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4.5 out of 5 stars
Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural: One man's search for the truth about ghosts
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2007
I read this in less than a week, and at the end feel totally bereft. In his (initially skeptical) journey to investigate the supernatural Mr Storr discovers a strange, frightening and yet wondrous world to the one he'd anticipated - one I've always more hoped for than been entirely convinced by, one populated by several fascinating characters (and even the ones that seem silly at the outset end up making you feel guilty for judging them so - the stuff about 'the Founder' almost had me in tears). And yet the knowledge that there might be something to the supernatural isn't always comforting - the chapters that touch on possession are decidedly unsettling. Will writes fluently and to the point, and does good atmosphere. Tension is built gradually from the first pages ('You haven't heard of the Enfield Poltergeist?!?'), till at the end you're left breathless with the implications. This is one of the very best non-fiction books I have ever read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2014
As I read this book I felt that I was in good company. Will Storr in the beginning chapters claims himself to be a rationalist sceptic but as you read on it becomes quite clear that he never was an extreme rationalist type. After a couple of daunting experiences in America he throws himself into a year long research of everything he can find out about the paranormal which involves meeting with exorcists, nutters who claim to have been in contact with domestic werewolves, staying in locations which were deemed as haunted amongst a few other things.

I think what's particularly refreshing about the book is that he really comes across as someone who is open minded and genuinely looking for answers rather than having a pre conceived notion of it being all nonsense or even the opposite. He meets with the extremely credulous and the hardcore sceptics. He soon discovers that to be a fully fledged rationalist sceptic you would have to have your ears and eyes glued shut and out rightly deny that anything is explicable in normal terms, which in reality is just quite an arrogant thing to say.

He runs through the different scientific and philosophical arguments for or against consciousness surviving death. Such as Penrose's Orch-Or concept or Persinger's studies in how Electro Magnetic Fields cause a malfunction in the temporal lobe of some individuals which causes hallucinations. His research into the Enfield Poltergeist case was particularly of interest to me as the hard rationalist sceptics look at the photos of Janet's supposed levitation which clearly look's like she's jumping and the fact that they were caught doing tricks a couple of times. Thus the argument of 'case closed' is often put forward. But for anyone who is really looking for answers and objectively looking at the case the argument of it all being down to trickery just doesn't make any sense.

Despite Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair who were the lead investigators into the case being clearly naive. The amount of credible witnesses are hard to dismiss. They are not things that could be interpreted as a psychological expectation of something to happen. The photographer for example, Graham Morris along with another journalist saw things flying around the room and no one was throwing them. A neighbour saw a chair fly across the room whilst he was alone watching the child fast asleep. If you see a chair fly across the room that isn't a hallucination, it means that a chair has been flung across the room. Things like this just cannot be put down to trickery and to suggest that the witnesses were simply all lying is bizarre. Storr asks Janet upon meeting her why she faked things amongst the supposed real phenomena to which she remarked that there were actually often days where things didn't happen and being irritated by the sceptics who only visited the house for two or three days and by not observing anything dismissed it all as a pack of lies to prove them wrong felt that they needed to perform which I suppose makes sense. He meets Maurice Grosse who banned the sceptical publication of Anita Gregory which baffles Storr as he tries unsuccessfully to obtain a copy. When held under scrutiny over it Grosse relates that Gregory was quite simply a liar, he may have been right in some regards as Gregory claimed to have met a police officer who directly witnessed activity at the house and
claimed that the officer told her that she thought that the children were performing tricks. But this wouldn't make any sense as the police officer had previously signed a statement relating that what she witnessed was genuine and these claims were verified by an independent barrister for the Society of Psychical Research. As Storr digs deeper into the Enfield story he realises that the matter is all too complicated to ever really find an answer. Something Maurice Grosse said interested me. These things always happen when someone doesn't expect them to and anyone who claims otherwise is a charlatan. This rings true when among his journeys among paranormal groups Storr finds out that these comprise mostly of wishful thinkers and those who are trying to find a meaning and purpose in life.

I didn't agree with all his points. For example he talks about one story of a man who along with his brother when he was younger witnessed and interacted with two apparitions and in Storr's opinion this couldn't have been a false memory because his brother had also witnessed it. But false memories can be created easily and the story may have been a subconscious exaggeration accumulated over the years.

Ultimately after a year of looking into all angles and even having a couple of daunting experiences himself he comes to the conclusion that after you get past all the nonsense of the nutters who claim stories of vampires and werewolves and the people who claim to be possessed by Henry the Eighth there are genuine events that have happened to credible people that aren't explicable in a psychological context or even other contemporary explanations such as a malfunction in the temporal lobe that could cause hallucinatory phenomena. Storr further concludes that frustratingly for someone genuinely looking for answers, there may simply be no way of ever knowing and that no one knows. Not the scientists, psychologists, sceptics or even devout religious folk.

It is an entertaining read and is actually a lot more serious than the could would have you believe. Ultimately the debate between rationalist sceptics and devout believers is quite useless as both are ingrained within their mindset. One is going to out rightly and arrogantly dismiss things often without even fairly looking into it. Whereas the other is going to continue to believe what they believe and disregard proof of fraud or alternative explanations. If anyone really is looking for answers they should do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2014
Will Storr takes an entertaining and sometimes genuinely chilling tour around people who have opinions about the supernatural and in the process challenges his own scepticism and ours. Some of the believers he meets appear to be frauds, some are genuinely sad and pathetic but some seem to be sensible, pragmatic folk who are unable to explain away their experiences except as hauntings. And it is the hauntings that are most convincing; the beliefs of conspiracy theorists, crystal botherers and spiritualists in this book fail to convince Storr and, possibly as a consequence, fail to convince the reader. That leaves a core of people, including the author, who have heard or seen things that they believe defy rational explanations and leads Storr to ask whether entrenched scepticism is as irrational as unqualified belief in the supernatural.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2014
Being a fan of Jon Ronson I was recommended this book. Not really knowing what the author was about I was expecting a jokey romp through the paranormal world. What I got however was a thoroughly entertaining insight into the people who devote their lives to either investigating or using the supernatural to their own ends.
Will Storr had the same outlook as me regarding all things other worldly basically it's down to over active imagination. Which only makes some of Will's investigations in this book all the more creepy when he experiences phenomena for which he has no explanation.
I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys the work of Mssrs Ronson and Theroux. Just don't read it alone.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2007
It's refreshing to read a book about the paranormal by someone who is totally open minded & has no axe to grind or anything to prove. It's a very funny & easy read & yet manages to cover a wide range of topics from poltergeists to philosphy & quantum physics - not in any depth of course but that's not what it's for. I can't recommend this book highly enough for anyone with a sense of humour & an interest in the paranormal...the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2006
All the other reviewers have given more detailed descriptions of the contents of Will's book. They are spot on.

This is an excellent book for everyone who is interested in the things in life we call "paranormal"/"supernatural" and has an interest in the people who carry out this research, whether believers or skeptics. Do buy/preorder it.

Once you pick the book up and start to read you can't put it down again and it's one of those sorts of books that, like a good film, you'll enjoy reading bits of over and over again.

Will is a very intelligent, interesting writer with a witty, rich style of prose and narrative who'll have you laughing hysterically one minute then thinking "ooer..." the next, as he delves into the weird and wonderful world of "ghost-hunting" and all things associated with the possibilities of what might happen after we die - if anything.

(Beware of reading it late at night while your partner sleeps or you'll wake them up shaking with laughter or jumping with fright).

One thing seems clear throughout - ouija boards are not a good thing to play around with.

I don't see much comparison with Louis Theroux - Will Storr is vastly superior and gives an impression of being genuinely ingenuous, he lets the people he encounters (and phenomena) "speak" for themselves in the work mostly, without being judgemental.

He has a very interesting biography. It would be good to see the episodes in his life as a writer that he describes also collected into print. Some are wacky to put it mildly!

He thoroughly deserves his titles of New Journalist of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year.

I'm looking forward to reading his forthcoming novel - it will surely be intriguing. Meanwhile, for those who'd like to know more about Will see his website: [...]
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2006
This book asks some great questions on the validity of ghosts and the afterlife, and amazingly, goes some way to answering them. The way that Storr approaches the whole thing, in a completely sensible and rational manner, gives it a level of credibility not commonly found in books on this subject. If something is quite plainly silly - and quite a few things in this book are - Storr says so. If something is genuinely strange and inexplicable, he says so. He doesn't have a fixed position as a believer or a sceptic that he feels obliged to defend, and his investigation is clearly a voyage of discovery, to find out the 'truth' or something close to it. Loony frauds and hard-line sceptics are dismissed as equal irrelevancies along the way, and the cases that are worth investigating deeper get close attention. Most Haunted Live, interestingly, gets quite a damning assessment as Storr describes a distinctly un-paranormal chain of events backstage (pre-scheduled 'happenings' anyone? Oh dear...) As he digs through the nonsense and the timewasters on his travels, Storr uncovers some strange and unsettling things. Some of the bits on the Enfield Poltergeist, 'possession' cases and the frontier science of 'string theory' are pretty mind-blowing. All in all, I think this book has genuinely become something more important than it perhaps was intended to be, and is a fantastic document on the subject.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2006
"Will Storr vs the Supernatural" is easily one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. He achieves the perfect balance of comic writing and serious journalism (he could have been one of the great gonzo journalists of yesteryear). Storr is not after easy targets; he is not out to disprove the supernatural, nor does he try to portray the people who believe in it as fruitcakes. Instead he takes a philosophical approach and probes into the more interesting questions such as why do people need to believe in the supernatural? How does science relate to supernatural phenomena?
Storr speaks to ghost hunters, philosophers and scientists. He visits haunted houses, he interviews people who claim to have been possessed, he even goes ghost hunting with the infamous Lou Gentile. It's often very funny but it's always informative. Lesser writers would have resorted to sarcasm but Storr tells us about his experiences in a sincere way. He is not out to "convert" people either, he realizes the reader is intelligent enough to draw his/her conclusion. I have already recommended this book to all my friends and the response has been the same; it's funny, it's scary - it's a damn fine read.
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on 20 April 2013
Felt full on terror at the start, this soon wained, and I never had any laugh out loudmoments as the blurb on the jacket would have me believe. Will has an engaging amenable style reminiscent of, although distinct from, that of Jon Ronson, LouisTheroux and Danny Wallace. He comes accross as a likable dude to have a pint and a long chinwag with. I read this on the back of reading his more recent "The Heretics" which is even more intelligent, thought provoking and will remain in my mind longer. If his intellectual and research prowess continue to grow exponentially I very much hope to read his next book. And a pint and a chinwag would be blooming grand ;)
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2007
This is why narrative non-fiction is so enjoyable. Take a man that doesn't believe in ghosts and then send him out to try and prove that there is no such thing as a ghost. Make sure that he is very intelligent, of sound mind and a damned good writer - then watch while he takes himself into haunted rooms and haunted places. The result? A fantastically good book which - if you don't believe in ghosts will have you question what Will finds to be a two dimensional and rather Luddite belief system and, if you already believe in ghosts will help you sort out the nonsense from the genuine supernatural phenomenon. If you are of nervous disposition and live alone then I seriously wouldn't recommend reading this book after dark... otherwise - if you like to be genuinely scared or just like a un-putdownable read.... Will Storr deserves to sell a million. Also he pretty well proves that ghosts are a reality - which, one could argue, is an important conclusion...
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