Title: Ghost Hunting for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
Author(s): Rich Newman
Published 2011 by Llewellyn
ISBN: 0738726966
ISBN-13: 978-0738726960
Paperback, 426 pages
List: $17.95
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Reviewer: Mike Gleason

I'm going to stray from the Pagan/Craft path for a bit, but only by a little, since many of us have an interest in the paranormal in addition to our other interests.

Mr. Newman's previous book (The Ghost Hunter's Field Guide), which I reviewed last year, told prospective ghost hunters WHERE to go for ghostly experiences. This book is designed to help you investigate and document those experiences. Although there are ample anecdotal references, the emphasis is on proper attitude, proper use of equipment, proper procedures, etc. It is a valuable resource for that reason.

With the popularity of programming concerning ghosts and paranormal experiences on cable TV and the internet, more people are getting involved. Unfortunately, there is a lot of enthusiasm, but not a lot of preparation and proper documentation. Trust me, some of the shows are more about promoting the individuals and their own beliefs (and in some cases, selling merchandise) than they are about attempting to offer scientific explanations concerning the phenomenon. Sometimes the only response at the end of the investigation is "We didn't encounter anything, so we can't make a judgment," but that doesn't make for good ratings

Mr. Newman offers advice and guidance which, until colleges and universities begin to offer courses leading to certification in this field, will serve the novice well. His primary advice, and something which applies universally, is to approach any potentially haunted location with an open mind. Being a complete believer is no better than being a total debunker. The paranormal, by definition, is that which lies outside of "normal" experience (notice that the word is "normal" not "natural". Nothing can be supernatural [beyond nature], since that is an all-encompassing word), and therefore must be carefully investigated BEFORE a decision can be reached.

I do not always agree with the author's evaluation of some of the investigators in the field, past and present, but that is all I can say. He has his opinions, I have mine, and neither one needs to justify themselves. On the other hand, his recommendations for documenting occurrences are spot on, and should be obvious to anyone (which is precisely why they need to be stated).

He explains each of the tools necessary for the work at hand in their own chapters, and offers a variety of options based on the size of the group and how much money is available for outfitting the team. He goes into detail about what you need to do (and not do) for your results to be taken seriously. Many of his suggestions are decidedly low tech, which is nice to see in today's economy.

This book is an excellent stepping off point for the novice. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be followed by a volume aimed at the "intermediate" ghost hunter since, by the time you have progressed beyond the beginner/novice stage, most of what follows depends upon your own ability to interpret results, and there is no way to teach that. Each encounter and experience is unique.

He stresses, throughout the book, the necessity for accurate record keeping. This is one of those things which are so obvious, it shouldn't need stating so it needs to be restated often. I remember passing along a little bit of (to me) obvious knowledge to a student one day: "Everybody knows that if you cut an apple horizontally, you reveal a pentagram in the core." The problem was, no one had ever told him that, so it came across as a revelation to him. And it shouldn't have! As one of my favorite characters in the Sci-Fi world (Lazarus Long) once said: "If 'everybody knows' such-and-such, then it ain't so, by at least ten thousand to one."

If you are interested in ghost hunting, either as a profession or as a hobby, this book is an absolute necessity BEFORE you buy your first piece of equipment, and definitely before you tackle your first investigation. At then end, after providing all kinds of technical advice the author segues into helping you set up your group (informal or formal; religious, psychic, or scientific, recreational or professional, website or no website are all topics he looks at, helping you find sources of income (after warning the reader that it is an "industry standard" that no group charges for an investigation), as well as providing checklists for the gear you will probably want to acquire, the steps in a proper investigation, and a short glossary of terms.

Remember when I said "... until colleges and universities begin to offer courses leading to certification in this field...", this book would make a good basis for setting up such courses. Naturally there would need to be additional texts and training, but with this book on your shelf, you will be off to a good start.


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