Ghosts - True Encounters With the World Beyond
Hans Holzer (Author)

1997/2004 (Paperback ed.)/Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc./14.95 (Year/Publisher/Price), 761 pages

Hans Holzer devoted a lifetime to studying paranormal occurrences. A prolific author with 138 books and numerous plays, scripts, documentaries and musicals to his credit, this massive tome is a compilation from previously published works. Holzer penned an updated foreword for the paperback edition issued in 2004 lauding the resurgence of interest in things beyond this world, but it is within the first three chapters that he iterates his somewhat (for the times) controversial philosophies upon the natures of life, death, ghosts and the living. In the fourth chapter he speaks with learned authority on exactly what a ghost is and expounds on the multiple types of hauntings and their underlying causes. The remaining chapters are dedicated to the retelling of many of his encounters both domestic and abroad.

The accounts of his investigations were written well before the advent of the modern technology familiar to current researchers, so there is no mention of electromagnetic field fluctuations or those controversial phenomena called orbs. Holzer's gear consisted very simply of a non-digital camera and an analog cassette recorder, though he did rely heavily upon trance mediums, notably Ethel Meyers, Sybil Leek, and Eileen Garrett. The most recent story related comes from the early 1980's, thus for an enthusiast who has little sense of the history of parapsychological research, many of the tales will seem quite dated, lacking the requisite "thrill of the hunt" as portrayed in today's popular (and heavily edited) ghost hunter television programs.

Though short on evidential data readouts, there is no lack of chills. Holzer's journalistic style is straightforward, without needless embellishment, yet many of the more than 175 individual stories elicit dreadful shivers, while others offer observations that are rooted in a delightfully dry sense of humor. The accounts range widely, including famous hauntings and historical figures, though most are representative of the disruption caused in everyday homes for everyday persons by lingering, restless spirits. It is the personal perspectives of the victims that Holzer's case histories provide which brings home the unnerving reality that ghosts are literally everywhere, and it is doubly disconcerting when one realizes that many of the essential persons interviewed in this work are now long deceased themselves.

The book is printed double column style and the font type is very small, which allows plenty of information to be packed in, yet also creates heavy eyestrain for the reader. The several photographs included are black and white which does lend to the aforementioned dated feel of the work, and, for a color-oriented generation, tends to foster a bit of a sterile textbook flavor as well. Still most of the stories are relatively short in length which makes this an ideal book to peruse when one doesn't have the luxury of hours to devote to a novel.

Meticulously researched and scrupulously documented, this compendium is an excellent reference source for any paranormal investigator in both procedure and method. With documented hauntings crossing nearly every spectrum, it is also an in-depth comparative field manual of sorts. The only fly in the ointment that raises a complaint (and this is only because of a personal fastidiousness regarding anything in printed media) is the occasional typographical error. Those infrequent errors must be attributed to laxity on the publisher's behalf rather than a fault of the author. For readers unfamiliar with Holzer and his contributions to the field or for those who already are fans, this is a definitive work that should be in anyone's library.

Rating: 4**** of 5***** - LadyJEM - 08/21/09