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A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters Hardcover – September 29, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Squarely aimed at the fans of Ghostbusters (and just in time for its nascent revival in family rooms, video games and, reportedly, the big screen), this look at the paranormal is written by none other than the father of that blockbuster's co-creator and star, Dan Aykroyd; what fans might not know is that the Aykroyd family's interest in séances, mediums and apparitions was what inspired the hit supernatural comedy. The author's own grandfather was a spiritualist: he believed the human personality survives after bodily death, and practiced regular communication with ghosts-much of which he documented in journals. Aykroyd broadens the discussion with historical figures like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, who joined the Society of Psychical Research three weeks after his father's death. He also disarms skeptics with a chapter on the séance as theatrical performance, not much different from a movie, in which the ultimate goal is "the willing suspension of disbelief" in an audience, whom can then be "frightened, amused, touched, moved" by illusions. Less a Ghostbusters also-ran than a knowing, historical origin story, this is a smart consideration of the paranormal and a curious artifact of the Aykroyd legacy.

About the Author

PETER AYKROYD is a retired Government of Canada Senior Executive. He is the author of two previous books, The Anniversary Compulsion and A Sense of Place. He lives on a plot of land 20 miles north of Kingston, Ontario, that has been in the family for 180 years.
ANGELA NARTH is a full-time writer of both fiction and nonfiction with seven books currently in print. She lives on the banks of the mighty Red River a few minutes south of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; First Edition edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605298751
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605298757
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Javier Ortega on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Peter Aykroyd (father of actor Dan Aykroyd) has gotten together with writer Angela Narth to produce a very informative yet compact book of the Spiritualist movement that swept across during the Victoria era. Combined with personal stories of childhood memories of when Mr. Aykroyd would sit and watch seances in his family's home, the book takes you back to the precursor of our current paranormal boom, and methodically explains where such interest came from. Written from a skeptical viewpoint (but not close-minded) the book takes you on a historical journey through what appeared to be legit paranormal encounters and the people who claimed to produce these paranormal effects, to their exposure as scam artists and their demise. The book will leave you with a better understanding of the importance of applied logic and skepticism, as well as a better understanding that science cannot explain all claims of the paranormal... [...].

[...].
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Ever wonder where the idea of Ghostbusters came from? Author Peter Aykroyd's son Dan grew up in a family long-steeped in the study of Spiritualism and psychic phenomena going back at least one hundred years. The author writes of seances regularly held in the Aykroyd home beginning in 1920, then the home of the author's grandfather, Dan Aykroyd's great-grandfather, Samuel August Aykroyd, DDS (1855-1933). That ancestral place, now home to the family for two centuries, was an epicenter of the movement in its most rarefied circles, seances attended by a serious and trusted "chosen few" sitters as the family medium and other notable visiting mediums led the insular group to contact in various forms beyond the physical experience. Seances continued in the home in earnest after the death of Dr. Aykroyd, the seances organized by the author's father as he pursued his own and his father's research well into the 1940s.
Samuel Augustus Aykroyd, Dr. A., was an authority on the Spiritualist movement and a lifetime subscriber to The Progressive Thinker, "the major publication of the spiritualist movement during the height of the movement's popularity." The circle he cultivated were thinking persons, intellectuals, exploring the potential of the living to contact those who had passed over, to experience the hypersensitivity determined to be the "Superclarity of the Senses" beyond the limitations of the physical world. It was a different time when investigation into a medium's ability to communicate beyond the physical world was welcomed by mediums themselves who sought the development of higher awareness and knowledge to achieve greater participation with the spirit realm. Those investigations are detailed in this captivating book.
Dr. A.
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Format: Hardcover
I found Ackroyd's history of the spiritualist movement and its seances fairly interesting until I read his endnote attached to a statement about a seance in which Charlotte Bronte was heard, apparently by the author, pronouncing the name of Jane Austen. The endnote reads, "Author Jane Austen, who was Charlotte Bronte's dear friend on earth, seems to have remained a close friend in the next life." In fact, Austen died in 1817 and Bronte was born in 1816, not much time for a friendship to develop. Thereafter, I couldn't help but regard the author's "facts" with a degree of suspicion.
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A great study and reference for research and enjoyment. A lot of work went into this most interesting and enjoyable book. It also explains the history of spiritualism, what mediumship is and the different types of mediums, plus much more.
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There is a long history of supernatural journey in the secular Americas. This profoundly
personal/familial book, takes you on a trip that tweaks the very corners of comforable
beliefs. Where is that line? Why should you dare walk over it? Stay in the box of day
to day if you want to. For a mind widening visit, into the possibility of more, read
this book! Besides, what could more fun than a trip down 'Ghostbuster Lane' with a
trueblooded Aykroyd?
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I've already done a decent amount of reading about the Spiritualism movement between 1870s-1940s, but this book is one of the best I've read. I picked it up out of curiosity (I love Dan Aykroyd), but kept reading it out of fascination. It does get a little repetitive towards the end, but that may be because I have already read about a lot of the people mentioned in this book.

I was expecting it to be more of an Aykroyd family history, but it is a lot more in depth than that. And unlike a lot of books that have to do with the paranormal or spiritualism, the author writes with a genuine zest and WANT to believe, and brings life to the subject instead of yet more skepticism.

I'd recommend this to anyone interested in a much overlooked (and yet very important) aspect of American History. Understanding the deep financial and emotional hurt of our country during that time frame is very important to understanding why people were so fascinated by attempting to contact the dead.

I read the Kindle version, and it worked perfectly. It has a nice middle insert of photos as well. :) Awesome read!
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