Book Review: “Ghost Hunter” by Hans Holzer

Hans Holzer was an author and parapsychologist. He taught parapsychology at the New York Institute of Technology and wrote more than 120 books on ghosts and the afterlife. “Ghost Hunter” (1963) was his first book on the paranormal. During his investigations, Holzer would work with a trance medium to communicate with spirits. He writes “The chances of seeing an apparition, if you’re not sensitive yourself, are nil, and I don’t like to waste time.” “I don’t hold with the ghost hunter who spends a night alone in a haunted house, and then has nothing more to show for his bravery than a stiff back.” This book is a collection of stories about some of Holzer’s sittings and general thoughts on paranormal phenomena.

Would I recommend this book? Maybe, it depends on what the reader is looking for. If they want to know how mediums have been utilized in investigations, then this is a nice anecdotal reference. If they are looking for more information about Hans Holzer and his methods, this isn’t where I would start.

Pros: There are several short and easy to read stories in this book. At no time does Holzer delve into technical jargon or theories that would be unknown by the common reader. This is a pretty easy to read book.

Cons: I guess I was expecting something different from a book that is claims to be “The Groundbreaking Classic of Paranormal Investigation” as it reads as a collection of brief stories about his investigations. Only one case goes into any detail on a series of sittings and there are very few comments about specific techniques. He does briefly mention his thoughts on how to conduct an investigation, but that can be summarized as “use a medium if you want quick results”. He does not spend any substantial time talking about how he tests mediums or other methods he may use in addition to a medium in his investigations. Much of what he does is take a medium to a location, let the medium do their thing, and then check the history to see what correlates with the statements during the sitting.

Overall thoughts: While I understand that technology was still developing in the 1960’s, I feel like Hans Holzer was overly reliant on the testimony of psychic mediums. This book didn’t help me understand why his methods should be preferred over another method. What it did do was make me more curious about psychic medium, Eileen Garrett, who is noted to be a skeptical medium. I can understand wanting to utilize the skills of sensitive individuals, but it is important to balance those skills with other scientific processes to ensure that you are getting a full picture of a phenomena. I think learning about Hans Holzer is an important part of learning about the history of paranormal research but I am hoping there will be a better book out there to help me understand the man and his methods.

You can find your own copy of this book here.

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