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The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead Paperback – June 26, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616145854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616145859
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,240,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Winner of the 2013 Robert Balles Prize for Critical Thinking!

"This is it—the definitive book on ghosts from a scientific perspective, written by the world's foremost science-based ghost hunter. Nickell is the go-to guy for all things paranormal, and with this book he has once again asserted himself as a fair and careful investigator whose conclusions we can trust."
—Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain

"In [this] important new book Joe Nickell-the premier skeptical paranormal investigator alive today-explains his expert techniques while presenting various paranormal cases, looking at the actual evidence for the existence of such spirit beings. This is a book that everyone interested in ghostly evidence for the afterlife-believer and skeptic alike-will benefit from reading."
—D. J. Grothe, president, James Randi Educational Foundation

"[Nickell is] the epitome of [a] skeptical investigator...coming to a subject without prejudgment but with an honest desire to find the truth...." 
—Kendrick Frazier, editor, Skeptical Inquirer

"[The Science of Ghosts] will find a home in science and new age collections alike, and considers the actual evidence surrounding psychic contacts with 'the other side… a balanced assessment of the evidence for ghosts and hauntings."
The Bookwatch

"Filled with case studies, this book will interest other fans of ghostly affairs academia."
—Bookviews by Alan Caruba

"This is a well thought out, intelligently written book."
City Book Review

About the Author

Joe Nickell (Amherst, NY) has been called "the modern Sherlock Holmes" and "the real-life Scully" (from The X-Files). He has been on the trail of mysterious creatures and phenomena for four decades. Since 1995 he has been the world's only full-time, professional, science-based paranormal investigator. His careful, often-innovative investigations have won him international respect in a field charged with controversy. He is the author of numerous books, including most recently Tracking the Man-Beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More and Real or Fake? Studies in Authentication and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation. See www.joenickell.com for more.

Customer Reviews

I wouldn't have minded if the book had been interesting, but it wasn't.
Doug Urquhart
To go through some of them: Occam's razor (the simplest answer is most likely to be right) is merely a study in probabilities, not an answer to anything.
John D. Muir
Nickell also displays (again, in this particular book) an astonishing lack of intellectual honesty.
Tom Carter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By safeinhevndead on November 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the amount of repetition of terms and definitions, I assume this is a collection of articles slapped together to make a book, which I find a little annoying. The parenthetical notes at the end of sentence after sentence, listing sources, etc, are like speed bumps and a bit distracting. In spite of these few minor gripes, I still found the material itself quite interesting and engaging. The author states from the start that when he makes an investigation into a claim, he's going to go with the simplest explanations requiring the least amount of assumptions, (Occam's razor). Some see this as having the intent to debunk and dismiss, but in reality it's simply to find a solution to a mystery. Were the solution actual proof of the paranormal, so be it. But this has yet to be the case.

One interesting thing brought up that I never really thought about myself- why exactly do ghosts wear clothing? Aren't they existing in a different plane of 'spiritual' existence? How then did non-spiritual, material items 'pass on' along with them?

Other, probably even better scientifically based paranormal books exist, (I have two in mind to read), but this book I believe is the only one dealing solely with ghosts/spiritualism. Recommended if the interest in the subject is there.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Mckinney on September 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
What I was looking for was hard science. What I got was a self-important author, casually dismissing cases with 3 or 4 pat "answers" over and over, ad nauseam. There's little investigation, for the most part he just recounts a ghost story and then dismisses it as a dream, a waking dream, a day dream, etc. Honestly, this 350 plus page book could have been a 20 page pamphlet, considering how often the author repeats himself.

Occasionally he does find a good scientific answer, such as the discovery of an adjacent iron staircase to the MacKenzie house used by cleaning crews at night. I wanted more of those, but they were few and far between. I can't recommend this book to anyone.
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35 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Tom Carter on October 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
Being short on time and basing my decision only on blurbs, I assigned this book to my college freshman seminar on intellectual inquiry. I had hoped the book would offer a systematic look at what science tells us about the various physical, physiological and psychological factors that trick people into thinking they have encountered a ghost.

I have apologized to my students.

In this book, Nickell does not investigate or explain -- he merely dismisses. In all fairness, he may have fully investigated some of these cases thoroughly and published that information elsewhere (he does cite himself quite liberally), but in this particular book all we get is a summary of the claims of the case and then one of his summary stock answers. All apparitions are waking dreams or sleep paralysis episodes. All near-death experiences are anaerobic hallucinations. All EVPs are white-noise pattern seeking. What's worse, and what makes the title of the book so misleading (and the book so disappointing to me and my students), is that Nickell does not offer any of the rich scientific research behind any of those explanations.

Nickell also displays (again, in this particular book) an astonishing lack of intellectual honesty. Time and again he takes cases that have long been discredited (the Amityville house, the Fox sisters, Victorian-era ghost photography) or popular television shows, movies and even tourist attractions and presents them as if they're being offered as some of the most credible encounters available. By choosing such low-hanging fruit, he doesn't have to exert himself too hard to join in the already-established discrediting.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By crg80 on May 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
When I purchased Joe Nickell’s The Science of Ghosts, I had no knowledge of the author or his previous body of work. I've since learned that Nickell is a well-known skeptic who’s published several books covering everything from apparitions to UFOs. He also writes for the Skeptical Inquirer.

In The Science of Ghosts, Nickell dismisses mediums and psychics, as well as various paranormal phenomenon like premonitions, spirit photography, and automatic writing. He also examines, and debunks, several famous hauntings which is what I found most interesting.

Nickell offers a variety of explanations for so-called ghostly experiences. For example, he argues that bedside apparitions are the product of “waking dreams” and that spirits seen during waking hours are mental images briefly projected from the subconscious mind. Other experiences, he argues, can easily be attributed to hallucinations, misperceptions, pranks, or flat-out trickery.

In The Science of Ghosts, Nickell also notes the human propensity to exaggerate or invent spooky stories. He cites several legends in which a tragic figure is said to haunt a castle, lighthouse, or old mansion despite no evidence of the person’s existence or the events said to befall them. All it takes is a creepy legend and the power of suggestion, Nickell says, for people to start seeing ghosts.

On the whole, I enjoyed Nickell’s book even though he refutes the existence of ghosts and refers to paranormal bloggers like myself as “credulous ghost mongers.” Nickell’s arguments raise a lot of interesting points even if they do take the fun out of spooky tales.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Joe Nickell has been called "the modern Sherlock Holmes." Since 1995 he has been the world's only full-time, professional, science-based paranormal investigator. His careful, often innovative investigations have won him international respect in a field charged with controversy.

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The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead
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