In a recent discussion with a paranormal investigation group, I found myself referencing recommending books to check out for the latest on interesting facets of the field. I decided to share this annotated list.
First, there are three books that are “Handbooks” for spontaneous cases. They put ghost-hunting gadgetry in its place and re-orient the investigator to the proper aim of investigation: define the claim, assess if anything is happening, and then solve the problem. I consider these the best modern guides. If you are intent on pretending to be a TV-type investigator, then go waste your money on the paraceleb guides.
Radford expanded on the 2010 book with Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits (2018) to tackle more specifics in depth including EVP evidence.
Ghostology: The Art of the Ghost Hunter (2015) by Steve Parsons. Why are you using that gadget? Why do you conduct a “sweep” of the room? Do you even know why or is it just because you saw it on television? Parsons hits every point and is clear about what you should or should not bother with. This is a true ghost hunting guide. For more details, I reviewed it here. Get it in Kindle.
It’s important to have a background on the cultural history of ghosts. The classic book on the historical context of ghosts is Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation (1996, 2nd ed.) by R.C. Finucane. You simply can’t claim to understand the present phenomena of ghosts if you know nothing about how ghosts were depicted in the past. Get it.
Spirits of an Industrial Age: Ghost Imposture, Spring-heeled Jack and Victorian Society (2014) by Jacob Middleton . I was enamored with this book from which I learned an incredible amount of historical context for spirits and cultural ideas about haunting. The genuine stories taken from the media reports of a bygone era are fascinating. This book is highly readable, yet scholarly. Pick it up on Kindle for a steal.
The Haunted: A social history of ghosts (2007) by Owen Davies. This volume is incredibly well-researched. It can be dry at times but it is an essential volume to have as the social history of ghosts is THE history. This book is highly regarded and regularly referenced by scholars of ghost lore and literature. Get it.
The following three books are key volumes on modern examinations of ghost activity and cultural aspects.
Australian Poltergeists: The Stone-throwing Spook of Humpty Doo and Many Other Cases (2014) by Paul Cropper and Tony Healy. Stories of stone-throwing and fire-starting troubling house ghosts are not new. Yet the same themes occur in the present day. Cropper and Healy do an excellent job of documenting these cases, many of which were researched in person. Though they can’t explain what’s going on, I can’t recall another volume of this type. I wish the same book was done for other places in the world. More in my review here. Get it on Kindle.
Paranormal Media: Audiences, Spirits and Magic in Popular Culture (2010) by Annette Hill (no relation) This book is based on research into paranormal popular media addressing both a UK and US perspective. I used this book heavily for my thesis work. It is a scholarly book so the price is a bit steep but borrow it if you have to as this is essential information to consider when evaluating ghost claims. I reviewed it here.
Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (2015) edited by Etzel Cardeña, John Palmer, David Marcusson-Clavertz. This textbook is hefty but necessary. If one is to claim that they work in the field of amateur parapsychology, then you ought to at least know the state of the science. Even a perusal of this volume will show the wide chasm between ghost hunters and academic parapsycholgy. Read more about this here in my review. It’s often available through university libraries but the Kindle edition is reasonable.
In Alan Brown’s Ghost Hunters of New England (2008) you read firsthand candid views and opinions from amateur groups who bumped up against the “top” group The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) who went on to do the Ghost Hunters TV show. The groups interviewed for this book expressed their ties or distance to or from TAPS and the Connecticut-based, self-styled demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren. I saw their comments as revealing, provide curious trackbacks to what motivates a group and how they attempt to either follow an already forged path or try to differentiate themselves from the group in the next town. Some animosity and jealousy is apparent as groups hide their data from each other and stake out territory. Brown also tackled the groups in the South in a similar book. Get it.
Finally, these two volumes are excellent at discussing the booming paranormal business of today in historical contexts. If you don’t think that’s important to understand, you are missing a huge body of understanding.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (2016) by Colin Dickey. This book was so entertaining and enjoyable I could not put it down. After getting it from the library, I had to purchase a copy. It delves into the accurate history of places like Salem, the Lalaurie mansion, and the Winchester House. I was enlightened. And sometimes really angry at how the truth is buried for a quick buck. Absolutely grab this one.
Haunted Heritage: The Cultural Politics of Ghost Tourism, Populism, and the Past (2015) Michele Hanks. This book was an expansion of a thesis. Hanks covered a good bit of what I did as well in my book but in the UK so there are some differences. But it was critical to see how she developed the contexts for ghost researchers at their various levels of involvement. She showed how they long for experiences and ownership of their own heritage. U.S. readers will find these themes resonate in their communities as well. It will reveal a whole other level of meaning for participation in paranormal activities. Get it.
And of course, please purchase my book on paranormal researchers, Scientifical Americans. Head over to the page for more info.
I’m still reading so I may have a part 2 to this list. Please subscribe to the blog in the right sidebar.