30 May 2010


John Fraser. Ghost Hunting: A Survivor's Guide. The History Press, 2010

The author is vice-chair (investigations) of The Ghost Club (that faction of the old Ghost Club which allows non-toffs to join) and a member of the Spontaneous Cases Committee of the Society for Psychical Research.
His book on ghost hunting does not go into the detailed minutiae of equipment that A Beginner's Guide to Paranormal Investigation reviewed by John Rimmer does, but perhaps provides a broader overview.

He looks at the various groups involved, concentrating on the Ghost Club, Society for Psychical Research and ASSAP, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each, and provides much practical advice for ghost hunters, including the types of location to choose and avoid, and times of the year to watch out for. Particularly ghost hunters should avoid half-built follies in the middle of winter, and just about any urban location in the firework season. He also gives much sensible advice on making sure that your teams are small enough to be handled.

Fraser also critically examines the various types of equipment used, and rather suggests that some of these seem to be taken mainly because they look impressively scientific, rather than for their practical use. Much more controversially he seems to be in favour of taking 'psychics' and 'mediums' along. This surely is assuming the answers before asking the questions, and apart from a nod toward the infrasound theories of Vic Tandy there is little attempt to get beyond such folkloric 'explanations' of ghosts such as spirits or the 'stone tape' theory. If it is entertaining stories that will add to the atmosphere, it might be better to hire a local folklorist or story teller, they are likely to be far more professional in their actions, and far less heavy duty.

Of course, looking through the various locales mentioned here, it seems that the main aim of this sort of ghost hunting is having a rather spooky time in 'ye olde haunted spot', reinforcing the folkloric image of ghosts being associated with decaying mansions and country houses, rather than with cinemas, shopping centres, car factories and quite modern private homes. Of course, as Fraser points out, there are a number of practical problems with many of these, as well as ethical problems with the latter.

While this sort of ghost hunting may be good fun for those who take part, Fraser has to concede that they are not at all likely to provide evidence to convince sceptical outsiders that something anomalous is going on, still less what exactly these anomalies might be. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From John Fraser (Author)
Hi there,

Just came across this review of my book and could resist a quick comment.

I agree with most of the comments put in the review especially the one that this type (or any type) of ghost hunting is unlikely to convince sceptical outsiders at present. What the book tries to argue is that as we do not yet know what ghosts are or indeed for sure if they exist at all any 'scientific' approach has to be as speculative as traditional methods - for a phenomina that may beyond our current science.

What ghost hunters can do is to test their own belief system with rational experimentation and record data in such a way as to eventually tempt more field research from Universities etc . This is why I spent a chapter discussing the current state of research in Universities.

The only comment I do not agre with is the suggestion that using mediums is putting the question before the answer. Logically speaking this is the same as saying that using a digital camera would mean that I believed that the 'orbs' it would pick up from time to time were paranormal?

The afterlife theory of the paranormal is one that needs to be tested and seeing if mediums (taken in 'blind' ) to a premises come up with valid or invalid information seems to be a rational way of exploring this theory.

The investigation of ghosts is still very much in the pre scientific stage and a few bits of electronics whilst potentially very useful will not change that quite yet .

To answer your question directly .

Ghost Hunting for Fun ... (yes ofcourse) but also to:-
**Provide relief and assistance for those who are genuinely scared.
** To provide good quality and well researched data for the future.
** To help the individual investigator decide and test his own system of beliefs.

Even if we can't quite prove or disprove ghosts to the outside world yet , it seems to me that all the above are still very worthy things to pursue.

Many thanks for the thought provoking review Peter and all the best with your very good blogg.

All the best

John Fraser