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The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead Paperback – June 26, 2012
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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."
"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.
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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.
As the Great Carl Sagan was found of saying "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". You say you seen a ghost or a house that is haunted, then show me the evidence. Read this book and great insight into the way a real investigation is carried out.
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.
The book is also very repetitive, with the same terms being defined many times, as though the reader might have forgotten what they mean. Unless the target audience is very young children or not very intelligent adults, both of which I doubt, a firm hand with the blue pencil would have made the book much more readable.
There are some interesting cases and Nickell does much better when dealing with fraud or demonstrable physical causes,which really are capable of scientific explanations. However, a few paragraphs about a case followed by another definition of waking dreams or fantasy-prone individuals isn't at all satisfactory, even though as a skeptic myself I have no doubt that the evidence for ghosts is both unconvincing and illogical.
Fewer cases and much more thorough accounts would have made this a much better book.