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Hardcover Ghost Hunters : William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life after Death Book

ISBN: 1594200904

ISBN13: 9781594200908

Ghost Hunters : William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life after Death

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Blum tells the fascinating story of William James--philosopher and Harvard psychiatry professor--and his scientific investigation into unexplainable incidences of clairvoyance and ghostly visitations.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Excellent Book About Ghosts and "Ghost Hunters"

Deborah Blum has produced one of the best books about ghosts and "ghost hunters" to come along in quite a while. As its subtitle suggests, it centered on 19th Century thinker William James and his quest to investigate allegations of ghostly activity and alleged clairvoyants and spiritual mediums who claimed to be in contact with such ghosts. Many of these ghost hunters, such as James, were quite skeptical of ghosts. Most of their cases involved palpable frauds. However, there were a few cases such as that of Boston medium Leonora Piper that they were unable to explain away. This is an excellent and fascinating book about a subject that has received too little attention from serious writers.

Yes this book is worthwhile!

I borrowed this book from my local library. I had no real investment in it. I was really blown away. Basically you have the best scientific minds of the time looking for proof of the supernatural, specificaly ghosts. What they find will suprise and engage you. Even though they were top level scientists they were also very human and this book makes that clear. Like the other reviewers noted, basicaly what the scientists found was so compelling to them they literaly risked their entire careers to pursue it. Like today the scientific community during the Victorian era was no more flexible or open-minded. As the reader will discover, many of key scientists got involved for the sole purpose of disproving the existance of ghosts and putting the whole sorid subject to bed. Once they used their scientific criterion to explore the subject they had to explore further. Give this book a try. It might not change your current views but it will overwhelm you.

The History of a Quest

An excellent, insightful and poetic book that provides historical insights into the founding and early years of both the Psychical Research Society in the UK and its American counter-part. Moreover it's a biographical study focusing on William James as the personal lens by which to view the lives and dedication of the initial founders of these organizations and the pioneering work they began. The historical/biographical efforts along these lines has been sorely needed for sometime. Nothing in contemporary parapsychological literature quite compares to Ms. Blum's work. This is a complex and admirable psychological study of these remarkably brilliant men and women that questioned those existential questions of the survival of death in a rigorous scientific manner for the first time. Driven, passionate and personally tragic for many of the original founders, this offers a glimpse into the social forces that sent these men on their search for that "otherness" beyond the mundane world. This work also offers a brief but excellent overview of the "cross correspondences" one of the strongest, on-going and too little known experiments that offers what some including myself believe to be one of the best cases for personal survival of death we have available. This is one volume that should be on the bookshelf of anyone intrested in Parapsychology and it's history.

Fascinating And Paradoxical

Ghost Hunters is a fine description of the effort to prove or disprove the existence and immortality of the soul. During the nineteenth century science was blasting through old boundaries and startling new developments and discoveries seemed to be announced every day. A group of Anglo-American researchers, led by the trailblazing psychologist William James, attempted to apply scientific techniques to the investigation of spiritualism, a craze for communicating with "spirits" which began with the famous Fox sisters in New York state and quickly spread. Mediums who claimed to be in touch with "the other side" held seances and delivered messages via a variety of methods from spirits to those still living. Most spiritualists were obvious either con artists or mentally ill (or both). But there were some who seemed to defy rational explanation at least part of the time, and it was on these exceptions that James and his associates in the Society for Psychical Research in London and its trans-Atlantic branch in New York focussed. The stories of the careers of these highly intelligent, scientific minded and curious men and women as detailed by Deborah Blum are absorbing. They were not fringe people, but included some of the greatest intellectual, political, and social lights of the day. They endured skepticisim and ridicule from many of their peers, but pressed on trying to solve the conumdrum of life after death. The stories of the mediums they investigated are also intriguing. I liked Leonora Piper, who though embarrassed by her apparent abilities put up with repeated investigations which sometimes left her physically injured and emotionally exhausted. I laughed at the stories of Eusapia Palladino, a lusty Neapolitan who was often detected cheating, but who sometimes produced unaccountable phenomena. Lastly I was perplexed by some of the strange tales of seances where some weird things were said and produced that no one could adequately explain away. If these stories were accurately transcribed and reported then it has to be admitted that some remarkably eerie spiritualist sessions took place. In the end the investigators retired or died themselves, unable to produce definitive proof of immortality (but again leading to some highly unusual seances and odd "communications" that, if accurately recorded, leave one with much to ponder.) Deborah Blum has written a scholarly but highly readable work. She very effectively mentions the more concrete scientific advances that were taking place at the same time that James and his partners were conducting their research, and places the "ghost hunters" soundly in the context of their time: a period when any mystery could be solved if solid science was applied and rigorous attention was paid to the tiniest detail. Its ironic but inevitable that the book has to end with James' ultimate question unanswered.

A Perfect 10!

If five stars were not the limit, I'd give this book a more perfect 10! My first awareness of this fascinating book was an e-mail from a friend who knew of my interest in the paranormal, especially spirit communication. I replied that I had not heard of the book and was not particularly interested in "ghost hunting." By the title of the book and without knowing the subtitle, I had assumed that this book was about modern parapsychologists visiting haunted houses with gadgets designed to detect "ghostly" cold spots and energy fields. I assumed wrong. When, a few weeks later, I saw the subtitle - "William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death" - I immediately knew the book was about the pioneering psychical research of yesteryear. It is a subject very dear to me. In fact, I have written often on the subject and had recently completed my own book, "The Articulate Dead: Bringing the Spirit World Alive" (due for release by Galde Press later this year or early next year). Noting that Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and journalism professor, I had more or less anticipated a contemptuous treatment of the subject matter. Since journalists generally tend to ape mainstream scientists in superciliously smirking, snickering, sneering, and scoffing at the paranormal, I assumed Blum would find much caustic humor in the pursuits of educated and reputable men (and one woman) who dared stray outside the bounds of scientific fundamentalism. I assumed wrong again. As the subtitle suggests, 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. The research was prompted by advances in science - advances that seemed to relegate religious dogma and doctrine to mere superstition. "Could any God - Christian or otherwise - survive in an age where religion feared science and science denied faith?" Blum expresses the sentiments of Frederic W. H. Myers, another pioneering researcher. "It was into that divide that Myers saw psychical research bravely marching. The goal was to bridge research and religion, to show that they were not incompatible, that one could even explain the other." Myers appears to have been motivated, Blum observes, by a feeling that science was reducing the universe to a large machine and people to small ones. Other scholars and scientists were similarly motivated. "He was an educated man; he understood and even appreciated the arguments for a purely mechanical universe," Blum describes Edmund Gurney, one of Myers' research associates. "Life lived as a cog in a cold, godless, indifferent machine, however, had come to seem to him unbearable." The research was primarily with mediums. "Mediums were peculiar creatures; there was no denying it about even the best
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