Today I have for you guys a guest post by author Laura Bickle.
Here’s the description for Sparks, the second book in her Urban Fantasy series about medium Anya Kalinczyk:
WITHOUT A TRACE…
Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money.
But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.
Please welcome Laura, with a post about the history of ghost hunting.
Old Ghosts and New Methods
By Laura Bickle
Ghost hunting isn’t new.
Modern ghost hunting involves investigating haunted sites in search of proof of life beyond death. Ghost hunters and other paranormal investigators often attempt to record data from their experiences using a variety of equipment beyond personal anecdotes. Such investigations can make use of EMF meters, thermometers, cameras, motion detectors, and audio recordings to capture evidence of paranormal activity. There’s a plethora of new evidence-collection devices available, with more invented and adapted as time goes on.
With all the technology used by ghost hunters and the recent popularity of such investigations, it may seem that such activities are a new phenomenon. In fact, organized attempts to contact ghosts have their roots in Spiritualism, a movement that peaked in popularity between the 1840s and the 1920s. As a belief system, Spiritualism assumed that spirits of the dead could be contacted by humans. Spiritualism relied on mediums, living people who have the special ability to communicate with spirits, to bring the words and deeds of the dead to the masses.
In 1848, two sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox, claimed to contact spirits through rapping noises. The experience of rapping by their audiences was considered to be vivid evidence at the time. Their experiences and the experiences of other mediums in the movement sparked widespread public interest in the afterlife. Seances, table-tipping, Ouija boards, and automatic writing became popular entertainment, even parlor games at parties. Communication with the dead became democratized, in a sense. It could be witnessed by ordinary people.
The movement began to wane under accusations of fraud. In the 1920s, stage magicians such as Harry Houdini campaigned to expose mediums defrauding grieving families. As analysis began to replace belief, many efforts to contact spirits were exposed as delusional or predatory.
Still, the interest in life after death is perennial; across cultures, it‘s a topic for philosophers and theologians. But the Spiritualist movement brought the search to the masses. Ordinary people were able to touch and see evidence of an afterlife for themselves.
Modern ghost hunters are the heirs of much of those grass-roots efforts. Ghost hunters come from all walks of life, and are ordinary people with an interest in the afterlife. But we now live in a scientific age. Armed with technological tools, many ghost hunters depart from Spiritualists by embracing skepticism, rather than blind belief in things that go bump in the dark. By embracing scientific methods, such investigators are likely to come closer to the truth than the Spiritualists that came before.
The curiosity is the same, but the methods have changed. Rather than seeing contacting spirits as a game, modern ghost hunting views contact with the dead as an investigation, worthy of measurement and accumulation of evidence, not as a form of entertainment. As a result, we may come closer to answers, answers that curious people a century before could only speculate about.