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World of the Odd and the Awesome – Review

by: Berlitz, Charles

Publisher: Fawcett Crest

Copyright: 1991

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 2/5/1995

Summary: Excellent bedtime read.

Republished from Crushies Book Reviews – Volume II Issue No. 2 – February 1995 – Copyright 1995.

Definitely not to be confused with his WORLD OF THE INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE (see review in the August 1994 issue), this Charles Berlitz work, WORLD OF THE ODD AND THE AWESOME is both informative and entertaining.

There are close to 300 snapshots of unusual and weird events discussed in the book. In the forward, Berlitz places his collection of facts into perspective when he writes, “there are increasing indications that the psyche is not simply a behavioristic pattern within one’s intelligence but something more, perhaps possessing motive and mobile force”.

Some of the reports leave you guessing or speculating. Some of the stuff is just odd. For instance, the 204-page manuscript, now in the possession of Yale University, which was purchased from a Jesuit college in Italy in 1912. Apparently no one has been able to decipher the strange, unknown alphabet in which the manuscript was composed. It remains a mystery.

There are other mysterious manuscripts and stone tablets popping up here and there-oriental script turning up on ancient stones and pottery found in Tennessee, stone tablets inscribed in Phoenician and “other Semitic languages” found within the deep interior of the Amazon in Brazil. These little oddities add up to the inescapable conclusion that history is not what we are customarily taught. But because education is a matter of knowing rather than questioning, and because people see history as some sort of personal affirmation of their own cultural worth-the rationale of which totally escapes me-the oddities will remain oddities.

There is also some decisively weird stuff in World of the Odd and the Awesome. A baby born in 1935 in New York City and who survived for twenty-seven days was found not to have a brain when it died. Even weirder, the German brain specialist Hufeland autopsied a man who was rational until the moment of his demise. He had no brain, just eleven ounces of water in his head. (Kinda’ makes you wonder about some of our political leaders, doesn’t it?)

The most curious tidbit Berlitz covers is an incident that happened in Chicago in 1982. If memory serves me correctly, it was mentioned in the papers twice (at least in the Chicago Tribune). It involved a woman who was apparently walking down the street on a moderately windy day when she suddenly burst into flames. The reason I remembered the story is that the first newspaper article seemed a straightforward, unbiased news report. The second article mentioned something about the presence OR absence of a cigarette lighter. In Berlitz’s rendition of the story, a short single paragraph, he reports what appears to be just the facts. A man saw the woman crossing the street. He glanced away for a second and when he saw her again she was engulfed in flames.

This is a perfect bedtime reader.

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