Black Light: Perspectives on Mysterious Phenomena by William J. Grabowski

An author and freelance writer, in Black Light: Perspectives on Mysterious Phenomena William J. Grabowski takes his thoughts and pen to task on the subject of the paranormal, and, our place within it.

When it comes to books on the paranormal, what we usually get are either:

a) A cataloguing of events, reports or stories with little or no critique or

b) The author’s bias’s or beliefs being passed off as facts and truths on a given subject

Grabowski’s Black Light is neither of these. Not that those types of books are inherently bad (though many trees have died in vain via the printing of many; one plus for kindle I guess), but sometimes you need someone to come along, shrug their shoulders and say “dunno, beats the hell outta me, it’s interesting but….what happens if we poke it with a stick?”  This is essentially Black Light’s angle.

The most important word from the title is perspectives. Not beliefs. Not truths. It’s not there to convince you of anything, except a notion that mysterious phenomenon are worthy of thinking less superficially about if you have an interest in them, whatever the origins. And in today’s attention-deficit driven media, that’s no bad notion at all.

The perspective taken is that of a writer with some years steeped in an interest in the mysterious and anomalous, and the point at which the author currently views the paranormal panorama, as it were.  It is less subjective vs objective and more reflective vs analytical, although, that’s not to imply the homework hasn’t been done. Clearly the books have been read, documents scrutinized, and protagonists given fair audience.

The book starts with a look at how belief, expectation and the like colour the perception of personal experience. While an experience may be “real” the perception or interpretation of that experience may be far removed from the actuality of that experience. This is not just a philosophical tangent, but a very real world issue. It also speaks to a common thread in Black Light – that the experiencer is both actor and audience when it comes to anomalous experiences.  

Additionally, the media’s dumbing-down of the anomalous topics is also given review. Undoubtedly, the influence of mainstream media can be felt in real terms. Ratings, selling advertising space, and click-baiting take precedence over content – and the most fantastical and least reliable content trumps all. The numerous ghost hunting shows are obvious examples. The most salient issue regarding influence for me however is this; the show makers have no responsibility to police the subject’s intellectual worth and the largely disinterested audience have no obligation to delve deeper into anything they see – however, the percentage of the audience that then conduct “investigations” themselves do. Bringing demons and ghost detectors (or domestic wiring detectors to the non-hard-of-thinking) into people’s homes is not without possible adverse consequence.

The infamous Mothman events are also featured. That the author has had boots on the ground in Point Pleasant walking the locations and talking to residents, gives its own insight. Consideration of a possible military intelligence influence on events is given, as is the role of the investigators themselves. The human side of the very real tragedy that occurred there is also spoken of.

Two great influences on UFO study and lore are also given time – Roswell & John Keel.  Grabowski explores possible terrestrial origins for the former (something came down, even USAF Officialdom says so) and the work and influence of the latter, both within the subject and personally.

In “The Goblin Barrier” the author argues that the borders between different types of anomalous phenomena should be considered blurred and not distinct. I’d certainly agree with this. These categorical boundaries are largely descriptive and not empirical. Additionally, when viewed experientially, they would appear to have more in common than distinct.

A further influence on the author’s perspective provides another interesting chapter – the work of Carl Jung.  The connections between art and paranormal experience via the subconscious and the imagination are explored, again looking at the interplay between the internal and the external. Where one ends and the other begins is a common theme within the book.

Later chapters cover topics such as the mysterious airship wave, alien abduction, the influence of the internet and MKULTRA. There is also a chapter dedicated to two of Colin Wilson’s most famous books, The Outsider and Poltergeist!: A Study in Destructive Haunting.

The final chapter “So What?” suggests many of contemporary society’s anxieties are media driven, inflated by a general lack of critical thinking and reliance on experts spoon-feeding facts to the masses. The author also looks at this in the context of anomalous phenomena. The chapter ends with the sentence “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Indeed. No such thing as a stupid question.

Book closes with inclusion of subject related short-story “Broken Symmetry” and an interview with yours truly.

A note also on the book cover art (designed by the author himself). I dig it. I’m old enough to remember when albums were 12” and came in their own little art project. Books still get printed and have covers you can touch. Shit like that still matters to me.

If you’re looking for a collection of spooky tales, this book ain’t it. But let it in and let it be itself. A reflection on a subject that flits between the mysterious and prosaic, the extraordinary and the mundane, and which fascinates and frustrates in equal measure. A reflection that ultimately questions our own role within it.

Black Light: Perspectives on Mysterious Phenomena can be purchased in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon here.

The author’s fiction can also be found on his Amazon page here.

You can also find William’s The Night Run blog here.  

The OWNE interview with Bill can also be found online here.