Sunday, January 3, 2016

Survival After Death?

When I saw this book with my Great Grandfather's things I should have realized I had more in common with my Great Grandparents than I thought. I have always been interested in ghost stories and whether or not life continues after death. I mean when I was 11 or 12 I was spending time with my friend watching haunted histories of buildings around the United States. I was the one who forced my family to watch that show where a family got locked into a haunted castle to see if it was actually haunted. So I was looking forward to reading this book. And at about 25 cases into it, it has not been much of a disappointment.

One Hundred Cases for Survival After Death is a little known book edited by Alex T. Baird which contains one hundred accounts of experiences with haunted houses, automatic writing, and materialization and the like. Most of the cases are quick synopses and excerpts from cases recorded by the SPR. For those of you who don't know, the SPR is the Society for Psychical Research. The original SPR started in 1882 and was the first, "organization established to examine allegedly paranormal phenomena using scientific principles."1 Basically these people attempted to explain paranormal phenomena using science, i.e. a ghostly sound is easily explained as a door swinging because it is loose. Basically these guys are the precursors to TV shows like Ghost Hunters. But anyway, back to the SPR, which published a scholarly journal where they discussed the research they conducted methodologically. To the paranormal field, the SPR was huge and for the most part helped debunk many of the fake mediums and other paranormal phenomenon that popped up in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Although every case selected by Baird does not come from the SPR, or the ASPR (American Society for Psychical Research), a large number of them are from their journals and research. In fact it was the complaint I found in the only review on this book I could locate (with a quick search, a more exhaustive one could potentially net more.) You can read the review here and get a pretty good idea as to what the book is about from the review.

I am 58 pages into the book and its really interesting. Baird states the cases very dryly and succinctly, and while some seem a bit ridiculous others are intriguing. Especially the one out of North Carolina that was used in court. I really want to see those court documents. I particularly like the style of this book because Baird is clearly not out to scare people. He has chosen several phenomena that exist and then used these cases to back up his theory that these phenomena are real. However, as he says in his forward, the reader should use their own judgement in deciding whether there is a case for life after death, "I think that all the writing in the world will not convince anyone so thoroughly as evidence found for oneself." (Baird, 8.)

I look forward to discussing the book and cases more in depth with you next time fellow readers.

1. For more information on the SPR you can check out their website here. Or the ASPR here