Tuesday, November 08, 2011

"Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death" by Deborah Blum

"Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death"
by Deborah Blum
read by George K. Wilson
Produced by Sound Library (2006)
approx 13 hours

It seems to be a recent trend to go out and try to find proof of the existence of ghosts, spirits and all things paranormal. We have "reality" TV shows showing ghost hunters and search amazon.com for ghost hunting and you can find all sorts of equipment that theoretically aids the hunt for ghosts. But this trend has been with humankind ever since we began burying our dead and trying to find out what happens next. Pulitzer prize winning writer, Deborah Blum takes a look at some 19th Century ghost hunting int the book, "Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death." During this time period Harvard professor William James, remembered more for his contributions to psychology and philosophy than psychical research, was one of the early leaders in scientific research aimed ultimately at determining whether consciousness survives bodily death.

From the mediums speaking to the spirit of a dead girl to find her body to tricksters using various contraptions to fool the audience, several members of society's Intelligencia (both British and American) were looking to prove or disprove psychical arts. William James sought out to apply objective scientific methods to the study of paranormal phenomena. Many times a fraud was found but sometimes during this book you just have to wonder.

Deborah Blum tells this story of intellectuals, philosophers, pyschologists, Nobelists from the 19th Century into the early part of the 20th Century trying to bridge the gap between science and religion when religion was being questioned by the theory of evolution and the the new sciences. I found it quite interesting as to how many folks were out to fool the public in the name of talking to the dead. I had listened to the Mary Roach book "Spook" and she also talked of the the same fakes trying to earn a buck by holding seances. In fact, this book would make a great companion to that book or vice versa.

The narrator George K. Wilson (no relation) does a superb job of narrating the book and even throws in some voice changes and accents when representing quotes from various people in this documentary. I have also heard some other books read by Wilson and I have decided that any documentary or non-fiction audio book I look at I will immediately get the book if he is the reader. He has a way that presents the story or information with no opinion yet keeps the information very interesting to hear.

So, if the study of the paranormal or you're thinking about becoming a ghost hunter like on TV, check out the history of debunking and proof in this book.

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