A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012
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This splendid book ... [is] a compelling read ... Clarke manages to give goose-flesh and a giggle while informing the reader - an enviable feat (Scotsman)
Researched with seriousness, and written with evident delight. Roger Clarke is a journalist, and the youngest invited member of the Society for Psychical Research: he is a fan with critical distance. He tackles everything from the troubled roots of Methodism to haunted toys that command premiums on eBay. He also tells a few cracking ghost stories ... [The book is] beautifully written ... lithe, complicated and hugely rewarding (James McConnachie Sunday Times)
A highly enjoyable (and disturbing work) ... I am in awe of [Clarke's] intrepidity (Guardian)
Outstanding ... Those of us who have spent years fascinated by the fiction of the supernatural - devouring books and films on an endless loop - will be in love with Clarke's book from the very first page ... The book is by no means a simple chronology of hauntings. While important events are dealt with in detail, the reader is treated to a wonderful array of incidental tales and observations in the passing, often through Clark's occasionally very witty end Notes ... Clarke's dissection of the shocks, sadnesses and sexiness of the seance tables from the late Victorian era brilliantly done ... The book is deeply enjoyable, hugely informative and at times distinctly unsettling (Shade Point)
A fascinating social history ... exceptionally well written and researched (Starburst Magazine)
Britain has over 500-years' worth of ghost stories in the cupboard and in The Natural History of Ghosts, Roger Clarke makes them dance ... the most original and readable book exploring our ghost-rich culture to appear for years ... fascinating (Fortean Times)
An intriguing, shivers-down-the-spine book (The Lady)
Lively and absorbing ... Clarke, a seasoned ghost-hunter whose still unfulfilled ambition is to see a ghost, plainly loves his subject, and has read extensively in and around the social history of haunting ... [he] has proven himself an ideal guide to this troubled and disorderly realm (Literary Review)
Simmering as it is with personal reflections, this handsome volume ... is bursting with a giddy passion, buoyed further by an expert's thirst for abstruse facts. The main pleasure of reading this book is Clarke's own enthusiasm, intelligence and seriousness ... a deeply interesting, revealing read (Book Hugger)
Why do ghosts wear clothes? This is just one of a number of interesting questions raised by this jaunty book ... In a series of short, snappy chapters, Clarke examines the evidence for just about every ghost who ever drew, or withdrew, breath ... but A Natural History of Ghosts is also haunted by another story, lurking not very far beneath: the story of the author's childhood need to believe in ghosts, and the gradual erosion of that belief (Craig Brown Daily Mail)
About the Author
Raised in a haunted house, Roger Clarke is best known as a film-writer for the Independent newspaper and more recently Sight & Sound. He was the youngest person ever to join the Society for Psychical Research in the 1980s and was getting his ghost stories published by the The Pan & Fontana series of horror books aged only 15, when Roald Dahl asked his agent to take him on as a client. A published poet, his libretto for The Man with the Footsoles of Wind was performed at the Almeida Theatre in London in 1993. This is the book he always wanted to write.
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I hope you find my review helpful.
Virtually no discussion of science or pseudoscience surrounding ghost lore.
The Hinton Ampner/Turn of the Screw tale is worth the price of admission alone. That and the doomed U-boat, the shrieking naked Victorian psychics, Harry Price and Borley - are just few of the absolutely irresistible highlights.
I've always been fascinated by ghosts (perhaps not to his intrepid extent) - funnily enough ghost stories have much in common with children's stories (which I write), in that they nearly always not about what they're about. They also require a particularly child like or innocent suspension of disbelief to work - in amongst the hysteria and populist scares.
The tale of Monty James scaring the bejesus out of some schoolboys under his charge is absolutely wonderful.
For me as a writer it's one of those wonderful treasure troves of a book, full of so many things peculiar, eccentric, strange (all so beautifully and entertainingly conveyed) that I don't think one could ever fail not to be inspired or intrigued by its contents.