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Ghost Hunting for Beginners

From the publisher’s website: If you're one of the countless fans of ghost hunting TV shows itching to get off the couch and track some spirits on your own, this book provides everything you need to know to conduct a successful paranormal investigation.

Professional ghost hunter Rich Newman shares proven scientific methods, tried-and-true low-tech approaches, and the latest technology used by the pros. You'll learn what ghosts are, why hauntings occur, the different types of supernatural phenomena, and the importance of conducting responsible investigations. Find out how to form a team, interact with ghosts, gather and examine evidence — and what not to do when seeking spirits.  Along with helpful hints, insider tips, and seasoned insights gained from Newman's decade of field work, Ghost Hunting for Beginners is peppered with true accounts of ghost stories from famous cases and the author's own investigations.

Rich Newman (Tennessee) has been investigating the paranormal for over ten years and is the founder of the group Paranormal Inc. He is also a filmmaker whose first feature film, a documentary called Ghosts of War, will be released in 2011. His articles have appeared in Haunted Times and Paranormal Underground.

First Author: 
Rich Newman
Reviewed for SPR by: 
Tom Ruffles
SPR Review: 

Given that there are so many ‘how to’ guides for the paranormal investigator on the market, potential purchasers are bound to ask why they should buy this one and not some other.  Rich Newman, founder of the group Paranormal Inc, asks the same question and supplies a number of answers. Firstly it is aimed at the beginner, and is laid out is a clear, logical manner.  Secondly it uses scientific methods. Thirdly, it is based on the author’s extensive experience, making it reliable.  So how does the book measure up to these claims?

Well, it will not go over the beginner‘s head but while it is straightforward, it is not patronising.  We begin with some definitions, and. while his categorisations are fine at this level, the idea of demonic infestation is controversial, though fortunately not an issue many groups are likely to run across.  There is some background on why the paranormal is so popular, and a very brief history of ghost hunting.  He clearly points out that ghost tourism is a commercial activity and that ghost-hunting reality shows have more to do with ratings than the paranormal – important points for the would-be investigator to appreciate.  In his view, while the TV shows are entertaining (debatable in mine), they are not suitable models for groups.

The heart of the book is a practical guide on how to carry out investigations, sprinkled with case studies, many Newman’s own, to illustrate points.  He deals with the basics of good practice and emphasises the need to rule out normal explanations before assessing an event as possibly more (though, as always, one is left wondering how one ever knows if something was truly paranormal rather than misperception or equipment-generated artefact).  He stresses the need to adopt a neutral approach to cases rather than have preconceived ideas, and to be sensitive to the situation and beliefs of the client/host.

There are several chapters devoted to equipment, broken up into audio, video, photography and environmental monitors.  These sections are very useful, and emphasise the importance of experimentation, trying new approaches and discarding what does not work.  This is all generally sound, though he does not indicate that the use of EMF meters is controversial.  He cautions against the use of mediums – not recommended as they provide false information that confuses the situation – and has sensible advice on the use of Ouija boards.

Newman’s methodology is encapsulated by the acronym DICE – Detect, Interact, Capture, Escalate,  After the pre-investigation research stage and once a vigil is in progress, you first detect your ghost; interact with It if possible; capture evidence; and finally escalate the interaction by generating energy, giving the ghosts a source on which to ‘feed’ in order to manifest more clearly.  These are not discrete steps but indicate the necessary elements of a successful investigation.  He finishes with advice on forming a group and putting a website together.  Appendices cover suggestions for equipment to take, a short step-by-step checklist for an investigation, recommended books and websites, and a glossary.

The book is clearly written and will be of use not only to beginners but older hands as well, though anyone with some experience will soon want to supplement it with a more detailed guide.  The equipment chapters are particularly useful, full of tips for the novice on a tight budget wondering how to prioritise purchases.  Ghost Hunting for Beginners is definitely a good place for anyone wanting to give field work a try to begin, setting out the need for professionalism, sensitivity and good practice above all else.  There is one error I must correct though – in describing the Toronto ‘Philip’ experiment, Newman says that the scenario included Philip serving in the American Civil War.  It was of course the English Civil War: ‘he’ fought at Marston Moor.