cover image Adventures in Paranormal Investigation

Adventures in Paranormal Investigation

Joe Nickell, . . Univ. Press of Kentucky, $29.95 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-8131-2467-4

Nickell, a senior research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (Real-Life X-Files ), relates short anecdotes about 40 years spent searching for the truth behind stories of psychic abilities, alien encounters, faith healing and other paranormal phenomena. As a former stage magician, private investigator and folklorist, Nickell has the right skills to separate truth from confabulation. Blurry photographs of ghosts said to haunt a historic Louisiana plantation or the gas chamber at Dachau are explained as photographic errors, if not outright fakery. Sightings of ghosts or religious figures in burnt tortillas most likely result from pareidolia, the ability to find shapes in random patterns like clouds. But Nickell's no-nonsense style fails to brings his stories to life. Confusion results from widely separated discussions of seemingly similar phenomena and from the inclusion of nonparanormal topics such as Jack the Ripper, the possible historical sources for Frankenstein and the fake cancer drug Laetrile. Finally, details are lacking on Nickell's “Ghostly Encounters Questionnaire,” which he claims shows that those who experience paranormal events have “fantasy-prone” personalities. Nickell's work is fascinating, but one wishes he were better at describing it. 68 photos. (Nov.)