Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review: Seeking Spirits

They’re baaaaaaack!

America’s favorite ghost hunters, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, return to the print world with their second book, Seeking Spirits, a follow-up to their 2007 best-seller, Ghost Hunting. This new book, with the exact same number of pages as its predecessor, carries the somewhat curious sub-title, The Lost Cases of the Atlantic Paranormal Society. Lost? From whom? Certainly the authors had enough in their files to recount the early, pre-TV show adventures of the T.A.P.S. investigators in their local New England haunts. Lost? Seemingly these cases are lost only to exploitation by the SyFy Channel, which, in case you have been astral projecting to Venus for the last several years, broadcasts the popular TV series “Ghost Hunters”, which our boys Jason and Grant produce.

Anyway …

Seeking Spirits, like Ghost Hunting before it, is a collection of short (mainly 4 to 8 page) recountings of paranormal investigations. And, like Mama Gump’s observation about life, the book resembles the proverbial “box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, what you get here are 36 chocolates – er, chapters – and what’s inside each is often a surprise. There are tales of poltergeists, demons, an incubus or two, hallucinogenic drug combinations, a client suffering from dementia, ouija boards, a doppleganger, and, of course, your every day garden-variety ghosts. Strangest of all is a case involving peeping-Tom gray aliens. (The boys had to refer their client to an E.T. exterminator here, not wanting to cross union lines.) In a strange twist, perhaps the book’s scariest chapter has its fear generated by humans, with Jason and Grant escaping a pesky gang of Satan worshippers. (“Run, Forrest, run!”) The book derives strength from its variety, keeping you guessing what’s lurking, waiting for you in the shadows of the next chapter.

Grant Wilson, the “good cop”, of our paranormal pair, is a much more active participant in Seeking Spirits than he was in Ghost Hunting, and the book is much the better for it. He fully narrates half the stories here, as opposed to adding sporadic one or two sentence comments as he did in Ghost Hunting. He also recounts, in the book’s introduction, the extended experience he had as a youth that motivated his fascination with the paranormal. Interesting stuff.

Many of the chapters end with sub-sections entitled “Ghost Hunter’s Manual.” These give back-stories, histories, or explanatory information about ghost hunting techniques, devices, or definitions, and they’re usually quite informative. Topics range from the history of the “talking ouija board” (invented in 1890) to the onset of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), “discovered” in Sweden in 1959. (No wonder some EVPs are hard to understand … the ghosts are speaking Swedish!) Sophisticated, serious readers of books and articles on the paranormal and its investigative equipment may find the information basic, but others will find it enlightening.

Which brings us to the basic tone of the book. Ultimately, Seeking Spirits is conversational. It’s like sitting down at a table in a bar and, while chasing down some liquid spirits, listening to two regular guys talk about chasing spirits of the more ephemeral kind. There is no tightly controlled scientific research into the paranormal related here, with data and numbers and analyses leading to objective conclusions about the realm of ghosts. It’s two guys telling stories about helping clients with strange and very unwanted problems. That is exactly what they claim the goal of their investigations to be … and what this book is all about.

All in all … a very enjoyable read.

The Ghost Reader

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