MAGONIA Supplement

No. 46    17 March 2003


We are often told that the UFO is not a modern myth because there are reliable reports of mysterious structured craft, sometimes seen by many witnesses. Yet when these UFO stories are subjected to critical examination, they nearly always reveal fatal flaws. They turn out to be obvious hoaxes, or they contain contradictions or untruths; where there are said to be many witnesses their statements somehow never seem to be available.
    Some good examples of this sort of nonsense have featured on the UFO UpDates mailing list recently. One was a discussion of the Trans-en-Provence case which is apparently one of the great "classics" of American nuts-and-bolts ufology, presumably because the physical evidence indicated the landing of a genuine UFO, according to some investigators. The believers either didn't know, or didn't want to know, about the work of less credulous (or more honest?) investigators.
    Richard Hall stoutly defended this case against the sceptics, who pointed out that it was reported by a single, unreliable witness. When his attention was drawn to the detailed critical study of the case by French ufologist Eric Maillot, he replied that he couldn't read French. A French-speaking Canadian promptly offered to translate it for him. This must have helped the argument along, you might think. But, no, the list members moved on to other topics and no more was said about it.
    Similarly, discussion of the allegedly multi-witness Trindade Island case, with its allegedly genuine photographs of a "structured craft", also petered out, with the promise of future revelations which would prove that it was genuine. So far the only things said in support of the case have been assurances that it is genuine, but no evidence has been supplied. However, we have received a 36,000 word report (in Spanish) by Luis Ruiz Noguez, who concludes that the evidence indicates that the Trindade case was a hoax.
    For example, he notes that the Brazilian newspapers O Cruzeiro, and O Globo, which he describes as "one of the best and most serious in Brazil", both agree that no officer or sailor in the training ship Almirante Saldanha witnessed the UFO. And, according to O Cruzeiro, Baraúna, Amilar Vieira Filho, and José Teobaldo Viegas (all members of the Club Icarai) were the only persons on deck at the time of the alleged incident.
    So, beware of imaginary multiple witnesses and physical evidence of the activities of hoaxers.


Martin S. Kottmeyer

THE COLLAPSE of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers was the most dramatic event to assault the collective mind and heart of America in recent experience. It is admittedly somewhat tacky to bring up the subject of how this event may have impacted the subject of UFOs, but I did not start this topic. Within days of the event some believers were talking about UFOs being seen in the films of the unfolding tragedy and certain sceptics were openly wondering if this event was generating increased UFO reporting. This question was doubtless prompted by long-standing theories floating around the literature suggesting that societal crises generate anxieties that are expressed in the form of UFO reports.
    There was no way to convincingly answer the question at the time it was first asked. There is no federal agency collecting and reporting such things. The closest thing we have to an acceptable source for such information is the National UFO Reporting Center. It receives and collects the largest volume of UFO reports around. Eventually it displays the results in a database that everyone can access.
    Enough time has passed that we can now explore this question with some measure of assurance concerning the volume of reports. I have set out the raw data in two charts. The first gives the number of entries in the database per day over a five-month period centred around September 2001. The second gives a longer view of month to month variation over several years.

UFO reports to NUFORC

    The answer appears to be both "Yes" and "No", depending on the time scale. There are 26 entries for the day of the tragedy itself and this clearly represents a spike over the surrounding period. Yet if you look at a somewhat broader time scale, it looks certain that the number of reports per day goes down in the weeks immediately after the tragedy. In the period covered by the chart, the median and modal values of reporting activity before 11 September are nine reports per day. In the period after 11 September the median and modal values are six reports per day. I don’t use the standard average, because certain spikes on the chart distort the number unduly and can result from single events that have multiple witnesses. On 15 July there are 21 reports from a single event that centred around Carteret, New Jersey. A spike on 15 October involves ten reports of a fireball over Washington state. On 23 July six reports involve a fireball over Pennsylvania.
    The largest spike on the chart you will note does not happen on 11 September. It happens on 18 November. This is not due to a single sighting event per se, but it was a special situation because it was the night of the Leonid meteor shower and there were well-publicised expectations that it could have been a special once-in-a-lifetime storm. Many people were outdoors hoping to see it  I was one of them. The spike was doubtless due primarily to a wider population of potential observers and, to a lesser degree, a few Leonids actually seen and reported to NUFORC. Factor out these spikes, and the base rate pretty clearly lowers in the period starting one week after the tragedy.
    The spike of 26 entries for the day of the tragedy, it should be said, includes six reports of people who see UFOs in the films of the tragedy itself. (1) Even if you take these out there is still nearly twice the preceding base rate. This increase is probably a fairly straightforward consequence of more observers being outside in curiosity about seeing the sky without planes for the first time in memory. It was in the news that all planes were grounded and many were out to see this for themselves. At least 20 reports on and immediately after the 11th mention this circumstance of planes nation-wide being grounded.
    Several note that the UFOs they see may be military, though two speculate that alien craft were investigating the strange absence of air travel. (2) One comments that while she thinks the object she saw would probably be thought military argues that “If it was, taxpayers should be mad because this thing looked functionless and of the dumbest design compared to any other military craft I have ever seen.” (3) Several days after the tragedy, one New York resident living near the United Nations sees objects behaving like seagulls, thinks for a time they might be military F-14s because they were known to be patrolling the area, but rules that out because of the manner of movement. They hang around ten minutes appearing and disappearing, "reflecting light off some type of metallic surface", but they were too far up to "get a good read on its surface properties". (4)
    The rate of UFO reporting for the first five days after the tragedy is not convincingly greater than what we see in the period before the tragedy. Certainly if we took out the spike of the 11th and looked at the chart, our eye would not be drawn to this week as of any particular interest. There are more notable and sustained bursts of activity in both July and August. Starting on the 17th though, there is definitely a period of reduced reporting.
    There are several possibilities here. The simplest interpretation, to my way of thinking, is that the tragedy induced a period of mourning and depression and this lowered levels of mental excitation. This reduction made for less general enthusiasm in, and focus upon, mysteries. Simply, fewer cared about UFOs in the malaise that followed.
    Alternatively, there was also an emotional turn toward righteous anger directed at those responsible for this act of terrorism. There was a striking resurgence of patriotism and a desire to seek vengeance. The boost in national pride renders imaginary enemies and persecutions redundant and secondary to the new unambiguously real menace central in the collective consciousness. Paranoia, in the sense of delusional (false) fear, is rendered temporarily irrelevant in the minds of a large percentage of the population.
    There are admittedly other notions worth considering. Fewer people were travelling by air so less time was spent outdoors travelling to airports. There were fewer parties going on and less travel time in such recreational pursuits. In counterpoint, there was also less time spent in front of the television and some folks took up walking and driving to get away from the assault of the horrible images. So, how do we ultimately decide whether there was a change in the number of potential observers in the ensuing weeks?
    Offhand, I can’t think of any way for pro-ETH theorists to interpret this decrease and I suspect most would not really object to these explanations, save perhaps for those with a default attitude that the change in numbers is unreal in some sense - chaotic/random fluctuations or partisan debunkers latching upon some meaningless observation.
    One final deduction seems unavoidable, though. There isn’t much here for crisis theorists to work with in the classic sense of the theory. What increase we saw was very brief. It is an interesting question whether this brevity would conflict with most ufologists’ intuitions of what a flap should be. Liberally, we are only talking about roughly 16 reports over the preceding baseline. For such an inarguably major crisis, this seems a most minor flap. It would be absurd to argue that general anxiety abruptly ceased in the ensuing weeks. Air travel was dramatically down for months after the tragedy. Many people complained how hard it was to deal with the fears they were feeling. Rumours of additional terrorist plots being imminent attest to the felt sense we were in some type of ongoing crisis weeks and months after the event. Yet, as anyone can see from the second chart, the decrease in UFO reporting continued for seven more months. Either the common notion of what should be considered a crisis is wrong, or the idea that crises create flaps is wrong.
It should also be clearly stated that the brief increase is completely eaten up in a matter of days and the net total of reports in September already presents a decrease over the months before. Subtract away the evident decrease over the subsequent seven months and the net effect is a decrease of a few hundred reports. I consider it to be in the order of magnitude of three to four hundred reports, but there are different ways to frame the calculation that would give smaller numbers. If anyone wants to argue they have a better and methodologically superior number, I probably would defer out of indifference. The fact of a large and significant net decrease is not going to go away regardless of the choices. The answer to the title question is ultimately NO.

1.NUFORC file report numbers S19522, S19574, S19586, S19599, S19607, S19816. Probable explanations of the film images are discussed by Peter Davenport in most of these files.
2. 19535 and S19561
3. S19784
4. S22187


M.J. Graeber

AMONGST the many urban legends that have sprung up in the United States over the years, perhaps the story of a strange winged creature that was encountered during the 1960s near Point Pleasant, West Virginia is the most fascinating.
    The numerous observations of the thing known as Mothman were widely reported by the press, on radio, and over TV news networks throughout the nation; and a book about the creature, written by investigative journalist John Keel, is said to be something of a Fortean classic. Moreover, a motion picture based on Mr Keel's writings, starring veteran film actor Richard Gere, was released on 25 January 2002.
    But the many close encounters and fleeting observations of Mothman do not appear to be similar to other urban legend reports such as ghostly sightings of Midnight Mary, the Jersey Devil, or even encounters with alligators splashing about in the sewers of New York City. For the Mothman observations are also said to have a "psychic component" and, although it seems a bit unclear as to why or how the Silver Bridge disaster is linked to the psychic aspect of the Mothman mystery, there were rumours that some Point Pleasant residents had experienced premonitions of impending disaster. Indeed, strange forewarnings of various fateful future events (including the attempted assassination of the Pope) were channelled to Mr Keel by several contactees. Apparently, these psychic warnings reached their peak when the Silver Bridge that spanned the Ohio River near Point Pleasant, West Virginia, suddenly collapsed on 15 December 1967, killing 46 people.
    For this and many other reasons, Mr Keel's book is entitled The Mothman Prophecies and, although it is obvious that the creature itself did not actually converse with its primary witnesses (early reports indicated that Mothman squeaked like a large mouse), it is thought that the mere sight of the creature may have somehow triggered the psychical remote viewing capabilities of some of the individuals who came into close proximity with it.
    Moreover, there were even rumours that two mothmen had been spotted beneath the Silver Bridge just before it toppled. According to the story, they were beating their enormous wings in unison and the combined resonant sound had violently vibrated the structure causing it to collapse. But engineers who examined the fallen span felt that it had succumbed to the combined effects of being of antiquated design (it was built in 1928), increased traffic and structural fatigue.

Dog gone!?
In addition to the sightings of Mothman, there was also a rash of dog disappearances, and strange cattle and small animal mutilations associated with the creature. In one instance Mothman was said to have stopped chasing a carload of young people to gaze upon a dead dog lying in the road. Similarly, in 1909 the Jersey Devil was said to have devoured small dogs and chickens, and the snatching of various pets and livestock has also been linked to UFOs and mystery airship sightings dating back to the 1890s.

Bandwaggoning effects(?)
Of course, many rumours have sprung up about Mothman since the 1966 sightings. Some are pure fabrications, while others appear to be simple distortions of the original reports. So, too, there exists a great deal of speculation regarding the creature's true appearance, its activities, and its probable origin.
    In fact, to date, it appears that a definitive illustration of the creature hasn't been established and, although most people say that Mothman was grey in colour, there is a report of his having a greenish, scaly skin tone, something like a reptile. In one report, Mothman was said to have pecked at a car window  so it's difficult to know if this pecking was typical of bird-like behaviour or if it was similar to that of an insect's reaction to the car's interior lighting (i.e., like a moth drawn to a flame). Interestingly, several Mothman investigators have suggested that some of the reports sound remarkably like misidentifications of a very large bird. They suggest that a sandhill crane seen from a distance, especially in poor lighting conditions, might look like a man wearing a grey coat, and if the six-foot tall crane should have momentarily unfurled its wings, it seems reasonable to suspect that the misidentified man might have been thought to have huge wings too. Moreover, cranes often use their long powerful legs to spring into the air when taking wing, and it may be that this sort of lift-off technique was thought to be "helicopter-like" by some of the Mothman witnesses. After all, the relatively rare sandhill cranes are not commonly seen in north-eastern American States such as West Virginia.
    But, enough speculation on the creature for the moment; what in the world did the witnesses actually report seeing?

Sketches of Mothman based on published illustrations and a composite description by several eye-witnesses

Mothman/hiker encountered by the author and his daughter in Darby, Pa., 1973

The reports
One of the first sightings of Mothman occurred near Point Pleasant on the night of 15 November 1966, when two young married couples were driving along on a road outside the city limits. Apparently, they saw the seven-foot tall creature standing near an abandoned power plant not too far from a defunct munitions dump known as the TNT area. It had enormous wings and was ashen grey in colour. After being momentarily mesmerised by the creature's large, glowing red eyes (which one witness described as looking like "bicycle reflectors"), the witnesses frantically sped back towards Point Pleasant with the creature swiftly flying along in pursuit of their car.
    According to the witnesses, the creature never seemed to flap its ten-foot wide wings as it followed them at speeds which they thought were approaching 100 mph. Fortunately, the creature broke off its pursuit and the terrified group rushed into Mason County Court House and reported the strange encounter to Deputy Sheriff Millard Halstead. Halstead, not knowing quite what to make of the story, returned to the TNT area with the young folks, but failed to catch a glimpse of the creature. This would not be his last visit to the old explosives site or the abandoned power plant as reports of encounters with the winged monster started to mount.
    Interestingly, the initial reports described the creature as looking like "a large bird", but a reporter covering the story dubbed the creature "Mothman" because Batman was a popular TV show at the time and, somehow, the name just stuck.
    Of course, there were some discrepancies in the reports involving the creature's appearance, but its enormous reflective eyes, wingspan, height and colouring appeared to be rather consistent.
    Another encounter with the thing happened the next day (16 November) when a group of people drove out near the old TNT area to visit the Ralph Thomas family. This group consisted of an adult male, two women and a small child. As they parked their car in front of the Thomas' home one woman reported that a big grey thing seemed to rise up from the ground near the car (as if it had been lying in the grass). It was larger than a man, she thought, and had huge red eyes.
    The group momentarily froze in their tracks at the sight of the monster and one woman dropped the child she was holding in her arms, then, after quickly picking the child up, they dashed into the house. Once inside, the shaken group and the Thomas children locked the doors and peered out of the windows (Mr and Mrs Thomas were not home at the time). According to the witnesses' continuing account, Mothman then ambled up upon the porch and gazed through a window at them. By the time the police arrived on the scene Mothman had vanished once more.
    According to Daniel Cohen, author of Creatures from UFOs (Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 1975), "Prior to November 16th, 1966, a number of UFOs had been observed in the Point Pleasant area. In fact. for years there had been a large number of UFO sightings reported throughout the state of West Virginia." Yet, Mr Cohen finds it to be a bit unusual that the Mothman sightings have been speculatively linked to UFOs, since no one actually reported observing the creature coming out of (or entering) a flying saucer. Mr Cohen feels that people probably just "assume" that Mothman was somehow connected to the UFO sightings because the sightings of each happened to have coincided (both geographically and temporally). Of course, it's also true that some crop circle formations as well as cattle mutilations have also been linked to UFO activity, when no one actually saw a UFO in the vicinity at the exact times of such incidents; but in other instances, strange aerial lights (UFOs) and mysterious black helicopters have been reported along with cattle mutilations and the appearances of crop circles.
    Moreover, according to Fate magazine's David F. Goodwin, reported sightings of men in black (MIBs) in and around the Point Pleasant area at the time of the Mothman encounters tended to add even more mystery to the overall story and this, too, may bolster suspicions that Mothman was, indeed, of extraterrestrial origin.

The monster
The illustrations of the creature that have been published vary quite a bit, and on Mr John Keel's book jacket the creature looks like a comic-book superhero of sorts (i.e., a spiderman with enormous insect-like wings). The creature's wings appear to be upright and independent of its arms, and it has a normal-sized head sitting upon broad and muscular shoulders. The illustration does not in the least bit look "bird-like" nor does it appear to be particularly terrifying to behold.
    In Mr Daniel Cohen's book, Mothman appears to be more batman-like and it's difficult to determine if its head, which also appears to be normal in size, is hooded or masked - this Mothman has very long spindly arms that appear to be supporting his unfurled bat-like wings or cape.
In both illustrations the creature's costume is tight fitting. But in other sketches the creature looks like a headless man with enormous bug-like eyes situated between its shoulders. Interestingly, insectoid creatures have reportedly been seen in UFOs along with humanoids and several other types of alien entities.

More sightings
Both Thomas Ury and Connie Carpenter described Mothman as being tall and grey. Ury said he thought that the creature looked like a man wearing a grey coat, and each reported seeing its gigantic wings unfold from behind its back. Interestingly, Ury and Carpenter were pursued by the creature while in their cars and Carpenter described its face as being "horrible" like something straight out of a science fiction movie. But others in Point Pleasant would suspect that Mothman was actually an incarnate manifestation of a 200-year old curse upon their community.

The curse
In 1774, a Shawnee chieftain named "Cornstalk" was mortally wounded in a battle with colonial militiamen at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers (which is now known as Point Pleasant). Apparently, Chief Cornstalk was tricked into an ambush by the fork-tongued governor of Virginia (Lord Dunmore) who desired to quash anti-British sentiments amongst the colonists by inciting fears and hatred against the Native Americans of the region.
    Chief Cornstalk thought he was meeting with the colonists to make a treaty and is said to have uttered a dreadful curse upon the land with his dying breath. Since that time, numerous catastrophes of varying magnitude such as fires and floods have occurred in Point Pleasant, causing generation after generation of townspeople to wonder if Cornstalk's curse had truly come to pass  even to the point where the appearance of Mothman was believed by some to be a malevolent incarnation of the curse that brought down the Silver Bridge.

Another encounter?
One rainy night in August 1973, my daughter Tina (then aged 13) accidentally dropped a sewing needle on the floor and didn't realise that she had until she stepped on it as she was heading off to bed. Unfortunately the needle, which was nestled in the pile of a shag rug, broke off deep in her right foot and, although I was able to remove about a half-inch piece of it, yet another piece remained deeply embedded and required professional medical attention.
    At first, Tina seemed uncertain that a little piece of the needle was till lodged in her foot, so it was not until two or three hours later that she decided the pain she was experiencing was not an after-effect of the initial injury. As I recall, at was about 1:00 a.m. that we started our trip to the emergency room of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa., which was located about six or seven miles from our home.
    It was very foggy that night and a light misty rain coated the windscreen as we began our trek. We didn't encounter too much traffic as we travelled along Woodland Avenue and left the city limits of Southwestern Philadelphia. The misty drizzle continued to fall and, naturally, I was driving fairly slowly as visibility was quite limited.
    Tina was a little apprehensive about how the emergency room doctor might remove the needle and I was attempting to assure her that he or she would make it as painless as possible for her (they actually removed the needle through the top of her foot).
    Traffic lights seemed to suddenly appear from out of nowhere through the misty shroud and the occasional street light appeared to be a luminous cone that slipped by like a buoy in a foggy harbour.
    Suddenly, a red light pierced the mist and I brought my car to a halt at an intersection. The faint outline of a neon sign illuminated a tavern's window and reflected off the wet pavement. Two street lights also illuminated a section of the roadway just beyond the tavern's lights and the shadow of a strange bipedal figure caught in the light fanned out across the ground revealing what looked like an enormous headless man with huge shoulders, elongated arms, and gigantic wings. My daughter instinctively slid across the seat closer to me and grabbed my arm while asking, "Daddy . . . what is it?"
    Of course I, too, was completely astonished by the spectacle as the shadow started to recede and the figure it belonged to emerged. The headless monster was about seven feet tall, and moved with a shuffling gait. It had two bright white vertical eyes, lit up like those of some animal caught in a car's headlights. Its wings were translucent or light grey in colour and looked as if they were flaring out - but they were not fully extended as if the thing intended to take flight. The monster's arms seemed to dangle low against its body and its hands looked like claws  because the thing had passed through the first street light so quickly it was now almost completely silhouetted against the light and headed straight towards us.
    I quickly looked about and revved my car's engine in order to escape, and my action seemed to startle the monster as my tyres squealed and the car fish-tailed on the rain-soaked roadway.
    As we passed the figure, I momentarily caught a glimpse of it in our headlights and realised that the thing wasn't a monster at all - but an early-morning hiker with a large backpack-bedroll strapped above his shoulders. He was wearing a transparent (plastic) poncho and had attached his bedroll to his backpack's frame with straps that also had bicycle reflectors affixed to them.
    My daughter and I were both so relieved and astonished by our optical discovery that we immediately broke into nervous laughter and completely forgot about Tina's foot for a moment or two. This had been an extremely scary experience and, if we had not had the opportunity to better observe the figure as we sped by it, we may never have realised that our "Mothman" was merely a hiker dressed for inclement weather. Come to think of it, at the time of the incident Tina and I were totally unaware of the Mothman legend and, of course, neither of us had read John Keel's or Gray Barker's books about the creature's many appearances or the collapse of the Silver Bridge.

Still unknown
Was Mothman a misidentified swamp bird, a ufonaut, the embodiment of a Shawnee chieftain's dying curse, a hiker, or a will-o'-the-wisp born of a localised hysteria that gripped Point Pleasant much like the sightings of the Jersey Devil did in 1909? In that case, people locked their doors and windows, closed businesses, and armed themselves. Similar behaviour has recently been associated with the appearances of an ill-defined creature simply known as Monkey Man in New Delhi, India  where a roving band of over-zealous young men armed with clubs mistakenly attacked a late-night delivery man working in their community.
    In the area surrounding Point Pleasant at the time of the Mothman encounters a large vulture was shot, as was an Arctic snowy owl that must have scared the wits out of the farmer that brought it down. After all, it looked sort of light grey in colour, and had round reflective eyes.

Sightings of Mothman suddenly dropped off after the 15 December 1967 collapse of the Silver Bridge, and no one seems to know why  but one wonders if Mothman's appearances somehow caused (or triggered) some folks to experience prophetic visions of the bridge's impending doom? Perhaps we will never know for sure, but this much seems certain - those who actually saw Mothman appear to be unimpressed with the many attempts to prosaically identify the creature, and it is clear that their encounters with the thing had a profound impact upon them. So it is that Mothman slips into the history of Point Pleasant while steadily growing into a modern-day legend and a rather remarkable piece of American folklore.


Review by Peter Rogerson

Roger Luckhurst, The Invention of Telepathy, Oxford University Press, 2002. £35.00
Roger Luckhurst’s study traces the development of the idea of telepathy in the context of fin de siecle culture. He argues that the development of psychical research was strongly influenced by the development of scientific modernity which crystallised around 1870, and which was replacing the old theistic world view. Two groups of people were attracted to psychical research; on the one hand were scientists like Alfred Wallace, William Crookes, Oliver Lodge and William Barrett who were representative of the rising new forces of provincial science and technology; on the other hand were the Cambridge classicists such as Myers, Sidgwick, Gurney and the Balfours.
    For the scientists telepathy and allied phenomena were part and parcel of the seemingly endless supply of hardly understood forces and energies that Victorian science seemed to be revealing. Telepathy was part of what Luckhurst calls the tele-technologies, the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, etc. In this context it is hardly surprising that the plural of medium is media, or that the pioneers of the new tele-technologies such as Edison, Bell, Tesla and Marconi showed an interest in spiritualism. In this atmosphere the paranormal tele-technologies attracted a wide intellectual audience; at a séance you might encounter such luminaries as George Eliot or Charles Darwin. Darwin was a prime candidate for spiritualist conversion, conflicted between his scientific beliefs and religious upbringing and deeply grieving for his favourite daughter, Annie. His rejection of the claims of mediums might be seen to mark a closing off of growing scientific interest.
    Instead psychical research became dominated by the Anglican, Tory, classicists of the Cambridge circle of the SPR, who represented precisely those groups who were in the process of being displaced by the new culture of science. Their agenda was seen as essentially old fashioned, even reactionary in their own time; for example in their association of hypnosis with “magnetism” or harking back to the 1840s research of Baron Reichenbach on “odic force”.
    Luckhurst then proceeds to examine the connection between psychical research and aspects of society and culture, ranging from imperialism to the "new woman", and its impact on literature, anthropology and psychology. He draws attention to works such as Phantasms of the Living as sources for Victorian social attitudes and experience ranging from colonial exile to the role of servants. Today of course the new tele-technology of the mobile phone has replaced telepathy and the crisis apparition as destroyer of distance and bringer of last messages from the dying.
    In limiting his attention to Britain perhaps Luckhurst loses some perspective, for example not tracing the ruling class's domestication of spiritualism, from its early association with radical dissent and progressive causes including free love, to establishment respectability, the apogee of which might have been the expulsion of the lesbian writer Radclyffe Hall and her lover Una Trowbridge from the council of the SPR for sexual deviation. The SPR's main concern through much of its life was the exclusion of the “lower orders" through high membership fees (little has changed in 120 years).
    In the closing chapter Luckhurst traces the threads through to the twentieth century; for example he looks at the famous SPR cross correspondence as anticipating radical deconstructionist trends in art and science, a sort of literary collage of hidden allusions and meanings.
    This not always an easy book and at times falls into “literary studies” jargon, and the price is clearly as off putting as an SPR subscription, but worth making the effort, whether you agree with the author or not.