Investigating the Paranormal is an ambitious book of case histories by British paranormal investigator Tony Cornell. Mr. Cornell serves as president of the Cambridge University Society for Psychical Research and as vice-president of the famed Society for Psychical Research he brings five-plus decades worth of experiences and investigations to the book and it does not disappoint. The book is richly detailed, with virtually every type of haunting imaginable, covered in-depth.
One of the foremost philosophers in the methodologies of science was Sir Karl Popper. Popper’s claim-to-fame was his demarcation criterion to distinguish science from pseudo-science. A given theory of science must be falsifiable in order to qualify as real science. One must robustly put a theory to the test, trying to come up with data that will disprove it. If no data disproving the validity of the theory is found, then the theory is said to have merit. Cornell adheres to this notion of falsifiability with vigor, methodically going through the list of possible natural (including human-induced) explanations for alleged paranormal activity in each-and-every case. His dedication, nay marriage, to thoroughness of investigation and skepticism (the healthy kind, not its evil cousin) should serve as a guide to every investigator, new and experienced.
Cornell is rather unique among people writing about ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, and the like, because after his fifty-plus years of research and investigation, it seems he has concluded that these types of psychical phenomena are most often caused (unconsciously) by one or more of the humans who are experiencing them. What of the seemingly incredible claim that discarnate human spirits are responsible for some types of phenomena discussed here? "Although I have endeavored to remain open-minded, in the 50 years that I have spent investigating the subject I myself have not come across any convincing evidence to substantiate this claim." Cornell estimates that of the 800 or so cases he has investigated, only twenty percent are difficult to explain. And of those twenty percent, only a handful seem likely to be of the paranormal ilk. Despite this, he has not given up and is still searching for the proverbial smoking gun.
Some of the book’s highlights include: the Cambridge College Ghosts chapter, which contains a particularly eerie story about a students repeated sighting of an old man sitting by the fire in his dorm room, the R.M.S. Queen Mary investigation, and the concluding pages of the book, which feature some priceless anecdotes about Cornells encounters with the seemingly human-induced variety of paranormal activity.
Investigating the Paranormal is Tony Cornells magnum opus, and for that reason alone it is worth reading for the man’s credentials are impeccable, his stature within the paranormal community great. More importantly though, the book serves as a wonderful guide for those who are avid readers of books on these subjects or for newly christened investigators of the paranormal. Cornell has set the bar very high, giving all investigators, from the armchair variety to those in the field, something great to strive for in terms of accuracy, thoroughness, and skepticism.
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