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Ghosts, Spirits, & Hauntings

Book Review of: Ghosts, Spirits, & Hauntings

Am I Being Haunted?

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Review of Ghosts, Spirits, & Hauntings, Edited by Michael Pye and Kirsten Dalley (Softcover, 2011)

Loyd Auerbach (Contributor), Joshua P. Warren (Contributor), Andrew Nichols (Contributor), Bob Curran (Contributor), Nick Redfern (Contributor), Raymond Buckland (Contributor), Ursula Bielski (Contributor), Marie D. Jones (Contributor), Larry Flaxman (Contributor), Michael Tymn (Contributor), Micah Hanks (Contributor)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


I don't take ghosts, spirits, and the like seriously, but I found this book to be an interesting read anyhow. I think the fact that it's a compilation of various essays and viewpoints from eight authors keeps it interesting rather than being a tedious foray into the realm of supposition and superstition.

Some of the contributors presented some "debunking" information on some of the popular theories regarding certain events or certain aspects of this topic. That helped balance out the general tone of "we know ghosts are real."

As someone with a keen interest in physics, I'm annoyed by false attributions to physics as if these distortions are fact proving the point being made. I liked Loyd Auerbach's comments on this particular problem. He gives the impression he wants researchers into the paranormal to just stick with their actual observations and not try to gild the lily. More than one author seemed to have out a gold paint can, though. This isn't all bad, as it gives you a glimpse into the various viewpoints and how people try to support those.

Does the book affirm that ghosts are real? Perhaps some authors intended that to happen, but I am not convinced. If ghosts are real, why would they be human only? Suppose the answer is that all animals have ghosts. It's implausible that all the creatures who've died over the past 500 million (or however many) years are still around as spirits or some form of energy. While this may explain the Loch Ness Monster, there's far too much running counter to it. For example, given the time scale the sheer numbers make it an unlikely reality at best.

If we say that only humans have ghosts, do the math again. The number of ghosts would still be overwhelming. They would outnumber living humans on a ratio of about 20:1, if we also assume ghosts are permanent. An "Achilles Heel" problem with all of the ghost-related beliefs is they require an ever-adjusting set of assumptions the more you examine them under logic. So why do people continue to believe in ghosts, spirits, and the like?

One reason people hold on to these notions is sometimes counterarguments to specific cases don't hold up. So people go back to the only explanation they have. But the lack of valid counterarguments is not proof of an argument.

Between the debunkers (prove it wrong) and the explanation-seekers (find the truth), quite a few people are drawn to research these various phenomena.

Many of the "researchers" are not trained or competent in research methodologies, and (according to Auerbach) some have "protocols" that are basically rules for being rude to those with competing theories. Studying their views is fairly much a study in human psychology.

But then there are the researchers who are trying to dig through the mysteries to figure out what's really going on. That's the part I find fascinating, partly because conclusive answers seem so elusive.

This book contains 10 essays in 203 pages. Most of the essays have reference bibliographies. The book is indexed, and also includes a short biography on each of the eight authors (10 pages).




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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