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Ghosts, Specters, and Haunted Places

Ghosts, Specters, and Haunted Places - Michael Pye, Kirsten Dalley This book grew on me after reading a few chapters. Its awkward formatting as an edited volume made it difficult to get into at the start. Each expert chapter follows a different kind of outline structure, some just using plain text, others using headers, and still others using outline structures. A graphic designer might have helped readers find and see similarities across chapters with a consistent visual approach.

There is wide variety in what counts as an 'expert' here, with some contributors showing little more than reviewing existing accounts of the paranormal while others discuss their own field work in some detail. Overall, the editors made sure the whole text was good at describing what field work might look like, and at challenging popular assumptions and biases about field research.

Author credentials for each contributor are given at the back of the book. These were easier to critique after recently reading [b:When Can You Trust the Experts?|13838227|When Can You Trust the Experts? How to Tell Good Science from Bad in Education|Daniel T. Willingham|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1341581469s/13838227.jpg|19472920]. Essentially, each person's presentation boils down to a 'trust me' moment. As an aesthetic experience, some of these moments were more powerful than others, making for an uneven read. Some felt credible and others hokey.

It is interesting to think about paranormal books as informational text, because of how controversial the question of 'reality' is by comparison to the popularity of the topic. It's not like dinosaurs or the Titanic, where a preponderance of tangible material accompanies the wide public interest--the entire topic is based on a body of reports and narratives. Because it is a perennial topic for publishers, it is very interesting to watch the ways authors use thought structures and text formats they borrow from the known informational text genres. In this volume, I feel like I am reading conference proceedings!

Back in the 1800s, authors like [a:Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu|26930|Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1206504583p2/26930.jpg] and [a:Wilkie Collins|4012|Wilkie Collins|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1192222099p2/4012.jpg] were more interested in the narrative and aesthetic value of the paranormal and of dark psychology. Pye and Dalley have ignored the rhetoric that favors the quality of the telling, and instead working to put readers in a frame of mind of scientific or journalistic reading. Just on a reader response level, I'm conflicted about that.