World history is a plethora of facts and events, the impact of humans and their actions on the world around them. However, it goes without saying that there are countless unsolved mysteries in the midst of all that real-life drama called history. That is exactly why Strange Stories, Amazing Facts is such a pleasure to peruse. Although Reader’s Digest designed the book to be more of an encyclopedia of informative topics than a storybook, the highlight of Strange Stories, Amazing Facts is its diverse content and the way it is grouped into individual “stories.” From modern cases of identity theft and forgery to grotesque murders and disappearances, the crimes of many centuries compose a serious journal of forgotten crime and punishment, an illustrative example of corrupted systems of justice around the world. One of these was the case of “Jack the Ripper,” a brutal murderer in the late nineteenth century who was never caught. Another dramatic area of Strange Stories, Amazing Facts is its analysis of the paranormal, mysterious ghosts who avenge murders and the invisible handiwork of restless spirits in ordinary houses.
For the adventurous, there is a lot of discussion about hidden treasures that were never found and the explorers who attempted to recover them. Then there is the comedic, the hoaxes played by professional con-artists which tricked the world into self-doubt. A good example is the article about an uneducated man who took on several reliable professions under an assumed name and diploma, or the one-time forgery of one-dollar bills in the U.S. that took years to be detected. Last but not least, most of these “reports” are decidedly factual and include many historical figures and side episodes that history books ignore. All stories relate events with commentary and are very fascinating with the book’s underlying mixture of irony and enigma in all the “tales” it exposes. Whether read in chronological order or by random selection, Strange Stories, Amazing Facts holds a treasure trove of intriguing history that is almost written like a fairy tale—enthralling, frightening, and incredible.
Strange Stories, Amazing Facts is available upon request in local libraries and bookstores in Fresno, and online.