur), Witnesses to the Unsolved is a book that will be in your mind and thoughts for a long while after you have finished reading it - which, in my view, is always a good sign of a fine, well-done book.

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