Zak Bagan’s released his long-awaited ghost hunting book in early December 2019. Read the review after jump.
***Controversy: Zak Bagans May Have Plagiarized Material***
- Zak covered many broad topics about ghost hunting
- Due to its breadth, the investigation chapters run short on technique
- There’s a lot of ghost hunting history and investigation stories
- A series of bulleted lists in later chapters provides instructions for ghost hunters
- The book doesn’t get rolling for ghost hunting procedures until part 2
- It’s not focused on scientific ghost hunting, but documenting the unknown
Ghost-Hunting For Dummies Summary
It took something like 10 years for Zak Bagans, the lead investigator and host of Ghost Adventures, to write a procedural for new ghost hunters.
He covers off on this history of ghosts, how to run an investigation, gear to use, and dealing with skeptics. It’s not really a book about using technology or science to identify a haunting. The book focuses more on personal experiences and how gadgets complement that. It may rub some paranormal researchers the wrong way.
Overall, Zak wrote an objective, neutral book on the topic. It’s almost dispassionate about paranormal research like a technical document. Although, he does throw some shade at skeptics and debunkers.
From an editorial perspective, it’s well written. Some chapters meander from their main points, while others are hyper-focused on their topics (compare chapter 12 to chapter 13, for example). Only a few typos made it through to the final edition.
Finally, did I enjoy reading it and did I learn anything new? Yes, I did, especially the history of ghost hunting gadgets. But this book is for absolute beginners.
And now for the gory details …
The book is broken into 4 sections:
- The Basics of Ghost-Hunting
- Investigating Ghosts and Hauntings
- Putting Your Paranormal Research into Action
- The Part of Tens
Part 1: The Basics of Ghost-Hunting
The Basics of Ghost-Hunting kicks it off with the foundation a new ghost hunter needs for field work. It’s loaded with paranormal pioneers, the history of paranormal research, and ghosts from different ancient cultures. He even takes a bit of a dig at ghost hunting in popular culture.
I don’t think many readers will care for the historic narrative, but I’m glad he covered it. Many new investigators don’t know about spiritualism, Hans Holzer and other pioneers. It’s always good to know how innovation has happened over time.
My biggest gripe with this section deals with the scientific method. It’s all of 5 pages (pgs. 106-111), and Zak essentially thumbs his nose at debunkers and skeptics. I like the rigor they apply to find natural causes for phenomena. Just because they’re naysayers doesn’t mean they don’t make valid points.
Anyway, the book doesn’t start the ghost hunting part until Chapter 6: Preparing to Look for Ghosts. It offers up some good (albeit brief) advice.
Part 2: Investigating Ghosts and Hauntings
This is where things really get started. Zak describes different ghostly types and hauntings, and interweaves stories, historic tidbits and his approach throughout. This section has great “Signs of…” info boxes which give tips and important points for readers.
In this section, I thought there were too many stories used. Some long, some short. In a couple of cases, I needed to go back to the beginning part to reabsorb the ghost hunting advice. I also thought the example stories for haunted objects watered down what investigators should know about possessed possessions. They’d make a great addition to The Parts of Tens, but distracted from learning how and why objects have spirits attached to them.
My favorite chapters included the ghost hunting gadgets in Chapter 9, which really focused on using EMF meters correctly. As for Chapter 10, The Dangers of Investigating, it seemed like an afterthought.
Part 3: Putting Your Paranormal Research into Action
Okay, this is the part where investigators get the how-to’s right from Zak. At this point, junior investigators have the knowledge they need to put together an introductory investigation.
And then it starts off with another long history of ghostly evidence collecting.
This illustrates the big problem with the book: It’s loaded with good historic info, but that history sidetracks the main point, how to run an investigation.
Moving past the historic details, Zak gets into describing the pros and cons of collecting and analyzing evidence with video cameras, still cameras, EVP, ITC, and pretty much everything else used to gather evidence during an investigation. He uses summary boxes throughout, which keeps things on point.
I found Chapters 13 to 17 the best chapters of the book. Zak covers off on case management, what to expect during an investigation, how to troubleshoot equipment problems, and authenticating the ghost’s identity. This is what you’d look for in a how-to book. As for Chapter 18: Going Beyond Just a Hobby, he gives some tips on starting a paranormal business. It’s a bit of a non-sequitur, but useful to know if you want to move to the next level.
Part 4: The Part of Tens
If you’re not familiar with Dummies books, they end on a section of things to know that weren’t included in the main content. Following that, Ghost-Hunting for Dummies includes these:
- America’s Ten Most Haunted Cities and Towns
- Ten of America’s Most Haunted Places
- Ten Signs Your House Is Haunted – and What to Do Next
It’s all good trivia, history and Ghost Adventures’ investigation stories. If you’re a fan of Ghost Adventures (like me), then you’re pretty familiar with the haunted places already.
Ghostly Activities’ Conclusion
If you’re a beginner or curious about Ghost Adventures’ investigations, then this book is a fine addition to your ghostly book shelf. The ghostly history and side stories can distract you from the ghost hunting tips, but grounds you in the craft. For seasoned investigators, you probably won’t learn anything new. To them, I’d say read over Chapter 18 to turn your hobby into a business.
To that point: If Zak follows this book with another, I hope he writes one on paranormal business. Many ghost hunters would love to turn their side hustles into permanent gigs, and he obviously has a great business mind for us dummies.
Ghost-Hunting for Dummies by Zak Bagans was published on Dec. 5, 2019, and it’s available in print and digital formats.
Note: Jake bought the book with his own money, so there’s no expectation of a positive review by the author or publisher.
Feature image: ©2019 Zak Bagans & published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.