A Book Report on Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters

Ghostology 101a

Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death (Penguin Press, 2006), by Pulizer-Prize winning author Deborah Blum, might disappoint readers looking for true stories of actual ghost hunts in haunted houses and the like. Instead, the book focuses on scientists from the late 1800s and early 1900s who investigated spiritualist mediums, clairvoyants, and the like. William James, brother of the fiction (and ghost story) writer Henry James, was among those scientists, and he serves as the hub of Blum’s book.

However, this isn’t exactly a biography of James, either. Rather the book spans the interest in psychical research of many scientists and scholars — William Crookes, Edmund Gurney, Oliver Lodge, Nora and Henry Sidgwick, et al. — so many, in fact, keeping some of the names straight can become a challenge. Nonetheless, readers get a good sense of the opposition facing these intellectuals from both Europe and the U.S. Blum also explores the internal tensions felt between these figures, who became the key players in forming the Society for Psychical Research and its American branch. Continue reading “A Book Report on Deborah Blum’s Ghost Hunters”

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A Book Report on D. Felton’s Haunted Greece and Rome

Ghostology 101aThis post might as easily go with those I categorize as “Unearthing the Unearthly: My Literary Digging.” It also has implications for the Spectral Edition clippings I post each Wednesday. This is because D. Felton’s enlightening book Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories from Classical Antiquity (University of Texas Press, 1999) is as much about ghosts in literature as it is about actual historical records of ghosts. And it will appeal to readers interested in either.

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A Book Report on Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation, by R.C. Finucane

Ghostology 101aGhosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation, by R.C. Finucane (Prometheus, 1996) looks at the history of ghosts with a wide-angle lens. The author opens with classical Greek and Roman accounts and closes with a brief look at how ghosts manifest in the twentieth century. His emphasis is on Western Civilization with an open bias toward British specters.

Continue reading “A Book Report on Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation, by R.C. Finucane”