When Life Can Be Stranger Than Fiction: 'Lying Wonders, Strangest Things' Book Review

Science, contrary to what some politicians and some journalists say, is not “settled.” If we truly reached the point at which there was nothing outside our understanding — of nature, our world, or of — we would have no more need of scientists. The process of discovery would stop.

There is, by the very fact that science continues and scientists are still employed, obviously still much out beyond the borders of our knowledge and comprehension. And we have no idea how much we still don’t know.

What would have seemed like magic to our recent ancestors is commonplace today.

Early in his long career, Michael H. Brown was a journalist for the Niagra Falls Gazette. It was there in 1979 that he broke the Love Canal story. That hazardous waste disaster displaced and harmed hundreds, and led to the creation of the superfund law. Since then, Brown has become a best-selling author.

Now comes Lying Wonders, Strangest Things – accounts one after another that are even stranger, the strangest Brown could find anywhere. In some ways, it may be a landmark book.

Is it possible that a school kid in the Philippines vanished in front of an entire classroom? That there are people who emit an electrical charge strong enough to affect electronic equipment and even street lamps? That ice crystals frozen at particular moments can reflect emotions or music? That a slew of rock stars have had encounters with UFOs – and that a UFO crashed in Missouri years before Roswell? Is any of this possible?

In the late 1950s a fascinating book, Stranger Than Science, swept the country. Brown’s book is the bizarre follow-up.

At turns, it’s mystifying and jarring. Is it believable? That’s for the readers to decide on their own terms.

As a natural-born skeptic who spent years at NASA, but also a Christian, I want proof or as close to proof as possible — while also acknowledging that our knowledge is quite limited, while God is not.

Brown set out to find the most paranormal things that have occurred in recent times on this planet we call Earth and did a pretty good job of finding them. It is a compilation of research spanning five decades.

Is there an actual “twilight zone”? Are there real “x-files”? Do we finally have an explanation for everything from aliens to lake monsters – that they all share one explanation?

Was there really a prophecy of Donald Trump (by name) more than a hundred years ago in an obscure novel? Modern-day Lazaruses? Living “dinosaurs”? The most incredible religious miracles on record? They’re all in Brown’s book.

These are the sorts of stories the late Robert Ripley and Rod Serling would have loved to tell.

Every now and then there are reports of folks who suddenly just...disappear. As Brown notes, this isn’t about Jimmy Hoffa or Amelia Earhart. Earhart probably crashed in the remote Pacific, while Hoffa may be in a landfill or in a bay. When hikers or hunters go missing, investigations turn up evidence and rational explanations.

But then there are other circumstances, cases where folks seem to have left the planet itself, whether for a few minutes, or forever. In Transylvania, Romania, is a small forest called Hoia Baciu that some think affects time. It’s also known for unusual lights, a strange black fog, and strangely  curved trees — all giving it the nickname the “Bermuda Triangle of Romania.” This tiny forest is named for a shepherd who entered and, along with his entire flock of 200, vanished and was allegedly never seen again. The same fate, some say, has befallen others -- including a little girl who emerged from the woods years after getting lost, wearing the same unsullied clothes, and with utterly no recall of what happened.

Can we believe it all? Some of it? Most of it?

Did Alec Guinness predict James Dean’s death in his Porsche 550 Spyder? And was the car itself “cursed”?

Brown has done yeoman’s work in searching for fascinating, even threatening accounts – not just “stranger things,” but the strangest, proving the old J.B.S. Haldane adage that “the world is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.” And we can enjoy reading about it and pondering its ultimate significance.