Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable—And Couldn’t by Steve Volk

Deborah Blum

Abstract


It was a summer night, almost 20 years ago, when my father-in-law had his one and only paranormal experience. It still haunts him though. And even though he’s told himself countless times that it was a dream, just a dream, he’s never quite been able to convince himself of that. He was sleeping away the dark night hours of June, at his tidy ranch home in California’s San Joaquin Valley, when suddenly he startled awake, sitting up in bed so abruptly that he woke his wife. “What?” she said. “What is it?” “Dan’s here,” he replied, referring to a cousin who lived a few hundred miles away. “He’s calling my name.” They both sat there in the country silence. Not a sound, not a call. Just a dream, she said, and they returned to their pillows. But a few minutes later, he was up again. The voice was closer. “Dan’s outside,” he said. “I’ll go find him.” And he was up, pulling open the sliding doors that opened from bedroom to patio, searching for his cousin, startling some sleepy birds into flight. But only the birds stirred, maybe a few leaves fluttered, nothing else. He returned to bed, wondering—as we tend to do—if something he’d eaten, something spicy, twisted up his dreams. But he was almost relieved to be up with daylight. And he was still fighting that odd anxiety when his cousin Dan’s son called to tell him his father was dead. Dan had shot himself to death during those exact minutes that my father-in-law had heard his cousin calling in the dark. I’m telling you this story because it leads directly into why I like Steve Volk’s book Fringe-ology so much. Of course, it helps that it’s just a really good book: smart, incisive, funny, readable. But, more than that, it captures what an entirely human experience we’re talking about—this exploration of our natural world, this journey in which we try to make sense of the fantastical universe that we inhabit, this patchworked understanding built of both our doubts and our beliefs.


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