Review of the Book
The Min Min Light
The Visitor Who Never Arrives
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book reviews by Whitcomb
What does a barn owl have in common with mysterious lights with names like Min Min, Will o’ the Wisp, and Jack o’ Lantern? Much. This non-fiction gives a simple explanation for a phenomenon that, for centuries, has frightened and intrigued people around the world:  The occasionally bioluminescent
barn owl Tyto Alba.
Min Min it’s commonly called in Australia, the home of the author, F. F. Silcock. It’s not just the aborigines who’ve been terrified at wandering lights that seem possessed of intelligence: Many people have run away or hidden from them, for legends explain them spiritually; they’re said to cause death.
In Great Britain, where they’re called Will o’ the Wisp or Jack o’ Lantern, old tales also abound: People who follow the lights are said to become trapped in a marsh or lost. But the book gives a reasonable explanation for what was once con-sidered either unexplainable or unbelievable.
How could all those ghost-lights be caused by barn owls? Some of them, some of the time, have some kind of  bioluminescence  that they  can control. That’s the conclusion reached in this book, and the eyewitness testimonies fill many of its pages. Long before  finishing  this book,  I came  to the same conclusion as the author did, and I was delighted with the book; I recommend it to anyone interested in birds or in the strange low-flying lights seen in many parts of the world.
Reviewed by Jonathan Whitcomb
Author:
F. F. Silcock
The Min Min Light, The Visitor Who Never Arrives, was written and published by F. F. Silcock, Copyright 2003; the 86 pages include ten color plates, three of them being lovely photos of barn owls.
The reviewer, Jonathan Whitcomb, has studied the ropen light of Papua New Guinea, finding those lights to differ from Min Mins in several important ways (much higher altitude; different flight characteristics, speed, and destinations). The ropen is thought to be a living pterosaur.
Page 1: “ . . . The light made a good long shift, making a low curve . . . What was strange was that when it took those curving shifts it went against the wind and then gradually floated back to the old place.” (J. Allan, Liverpool Plains, Australia, 1860)
Page 47: “. . . insects were swarming around the light. I must have been watching for at least a minute when the light began decreasing in strength and . . . I saw inside it the shape of a bird.”
Page 48: “ . . . They crept to within ten metres of the tree and flashed the beam of a powerful torch onto the light. The light extinguished and a ‘large brown bird’ flew up.”
Page 50: “ . . . the light came down and settled into the canopy of one tree. . . . the light shut off and sitting where it had been was a white owl. . .”
Page 52: “The two lights rose . . . they were heading straight for us . . . someone . . . kept the spotlight aimed as the lights came down upon us. . . . the spotlight was thrown backwards and the light illuminated two great wings . . . Then they swept away into the darkness. . . . someone exclaimed . . . ‘It was a bloody great owl.’” (New South Wales)
Nonfiction Book: Live Pterosaurs in America
Scientific paper on living pterosaurs (in a peer-reviewed journal)