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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Roger Clarke has to be the most well-placed person to write a `natural history' of ghosts. Haunted as a child, he became the youngest ever member of the Society for Psychical Research. The subject has been a matter of fascination for him ever since, and he has remained a keen investigator to this day. A Natural History of Ghosts gives detailed accounts of famous hauntings. They range from ancient ghost stories, through the Victorian passion for séances, to the modern ghost investigation - which is not new at all, but began with famous faker Harry Price, who pioneered the live ghost hunt on radio in the 1920s - coming bang up to date with TAPS, Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures. An attempted taxonomy details different kinds of ghosts: the `stone-tape' type, doomed to go through the motions over and over and over again, who seem to be mere recordings in time. And the far more chilling kind, who speak and interact, intelligently, with the living and their fellow dead, like the - still unexplained - Enfield poltergeist.

Clarke tries his hardest to maintain a dry and sceptical look at hauntings, ancient and modern, but cannot help observing that ghosts are certainly real; ghosts have been and continue to be experienced and documented across time and space, and the only debate is, what are they, really? Are they all figments of the imagination or out and out fakes? The actual spirits of the dead? Or a phenomenon that is, as yet, unexplained? Sadly, Roger Clarke has no answers, and provides no conclusions, either, he simply delivers pure information with which we must make up our own minds. As the sceptical George Bernard Shaw told Henry James that, "No man who doesn't believe in a ghost ever sees one." Maybe the truth is the other way around? That those who believe in ghosts, do so precisely because they have seen one.

Roger Clarke keeps his account objective, distancing himself personally, from what he is documenting. Personally, I would have enjoyed a wee bit more personal input and opinion from a man who, above almost all other authors, is best placed to give an informed opinion. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this book is that it is never in the least bit dry. Roger Clarke is a natural writer and story teller. This is a smooth, easy, fascinating read to anyone with the slightest interest in the subject, and very highly recommended indeed.
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
After reading the first lines of the book which drew me in nicely this turned out to be a bit of a mish - mash of a book. Not an awful book by any means and parts of it are very enjoyable, but it really didn't seem consistent enough throughout.
Areas of it are quite thought provoking especially the "angel switch" theory, whereas other subjects which at first seem of interest can get bogged down in the accompanying text which at times can go through a myriad of histories/theories and investigations. It may well be of more interest to a person with a strong interest in the phenomenon of ghosts and of the ghost hunt as opposed to someone like myself with a passing (though certain) interest. If anything the book suggested to me that if there is such a thing as a ghost then you'll have to wade through a mass of fakery and deception before you get to anything of relevance that might suggest any other wordly goings on outside of anything the human mind can conjure up.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The author has been interested in ghosts since he was a child and his fascination with the subject really comes over in this book which I found totally engrossing reading. He looks at some of the famous hauntings such as Borley Rectory as well as less well known ones both ancient and modern.

Ghosts go in fashions as well as changing their dress according to the era in which they are seen. Shrouds were fashionable at one time but then in the nineteenth century everyone wore black, whether that was in the form of a nun's habit or glamorous women in satin and long gloves. Seeing ghosts and believing in them has always been dependent on class with the middle class being notable sceptics.

Ghosts also come in all shapes and sizes including Roman centurions and headless knights not to speak of wronged maid servants wringing their hands and uttering blood curdling cries. Then there are the moving objects which may or may not be attributable to poltergeist activity which is frequently associated with the presence of teenage girls in the property.

I was interested to learn that John Wesley incorporated a belief in ghosts into Methodism because of ghostly activity in his childhood home at Epworth in Lincolnshire. It is a belief which is no longer part and parcel of Methodism. Belief in ghosts and sightings of them ten d to increase and decrease according to whether or not there's a war on or an economic depression. There are always people who are ready willing and able to make money out of ghosts - whether by selling refreshments at the scenes of hauntings or by charging admission to haunted property and writing books about it.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not this is interesting reading from a social history point of view and the insights into human nature which the various stories provide. There are plenty of notes on each chapter, some black and white illustrations, a further reading list and an index
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on 27 September 2013
This book has become a real hit within our family. I initially bought it as a gift for the in-laws who not only devoured it, but went on to recommend, discuss and (pretty much) force it on all who would listen.

This book offers a brilliant narrative on some very British ghost stories. Without shying away from the dark, seedy edges of reality, A Natural History of Ghosts discusses fact next to fiction and asks the reader to consider whether the story itself might be the truth that we so often seek.

Beautifully written, easy to read and engaging to the last. I love this book!
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2015
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Finally got around to reading this book of the past few weeks. I found it fascinating. Some of these "true" accounts of ghostly events are clearly based on superstitions or exaggerations by the witnesses of the time. Or have been embellished over the years by various story tellers. That though makes them no less entertaining as a good read. Other essays in the book are more factual and harder to refute on the basis of the facts presented. Though of course which facts are not presented, or were discovered by the investigators and witnesses of the events, is probably more important but can only be speculated over. There's a wide variety of ghosts in the book from the traditional head under the arms/woman in white type hauntings through to the more unusual modern day spooks Therefore if , like me, your a non believer, but enjoys a good ghost story/mystery as entertainment Roger Clarke's collection of ghostly happenings will provide a good bedtime read. Believers will probably have their convictions reinforced.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to agree with some of the other reviewers and say that this is a good attempt but just misses the fantastic mark. Clarke has seemingly tried to create a book that would wish to be considered the ghost hunters version of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale but for only parts of paragraphs or when it suits him. The overall result works for some of the accounts and does not quite work for others. If you can move beyond this gripe then the book overall provides an enjoyable read. Had Clarke continued in the style of his introduction, the book would have been a fantastic, hide under the sheets and sleep with the lights on affair! Still, it's good fun, intriguing and worthy of a read.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Roger Clarke's subject lends itself to both an empirical as well as
an imaginative approach. That 'A Natural History Of Ghosts : 500 Years
Of Hunting For Ghosts' turns out to be a bit of both is a disappointment
in what otherwise might have turned out to be a jolly good read.

Though clearly a life-long enthusiast (and who is not during the long,
dark nights of winter?) his narrative never quite settles down into
something truly engaging. This has much to do with the rather dry and
lifeless quality of his prose. Sure, he recounts a great many stories
but the passion he claims to feel is rarely evident. Lot's of recycled
tales without a coherent flow to settle his arguments both for-and-against
one way or another. His heart was clearly in it but I felt left behind.

Although an old book, Christina Hole's 'Haunted England', first published
in 1940 and with delightful Modernist illustrations by John Farleigh,
offers (despite the somewhat archaic language of the period) a spirited and
erudite alternative. Ms Hole throws in more than a few good scares too!

The proof of the pudding is not always in the eating.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 4 November 2012
"Ghost stories appeal to our craving for immortality. If you can be afraid of a ghost then you have to believe that a ghost may exist. And if a ghost exists then oblivion may not be the end". Thus wrote Stanley Kubrick. "Even the living were only ghosts in the making". (Pat Barker,'The Ghost Road'). 'Is There Anybody out there' has been a cry of hope or help for centuries. Roger Clarke has produced a book that summarises 500 years of the search for tangible existence of the supernatural. Children have had 'the bogie man' and adults,likewise have claimed to have experienced unnatural phenomenon scientifically unexplained. Having said that, the author does describe the results of 'the God Helmet', presumably an MRI,that reveals brain scan representations of a person's sensation of something or someone that is in their presence or vicinity; not scary but unnerving.

The author is no novice. A journalist and the youngest member of the 'Society for Psychic Research', aged 15, his hair-raising stories include the demon drummer in Wiltshire, the poltergeist of Cock Lane, and the dark mystery of Borley Rectory. This is not scary fantasy, but constructed around trying to explain the figments that cause the perceptions of people. He takes us through Dickens's 'Christmas Carol'. The sightings, usually stately mansions, pubs and chuchyards that are often commercial ventures and already have an eerie history. Most of us seem to like a ghost story, especially at Christmas. Many emanate from Victorian days, for financial or even sexual gain by the shrewd. Often, there are religious connotations. Halloween and Oujia boards are still with us. The scary factor is not overly emphasised here. Films and television frighteners with hiding behind the settee are part of growing up. Roger Clarke portrays an honest story. As with many, the question of religious belief in the supernatural (ghosts included) is avoided by the author on a personal level. His premise is what do we see when we view a ghost and why? This does not detract from the narrative as ghosts and spooks have, and will, continue to be part of life. Imagination is another facet central to the book. Believe it or not but I suspect another 500 years may be another story and maybe I'll be there to see it! Entertaining and enjoyable with illustrations and references. Well worth the read.
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on 21 December 2013
From Madame Arcati blog:

Divine, darling. Or, as Craig Revel Horwood might say if not too busy eyeing up male dancer buttock curvature, 'fab-u-larse!' Published last year, the paperback released a few weeks ago, this is by far the most fascinating survey of paranormal sightings and encounters I have ever read.

Ingenuity starts at concept stage. Clarke sets out not to debate whether ghosts exist. He is much more interested in the anthropology of spectral experiences and research - or put another way, in relating true-life ghost tales, the 'scientific' attempts to understand them and in classifying the different types of spook: elementals, poltergeists, etc.

This is clever and fortuitous because Clarke knows he'd lose most of his mainstream critical audience if he entertained the notion, even for a moment, that ghosts exist as sentient post-mortem entities. One feature of secularism and atheism is the absolute conviction that life starts and ends with synaptic crackle 'n' pop. But there's no question people have ghostly liaisons. I have seen a ghost. You probably have. Pliny wrote of a haunted house in 100 AD. The materialist will flesh out any unscientific explanation-away provided no concession is made to afterlife drivel. The winner is not rationalism but a replacement irrationalism.

Clarke knows all this as a veteran Poirot of psychical inquiry. So instead he sits us down by a log fire, creeps us out with weird tales, documents the countless vain attempts to solve the mystery of hauntings and treats the topic (of ghosts) as an aspect of immemorial human experience.

Clarke writes tremendously well - an essential component of any effects-driven tale both to satisfy the Bunsen burner know-all and trembly Susan Hill addict. The slightest hint of irony here and there gives sceptics their calorific fill while oo-ee-oo narrative pleases the rest of us. He is unafraid of the plodding nature of prose, the focus on patient set-ups - Gore Vidal called this vital writerly process 'grazing'. The cow's temperament is vital to story-telling.

I also commend Clarke's end notes which combine scholarly learning with a sly sense of humour. At the very least you end up sceptically well-informed and enthralled.
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on 29 January 2014
First off I feel that I should say that am only currently on page 100 or so.
However, I have found this book a great read and very intriguing, so much, in fact, that I have found
it hard to put down at night.

There are a few negative reviews here, and to be honest, I can't see why that should be so. Personally I have found this book an educational and very interesting read.

I have been conducting research into the possibility of ghosts for around 14 years. I normally stay away from the sensationalist type of ghost books, the ones that just regurgitate the same old ghost stories over and over again.
This book is not one of those (so far at least). It does, however, contain a lot of information on the historical background and evolution about ghost theories and the transitions of what people claim to have seen hundreds of years ago compared to what is commonly reported today.

Personally, I would take some of the negative reviews about this book being boring and ignore them, for I have found this book (again, so far) to be a fascinating read.
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