A new edition of John Keel's classic has just been published by Anomalist Books (see the Amazon link at the foot of this review for details). OTH is one of the key UFO/paranormal books, written by one of the most active researchers of his era. It is still essential reading, but best read with the benefit of hindsight!
How do you review the book which blew our minds a lifetime ago in what Keel called "the golden age of forteana". Did he really believe in the elementals as packets of intelligent electromagnetic energy or as shapeshifting boggarts, or were they symbols of human psychology and culture? Or where they metaphors for perceptual failings, prejudices, belief systems and other manacles of the mind?
Critics, taking Keel at his most literal, have had a field day pointing out the numerous errors and shortcomings of 0TH. But perhaps we should not judge pioneering works like OTH (and Passport to Magonia) by today's standards, but see them as products of their time: naive, over-enthusiastic, but blowing the cobwebs off nuts and bolts ufology. For years OTH and what it represented was out of fashion to be replaced, during the Second Cold War of the 80's with the revival of crashed saucers, military conspiracies and the like.
Now the nuts and bolts hard men are going soft at the edges; but they are pursuing a new, post-secularist, literalism of their own. But as Keel says at the end of his preface: "As this shell-shocked century draws to a close we are not confronting some splendid extraterrestrial civilisation, we are facing ourselves."
If you don't have your own treasured well-thumbed copy of the 1970 edition, buy this now. My only caveat is the lack of a bibliography. -- Peter Rogerson
Read the reviews which appeared in MUFOB magazine of the original 1970 edition which sparked a controversy between two of the editors: http://magonia.haaan.com/2009/oth/
Earlier editions, for the fanatical collector, are available: