The following interview and column discuss books related to real ghost hunters and ghost hunting in general. I suppose you could say that these were really written to promote the books. Still, I believe both articles are worthwhile to put here. In fact, the majority of the mentioned books were originally written in English.
Interview with Nanjou Takenori
Do ghost hunters really exist? I want to meet real ghost hunters!
The trend of scientifically investigating so-called ghost phenomena showed a peak since the 19th century in the West. As the influence of Christianity weakened, the scientific and rational eyes turned to the age old question of the afterlife once again . In 1882, the famous “Society for Psychical Research (SPR)” was founded in the UK. Physicists and philosophers, leading personages at that time, joined in great numbers. They were so-called amateur researchers who otherwise held different occupations. Even so, they properly followed scientific procedures, and tried to figure out the true shape of the ghost phenomena.
In the UK there exists a tradition of amateurs shouldering the pioneering field of research. The so-called ghost hunt mystery novels written by novelists Blackwood[ref]Algernon Henry Blackwood (1869 – 1951)[/ref] and Hodgson[ref]William Hope Hodgson (1877 – 1918)[/ref] hint at the investigations of the SPR and the like. Such movements also propagated to the USA and various countries in Europe. And, for a while they were influential in their own way.
In the UK, known for its great love for ghosts, there appears to be a considerable amount of people who still study ghosts even to this day. Even among the living ghost hunters Peter Underwood, the author of the Gazetteer of British Ghosts which I translated this time, is a particularly famous person. He visited all haunted houses in all of Great Britain, and collected the results of his study in several book volumes.
The work of real ghost hunters is not a flashy matter like you read in stories. It is an accumulation of plain work of diligently collecting data and making reports. Occasionally, there they cases in which real estate agents call them to examine presumably haunted objects. If you read the Gazetteer of British Ghosts, you will probably become acquainted with the reality of ghost hunters. At the end of the book there is a list of references recommended by Underwood. Therefore I think it will be useful for those who are curious.
Nanjou Takenori. Born 1958, in Tokyo. Novelist and English Literature scholar.
Column: A Book Guide to getting to know more about “Ghost Hunt” in greater depth
The fact that the Ghost Hunt series is generously imbued with extensive knowledge from various fields, such as psychic research, religion, parapsychology studies, folk religion and the like, is a great charm point of the series. Here, I will give you exemplary references in order to become more knowledgeable of the series’ backdrop.
Colin Wilson’s The Occult is a groundbreaking book which comprehensively introduced the ancient and modern occult phenomena, such as ESP, psychic phenomena and the like. He emphasizes the existence of latent powers potentially hidden in humans. The author also specializes in more particular themes such as “poltergeists” and “psychics”. To follow up on the history of psychic research, I recommend the cheap Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. You will be able to learn in detail about the situation that notable scientists of the 19th century struggled with in psychic research.
Kokkuri-san to Senrigan (Table Turning and Clairvoyance) will probably be the reference concerning the influence which the psychical research boom exerted to our country. To ghost hunters a skeptical viewpoint is also indispensable. When you read books of the skeptical side, like Entities, I’m sure that the series will feel even more interesting.
Fictional Ghost Hunters
As for fiction, Carnacki, the Ghost Finder and John Silence: Physician Extraordinary are well-known ghost hunt book classics. The image of Carnacki and Silence who explicate the psychic phenomena in the activities reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, seem like a distant predecessor of Naru.
As for the domestically produced ghost hunters, we have the pioneering psychic detective Mononobe Tarou who appeared in books such as Nanajuugoba no Karasu (75 Crows). Ono-san herself declared to have been influenced by the ghost hunter protagonist of this orthodox mystery.
List of mentioned books
- Gazetteer of British Ghosts by Peter Underwood
- The Occult by Colin Wilson
- Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum
- Kokkuri-san to Senrigan (Table Turning and Clairvoyance) by Ichiyanagi Hirotaka
- Entities by Joe Nickell
- Carnacki, the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
- John Silence: Physician Extraordinary by Algernon Blackwood
- Nanajuugoba no Karasu (75 Crows) by Tsuzuki Michio