Saturday, 18 June 2011

DISCUSSING THE PARANORMAL WITH AUTHOR STEVE VOLK

Ghosts, aliens, telepathy and near death experiences are just a few of the far-out topics that Philadelphia author Steve Volk writes about in his new book "Fringe-ology." And while the debate about these subjects continues to rage on between believers and skeptics, Volk finds himself approaching the paranormal from an entirely different perspective- somewhere in the middle.
"I think years of working as a journalist has made it relatively easy for me to look at things from different points of view," says Volk, who has worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia Weekly and, most recently, Philadelphia Magazine. "After about 15 years in this gig, I feel relatively comfortable going anywhere and holding a conversation with anyone."
Volk put his journalistic skills to use and spent three years researching paranormal phenomena from a variety of angles and sources.
The author's quest to understand and examine the unexplainable has its roots in his childhood. Volk grew up hearing the tale of "The Family Ghost," a potential spirit that haunted his house and family when he was just six years old.

                                                         Author Steve Volk

"I'd say the family ghost story left me with a perpetually open mind, but not so open that my brain has fallen out," says Volk. "And of course it produced this interest I've always had in paranormal claims."
In "Fringe-ology," Volk covers a lot of ground in a relatively small amount of space.
Within the chapters of his book, the author explores telepathy at a parapsychology conference in Seattle, lucid dreaming with an expert in Hawaii and how UFO sightings changed the identity of a small Texas town. He speaks with NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchel about the overview effect and spends time with University of Pennsylvania professor Andrew Newberg discussing religious experiences and how the brain reacts to them.
Throughout the book, Volk encourages readers to be content with not knowing. He maintains that some experiences and events simply cannot be explained.
"I think the paranormal can force us to acknowledge at least some small degree of uncertainty," says Volk. "And I tend to think of uncertainty as creating an opportunity for people, if only as an intellectual exercise, to set aside their beliefs (at least for a moment) and realize we're in this together-trapped on a dusty rock, spinning through space."
Volk understands that paranormal topics are still considered taboo by a large portion of the population. But, in writing this book, Volk hopes to facilitate more discussion and debate about the strange and unexplainable occurrences that people continue to experience and report. He also hopes to foster understanding between believers and skeptics so that both sides will begin to listen to and learn from each other.
"I think we need to get over ourselves. We like to fool ourselves into thinking we know things we only believe," he says. "So suddenly a UFO-an unidentified flying object-becomes an ET spacecraft to a believer and a weather balloon to a skeptic. I'm here to tell you it's a UFO, and by definition that means we don't know what it is."
At the end of the day, Volk is no closer to having all the answers about the paranormal-and that's O.K. "Fringe-ology" is a thoroughly researched and fascinating book that encourages readers to open their minds and reconsider preconceived notions and world views. It stands as a testament that sometimes a mystery is just that-- a mystery.
"I want people who believe they have experienced something strange to feel like they have permission to talk about it," says Volk. "These stories are commonplace, fascinating and entertaining. For gosh sakes, let's tell them."
Steve Volk will be discussing and reading from "Fringe-ology" at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on Wednesday. The free event begins at 7:30 p.m. For more information visit www.freelibrary.org.

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