Friday, 31 January 2014

Book review: The Gosford Files

It has occurred to me that in spite of this site being called the Lupine Book Club, I’ve yet to post a book review on here. So without further ado, here is the inaugural book review for the Lupine Book Club – The Gosford Files!

Update March 2015: Moira McGhee herself commented on this review and noted that the book is NOT out of print and can still be purchased by visiting www.independentnetuforesearchers.com.au

Authors: Moira McGhee and Bryan Dickeson
Published: 1996

Publisher: INUFOR
Availability: In print

BACKGROUND
Most people are familiar with the NSW Central Coast as a retirement spot, or as a beach holiday area, where you might spend a few days visiting for a family vacation. But this relatively quiet part of NSW, only an hour and a half north of Sydney, is also something of a UFO hotspot. For those of you not familiar with ufology jargon, this basically means it’s a good place to go if you’re interested in seeing UFOs. Hotspots for UFOs are dotted in various locations all over the planet, though the exact reasons why certain spots become hotspots are unknown.

The Central Coast, while home to a number of small urban centres, is quite geographically diverse – there’s plenty of bush, mountains, large bodies of water and farmland throughout the area, all located relatively close to one another. Whether or not this geographic diversity contributes to its hotspot status is entirely speculation, of course.  But still, it’s a potential tourism outlet that someone should look into more closely, I think.  
I lived on the Central Coast between 1989 and 2010, spending my early childhood through to my early twenties there. I still visit regularly to see friends and family, and I’m very attached to the place. But in spite of its reputation, I will say that you probably won’t see a UFO on a casual weekend visit there – in my years living there, I saw two, or perhaps three (I may post on that another time).

But in late 1996, Sydney-based UFO researchers Moira McGhee and Bryan Dickeson published The Gosford Files, in the wake of a large number of UFO sightings that had taken place earlier in the year. I first encountered the book not long after publication. I was in late primary school and someone had brought a copy in to school. I was already somewhat familiar with UFOs and the idea of alien abduction at the time – in fact, I had even seen a UFO in 1994, while at a family friend’s party. The whole thing intrigued me immensely, and I ploughed through it as soon as I could lay my hands on a copy (probably from the local library).
Since then, I have read scores, if not hundreds of books on UFOs, the unexplained, the paranormal etc. Few have made the same sort of impression on me as The Gosford Files, probably due to my personal attachment to the area.  

CONTENT
As might be suspected by the title, The Gosford Files covers UFO sightings that took place on and around the NSW Central Coast. Most are from the early- to mid-1990s, but there are a number that span previous decades, with the earliest from the 1950s. McGhee and Dickeson are good writers, and while the relatively short nature of each entry can leave you curious to know more at times, it does mean that you’re unlikely to get bored. 

Other, more general “unexplained” phenomena is covered as well, such as the famed “Kariong Hieroglyphics” (though the book describes them as located in Woy Woy). These rock carvings have attracted national attention at various times, and periodically get wheeled out as examples of questionable theories such as ancient aliens, unrecorded contact between the Egyptians and the Aborigines etc. *
Reading about all of this was particularly exciting as a child, when the book was first released. “Whoa! Someone saw a UFO there?”  All of a sudden, the Central Coast seemed like a place where things could happen, as opposed to the relatively quiet place that I had previously known it to be.
This book was published just on the cusp of internet access becoming mainstream, so there’s plenty of stuff I’d like to follow up on now – of course, the passing years and heavy use of pseudonyms for witness names makes this increasingly difficult.

OVERALL
As it’s rapidly approaching 20 years since the original book was published, I would love to see some kind of follow-up on the cases featured, whether online or as a Gosford Files 2-style publication. A short time after I first moved to Sydney, I began a bit of research into UFO sightings that had occurred post-publication of The Gosford Files. The project never really got off the ground, though I would like to return to it one day. 

As with any book like this, a lot of your final opinion is going to rest on whether or not you ascribe any reality to the UFO phenomenon at all. While I once would have considered myself a thorough believer in alien visitation, these days I am much more agnostic on the issue. It may sound a little wishy-washy to the more hardened UFO sceptic, I suppose – but I have definitely seen UFOs. But only in the sense that I have seen unidentified objects in the sky; I cannot claim anything at all along the lines of them being the result of aliens travelling across space/dimensions/time to visit the earth.
Taken as a book on the UFO phenomenon, The Gosford Files is an interesting read, and a good catalogue of a diverse variety of sightings and experiences within a fairly small geographical area. However, even for the non-believer, it’s still an interesting curio of Central Coast history. If you come across a copy (see note below) I’d definitely recommend picking it up. Even if you have no personal interest, odds are strong that you will know someone who is keen for a copy.

*I have never visited them myself, as their exact location is deliberately kept secret, to discourage visitors and vandals. But I have seen photos and I will happily throw my hat into the ring and say that these are 100% fake. Anyone who has ever looked through a children’s book on ancient Egypt can see that they are ridiculously crude (though whoever did them has gone to a lot of effort), and are hardly the work of highly trained scribes.

 Postscript: The Extraordinary
For those who are interested, one of the cases featured in the book was also featured in a segment on The Extraordinary ­­– which, for my overseas readers, was an Australian equivalent of Unsolved Mysteries in the early to mid-90s, covering subjects like UFOs, ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. You can view the segment  here on YouTube.

Post-postscript: A word on availability and pricing
This is a slightly edited version of the original section of the review, retained only for archival purposes now that I have been made aware of the book's availability. 

Though I have read the book numerous times since it was first published, I didn’t actually own my own copy until 2012! On and off, I spent a few years trying to find one, without much luck. Though I had numerous friends interested in similar subject matter, it’s quite sought-after in certain circles and it’s now been out of print for some years. I don’t know what sort of print run it had on initial release, but I suspect it was no more than a few thousand.  

Eventually, though, my father came across a copy in a Gosford book exchange for $5.50, which he snapped up for me. I have seen it selling online for more than $100! As might be imagined, I guard my copy quite dearly.

For Central Coast locals, Gosford Library has a copy, but it was moved to the reference section years ago – so no borrowing! It may also be worthwhile checking with the Wyong Shire libraries too.

5 comments:

  1. A nice summary of the book that will entice readers to seek it out. As you mention, this is an interesting record of a sub-culture that is exists in most communities, but is rarely considered in histories -- even though it can be an important part of the local community's belief system. One question that is not mentioned -- I can't remember whether it has the usual grainy pictures of questionable value that are found in many UFO books -- I always like the sketches that are done by people who can't draw (such as myself) :-)

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  2. The Gosford Files is not out of print! It is available from independentnetuforesearchers.com.au for $29.95 - Moira McGhee

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    1. Wow! Thanks for this information, Moira. People are sometimes selling it on eBay for $100+. I will update the article in the next couple of days and shoot you an email too.

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    1. Hi Jonathan, I'm not selling it myself, but if you look at Moira's comment above there is a link to purchase it from.

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