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The Premonitions Bureau: A True Story by Sam…

The Premonitions Bureau: A True Story (edition 2022)

by Sam Knight (Author)

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722316,095 (3.29)2
The story of a strange experiment - a journey into the oddest corners of 60s Britain and the outer edges of science and reason.
Title:The Premonitions Bureau: A True Story
Authors:Sam Knight (Author)
Info:Faber & Faber (2022), Edition: Main, 256 pages
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The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight


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The Premonitions Bureau (Faber), Journalist Sam Knight’s first book is an interesting portrayal of this real collaboration with the Evening Standard that was set up in the 60s by Cambridge psychologist John Barker to investigate cases where people had ‘seen’ calamitous events before they happened. They asked members of the public who had experienced a premonition to contact them to log it, and then checked the news to see if there was a subsequent, corresponding incident. The ultimate hope was that perhaps some action might be able to be taken in a way that might prevent such an event happening as a result. Which then begged the question that if the event didn’t happen then would there be a premonition anticipating it? What was certain was that, among the hundreds of reports that they received, there was a surprising number of people who described incidents in some detail in advance and that there were a few individuals who appeared to act as some kind of lightning rod for such paranormal insights. Aberfan, plane and train crashes are all examples where two people, in particular, were able to give details of roughly where and how many casualties. It’s told in a lovely, narrative way and the characters who run the organisation, as well as the seers themselves, are so interesting. It may not be scientific enough for some but I found it fascinating. ( )
  davidroche | Jun 16, 2022 |
I’m not sure why or how this book got so many good reviews in the press. For a start it’s a biography of John Barker, a fascinating man and psychiatrist with many interests, the premonition bureau being just one. The title is misleading and I strongly suspect it’s because the publishers advised that “premonitions bureau” would sell more books than “A Biography of John Barker.” The author is constantly going off at a tangent and it is difficult to see the relevance to the main text. (For example the discussion of placebo v nocebo). Most disappointing is the lack of any rigour in discussing the value and believability of the premonitions. No scientific or quasi-scientific analysis is given. In the end I was left with a biography of a flawed man and a bunch of almost random anecdotes that any good science writer could drive the proverbial coach and horses through. ( )
1 vote basilisksam | May 19, 2022 |
Showing 2 of 2
... If you deal in them [premonitions], you are deluded or a charlatan. Barker [of the Premonitions Bureau] is mostly the former. Knight, I am sure, is neither - but he still allows the possibility to play, as a kind of mood music. And for all that this is a compelling, beautifully written book, it feels like bad faith.
added by Cynfelyn | editNew Scientist, James McConnachie (May 7, 2022)
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