Alien Hand Syndrome

( 4 )


A compulsively readable collection, Alien Hand Syndrome brings together over 90 fantastic-but-true stories—absolutely mind-bending gems plucked from the annals of history. Selected and narrated by Alan Bellows—who can take the chaos of an event like the Lake Peigneur Disaster and retell it with harrowing step-by-step suspense—each entry opens a window onto a world where something’s gone terribly, yet fascinatingly, wrong. You can't get enough....
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A compulsively readable collection, Alien Hand Syndrome brings together over 90 fantastic-but-true stories—absolutely mind-bending gems plucked from the annals of history. Selected and narrated by Alan Bellows—who can take the chaos of an event like the Lake Peigneur Disaster and retell it with harrowing step-by-step suspense—each entry opens a window onto a world where something’s gone terribly, yet fascinatingly, wrong. You can't get enough.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761152255
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 787,366
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Bellows, aka "The Professor," is the writer, designer, managing editor, and marketing mastermind behind A software designer, he developed his fascination for the odd and unexpected while doing programming for the library industry. He lives with his wife in Orem, Utah.
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Read an Excerpt

The Naga Fireballs
A fire-breathing river perplexes citizens and scientists

Every year in October near the end of Buddhist Lent, hundreds of people gather after dusk at Wat Paa Luang, a 450-year-old temple on the edge of the Mekong River in the Nong Khai province of Thailand. Though they cannot predict the exact times or locations, a little patience usually earns spectators a view of a small, pinkish sphere rising out of the surface of the river. The glowing ball lingers above the river for up to a few moments, then ascends rapidly and silently into the atmosphere until it is lost to the eye. Most such nights there are dozens to hundreds of the fist-sized wisps flying skyward. Unlike so many other outlandish claims that photography cannot adequately capture, the Naga Fireballs have been witnessed by thousands of people for hundreds of years.

To believers, these fireballs are the breath of “Naga,” a large, magical serpent who patrols the river. Many of the locals tell tales of spotting a silvery flash of scale or speak of an elusive photograph proving the existence of the elusive Naga. Others seek a more rational explanation.

To many, the fireballs appear artificial in their origin, and thus they consider the entire event a hoax. These naysayers, however, offer only anecdotal evidence to support their theory. Supposed hoaxes include tales of the Wat Paa Luang monks secretly planting or lighting fireworks in order to draw crowds, or that the fireballs are simply a tradition of the region’s youth celebrating in what amounts to a centuries-long ongoing prank. In any case, 100 years of verified sightings makes the case for a conspiracy a weak one—any such ongoing effort would require preparation, equipment, and a superhuman commitment not to brag to the pretty girls who show up to view the spectacle.

Others believe that a natural phenomenon is at play, but look to other causes than the breath of an enormous, camera-shy serpent. While the phenomenon is most readily observed at night, there are some credible reports of daytime fireballs as well, though they are difficult to see in the light. Their appearance is also not isolated to October—they have been spied throughout the year but are especially common in May.

One theory proposed by Manas Kanoksin, a doctor from Nong Khai, postulates that fermenting sediment on the river’s bottom causes pockets of methane gas to form. He further suggests that the Earth’s position in relation to the sun at those times of year causes the bubbles to rise and then spontaneously ignite at the in the presence of ionized oxygen. Other researchers point out that the rocky river bottom doesn’t have much sediment and that the river’s turbulent waters would break up any such methane bubbles before they could reach the surface. Nevertheless, a 2002 study using robotic submarines indicated that the methane theory was at least viable, although it did not address the question of how the bubbles could reach the surface intact.

In 2003, the Thailand Science Ministry released a report that claimed to have solved the mystery of the fireballs. A thermo-scanner was set up near the riverbank, and several teams of specialists stood watch where the fireballs are commonly seen. Reportedly, the scanning equipment detected the movement of phosphine gas coming off the water before anyone could see a fireball form. The presence of phosphine seems a reasonable conclusion—as methane released by decay of plant and animal remains could combine with phosphorus from chemical fertilizer used on nearby farms to form the gas. This does not, however, explain the source of energy or microbes required to make the balls of gas appear fiery.

Despite the locals’ preference for romantic silver-serpent stories, the harsh light of science is slowly disassembling the superstitions. Regardless of its natural or supernatural origins, however, this curious and beautiful phenomenon seems to be unique in our world, which lends it a certain awe that no number of sticks-in-the-mud may dislodge

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Big Book Theory ix

A Alien Hand Syndrome 2

The Amber Tide 6

An American Coup d'État 8

Amoebic Altruism 12

Animal Weaponry 15

B Bacteriological Apocalypse 17

The Bath Schoolhouse Explosion 19

Beheaded and Bewildered 22

Birth Control of Antiquity 25

A Booger a Day Keeps the Doctor Away 28

Bryukhonenko's Dogs 31

C Capgras Syndrome 34

Carnivorous Giant Centipedes 36

Centralia's Hidden Inferno 38

Charles Bonnet Syndrome 40

Clever Hans the Math Horse 44

Cognitive Glitches 47

Coley's Cancer-Killing Concoction 49

Corpse Acres 52

Cyborg Spy Kitties 56

D Davy Crockett: King of the Atomic Frontier 58

Deep Water Mysteries 61

Dogs of War 63

Dreaming on Demand 65

The Dwarf Who Became a Giant 69

E Earth's Artificial Ionosphere 71

The Ethyl-Poisoned Earth 74

The Exploding Lakes of Cameroon 80

F The Farewell Dossier 83

The Fartiste of Paris 86

A Fluke of Nature 90

The Fordlândia Fiasco 92

G Gelotology 101 95

The Gimli Glider 100

Guppy Love 106

H The Hail from Hell Theory 109

The Halifax Disaster 113

High-Rise Syndrome 117

I Interstellar Eavesdropping 119

Irrational Optimism 125

K The Kola Superdeep Borehole 128

Kowloon: The Walled City of Darkness 131

L The Lake Peigneur Disaster 134

LeMessurier's Mess 137

M The Mad Gasser of Mattoon 140

Mad Jack Churchill 143

The McCollum Memo 145

Mike the Headless Chicken 149

The Molasses Flood of 1919 152

Montagu's Manufactured Major 154

N The Naga Fireballs 157

Nature's Nuclear Reactors 159

Nazi-Thwarting Norwegians 161

The Niihau Island Incident 165

The Nucleon 168

O Onoda's Long War 171

On the Origin of Circuits175

Operation Pastorius 179

Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 184

Outer Space Exposure 188

P Peculiar Parasites 191

The Pepcon Disaster 193

The Phobia Factory 196

Pleasure on Demand 200

Poland's Germ Gambit 204

Project Pluto 206

R The Revelations of Restored Sight 209

S Secret Agent Candy Jones 213

Sidis's Superbrain 216

The Skyhook 220

Spies on the Roof of the World 223

Spring Heeled Jack 227

Submersible Aircraft Carriers 230

The Sun Gun 234

Sylbaris the Survivor 237

T Terror on Wall Street 240

Tesla's Tower of Power 245

The Treacherous Toothpick Fish 249

The Tree of Ténéré 251

Tsar Bomba: The World's Most Massive Weapon 253

The Tuskegee Syphilis Study 256

U Unanticipated Side Effects 260

Undark and the Radium Girls 262

Undead Hamsters and the Gaia Theory 266

Urine for a Treat 269

The USS Pueblo and the Hawaiian Good Luck Sign 272

V Vaseline's Healing Power 276

Vesna Vulovic's Lucky Day 278

W Walking Corpse Syndrome 280

Weird Weaponry 284

Z Zero Recall 287

Contributors 291

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 20, 2011


    Fascinating stories. Set up as generally short articles on bizarre and/or interesting topics. From the guy who used to run the "Damn Interesting!" website in which he e-published similar articles. Having been a person who often read articles on his website, I was not dissappointed in this book at all.

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    Posted August 25, 2009

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    Posted September 22, 2009

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    Posted August 3, 2009

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