I like to occasionally check out the juvenile literature section of the local library to see what is in the paranormal-themed books for kids. I picked up this book from the library recently:
Ghosts: And Real-Life Ghost Hunters (24/7: Science Behind the Scenes: Mystery Files) by Michael Teitelbaum, 2008, and was pleasantly surprised. What a nice book for the curious kid aged 8-12.
I started out hesitant – these books frequently seem to be just bits and pieces copies from other books, same old stuff with some flashy pictures and type font. It begins with some famous ghost photos. I noticed two photos – the Watertown Ghosts and Ghostly Girl (of Wem) have since been solved through diligent (and skeptical) investigation!
Then there is a page on your ghost hunting team. You’ll have the investigators, the sensitives, the techs, the researchers, the EVP specialists. I’m frowning now. In the next section, skeptics and disbelievers are lumped together under one description which is shorter than that of believers. But neither is wrong.
Then, there are three “True-life cases” presented. The first is Houdini. There were several pages describing his life’s work in foiling the psychic business of the time. By the time I got to the sidebar “Dirty Tricks: How did mediums fool their clients, “ I was smiling. This is a thoughtful, well-written book.
Case 2 is the Barnstable House in Cape Cod. It’s a typical haunted history house. This section briefly describes the investigation by pro-paranormal teams. An insert describes their equipment. For a few pieces, the author notes that there is no scientific proof for the claims that the tool can detect ghosts. He also notes that EVPs are controversial and tells you why. He describes the “evidence” gathered that the groups call “paranormal” and ends the tale with a business resident providing a more reasonable explanation for what they found. Foiled again.
Case 3 is a great contrast to the processes described in Case 2. Case 3 is Joe Nickell investigating the MacKenzie house in Toronto. Joe famously went in and asked questions. How about that for a method! He readily found reasonable explanations for so called paranormal activity. At the end, the author tacitly ties both case 2 and 3 together in the description of “jumping to conclusions”.
He provides brief examples about the Ghost Hunters at work on their TV show and so called haunted hotel. And, he ends with an interview with James Alcock, psychologist. Teitelbaum’s choice of interview suggests that if you are curious about ghosts, which is a belief, not a fact, you might want to study psychology.
In the author’s note at the end, I see that Loyd Auerbach (a parapsychologist) was the content adviser. But, the real influence was Joe Nickell. Teitelbaum notes Nickell “presented an open-minded, logical approach” that “rang true”. Yay. The skeptical method wins.
I strongly recommend this book for your budding paranormal investigator and for library donations.