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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: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 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: #989,782 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.

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.

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

15 of 19 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John D. Muir on December 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
It's rare for me to read a book and find that I agree almost entirely with the author's conclusions, but yet find the book very unsatisfying. There are several reasons for this.

First, the book tries to cover too much ground. Dozens of cases are discussed, but most in such minimal detail that there's no sense of the scope of the investigation. This is made doubly irritating by the plethora of references to earlier works, many of them by the author, which presumably (I haven't read any of Mr. Nickell's other books) do deal with cases in greater detail. This book reads more like 'The best of Joe Nickell' in which the author cherry-picks his own favorite past cases and gives a few highlights.

Second, there is very little actual science in the book. I appreciate that it is extremely difficult in some cases to prove a negative, but Mr. Nickell offers up various terms as though they are explanations in themselves. 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. Extremely simple answers have proven to be wrong- creationism is simple, evolution is extremely complex, but evolution is what actually happened. Arguing through ignorance is a logical issue, not a scientific proposition. Even if someone is arguing through ignorance they might still be right- because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. Waking dreams and fantasy-prone individuals just increase the number of possibilities; indeed, unless it can be proven (and this book doesn't do it) that the purported paranormal experience was a waking dream or the result of a fantasy, suggesting that either of these are the explanation is actually arguing through ignorance.
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32 of 44 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.
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5 of 6 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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