This is one of the best scholarly books on the occult and/or the paranormal, which should be essential reading for anthropologists, skeptics, occultists, magic(k) practitioners, and anyone who seeks to go beyond the dualist arguments of "It's all true" vs. "It's all bunk". In fact, Hansen's book functions as a delightful antidote to western dualist epistemology, without giving up its drive for truth. (The most up-to-date research in neurology, consciousness and physics indicates that western dualist epistemology itself is bunk).
Hansen's extensive interdisciplinary work is not a lightweight read, but it is compelling and fascinating, and is fully referenced, so that academics may follow up the many threads which cross and interweave in this area. Such figures as Madame Blavatsky, Max Weber, James Randi, Howard Gardner, John Keel and others are carefully brought in, briefly biographed and discussed, alongside a series of organisations such as CSICOP and Rhine's parapsychology lab. A range of theories and areas are synthesised: Liminality, communitas, charisma, fraud, shamanism, parapsychology, anti-structure and much more.
The central thesis is that the 'trickster' archetype is central to all paranormal phenomena - but also to the work of active skeptics and debunkers of those phenomena. The trickster subverts categories and goes beyond simple explanations. Dozens of examples are provided.
The structure of this book is worth noting. Individual topics are provided in a form which allows you to read the chapters in almost any order. Each chapter concludes with a summary which iterates all the main points. If the size of the book is intimidating, or you lack time, you can skim it very effectively by reading only the concluding summaries of each chapter. If something intriguing pops up in this process, you can delve back into the chapter itself, or dive straight into the thorough-going references.