Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book Reviews IV: Ghost Hunters

It's time for another installment of Book Reviews, this time I'm reviewing Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum.
*(As usual, I'm not affiliated with Blum, publishers, or any other entity involved with this book. I picked it up at a library, and am not being compensated in any way.)

Prior to fact checking, I decided this book was a 5 out of 5 stars. Turns out there are few instances of historical inaccuracy, but given the sheer volume of information covered, I would consider that forgivable, but it might also make the book a 4 to 4 1/2 stars, for those of you that care.

Now, right of the bat I'll admit this book probably isn't for everyone. The quick pace and switching of subjects (backwards, forwards, and sideways), could be confusing, and the historical focus of the book has to be something you're interested in going into this. It's not a list of fact and results, but rather a historic narrative of what several men and women dedicated to proving the existence of the paranormal did and endured. People like Nora Sidgwick, Fred Myers, and William James. Though their names may not be as familiar to the reader as those of the mediums they investigated; people like the Foxx Sisters, D. D. Homes, Lenora Piper, and Reverend May Pepper.

Events of the era are mention as well, providing readers with a frame of reference for the researcher's lives, and occasionally educating the reader. Everything from war and social change, to the theory of evolution and the naming of argon.

That said, spoilers. Sometimes this book has more detail then you might want, and there are a few spoilers, like the entire plot of The Turn of the Screw, which may be irritating for those who've yet to read the work.

If you're will to overlook that, the book is full of beautiful and interesting quotes from all sorts of sources, like Mark Twain explaining why he believes in telepathy;
“We are always mentioning people, and in that very instant they appear before us. We laugh and say, 'speak of the devil' and so forth and there we drop it. It is a cheap and convenient way of disposing of a grave and puzzling mystery. The fact is it does seem to happen too often to be an accident.”

Or Edison's conflicting takes on life after death;
“No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life - our desire to go on living - our dread of coming to an end as individuals. I do not dread it though. Personally I cannot see any use of a future life.”

“We do not understand; we cannot understand. We are too finite to understand. The really big things, we cannot grasp as yet.”

And Hyslop lamenting the social impact of their research;
“Why is it so noble and respectable to find whence man came, and so suspicious and dishonorable to ask and ascertain whither he goes?”

This book also brings up some interesting questions. Like why do ghost wear clothes? The clothes didn't die, why should there be ghosts of them? You might like the answer some of the researchers theorized, then again, you might not.

Overall, it's kind of like the fictional series 'Proof', researchers looking into life after death and psychics, but they still had daily lives. It's a good dose of history, and highly interesting to read, but still the acceptance or rejection of life after death, seems to be up to the individual.

It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it, but all belief is for it.”
- James Boswell (The Life of Samuel Johnson, 1971)