Tuesday, March 2, 2010
CBR Book#32: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
I stumbled upon this book while browsing the library occult section. Sadly, our library's occult section is embarrassingly small. There wouldn't be enough there to research even the simplest demon if, you know, we had to do it so our Slayer could save the day. Just sayin'. Anyway, I was intrigued by the idea of taking different aspects of death and subjecting it to scientific measures. I was not disappointed by this book.
Roach has spent a lot of time making contact with researchers interested in the paranormal and the afterlife. Our first stop in the book is with a Dr. Rawat. He studies claims of reincarnation in India. A young boy is claiming that he is the reincarnation of a man named Veerpal. One of the pieces of 'evidence' to this claim? He fondled the breast of Veerpal's widow. I KNOW. Of course, Roach is unable to find anything corroborating the fact of reincarnation while with Dr. Rawat.
From here, Roach explores the ideas of mediums and ectoplasm, souls leaving the body at death, near-death experiences, electronic voice phenomena, electromagnetic fields, and other facets of the afterlife. I think I enjoyed the ectoplasm most of all since it generally involved hiding a length of cheesecloth to be expelled at the height of a seance. As many women were mediums in the heyday of ectoplasm, I'm sure you can guess where they might have hidden their stores of the alleged substance.
Roach is able to bring a large dose of humor into her research, making for an enjoyable read. Some of the information itself is so hilarious that it makes you wonder what we'll look at in eighty years as being moronic in science. Roach gives the researchers she meets with a fair shake and inserts herself into the studies where she can. In one case she puts herself into a 'haunting box' to test a theory about electromagnetic fields. Spook is definitely a worthwhile read.