Morbidly curious Mary Roach, author of The New York Times bestseller Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, tackles a more hopeful subject with her latest book, Spook. What happens when we die? This time around, shes homing in on age-old questions concerning our souls instead of our physical bodies. She serves as an irreverent and witty tour guide through the bastions of the unknown with the kind of genuine fascination that makes you want her to uncover all the answers.
In the first chapter, Roach travels to India to tag along with a reincarnation researcher to interview children who have memories of their past lives. Later she signs up for the Fundamentals of Mediumship, a course at Arthur Findlay College in England, where shes trained to communicate with spirits through mind reading. Roach also joins the International Ghost Hunters Society, which claims to have 14,000 members in 78 countries, for a ghost-hunting outing. She stands in a supposedly haunted field with a tape recorder trying to pick up word from the dead (she doesnt get a peep). She even surrenders her conscious to the research lab of a neuroscience professor in Ontario, where shes exposed to high frequencies of electromagnetic fields that are believed to simulate hauntings or ghost experiences.
The biggest stumbling block to proving anything is the substantial number of wackos and eccentrics attracted to the subject matter. She dredges up historical accounts of their efforts, interviews researchers, and sometimes takes part in their experiments. It makes for a wildly entertaining mockery of the quacks of the occult, and there are many (it was once believed that mediums stored linens posing as ectoplasm in their vaginas). During the rare moments when Roach writes about someone more scientific than spiritual, more factual than fraudulent, there are tiny glimpses into the honest-to-goodness possibility of ghosts.
In the end, its a read worth more than a couple of chuckles, but if youre looking for the stuff of the books title, the only conclusion is that there are no definitive answers out there. Leading to a surprise ending of sorts, Roach, who comes across the pages as a lighthearted but unflinching cynic, admits that shes a convert. What the hell, Roach says. I believe in ghosts.
Meghan McEwen is a freelance writer. Send comments to email@example.com.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.