Although the paranormal is most often associated with spellbinding sights and mystifying sounds, a new book wonders if the answers may have been under our nose all this time.
The Brimstone Deceit, by Fortean author Joshua Cutchin, delves into the vast array of olfactory elements reported by paranormal experiencers that had previously largely been relegated to a footnote in the long history of esoteric lore.
According to Cutchin, the idea behind the book came from his interest in "the little things we find in paranormal encounters, especially things that may seem inconsequential. I suspect that in these tiny, insignificant details we may discover new insight into these phenomena as a whole."
A year of focused research from Cutchin yielded around 300 cases where a specific kind of smell was reported by witnesses as well as thousands more where odors factor into the tale but were not quite remarkable enough for experiencers to detail for investigators of the time.
As an ardent student of the esoteric may suspect, Cutchin's findings cut across a vast array of paranormal disciplines with smells being reported in UFO sightings, abduction events, ghost encounters, purported possessions, and, of course, Bigfoot.
"There is an embarrassment of riches to choose from when examining paranormal scents," Cutchin marveled to the Coast website, telling us that his book also delves into scents associated with cases involving sea creatures, elemental entities like faeries, and even the sinister Black Eyed Kids.
As to what may be learned from this exhaustive examination, Cutchin revealed to us that "the smell of brimstone, or sulfur, was much more prevalent than I'd expected across all genres of encounters."
Additionally, he noticed that "even the smells that weren't brimstone (such as ozone, ammonia, burning odors) repeated themselves commonly as well."
"Trying to figure out what that might mean—why the two main categories of odors were 'sulfur' and 'not sulfur'—led me into areas of olfactory research that I hadn't previously considered," he said, "such as how certain scents actually generate measurable physical reactions in the human body."
Asked for one of his favorite cases in the book, Cutchin shared this intriguing tale:
"One of my favorite cases that illustrates how witnesses interpret their encounters comes from 1908 in Alma, Colorado. Residents of the town claimed to have seen a spirit roaming the streets—some said it was a beautiful woman in white who smelled like roses and violets, while others compared it to a huge elephant that smelled like sulfur and brimstone and shot flames from its trunk.
"Two very, very conflicting descriptions, including the smell, which couldn't be any more different—what does that say about the role the witness plays in interpreting what they're seeing, and how does our nose influence that perception?"
Pick up The Brimstone Deceit to further explore the realm of supernatural smells and what they may be trying to tell us about the paranormal.
And Coast Insiders can check out Joshua Cutchin talking about his previous book, A Trojan Feast, on the 5/31/2015 edition of the program.
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