Before people were able to access information by way of the Internet, written text was the primary resource for knowledge. The history of books has been linked to political and economical contingencies, as well as the history of ideas and religion. In the ancient world, humans developed writings as a desire to create a lasting record. In the 1450s, The Gutenberg Bible became the first major book printed with a movable type printing press, marking the start of the age of the printed book. Since that time, a large collection of controversial books have been published. Many of these texts are known to have been written for the strict purpose of propaganda. Conspiracy theory researchers have also put together written collections that examine controversial subjects. This article will examine 10 influential books that have been labeled controversial.
10. The Frost King
Helen Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was not born blind and deaf, but when Helen was 19 months old she contracted an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which might have been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness left Helen Keller deaf and blind. In 1887, when Helen was only seven years old, a young woman named Anne Sullivan became her instructor. When Sullivan first arrived at Keller’s house, she began to teach Helen how to communicate by spelling words into her hand. The story of how Anne Sullivan helped the isolation imposed by Keller’s near complete lack of language is widely known through the dramatic play The Miracle Worker.
In 1892, at the age of 11, Helen Keller published her first short story titled The Frost King. The book tells the tale of King Jack Frost and a cask of jewels that are being transported by a collection of fairy servants. At the time of the stories publication, Helen Keller largely communicated only with Anne Sullivan. In fact, Sullivan dictated the entire Frost King story for Keller. After the book gained popularity, it soon became evident that the Frost King was a direct reproduction of Frost Fairies by Margaret Canby. The revelation was important, with many articles proclaiming that the story was a deliberate fraud by Keller’s handlers.
People all over the world were surprised that Helen Keller was able to produce The Frost King at such a young age. Keller adamantly denied that she had heard Canby’s story before. However, Sullivan claimed that Keller read the book through finger spelling with the help Sophia Hopkins. An investigation into the matter concluded that Helen Keller may have experienced a case of cryptomnesia, in that she had read Canby’s story before, but forgot about it. Joseph Lash’s book Helen and Teacher states that Anne Sullivan read Helen Keller Frost Fairies the previous fall and that she had adapted her own story out of the original. Because of the accusations, an in-house trial ensued at the Perkins School to determine whether or not Sullivan had deliberately falsified Keller’s abilities.
At the time, eight separate teachers interrogated the twelve-year-old Helen Keller for two hours. They returned a verdict of undecided, with some members calling foul play and others not. Apparently, Keller had a visible nervous breakdown over the incident, and decided to never publish fiction again. Michael Anagnos, head of the Perkins School for the Blind, never regained his faith in Sullivan or Keller and described them as “a living lie”. Anagnos claimed to have found inconsistencies in Helen Keller’s letters and was fully suspicious that Anne Sullivan checked her writings before allowing them to be mailed. In 1903, Mark Twain described the controversy as “owlishly idiotic and grotesque”.
9. Trail of the Octopus
On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was scheduled to travel from London to New York. The plane was transporting 243 passengers and 16 crew members. While flying over Lockerbie, in southern Scotland, the flight experienced a catastrophic explosion which punched a 20-inch (0.51 m)-wide hole on the left side of the fuselage. The aircraft rapidly disintegrated and crashed into Lockerble killing all passengers onboard and eleven people on the ground. The subsequent investigation determined that the flight was targeted by a terrorist group. Certain events pertaining to the case have been riddled with controversy. Published statements have accused the United States CIA in having foreknowledge of the attack. On February 24, 2011, Libya’s former justice minister Mustafa Abdul Jalil claimed that Muammar Gaddafi had personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing.
Lester Coleman is a former U.S. DEA agent who co-author the 1993 book Trail of the Octopus, The Untold Story of Pan Am 103. In the book, it is claimed that a secret drug operation enabled terrorists to evade airport security in the 1988 bombing of Pan American Flight 103. It has been alleged that a compromised American covert drug smuggling organization allowed Iranian-backed terrorists, led by Ahmed Jibril, to slip a Semtex bomb aboard the plane. In 1990, before the release of the book, Lester Coleman made national headlines when he exposed a CIA double agent to the press. As a result of the published photograph, the U.S. government sued Time Magazine for $26 million. In 1991, as part of a civil lawsuit between Pan American World Airways and the families of Flight 103, Lester Coleman made a sworn statement accusing the Drug Enforcement Administration of allowing PA103 to be bombed. In response, the federal court imposed a gag order on the defendants and plaintiffs in the case.
In 1993, Trail of the Octopus was first published in the United Kingdom. The book holds the famous quote, “No one knows what is really going on. If they ever did, it would make Watergate look like Alice in Wonderland.” Coleman claims that he sought and was granted political sanctuary in Sweden in order to complete the novel. When he was under Swedish protection, he provided Pan American World Airways with a civil affidavit which cleared them of full responsibility in the Lockerbie bombing. In response to the book, the DEA sued Bloomsbury publishing in a London court. After a settlement, thousands of copies of the text were destroyed. On September 11, 1997, Lester Coleman stated to a New York Federal court that “…he lied when he claimed that a secret drug sting enabled terrorists to evade airport security in the bombing…” In a plea agreement, Coleman was sentenced to time served.
As of 2011, Kindle and Nook are the new publishers of Trail of the Octopus, which holds a 2009 United States release. Over the years, conspiracy theorists have latched onto the fact that there were at least four U.S. intelligence officers on the passenger list, claiming they were targeted for assassination. A number of security alerts were posted shortly before the bombing, with many people avoiding the deadly flight. The South African foreign minister Pik Botha and a minor delegation of 22 was supposed to board Pan Am 103, but managed to take the earlier Pan Am 101 flight. In 2003, Libya took responsibility for the bombing. In a remarkable occurrence, the Libyan government compensated each family of the victims US$8 million. As a result of this, the UN agreed to cancel sanctions that had been imposed four years earlier. A collection of U.S. trade restrictions were also lifted due to the settlement.
8. English as She Is Spoke
When English as She Is Spoke was published in 1883 it raised controversy, but it was due to the funny content and didn’t involve serious issues. In the middle of the 19thcentury, a Portuguese author named Jose da Fonseca became notable for writing phrase books that were used to help travelers and people interesting in learning multiple languages. His most famous publication was a successful Portuguese-French phrase book, which was adapted by a man named Pedro Carolino. After the popularity of the initial book, Carolino decided to write his own Portuguese to English conversational guide. However, he placed the more popular Jose da Fonseca’s name as the author without his knowledge. Problems began to arise when it was realized that Pedro Carolino didn’t speak English.
English as She Is Spoke is regarded as one of the funniest books written in the 19th century and a classic source of unintentional humor, due to the fact that the given English translations in the book are generally completely incoherent and wrong. It is widely believed that Pedro Carolino used a French-English dictionary to translate the earlier Portuguese-French phrase book that was written by José da Fonseca. The attempt failed to produce coherent English speech. It seems that the dictionary-aided literal use of the words caused many expressions to be translated wildly inappropriately. For example, the Portuguese phrase chover a cântaros is translated as raining in jars, when the English translation should be “raining buckets.”
Here are some more notable examples of phrases used in the book. The walls have hearsay, should be “the walls have ears.” He go to four feet, should be “he is crawling.” Is sure the road, should be “is the road safe.” That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes. Let us amuse rather to the fishing. The English translation should have been, “This pond seems like it’s full of fish. Let’s have some fun fishing.” Mark Twain said of English as She Is Spoke, “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, and nobody can hope to produce its fellow. It is perfect.”
7. Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers
Jacques Vallée is a French-born venture capitalist, computer scientist, author, ufologist and former astronomer. For over 50 years, he has been a predominant authority on extraterrestrial life. In Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Vallée served as the model for the French character Lacombe. He is a respected researcher that has made significant contributions to the field of scientific exploration. Vallée is notable for co-developing the first computerized mapping of Mars and for his work as the principal investigator at SRI International in creating ARPANET, a precursor to the modern Internet. He served on the National Advisory Committee at the University of Michigan, College of Engineering, and was involved in early work on artificial intelligence. Vallée has authored four books on high technology and is a venture capitalist. He has invested in over 60 start-up companies, 18 of which have become traded on public markets.
One of these companies is Accuray Systems (Nasdaq:ARAY), which is a medical device company developing surgical robots. Along with his mentor, astronomer J. Allen Hynek, Vallée has carefully studied the phenomenon of UFOs for many years and his research has taken him to all areas of the world. Initially, Jacques Vallée published works supporting the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH). ETH states that some unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are best explained as being extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets occupying physical spacecraft visiting Earth. However, by 1969, Vallée’s conclusions had changed, and he publicly announced that the ETH was too narrow and ignored too much data. In his next novel, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, Vallée explored a different angle on UFO encounters.
In Passport to Magonia, Vallée examines the commonalities between UFOs, cults, religious movements, demons, angels, ghosts, cryptid sightings, and psychic phenomena. In the text, he suggests the interdimensional visitation hypothesis. The theory states that unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and related events involve visitations from other “realities” or “dimensions” that coexist separately alongside our own. It holds that UFOs are a modern manifestation of a phenomenon that has occurred throughout recorded human history, which in prior ages was ascribed to mythological or supernatural creatures. The interdimensional visitation hypothesis alleges that extraterrestrials could be living beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected. Vallée’s opposition to the popular ETH hypothesis was not well received by prominent U.S. ufologists, hence he is viewed as something of an outcast.
Given Jacques Vallée’s scientific history and documented intellect, many have lent prominence to his theories. Let’s examine his ideas. Claims are made that the distance between stars makes interstellar travel impractical without an antigravity or faster-than-light travel hypothesis. Vallée points out that unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth. The humanoid body structure of the alleged “aliens” is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel. The apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives. Vallée has contributed to the investigation of the Miracle at Fatima and Marian apparitions. His work has been used to support the Fatima UFO Hypothesis.
One advantage of IDH proffered by Hilary Evans is its ability to explain the apparent ability of UFOs to appear and disappear from sight and radar, explained as the UFO enters and leaves our dimension. Moreover, Evans argues that other dimensions might be slightly more advanced than ours, explaining the UFOs’ tendency to represent near future technologies. In a conversation with Steven Spielberg, Vallée suggested that he make the phenomenon in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, real, physical, but not ET. Vallée also proposes that a secondary aspect of the UFO phenomenon involves human manipulation by humans. He advocates a stronger and more serious involvement of science in the UFO research and debate, in order to let people understand the real aspects of multidimensional travel.