My latest book opens The National Archives’ own ‘X-files’ to shine a spotlight on many formerly secret official accounts of uncanny phenomena and other unsolved historical mysteries.
From mediums employed by the police to help with psychic crime-busting to sea monster sightings logged by the Royal Navy, Britain’s X-traordinary Files is the result of 15 years research in the archives at London and elsewhere.
Each section is underpinned by images of key documents created by government agencies that have investigated and sometimes tried to exploit extraordinary phenomena or powers in recent history.
Following the style of its companion volume The UFO Files (now in its second edition) the seven chapters throw new light on rumours, legends and persistent mysteries. Some of the subjects covered by the book include:
- The Angels of Mons that were said to have saved outnumbered British troops in Belgium at the outbreak of the First World War one hundred years ago
- War Diaries and other documents that reveal what happened to 266 British soldiers that ‘disappeared into thin air’ during the Gallipoli campaign of 1915
- The Death Ray and rumours of secret weapons spread by intelligence agencies between and after the two world wars
- Scotland Yard’s use of a Dutch clairvoyant to find the ‘Stone of Scone’ stolen from Westminster Abbey in 1950
- Secret ‘Remote Viewing‘ experiments conducted by British intelligence agencies in the aftermath of 9/11
- MI5 investigations into reports of mysterious lights and ‘crop circles‘ in WW2
- Black helicopters: the amazing story of the hunt by Special Branch and MI5 for a ‘phantom helicopter‘ that was sighted by police officers in northern England during the winter of 1973-74. Detectives suspected the mystery machine was piloted by Irish republican terrorists who planning a bombing raid on the mainland. The Met Police file on these mysterious remains closed to the public to this day.
- The extraordinary trial of a London man who was found guilty of killing a pedestrian he believed to be a ghost
- British Army investigations of dowsing and other extraordinary powers to locate buried bodies and mines
- The mysterious Solway Spaceman photograph that baffled police and RAF experts fifty years ago
- Results of inquiries into the mysterious disappearance of British aircraft and their crews
- What the British government records say about the fate of captain and crew of the Mary Celeste
- The future King George V’s sighting of a phantom ship, The Flying Dutchman whilst serving in the Royal Navy
- Arthur Conan Doyle’s account of sighting the mysterious Victorian sea serpent in the Mediterranean
- The Loch Ness Monster Files: what papers at Scotland’s National Archives and London’s Natural History Museum reveal about the Nessie legend.
- Read my list of the top 9 unsolved historical mysteries on the BBC History Extra website here.
I will launch the book with an illustrated lecture on the Angels of Mons and other legends of the First World War at Sheffield’s Off The Shelf literary festival on 27 October.
On 13 October I joined three other authors a discussion about ghost stories and other paranormal phenomena for BBC Radio 4’s Start The Week. The panel included Val McDermid, the author of Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime, Susan Hill, the author of The Woman In Black and Printer’s Devil Court and Alex Werner who is curator of the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London. A podcast of the show can be downloaded here.
More praise for Britain’s X-traordinary Files:
‘...it’s a Fortean must-read; a well-researched and entertaining insight into the wackier side of British officialdom.’
Andrew May, Fortean Times
‘…this is a feast of a book, valuable above all for folklore studies but also for parapsychology, history and hard science; and the more important for having grounded itself in the most prosaic of sources, the official records of the nation.’
Professor Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol
‘In this entertaining and absorbing book, David Clarke excavates hidden marvels from the depths of The National Archives, casting new light on our uncanny world – from death rays to ghost ships and angels.’
Professor Owen Davies, University of Hertfordshire