I approached this project with more than a little trepidation.  Does the world need yet another book about so-called paranormal phenomena?, I asked myself.  If so, am I qualified to write it?

   The great visionary poet William Blake wrote that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.  Let us hope.  All pretension aside, what I mean by quoting Blake is that I have read hundreds of volumes–ancient to modern–devoted to events uncanny, anomalous and, often, terrifying.  All a matter of perspective, of course.  Many of these are ludicrous and poorly written.  Some I flung against the nearest wall, cursing myself for wasting hard-won dollars.  The Internet offers mountains of pages, many (but not all) as spurious as printed books.

   Nowhere, excepting politics and religion, will one encounter as many charlatans, liars, hoaxers and outright loonies as prevail in matters paranormal.  A harsh truth, but there it is.  The most important studies–out of hundreds–number fewer than 50, many of these culled from one another.

   Reading books does not make one an authority (or Authority!), whatever the topic.  Scrutinizing 10,000 cookbooks, without hands-on experience, will not enable one to prepare a Thai delicacy.

   I have visited a scattering of haunted places; met the locals, broke their bread and listened to accounts fascinating, ridiculous, and ominous.  We are a cynical, yet hopeful lot.  All of us.  Our world is vibrant with wonder, horror, and more than a bit of mystery (assuming we can be wrenched away from our various electronic playthings).  And let’s face it:  no one gets out of here alive.  Except, apparently, on a few very rare occasions.

   Like these lonely travelers, I have had several strange encounters that haunt me still.  Frankly, I wish they didn’t.  These evoke unpleasant possibilities that might have nothing whatsoever to do with the paranormal.  Sharper, braver souls than me have noted that sometimes the “explanation” for anomalous events can be weirder far than the events themselves.

   I cannot claim final knowledge of what I did, or did not, experience.  But the memories–if genuine–charge me with an undeniable sense that something is here, something other than us.  What that might be I cannot say.  The poet Arthur Rimbaud remarked that he desired to total the sum of the unknown among us.  A lofty goal indeed, for the unknown takes many forms, strips away all defense and comfort, forces us to confront (as Carl Jung, originator of psychoanalysis, noted) a psychically overwhelming Other–for good or ill.

   The paranormal, whatever it might actually be, is something no government, institution, or individual can control or conceal.

   The late, much-lamented, John A. Keel (author of The Mothman Prophecies, Operation Trojan Horse, and others) noted that most books on topics paranormal–or just plain weird–sell fewer than 5,000 copies.  With apologies to Mr. Keel, I’m reasonably certain I can point out a few (some penned by Keel himself) that fared better.  On average, though, this is accurate.  Why this sorry state of affairs exists I have no idea.  Perhaps the absurdity of the subject matter; perhaps its dire, disturbing implications.  God (or Goddess?) knows we live in a grim place, with no indication of better things on the horizon.

   The field of paranormal study, like some dysfunctional family, is combative, lurid and incestuous, rife with vapid drama and petty sniping sufficient to render afternoon soap operas dignified.  So it has ever been. . . .

   Those who ignore, or falsify the data, are making a serious mistake.

   Fact:  UFOs–whatever they might actually be–exist.  Governments worldwide know this.

   Fact:  No government knows what these things are, where they originate, or their intent–if any.

   From the outset I determined to be fair and objective regarding any involvement global intelligence agencies might have with the phenomena.  Since there is no way to measure this, I can only hope that members of said agencies have as part of their goals our best interests.  Despite all conspiracy theories, many of which are ill-informed, unlikely, and flat-out crazy, those entrusted with our protection are–believe it or not–human beings.  Pissed off by alarm-clocks, struggling from bed, feeding their children and driving to work.

   Are there bad players among them?  Of course; try and find any government without these.

   Beyond what you’ve seen on The X-Files and similar fare, there is only one genuine “conspiracy”:  Government awareness of anomalous phenomena, and that official authority remains powerless against this.  A simple reality for hundreds of years and unlikely to change.

   Fact:  No government can admit to such impotence.

   Perhaps this explains the disinformation, staged events, threats and outright lies.  After all, those in charge are as vulnerable to hope and fear as any of us.

   One thing I can promise is that I have no personal or professional agenda, no ax to grind, in writing this book.  I come to you not as a scientist, researcher, or zealot, but as a writer.  In short, from a fascination with what appears to be an authentic unknown among us.

   From all accounts we are faced with what appears to be an absolute, yet ever-evolving, aspect of existence, one that might forever remain unsolvable.  It is possible that we are in the clutch of something either outside of human comprehension, or–despite our collective craving–even incidental to our lives.  Like a fish hooked out of water, we might very well be incapable of understanding . . . but nonetheless ought never abandon the struggle, still unaware of undiscovered gold buried beneath us.

   Though my quest might prove, in the end, foolish, it is sincere.  Perhaps God really is in the details.

   Unlike The X-Files’  Fox Mulder, I don’t want to believe.

   I want to understand.

   –William J. Grabowski


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