Book Review: “Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death” by Deborah Blum

This book looks unassuming but it is 321 pages dedicated to a lot of history between 1842-the early 1920’s. The book isn’t written like your standard history book but instead much like a Victorian fiction novel, describing each person as characters from the author’s mind. But these aren’t characters, they were real people, and these things did happen. The author clearly spent a lot of time researching the letters between the members of the SPR (Society for Psychical Research) in Europe and the ASPR (American Society for Psychical Research). The SPR was founded in 1882 and the ASPR was founded in 1884. These are the oldest psychical research organizations dedicated to the study of parapsychology. The outcome of the authors research is a deep dive into the lives of the members from these two research organizations.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, while it is long, it is a good history of the people who founded the study of Parapsychology. Those of us who are currently conducting paranormal research should understand where the study began and the players. This book tells of how the founders came to the field of psychical research but also the struggles they faced in pursuing their research. Just be prepared for a long story.

Pros: There is a LOT of information in this book! I think multiple reads would be needed to fully process all that information. Also, if you are a fan of history written in story format, you will enjoy this book.

Cons: It’s long and sometimes I wondered if it was overdetailed in the descriptions of the individuals. The author put a lot of effort into trying to make each person real for the reader and that can be nice but when there are a lot of characters, it can also bog down the book. It very much reads like a Victorian novel in which I need a chart to track all the characters and their whereabouts. Once again, this will be pleasant for some who enjoy Victorian literature but for others, it will be a barrier that will stop them about halfway through the second chapter.

You can purchase your own copy of the book here.

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