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Dr Leo Ruickbie is the editor of the Paranormal Review, the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) – founded in 1882, this is the world’s oldest and largest organization for the study of what we now call the ‘paranormal’. In Angels in the Trenches, his sixth book, published by one of the world’s leading publishers, he documents the nightside of the First World War, the uncanny and extraordinary superstitions, spiritualist beliefs and supernatural events that arose from the experience of the most devastating war then to have been fought.
Ruickbie follows the stories of key figures, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, through the war years, seeing how events shaped or destroyed them. There were strange contradictions as society wrestled with the problem of the paranormal. Fortune-tellers were put on trial for fraud at the same time as the Army could stage a mass handout of lucky charms. A dramatic case like the Angels of Mons affected the whole country, but there were also so many individual encounters with the uncanny, with seemingly impossible coincidences or strokes of luck (good and bad). It seemed more than any other conflict to be a quintessentially paranormal war.
Written as narrative history, or even as a non-fiction novel, Angels in the Trenches adopts the fast-moving style of modern fiction with a focus on character, underpinned by rigorous historical research. There are new things to be discovered here, as well as a cracking good read. Highly recommended.