Fringe-Ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable-And Couldn't


A top journalist takes readers on a strange and unsettling trip into the heart of the paranormal universe leading them to try and answer some of the most fundamental questions that lie at the heart of human existence.
Booklist (06/01/2011):
In the spectrum of paranormal literature, with rigid skepticism at one end and jaw-dropping gullibility at the other, this book occupies a space squarely in the middle. Volk explores the way paranormal phenomena have been reported, investigated, and categorized. He includes numerous personal accounts, including one from his own life, but isn't really focused on personal stories or even whether paranormal phenomena exist. He is interested in the interpretation of the word paranormalthe meanings attached to it and the way perception of the word colors how we view the world. Arguing that paranormal phenomena, genuine or not, should be openly discussed and analyzed, he proposes adopting a what-if attitude. For example, if some ghost sightings can't be explained away as products of a person's imagination, what does this say about the natural world? He points out perceptively that what is seen today as wacky often leads to tomorrow's progress, citing the importance of the study of alchemy to the science of chemistry. A sharply written, intelligently argued book that should appeal equally to believers and skeptics.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

Brief Description:
"FRINGE-OLOGY is a rollicking narrative journey into the unexplored territory where modern science and the paranormal converge. In it, reporter Steve Volk peeks over an anesthesiologist's shoulder as he claps a mask over a patient's face and leads us on an exploration of the deepest realm of our being. He sits beside a world famous psychologist whose research entailed watching patients die, and who concluded that death is not the end, a belief that set her own legendary career aflame. He pores over psychical research conducted by military scientists that concluded psi-phenomenon exists, and watches quantum physicists battle over the results. He offers intimate accounts of individuals who have life-changing paranormal experiences, but because of modern social stigmas must be very discreet about sharing them. Volk interviews people claiming to have been abducted by aliens, and meets a N.A.S.A. astronaut whose trip to outer space turned him into a passionate paranormalist. He investigates what happens in the brains of people undergoing a religious experience, and learns how to control his dreams. He goes hunting for specters in some of this country's most renowned haunted locations, and even wrestles with his own family's mind-bending ghost story. In the end, what Volk discovers is that there is enough mystery left in the world to humble us all, and that out of this humility arises the opportunity to answer some of the most fundamental questions that lie at the heart of human existence: Is there a God? Are we alone in the universe? What happens when we die?"-
Review Quotes:
"A sharply written, intelligently argued book that should appeal equally to believers and skeptics."--Booklist

Table of Contents:
Introduction: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Paranormal -- 1. On Death and Not Dying -- The Provocative Beginning of Near-Death-Experience Research -- 2. Do You See What I See -- The Curious Conflict Between Telepathy Skeptics and Believers -- 3. Out of Our Heads? Off with Their Heads! -- Consciousness Outside the Brain -- 4. Blazing Saddles -- UFOs and the Strange Lights Over a Texas Town -- 5. Was There a Ghost in My House? -- The Unexplained Noises That Fueled a Childhood Mystery -- 6. To Infinity and Beyond -- What Science and Spirituality Look Like from Outer Space -- 7. The Open Mind -- How New Science Is Revealing the Power of Meditation and Prayer -- 8. The Impossible Dream -- Sleep as an Untapped Resource for an Awakened Life -- 9. After-Death Communication? -- How a New Therapy Uses the Dead to Help Patients Live -- 10. You Can't Go Home Again -- Has Anyone Else Encountered a Ghost in My Old House? -- 11. Our Time in Hell -- Lucid Dreaming and its Most Potent Lesson for Science and Spirituality -- Acknowledgments -- Notes and Sources -- Index.

Brief Description:
"Fringe-Ologybrings a poet's eye to the frayed edges between the known and unknown, beliefand skepticism. . . . A dive into the paranormal even a hardcore skeptic like myselfcan enjoy." --Mat Johnson, author of Pym
Takea strange and unsettling trip into the heart of the paranormal universe asjournalist Steve Volk tries to answer some of the most fundamental questions atthe heart of human existence. Fringe-ology will appeal to anyone curiousbut cautious about reports of paranormal experiences, psychic phenomena, andother unexplainable events--anyone who has ever wondered about the existence anafterlife, intelligent life on other planets, or the limits of extrasensoryperception. For fans of Fringe, Mythbusters, Medium, Heroes, Nova, and Lost, Volk'sscintillating journey into mystery illuminates the furthest boundaries ofpossibility and wonder.
More than seventy percentof Americans believe in paranormal activity. Buteven with a family-ghost story lurking in his ownbackground, seasoned journalist Steve Volk hasbeen like most of those millions of Americans--reticent to talk about his experience in politecompany. If so many of us have similar stories totell, why are we so reluctant to take them seriously?
Paranormal claims don't traditionally sit well withreporters, but Volk decided to focus his gimlet-eyedtenacity on a new beat: the world of psychics, UFOs, and things that go bump in the night. It's a rollickingride as Volk introduces us to all sorts of fringe-dwellers, many of them reluctant to admit to their paranormalexperiences: a NASA astronaut-turned-mystic, aworld-famous psychologist who taught us about dyingand then decided death may not exist at all, andbrave scientists attempting to verify what mysticshave been reporting for millennia. Volk investigateswhat happens in the brains of people undergoingreligious experiences, learns how to control his owndreams, and goes hunting for specters in hisfamily's old haunted house.
From his journey into the bizarre, Volk returns witha compelling argument that we need to allow for amiddle space, a place where paranormal phenomenacan be weird and compelling; raise crucial questions;and, quite possibly, remain unexplainable. He rejectsthe polarized options the twenty-first century seemsto offer us: to passionately embrace or hotly reject, to revere only science or only spirituality. And heunderscores, again and again, that by raising ourmost existential questions--why are we here, are wealone in the universe, and what happens when wedie?--paranormal stories are in fact a crucial pointof connection. It turns out that these "fringe"experiences strike at the core of what it means tobe human.

Review Citations:
Booklist 06/01/2011 pg. 5 (EAN 9780061857713, Hardcover)
Contributor Bio: Volk, Steve
STEVE VOLK is a longtime staff writer and regular contributor at Philadelphia magazine. His work has been published by Rolling Stone, VIBE, Men's Health, Men's Journal, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Weekly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times. Volk has received dozens of journalism awards and lives in Philadelphia. Visit the author online at

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