Every so often, I get asked for a recommended reading list for those interested in the 'paranormal'. My usual answer is "I recommend everything provided it's actually read."
Not much of an answer but it's accurate.
The more information you have, the better rounded your abilities as either an investigator or even an informed 'ghost enthusiast'.
Still, a few books do stick out in my eyes as being an excellent starting point for anyone heading down this path. I don't subscribe to any one of them (in other words, there is no 'ghost bible' and probably never will (or should) be) but, these several books have helped steer me on both paths... one of interest and one of exploration.
#1: ESP, Hauntings & Poltergeists - The Parapsychologist's Handbook by Loyd Auerbach.
Auerbach's tome is pretty well rounded and based on his education in parapsychology at JFK University. There's many good points in this including some definite ideas on 'how to' do an investigation and how to interview witnesses.
Although good, it certainly is NOT a coverall and is not as complete as it could be. Combined with the books below though, it's a useful and decent read... if a little "pop culture" dated with loads of references to the movie "Ghostbusters" and such.
#2: The Paranormal - An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Stuart Gordon
Not a great book by any stretch of the imagination as it covers a LOT of topics (over 700 pages and almost as many entries) that truly deserve their own book of an equivalent size but darnedably handy when you need a quick education in an area of 'non-ghostly' and some even 'ghostly' information or to look up one of the people involved in the paranormal.
Being able to quick-quote this book has saved my bacon on a few occasions in so much as the person talking to me figured I wasn't COMPLETELY incompetent.
Although NOT a CSICOPish book, weirdly, it's listed on the CSICOP "Young Skeptics" site as a 'readable' book.
#3: Shockingly Close to the Truth - Tales of a Grave Robbing UFOlogist by James Moseley and Karl Pflock
A UFO book for the ghost enthusiast??? You bet!
James Moseley's been running amok in the field of UFOlogy (or UFOolery as he calls it) for over fifty years! This book is important on many levels... Firstly, it shows how the subject IS important but the people involved in the paranormal need to LIGHTEN UP and realise we can and often do look and act silly to the rest of the planet.
Second, it show's how investigators (in this case, UFOlogical but it DOES go all ways) eat their young... the way we can get such a big head and start arguing that WE are right and THEY are wrong to the point of overlooking important work. An old 'computer software' joke(?) once went "If software developers put half the effort they put into building cool screen savers into actual applications, then world would be a better place." Well, on occasion, if we paranormal researchers (myself included) spent half the time doing actual field work as opposed to whining, criticizing and pontificating in ACTUAL field work, we'd probably discover some kick-butt stuff!
Thirdly, Moseley's book (and his "magazine", Saucer Smear) are incredibly funny and fun to read.
#4: Missing Pieces - How to Investigate Ghosts, UFO's, Psychics and other Mysteries by (non-scientist) Joe Nickell and Robert Baker (contributor)
From Saucers to CSICOP!?! What am I thinking!?! How to be well rounded, that's what.
The only thing on THIS book though I ask is PLEASE DO NOT BUY IT NEW! Ever since CSICOP has started asking people (this is NOT a joke) to bequeath them an inheritance in their will, I cannot spend any money that might go to them myself... Nor would I recommend you send these sceptdebunkers any cash either! Vultures!
For more information, please see our message board article by clicking here.
Anyway, this book is written by the ghosty-sets reigning devil, Joe "Auto-Debunking" Nickell and talks about how the debunkers go about their work! It's a good read to ensure that you are ready for these twerps if they come a knockin' at your door. Do not expect anything scientific, nor even remotely neutral. This book is clearly written to push an Atheist agenda, and to mock people.
On the plus side, it also DOES shed light on the "actual" frauds (not CSICOP themselves but lately I'd argue...) which is useful in helping you sift through the OTHER side of the paranormal fence in the realm of pay-per-play psychics and house clearers. If you're a 'true believer', you may find yourself gritting your teeth reading this BUT it's important. Think of it as learning all about the dark as you're already acquainted with the light.
#5: Almost Anything by Hans Holzer on Ghosts (but a high recommendation for The Great British Ghost Hunt)
The Living Legend of Ghost and Hauntings Research and Psychical Research for many. Dr. Holzer has some pretty set patterns and beliefs and uses psychics heavily. He also believes that ALL ghosts are "lost souls" that NEED to be sent off in to the light... so house clearing is a necessity.
Regardless, his writing style is good and they are enjoyable reads. They also are good when looking into the more "psychical side" of ghost research.
#6: Our Own Online Course by Matthew James Didier
Although an illiterate and egotistical butthead, Didier has based the course on his own studies and reading. Useful things can and ARE in this course which is being used by all the active GHRSs.
The only problem is it's quite obvious that Didier want's to be Hans Holzer, Jim Moseley and a little bit of the dreaded Joe Nickell which, obviously, is a stupid goal.
Seriously, the course IS printable and it's free and yes, it's based on things from the books listed here as well as my own experiences. The stuff about EMF amongst other things SHOULD be pretty useful to most... I hope.
#7: Almost anything you can get your hands on from the Society for Psychical Research... especially their early ghost research days.
Holzer may be the living legend but the SPR in Great Britain set the tone for excellent and relevant scientific AND psychical research into ghosts and hauntings. We steal... er, I mean, borrow a lot of the GHRS's methods and terms from these extraordinary researchers.
Over the last few decades though, their focus has been more on the PSI phenomena then in investigating "ghosts" or "haunted spots" but their work was precedent setting and excellent. When at your library, keep your eyes open for stuff by the SPR and their members.. but also keep an open mind when reading it. The members of the SPR were all very different and often pontificated points as much as we do on the dreaded 'net today.
#8: Confessions of a Ghost Hunter by Harry Price
Harry had a lot of issues. He was a media whore par excellence and it IS probable that he... well... pumped a lot of extra "oomph" into his findings and conclusions to make them more interesting to the BBC audiences he did radio shows for.
Still, Mr. Price is a legend and rightfully so and once one peels back the layers, they can find excellent information and ideas in his writings. Good old Harry may have been a half-fraud but his ideas were still valid.
#9: True Tales of the Paranormal by Kimberly Molto
WARNING: This is NOT for the novice and it goes so far into ghosts and hauntings that yes, mathematics IS involved!
This relatively new book has three benefits... Firstly, it's a medical/scientific tome that is NOT for the sceptdebunker. Secondly, it's Canadian and lastly, it mentions your humble correspondent as well as our friends at Haunted Hamilton and 'our' own sister site director and significant other, Sue from ParaResearchers. What more could I want?
Seriously, it is an EXCELLENT and thorough look at ghosts, hauntings and ESP phenomena with a scientific and factual mind that is not biased via the CSICOPs of the planet. Ms. Molto's book is a GOOD read... if a little heavy.
#10: Crookes and the spirit world; a collection of writings by or concerning the work of Sir William Crookes, O.M., F.R.S., in the Field of Psychical Research by (surprise) Sir William Crookes
Lately, Sir William got moved back to the front burner but here is the CLOSEST thing you'll have to the Paranormal Researcher's Galileo Galilei. Crookes scientifically 'proved' that the consciousness survives death. It would take the better part of a few pages to explain how or why BUT to many, it is accepted evidence and his experiments HAVE been recreated by some.
Of course, Sir William was mocked and basically pawned off to the public by most as a fraud and a crackpot but he did some amazing work.
How many Nobel winning scientists do you know that dabbled in psychical research?
I GUARANTEE this is NOT for the novice BUT, if you're up for a challenge and want what some say is definitive proof of the existence of some sort of afterlife, this is a MUST read.
For the record, CSICOP and James "The Amazing/Amusing" Randi think that Sir William was a moron for his psychical work and beliefs... despite the fact that he indeed MAY have found proof.
For the Ontarian (or Canadian), I could add books by our own John Robert Colombo, Terry Boyle, Barbara Smith or Sheila Hervey... of course, we are biased to John Robert but honestly, that was BEFORE the GHRS was formed, but all of the above are more or less "must reads" for the SERIOUS ghost researcher.
Note: Picking up the books by the authors listed above is good for another reason... Everyone likes to visit 'haunted locales' and these books (by the authors just above) give you ideas, areas and reports of places where you can visit to do your own investigating! (Just be respectful and go only where allowed and during PROPER hours!)
I'd also recommend some selections from Peter Underwood (for stories and reports) and William G. Roll and Scott Rogo (for information and study...), but what can I tell you... my personal library is quite extensive! I'd even recommend Underwood's book on Vampires (yeah, not ghostly...) as a good read too!
Now, far more fun but I could get into trouble would be to do a list of books and resources NOT to read to be a good researcher... and maybe sometime I will. (grin)
*cough* John *cough* Edwards *cough* Sylvia *cough* Browne *cough* The *cough* Warrens *cough* but again, I'll work on that one later!
ADDITION: January 2003 I'd like to add a couple of "good ones" for simple source and reading material... "Subway Books" or (pardon this but...) "Bathroom Books". Basically, good information, easy to digest and fun to read that don't require a lot of time to finish a chapter or section and ARE useful in the knowledge they impart...
Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of World History by Richard Shenkman.
Excellent book that blows away many of the preconceptions of historical myths. Easy to read and great for "factoids". All well documented and very painless to pick up and put down.
Any of the "Uncle John's Bathroom Readers"
Don't laugh! These are great big books with tiny little chapters and sections. Again, mounds of interesting factoids and easy to digest. Any local bookstore should have one of the many editions available... Pick it up and leaf through it and you'll see the reason it made this list. For example, did you know that "Glass" is NOT considered a solid? It is an EXTREMELY viscous liquid! These books are great "look like a smart @$$" books!
Charles Berlitz's World of Strange Phenomena by (surprise) Charles Berlitz
Woefully lacking in details BUT making up for it in the sheer number of things reported in the book! An excellent "cover-all" for the paranormal researcher that just needs to be able to quote a "quick" reference. Each "chapter" is for the most part, about a paragraph or two long BUT it does cover ghosts, UFOs, dissapearances, 'ghost ships', ESP and whatnot admirably enough to wet anyone's appetite and at least allow you to cite the odd thing when called upon! Again, an excellent "quickie" resource.
Here is an update based on the books that have helped shape a lot of our notes and ideas... There's "duplicates" listed above but this may be helpful to those truly interested...
Auerbach, Loyd - ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologists Handbook
ISBN: 0-446-34951-8 Copyright 1986 by Loyd Auerbach
Bayless, Raymond - Apparitions and Survival of Death
ISBN 0-8065-1134-6 Copyright 1973 by Raymond Bayless
Citadel Press - Carol Publishing Group
Branden, Victoria - Give Up The Ghost: Taking the Super out of the Supernatural
ISBN 0-9694385-2-4 Copyright 1992 by Victoria Branden
Imp Press - Impressa Communications Limited
Brookesmith, Peter (Editor) - Ghosts<BR> ISBN 0-85613-637-9 Copyright 1984 by Orbis Publishing
Orbis Publishing Limited, London
Brunvand, Jan Harold - Encyclopedia of Urban Legends
ISBN: 0-393-32358-7 Copyright 2002 by Jan Harold Brunvard
W.W. Norton & Company
Clark, Jerome - Unexplained!
ISBN 0-8103-9436-7 Copyright 1993 by Jerome Clark
Visible Ink Press- Gable Research Inc.
Cohen, Daniel - The Encyclopedia of Ghosts
ISBN: 0-396-08308-0 Copyright 1984 by Daniel Cohen
Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc
Colombo, John Robert - Mackenzie King's Ghost
ISBN: 0-88882-136-0 Copyright 1991 by J.R. Colombo
Colombo, John Robert - Mysteries of Ontario
ISBN 0-88882-205-7 Copyright 1999 by John Robert Colombo
Hounslow Press - Dundurn Group
Gordon, Stuart - The Paranormal: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
ISBN: 0-7472-3603-8 Copyright 1992 by Richard Stuart Gordon
Headline Book Publishing
Holzer, Hans - Best True Ghost Stories
ISBN: 0-13-071928-5 Copyright 1983 by Hans Holzer
Prentice Hall of Canada
Holzer, Hans - True Ghost Stories
ISBN 0-88486-073-6 Copyright 1992 by Hans Holzer
Bristol Park Books
Molto, Kimberly - True Tales of the Paranormal
ISBN 1-55002-410-8 Copyright 2002 by Kimberly Molto
Moseley, James - Shockingly Close to the Truth: Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist
ISBN: 1-57392-991-3 Copyright 2002 by James Moseley
Owen, A.R.G - Psychic Mysteries of the North
ISBN 0-06-013266-3 Copyright 1975 by A.R.G. Owen
Harper and Row
Owen, Iris M. & Sparrow, Margaret - Conjuring Up Philip
ISBN: 0-88902-003-5 Copyright 1976 by Iris M. Owen and Margaret Sparrow
Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited
Nickell, Joe with Baker, Robert - How to Investigate Ghosts, UFO's, Psychics and other Mysteries
ISBN: 0-87975-729-9 Copyright 2000 by Joe Nickell
Price, Harry - Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter
Copyright 1974 by H.H. Price
Causeway Books New York
Price, Harry - The Most Haunted House in England: Ten Years' Investigation of Borley Rectory
Copyright 1940 by H.H. Price
Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd
Rhine, Louisa E. - ESP in Life and Lab: Tracing Hidden Channels
Library of Congress 67-12800 Copyright 1967 by Louisa E. Rhine
Rogo, D. Scott - Life After Death: The Case for Survival of Bodily Death
ISBN: 0-85030-504-7 Copyright 1986 by D.S. Rogo
Rogo, D. Scott - The Poltergeist Experience
ISBN 0-14-0044995-9 Copyright 1979 by D. Scott Rogo
Stander, Dr. Philip & Schmolling, Dr. Paul - Poltergeists & The Paranormal: Fact Beyond Fiction
ISBN 1-56718-682-3 Copyright 1996 by Paul Schmolling and Paul Stander
Tyrell, G.N.M. - Apparitions
Collier (#07809) Copyright 1953 by The Society for Psychical Research
Upton, Kyle - Niagara's Ghosts at Fort George
ISBN 0-9685150-0-2 Copyright 1999 by Kyle Upton
Kyle Upton - Newmarket
Wilkins, Robert - The Bedside Book of Death
ISBN 0-8065-1277-6 Copyright 1990 by Robert Wilkins
Citadel Press - Carol Communications, Inc.
This is another list I'll be adding to as things come in!