Monday, March 9, 2020

Unexplained: Real-Life Supernatural Stories for Uncertain Times - Richard Maclean Smith

Summary: In every corner of this earth there are secrets. They are hidden in the dark edge of the woods, nestled in the cold stars, and staring out from a stranger's eyes. And whether they be demonic possession or an unsolved murder, the unknown has always haunted our dreams.

From the hit podcast Unexplained comes a volume perfectly crafted for the curious, the cynical, and the not-easily-frightened. Richard Maclean Smith is the expert in the unknown, and humbly offers up ten tales of real-life events that continue to evade explanation. With these chilling stories comes the missing key: a connection to our own beliefs in science, superstition, and perception.

What can a case of demonic possession teach us about free will? What can a cursed box show us about the act of storytelling? What can a supposed instance of reincarnation tell us about developing a concept of the self?

Perhaps some things are just better left unexplained...
  (Summary and pic from

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoy learning about paranormal phenomenon, or weird, unexplained things. I feel like this book is right up my alley. Weird happenings in your house? Ghosts? Aliens? Unexplained disappearances? Yes, please. I like to watch all these things in a distant way i.e. I DO NOT WANT TO BE CAPTURED BY ALIENS thankyouverymuch. There are those people out there who want that. I am not those people. I want to enjoy my paranormal and supernatural experiences on my couch. While somebody else experiences them and I watch them or read them and am then able to put them down when it gets too scary.

Living in the digital age that we do, I have access to a lot of these things. There are tons of podcasts, Facebook groups, YouTube shows, Netflix shows, Prime shows…you name it, it’s there, not to mention the corresponding books. In many cases (as in the case of this book) the show came first. This book is actually based on a podcast that the author does. It is a compilation of different stories that he has researched and re-told on his podcast.

Here’s the thing with this book: it’s well-researched. I really enjoyed the back story and the in-depth detail it went into regarding each of the cases. There is also a lot of author explanation and discussion that I enjoyed, as I feel like a lot of these things are easily dismissed by those who range from highly skeptical to just not sure how to feel about it. Maclean Smith does a good job of talking people through the different happenings and stories and helping them see why there might be more than something that can be so easily dismissed.

But here’s the other thing about this book: the stories are very well-known, almost gateway stories. I had heard about almost every single one of these. Granted, I do listen to paranormal podcasts and such, but I’m not so engrained in the world that I know All the Things or have heard All the Things. It’s just something I’ve been interested in for a year or two now. I would say I’m not necessarily a beginner, but I’m early intermediate at best. So for someone like me, who is early intermediate (and possibly even just a late beginner, according to some people’s measurements) this book is pretty basic. I have heard all these stories, and I have heard them in multiple places—podcasts, movies, TV shows, etc. These are not stories that are surprising. If you have been in this world at all—if you have even dabbled—you have probably heard of most of these cases, and have probably heard them in-depth. Because of that, I would suggest that this is a book for people who are just dabbling or just barely starting to look at the world of the paranormal. Anyone else who has already been involved will find this book covering things that they already know quite a bit about, and although they are well-researched and the writing is good, there is nothing new to see here.

Along the same lines, there is no one paranormal topic that Maclean Smith tries to cover. Instead, he takes a smattering of things (aliens, ghosts, hauntings, etc.) and puts them all in one book. Each topic takes a chapter (the chapters are fairly long) and basically just go over one (or sometimes two) stories. These are interesting and for a person who is just getting into this world, a very good introduction. However, as mentioned above, if you are familiar with this world at all there is very little new here.

Since MacLean Smith has been in the paranormal podcasting world for quite some time, I expected this book to address some paranormal stories I hadn’t heard about. He has quite a following, and so I would have expected this book to be for that target audience, who will have obviously had more than a passing exposure to the paranormal world. For this reason I think he may have missed an opportunity to further wow and delight his dedicated listeners with new info and new content. However, for someone who is newly interested in getting in to this world, or for someone who just wants a casual first introduction, this book is an excellent place to start and includes well-researched and well thought out explanations for some very famous paranormal happenings.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: Some paranormal content can be disturbing.

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