Matt Forney
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Strange Creations: Aberrant Ideas of Human Origins from Ancient Astronauts to Aquatic Apes by Donna Kossy

strange-creationsThis is one of the most deceptive books I’ve ever read.

Not in a bad way, mind you: Strange Creations more or less fulfills what it sets out to do. Another book of extreme weirdness from the catalog of Feral House, Donna Kossy’s tome purports to explore the various alternative views of humanity’s origins, the sort of stuff that atheistards turn their noses up at. However, the actual “aberrant ideas of human origins” comprise maybe a third of the book; the bulk of Strange Creations is focused on dissecting pre-WWII eugenics theories, late 19th-century anthropology, and other semi-related topics.

It’s not a bad thing, just unexpected.

Nonetheless, Strange Creations is a pretty well-research bit of left-field history. The intro kicks off the book pretty well, discussing the “ancient astronaut” theories of kooks like Madame Blavatsky and her successors:

Madame Blavatsky lived in a grand style, well-suited to her persona as “Oriental Mystic.” As detailed in Washington’s account, she furnished her rooms in New York in the Victorian manner, filling them with foreign tchotchkes of every description. She amazed her guests with an impressive collection of stuffed animals, which included a lioness’ head over the door, monkeys “peeping out of nooks,” birds, lizards, a grey owl and a snake. As her own little joke on her nemesis Darwin, she displayed—as the centerpiece of her collection—a “large bespectacled baboon, standing upright, dressed in wing-collar, morning-coat and tie, and carrying under its arm the manuscript of a lecture on The Origin of Species.” She named it “Professor Fiske” after John Fiske, a prominent Darwinian of the time.

The middle section of the book, however, is where Kossy’s focus goes off-script. Focusing on Nazi eugenics, as well as the once-fashionable Nordicist and white supremacist ideals of scientists like Madison Grant and Francis Galton, Strange Creations loses focus. While I personally enjoyed her analyses of these theories (as well as how they became popular), I felt slightly misled by their presence vis-a-vis the way the book was initially presented. Additionally, Kossy’s digression in Chapter Two on the band Devo, while sort of relevant (as the chapter is about theories on how humanity is de-evolving), felt like a waste:

But what did the former art students who made up the band DEVO (Gerald “Jerry” Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothers-baugh and Jim Mothersbaugh from 1974-early 1976; Jerry Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Mothersbaugh, Bob Casale and Alan Myers from late 1976–1985) mean by “de-evolution”? The images in their movies and collages featured apes, degenerate humans, and a kind of mentally deficient mascot, Booji Boy. De-evolution obviously meant some kind of reverse evolution, in which humanity degenerates through the years, rather than improves. It seemed like heresy at the time, but little did I know that this loose idea of human degeneration had a long history that could be traced through the eugenics movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, early scientific theories of race, Theosophy, and back to ancient times. I’m not sure that DEVO themselves knew of de-evolutions universality or its antiquity.

Kossy’s prose style is academic and simple; she’s not much for fancy flourishes or flights of fancy. While she is mostly impartial when it comes to her subjects, every so often she will slip into mawkish moralizing, particularly during the Nazi sections. Admittedly, some of this editorializing is amusing, such as during the section where she shows how white supremacist and black supremacist accounts of the origin of man are nearly identical.

It seems even in so-called “alternative” histories, writers feel the need to keep reminding us of how evil and backwards those bad, bad men they’re writing about are.

The other issue with Strange Creations is the aforementioned shifting of subject matter. The book doesn’t pick up again with true “aberrant ideas” until near the end, when it discusses the “aquatic ape” theory (notoriously promulgated by feminists) and the Urantia Book. In particular, the chapter on creationism is just depressing; this stuff isn’t fun anymore when we have to actually live it.

Aside from these issues, Strange Creations is an intriguing look at some bizarre, if not entirely wrong views on human evolution. If you go into it with an open mind, you won’t be disappointed.

Click here to buy Strange Creations.

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