Sunday, January 7, 2024

Book cover: "Challenge to Reality"

"Challenge to Reality" feels like an apt phrase as we enter this daunting year.

  • Title: Challenge to Reality
  • Author: John Macklin. I can't find much biographical information on him, despite his many published works. We do have this information from the front of the book: "For nearly 20 years John Macklin, expert in psychic phenomena and the supernatural, has hunted ghosts. He has crossed three continents chasing stories, spent countless nights in 'haunted' houses, focused his infra-red camera on curious sights, and his microphone on curious sounds. Most of the events have had some rational solution at their roots. But some haven't. ... Nine times out of ten, the 'phenomenon' turns out to be an illusion, delusion, or fraud. For twenty years, it's been Mr. Macklin's job to investigate the tenth. ... These, then, are the stories of the author's experiences, and other stories he has collected over the years."
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Publication date: 1968
  • Publisher: Ace Star (H-108)
  • Pages: 158
  • Format: Paperback
  • Cover price: 60 cents
  • Some chapter titles: The Mummy in the Clock Case; The Dream House That Percy Built; The Deadly Nightmare of Emily Jones; What Did the Axe-Man See?; The Dinner Guest No One Else Saw; The Ghosts of Ballechin House; The Tomb of Standing Stones; The Witch and the Waif; Riddle of a Hundred Lost Islands; The Riddle of the Musical Plants; Little Girl Lost; The Witch Who Laughs at the Law; and The Ghostly Glow from Waltham Abbey.
  • Excerpt #1: "Many stories make us realize just how powerful superstition can be. For instance, many years ago, when a bridge was being built in Germany, influential townspeople would insist that a living child be buried in the foundations. They believed that the foundations would then remain firm. And the younger the person, the longer it would remain so."
  • Wait, is that true? Well, it's a long-lived bit of grisly folklore, though it's certainly not limited to Germany. Some believe that there are implied references to child sacrifice in the nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down," though there are scores of speculative guesses at the "historical" references in that song, and they should all be taken with a grain of salt (Hey, another superstition!).
  • Excerpt #2: "The specter turned, and the terrified woman saw the enormous, longboned hands and the large protruding eyes. The man, who wore a long robe tied around the middle, nodded his head in a very peculiar way towards her husband, then vanished."
  • Excerpt #3: "The awe-inspiring specter that suddenly appeared in front of Charles Winston in 1901 was of the type known as a Radiant Boy. They are usually reckoned to warn of impending death."
  • Amazon review: In 2011, Bookworm70 wrote, scathingly: "Books of John Macklin are easy to read. They contain events, mysteries and other phenomena considered to be out of this world. However, the problem with his works, they contain a lot of errors and do not agree with historical facts."
  • Fanzine mention: In Scottishe #52, a zine published by Ethel Lindsay (1921-1996) in May 1969, Lindsay writes: "This is the eighth in a series by Macklin, so his collections of ghost strories [sic] must be a good seller. Each collection has about forty stories."
  • Other books by Macklin: Strange Destinies, The Strange and Uncanny, The Enigma of the Unknown, Dwellers in Darkness, Orbits of the Unknown, Dimensions Beyond the Known, A Look Through Secret Doors and Journey Beyond the Grave.

But wait, there's more

A fun bonus: There was an old receipt tucked away inside this paperback book. I can't say for sure that this is the receipt from the book's original purchase, but that's a good bet. Someone paid $1.04 (99 cents, plus 5 cents tax) at the Stanford Sport Shop in Palo Alto, California, on August 29, 1969. According to Palo Alto Weekly, the Stanford Sport Shop rented and sold skis, shoes and sports gear for 53 years, until it closed in 1989. Geoff Millington and his daughter Tracy Millington operated the business. If Challenge to Reality was sold there in 1969, it seems they had a book rack, too. Something to read in front of the fireplace at night after a day on the slopes?

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