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

Front Cover
Penguin, 2007 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 370 pages
2 Reviews
A Pulitzer Prize?winning author tells the amazing story of William James?s quest for empirical evidence of the spirit world

What if a world -renowned philosopher and professor of psychiatry at Harvard suddenly announced he believed in ghosts? At the close of the nineteenth century, the illustrious William James led a determined scientific investigation into ?unexplainable? incidences of clairvoyance and ghostly visitations. James and a small group of eminent scientists staked their reputations, their careers, even their sanity on one of the most extraordinary quests ever undertaken: to empirically prove the existence of ghosts, spirits, and psychic phenomena. What they pursued? and what they found?raises questions as fascinating today as they were then.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

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

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In both Britain and the United States from roughly the 1850s to World War I, the general public was treated to a string of sensational presentations by mediums, a few of whom appeared to be genuine ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

I may get slammed for saying so, but I was very frustrated reading this book. After seeing the incredible cover picture and reading what it was about from the inside cover, I thought WOW!!
I
thought it was going to follow a time line of William James from when he first started into his investigation until he passed away, and reveal his findings or speculations. But instead, by page 50, he is only mentioned in a few places, and I actually became confused as to where he actually fit into psychical research. The book jumps around so erratically it is nearly impossible to follow a time line. It jumps forward, then backward then to this person, then to that person, then mentions this person, then a 4 page story about this person. Deborah Blum does have a voice, but just when a section starts to get interesting, she jumps to another time and person, and I cannot connect what relation one is to the next or before. And she sensationalizes, and ads a gossipy tone to the book.
I thought I would give this book a second chance and try to read it again after a long break from the book. By this point in time, I had increased my knowledge of the Modern Spiritualist movement and psychical research by reading such books as Mediums of the 19th Century (Two Volumes), Talking to the Dead : Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism, and Modern American Spiritualism: A twenty years' record of the communion between earth and the world of spirits, On the Threshold of the Unseen, Proceedings, Vol. 28 (Classic Reprint), and numerous books by the Society For Psychical Research and the American Society For Psychical Research, just to name a few.
Both Societies printed numerous volumes of findings in four different lines of books and numbered them by volume number: The Proceedings Of The Society For Psychical Research, The Journal Of The Society For Psychical Research, The Proceedings Of The American Society For Psychical Research, and The Journal Of The American Society For Psychical Research.
But Ms. Blum seems to have taken the names of the central players and weaved her own story regardless of what actually happened. She mixes facts about people up stating one thing happened to someone but in reality it really happened to someone else.
One of the things annoyed me in this book, it is stated that all three Fox sisters lived in a cabin in Hydesville, and that the oldest sister Leah was 16 years old. It states that the night the spirit rapping began in March 1848, all three sisters ran to the parent's bedroom and jumped in to the bed in fright. The facts really are that Leah was 35 years old, married, and lived in Rochester. It was over a month before Leah actually went to her parent's home and collected her two younger sisters Hydesville in History (Classic Reprint). The raps sounds still continued even after the two younger Fox Sisters, Kate and Maggie had been removed from the home. Ms. Blum also states that when the peddler that was murdered in the home years before the Fox Family took residence, that blood had been smeared on the wall as the body was dragged to the basement. This is not documented anywhere else, and if the peddler's blood had been smeared, who saw it on the wall as his death was not even noticed at the time it occurred. No one knew a peddler had been murdered there until it was revealed through the rapping sounds.
Another inaccuracy is about Katie Fox. Katie had a drinking problem and stumbled through her seances. That is a true fact. But Ms. Blum states that Katie did slate writing and dropped her slates. Katie did automatic writing, and there are two volumes Fox-Taylor Automatic Writing, 1869-1892; Unabridged Record, Edited by Sarah E. L. Taylor (1828-1906) Preface by W. G. Langworthy Taylor, Katie Fox, Epochmaking Medium, and the Making of the Taylor-Fox Record, and Katie wrote on brown paper, both hands, front wards and backwards, and talked at the same time. I have yet to read a written record showing that Katie did slate writing. The medium who dropped slates was Dr. Henry Slade who
 

Contents

PRELUDE
1
THE NIGHT SIDE
7
A SPIRIT OF UNBELIEF
33
LIGHTS AND SHADOWS
51
METAPHYSICS AND METATROUSERS
75
INFINITE RATIONALITY
105
ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
131
THE PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGY
157
THE INVENTION OF ECTOPLASM
185
THE UNEARTHLY ARCHIVE
209
A PROPHECY OF DEATH
237
A FORCE NOT GENERALLY RECOGNIZED
267
A GHOST STORY
295
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum is a professor of science journalism at the University of Wisconsin. She worked as a newspaper science writer for twenty years, winning the Pulitzer in 1992 for her writing about primate research, which she turned into a book, "The Monkey Wars" (Oxford, 1994). Her other books include "Sex on the Brain" (Viking, 1997) and "Love at Goon Park" (Perseus, 2002). She has written about scientific research for "The Los Angeles Times," "The New York Times," "Discover," "Health," "Psychology Today," and "Mother Jones." She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers and now serves on an advisory board to the World Federation of Science Journalists and the National Academy of Sciences.

Bibliographic information