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Book: Spook — Science Tackles The Afterlife

September 6, 2009
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(I’m not feeling great today so forgive the less-than-stellar writing… because, you know, usually the stuff in this blog is Pulitzer quality. I mean, we all know that, right?)

Oh, I love Mary Roach. She is so funny, witty and upfront. I like a girl who knows what she doesn’t know and isn’t ashamed to flaunt her ignorance in front of highly respected experts. Gotta love it.
So, I chose this for my first RIP book because we already had it in the house, and because, hey, afterlife! It was great, but if you’re looking for chills and spookiness (title aside), you’d do well to look elsewhere. However, if you are completely fascinated by what science is doing to prove (or disprove) whether the soul lives on after death (or whether we have a soul at all), then this is a great read.

Mary Roach approaches her books in an extremely straightforward manner. She is not afraid to go there. She asks the questions we all want to ask (but don’t): Do those ghost-detector thingies really work? If you take a class on how to be a medium — well, how is that? Is the ectoplasm seen in photos of Spiritualist mediums really ectoplasm, or is it… you know, gauze? (or worse yet, sheep omentum!) Was that 21 Grams movie full of BS or does the soul really weigh 21 grams?

She fearlessly travels around the world asking these questions, accompanying researchers on their quests for proof. She goes to a small village in India to talk to children who are “actually” reincarnated adults. She goes to Donner Pass to listen for ghosts. She inspects operating-room setups designed to help prove or disprove out-of-body near-death experiences. And she does it all with such snappy writing. I love her!
So what does she think of all this life-after-death stuff after all this research? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out, but she ends the book with her opinion altered. I’ll give you that much.

I personally love ghost stories and my favorite show is Ghost Hunters. I’m like Mulder — I want to believe. I really, really want to believe. Unfortunately my nature is more like Scully — I kinda need proof. But I still want to believe, so I keep hope alive. Our house was (probably, maybe) slightly haunted when we were kids. My brother and I both have stories. I don’t think the Ghost Hunters would find anything there, but there’s definitely a feeling in the house still. I wish she’d been able to go along with that crew.

I don’t really know what I believe about life after death. I think it’s one of those unknowable things — we’ll find out when we get there. I’m okay with that. I’d rather not know, actually. However, I’d still like to see a ghost some day. Preferably in a nice, gloomy cemetery, or an old house. Yes, please!

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