The Unidentified by Colin Dickey

“The further you get from home, the weirder things get.”

Colin Dickey is a writer on the fringe. His books are about those who fear secret societies (Under the Eye of Power), an American history of ghosts (Ghostland), and monsters/aliens (The Unidentified). In The Unidentified, Dickey meets with and explores what it is that draws people to fringe beliefs. One of his theories is that these fringe beliefs, be they in cryptids or aliens, provide us belonging, comfort, and enchantment in a disenchanted world:

“Much of what attracts people to these fringe beliefs is a belief in a world of wonder and marvel, a world outside the ken of humanity, a world just out of reach…what matters is not what this believes but that the person believes: the belief itself is the badge, the identity.”

In other words, there are no more monsters on the edge of our maps. The frontiers are gone. In a world with, “an emphasis on transactions, calculations, rationality, and commerce,” these kinds of fringe beliefs in the unidentified that defy algorithm or are off the beaten path of the information superhighway provide something bright– something special. A chance to explore and discover. I think in the United States right now, we’re a very inward looking people, and these outward looking beliefs give us something else to look at.

Whether he is interacting with people who believe in aliens, yetis, or Atlantis, Dickey finds some commonalities. First, there are events that do not immediately lend themselves to easy explanations (ex. the Kentucky Meat Shower). Then, there are three different kinds of people move in – curious people looking for rational explanations, people looking for meaning, and people making money off of those other groups.

I appreciated that Dickey remains humane about the people and circumstances he writes about, while also holding them accountable when appropriate. I look forward to reading his other books.

Author: Joey

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