When I was about 13 years old my mother bought me the book Yankee Ghosts by Hans Holzer, my first nonfiction ghost book. Prior to that anything that I had read that was ghost-related was generally some sort of children’s fiction like The House on Hackman’s Hill. Growing up had been a steady diet of mystery from Encyclopedia Brown and Cam Jansen to The Hardy Boys and Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Detectives, but when ghosts were involved the stories became even more fascinating. I’m not sure what prompted her to buy Yankees Ghosts; perhaps it was because we were moving away from our home in Massachusetts and it would be an interesting way to recall the area in which we had lived for ten years. However, two years later I would read The Amityville Horror and find myself at a friend’s house trying to determine if a wall in her bedroom was haunted.
Until just a couple days ago I hadn’t picked up Holzer’s Yankee Ghosts since, and it’s quite interesting reading it through my adult eyes. Dr. Holzer wrote over 140 books, was the writer/producer of the television series In Search Of…, held a Ph.D. from London College of Applied Science, taught parapsychology at the New York Institute of Technology, and is credited with coining the term “ghost hunter.” The homes that he visited were old with intriguing history and origins behind them… we’re talking 1700s type of old. Those are my type of homes — something with history and character.
What I also find interesting is that he seemed pretty quick to initiate a seance with mediums he would invite along. Perhaps I’m not far enough along (I’m only five chapters into the book at the moment) or I simply don’t know enough about the man, but it’s a pretty interesting methodology considering our modern tactics for paranormal investigations that have become popular. Sure, the book was written in the 1960s, but I have yet to read one passage of Dr. Holzer traipsing around someone’s house in a black t-shirt with an EMF detector (although he did record audio).
Take, for instance, a seance at the old home of “Ocean Born” Mary in which the message was conveyed that some valuables were hidden, “Near the lion’s head… You go down past the little rocks, in the middle of the rocks, a little bit like a lion’s head.” When prodded for further details about which direction that would be leaving the house, the response continued on about turning right from the front entrance and the location was about a three minute walk away. Upon inspection, sure enough, the rock shaped like a lion’s head was found.
I’m not criticizing our current investigative techniques, but the accounts are fascinating. It’s a more metaphysical approach, but I’ve always believed that both the scientific and metaphysical can work hand-in-hand to give a complete picture. I don’t pick one side or the other. It seems to be the old science vs. religion debate, but I believe science proves the spiritual realm. (It’s a topic for another day, but take creation versus evolution and you’ll find that the order in which Darwin theorized animals evolved is the same order in which they emerge in the book of Genesis. Food for thought.)
I could almost consider my current reading to be a type of project: compare and contrast Dr. Holzer’s techniques with ours of today — for starters. There’s also a research aspect regarding his approach to the paranormal, as well as historically in the locations he covered. And I may also discover something about myself along the way… since this book was one of the influential factors in setting out upon this path.