October 28, 2013

Egon Spengler Would Approve: a review of Dr. Leo Ruickbie's "A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting"

A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting
by Dr. Leo Ruickbie
Running Press (2013 US)
first published by Constable + Robinson (2013 UK)
362 pages
ISBN 9781780338262

I don't believe in ghosts, but I used to when I was little, so the idea of ghost hunting has fascinated me for a long time. Mind you, never enough to actually go out and do it, since not believing in ghosts precludes me from expecting to find anything beyond a damp evening of uneventful lurking. But, hey, I won't begrudge anyone else from having a good time.

Dr. Leo Ruickbie may be a specialist in the field of witchcraft, but if A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting is any indication, the man knows he way around a haunted house as well.

Divvied up into nine chapters, this so-called brief guide felt much more extensive than I originally expected. In order they are: Prepare, Equip, Investigate, Identify, Locate (What?), Locate (Where?), Contact, Explain, Survive. That's a pretty good way to go about any investigation I suppose, though that last one about surviving may be unique to ghost hunting. There's a lot about the paranormal packed in the 360+ pages of this book, with more footnotes, graphs, and recommended reading than you can shake an EMF meter at.

Given Ruickbie's nationality, the book has a UK-centric approach to the subject matter, but there's more than enough offered to American readers as an enticement, and ghosts and hauntings are such a universally accessible topic that the overall approach is highly digestible no matter where you call home.

The historical aspects of ghost hunting alone were fascinating in the early goings of the book, as was the highlights on specific pieces of equipment used in investigations. The science of ghosts may feel a bit of a contradiction, but apparently the people going to sites and getting knee-deep in this stuff aren't out there to just muck about. An enlightening bit of information came in how many of the more historic and reputable investigators are so bare-bones in their equipment. A pen, a pad, and as few distractions as possible, and they're ready to go.

There's focus on things like the Ouija board and infrared cameras, and a myriad of sightings and disturbances. Then there's a great chapter that explores all of the stringently logical and evidence-based explanations and debunking of hauntings and sightings. There's a great bit about something called the quantum poltergeist and how the human mind can work to manipulate physical objects, which in turn could be perceived as a ghostly event. It sounds utterly bonkers, but it appeared in New Scientist. Then there's the good old-fashioned chicanery of hoaxes and pranks.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it doesn't really matter as far as this book goes, because the catalog of information is just a banquet for the imagination. Dr. Ruickbie has another book called A Brief Guide to the Supernatural, which takes a broader look at all things paranormal, and if it's as enjoyable to pore through as this book was, I will have to put it on my to-be-read pile.


  1. Well, at one point of my life I wanted to do a research on ghosts. Seems like this book is tailor made for me!

  2. It would likely serve as a good primer and a jumpoff towards other books.