Zak Bagans the frontman of the top-rated show 'Ghost Adventures' has released his third book, this time aimed at helping paranormal investigators who are new to the field.
'Ghost-Hunting For Dummies' was released today in the US and is due for release early next year here in the UK. The latest book in the learning 'For Dummies' series promises to take readers on an exciting journey into the supernatural world, outlining the history of ghost hunting, including true accounts and stories from Zak and his team's adventures.
If you were expecting a ghost hunting book by a television ghost hunter to be a flimsy pamphlet, then you'd be wrong. At 426 pages it's actually quite a substantial book, but is this a case of quantity over quality? What's the actual content like?
I was actually surprised by just how extensive this book is, with a total of 21 chapters across four main sections. I was also pleased to see that only four pages of the book relate specifically to demonic hauntings, with a further couple of pages about Zak's infamous dybbuk box.
As the book is part of the successful and long-running 'For Dummies' series, it goes without saying that the guide is well written and the editorial standards are high. Zak writes, "this book has a very simple goal: provide the reader with the essential information needed to conduct research into ghosts and the paranormal," but does the book deliver on this?
Well, you may be surprised to read that I think it does. Although the information contained within this publication is nothing new, it is a very complete and genuinely interesting overview of ghost hunting and the wider paranormal world. In fact, it could be the most definitive guide on the topic - which is probably more to do with 'For Dummies' experience in producing reference books than Zak's as an author. A cynic might question whether Zak wrote the book in its entirety.
Zak will always be tarred with the stigma of being the host of a ghost hunting television show, but if this book had anyone else's name attached to it, it would be much more credible and celebrated within the paranormal field. Having said that, fans of Zak and 'Ghost Adventures' will love this book and are in for a treat.
The Basics Of Ghost Hunting
The first part of the book covers the basics of ghost hunting, which offers an overview of what ghosts are believed to be, the nature of our belief in the supernatural, and the rise of ghost hunting.
It starts by delving into the ancient origins of ghosts and ghost stories, before summarising some of the most famous haunting cases of all time - most of which are from Britain.
The book then examines the rise of popularity of the spiritualist movement, which the book tells us was started by Margaret and Kate Fox of Hydesville, New York. The sisters gave birth to mediumship and despite admitting fakery, their method of communicating with spirits using rapping is still widely used to this day.
Zak then takes us back to the birth of paranormal investigation and the era of the first ghost hunters. Of course this chapter revolves around the early work of the Society for Psychical Research, founded in England in 1882, and of course the legendary Harry Price, including perhaps his most famous case, that of Borley Rectory.
The chapter then brings us more up to date with an overview of the careers of American investigators Hans Holzer, and Ed and Lorraine Warren.
With the origins of ghost hunting established, Zak then goes on to talk about science's role in paranormal investigation - something many amateur ghost hunters could do with being reminded about. The chapter opens with the line "the first paranormal investigators were scientists", it goes on to talk about the experiments they developed to test for spirits, and test the claims of spiritualists.
The chapter also covers the curious case of the famous American inventor Thomas Edison's claim that, before his death, he was working on a "spirit phone" to allow communication with the dead, and touches on the American Society for Psychical Research and J B Rhine's work with Zener cards.
As a writer for a website that reviews paranormal television, some of the most interesting chapters in the book's first section are those which talk about the link between the spirt world and entertainment. The section includes information on the history of supernatural fiction, ghosts in cinema, and how television and the internet changed ghost hunting.
I was surprised by the completeness of this section, Zak doesn't shy away from mentioning other television shows that paved the way for 'Ghost Adventures', even giving his arch rivals 'Most Haunted' a mention as the show that got the attention of American production companies and lead to televised ghost hunts.
The section ends with some advice on maintaining a healthy balance between open-mindedness and skepticism - something we could all do with remembering, no matter which side you lean towards.
Investigating Ghosts & Hauntings
The next part of the book contains a more practical guide to ghost hunting, including the definition of hauntings and tips on how to research cases. This is all about building the foundation of information that most ghost hunters go into an investigation armed with, including the theory on residual haunting, poltergeist-like activity, portal hauntings, and of course demonic hauntings.
Even Zak admits in the book that this information is just theory and that no two paranormal investigators would agree upon these theories.
Over the next few pages Zak examines some famous objects that are alleged to be haunted, some of which are on display in his own haunted museum in Las Vegas. The list includes the Devil's rocking chair, Robert the doll, and the infamous Annabelle doll.
Zak then goes on to give examples of some of the types of locations where you are most likely to encounter ghosts, although he does remind us in the book that even a modern home can be haunted. The typical locations that feature over the next few pages include theatres, schools, hotels, battlefields, crime scenes, prisons, and cemeteries - even though some in the field would dispute the claim that a consecrated place of rest can be haunted.
The next few chapters examines the type of equipment that ghost hunters use and the evolution of these tools, going right back to Harry Price's array of ghost hunting equipment, but also covering very basic techniques like trigger objects and the use of a compass, as well as several pages on EMF meter, TriField meters, and REM-Pods.
The section ends with some warnings about the hazards of paranormal investigation. This isn't as you might imagine scaremongering stories about demonic attachment or phantom attacks, but is actually quite valid information about keeping safe in haunted locations and the risks of investigating decaying buildings.
Putting Your Paranormal Research Into Action
The next part of the book deals with getting out there and getting started. The first chapter delves into the history and methods of spirit photography - even including quite a detailed section on the wider history of photography itself, before moving on to the differences between film and digital cameras, especially during paranormal investigations.
Zak also tackles the controversial topic of orbs, stating that most can be explained as nothing more than dust or other artefacts, but admits that he believes that some "genuine anomalies" of this nature do exist and remain unexplained.
The next topic covered is talking with spirits and includes a detailed run down of various methods of alleged spirit communication, including table tipping, automatic writing and spirit boards. Sadly, Zak does go in to some detail about the dangers of spirit boards and how to use them safely, which is a little disappointing as up to this point the book had been quite rational. However, it is just two pages and it does sum up the belief of many in the paranormal field that spirit boards can call forward malevolent entities.
There's then a few chapters that extensively examine EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. The book goes into a lot of detail about the history of capturing spirit voices in audio recordings, gives details of some classic EVP experiments, and brings the topic up to date with tips on how to capture and analyse EVPs yourself using modern equipment.
Next Zak tackles the topic of Instrumental Transcommunication (ITC), the wider practice of using electronic devices to communicate with the dead. The section includes information about spirit boxes and lots of other fascinating-sounding gadgets that frankly I've never heard of.
The book then moves into quite unique territory, offering advice on how to start an investigation by tracking down leads, contacting property owners, and assessing the likelihood that a location might be genuinely haunted before starting an investigation.
It also gives advice on best practice, the ethics of investigating someone's property, how you should set up your investigation upon arrival, and how to conduct a fair investigation. There are chapters to cater for various property types and outdoor investigations.
There's a really interesting section on interviewing witnesses of hauntings. Today a lot of investigators like to go into a property without any foreknowledge of the location, but I think interviewing witnesses is a very important part of investigating a haunting and it will tell you a lot about a case. The chapter on interviewing in the book suggests questions and gives tips on conducting a fair interview and even on how to interview children.
Fans of Zak will be familiar with his dramatic and very active investigations, but in this book he admits that most of the time ghost hunting just involves sitting around in the dark and waiting for something to happen.
The section ends with advice on spotting fakery, validating your evidence, and even tips on how to turn ghost hunting into more than just a hobby.
The Part Of Tens
The final part of the book is probably the least interesting, perhaps because it mainly focusses on US hauntings and I'm UK-based, but it is once again quite an extensive collection of information.
The section is made up of top ten lists, including:
- America's Ten Most Haunted Cities & Towns
- Ten of America's Most Haunted Places (many of which 'Ghost Adventures' have investigated)
- Ten Signs Your House Is Haunted & What To Do Next
I know many people criticise Zak and his methods, but this book shows that away from the world of making ghost hunting entertaining for television, Zak does have a good understanding of the paranormal. The knowledge of how to research, prepare for and conduct a ghost hunt shared in this book is invaluable to anyone starting out as a paranormal investigator.
'Ghost-Hunting For Dummies' was released in the US on December 5th. In the UK the book will be released on January 31, 2020 and is available to pre-order now
Ghost-Hunting For Dummies
Paranormal investigator, star, and executive producer of The Travel Channel's hit series Ghost Adventures, Zak Bagans takes you on an exciting journey into the supernatural world. If you're one of the countless fans of Ghost Adventures looking to track some spirits on your own, this book provides everything you need to know to conduct a successful paranormal investigation. Featuring true accounts and stories from Bagans's famous cases and investigations, this step-by-step guide shows you how today's investigators use the tools of modern science to study a wide range of paranormal activity.
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Read true accounts of ghost stories
Find out fun facts and see exclusive photos
Understand why hauntings occur
Set up cameras
Deal with unwieldly ghosts
Conduct a successful investigation