This past September, I was thrilled to have my first book published, titled, Ghost Hunting Confidential: Investigating Strauss Mansion. In this book, I split time between information on the ghost hunting hobby, its history, and the various methods and equipment we use, while the second half tells of the paranormal investigations I have conducted at the Victorian-era mansion in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. It is a small volume, friendly for all ages, and I would like to think it had more of a “Haunted History” approach than just rambling on and on about ghosts. So far, personal comments made to me have been positive, and many have asked if I have another book in the works. Actually, I have two paranormal-themed books that are either finished as drafts or need work. The problem, as I found, is not the writing—that’s the easy part. As any author/historian will tell you, the main hold-up is money. I was very lucky to have my first work published by the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society (in return, I let them keep the profits). Anyway, on to Ghost Hunting Confidential, it has been reviewed by Garden State Legacy, an online New Jersey history magazine, for their June issue which came out earlier this week.
The author and publisher of GSL is Gordon Bond, an ardent paranormal skeptic. It is because of this that I am excited about his review. He ended up enjoying my book and awarding it 3 out of 5 stars, which is very good considering the subject matter of the book when compared with more scholarly works reviewed in this magazine. Below are some snippets of the review.
- “Historians often have a love/hate relationship with the “paranormal.” Serious historians are often loathed to be associated with such pseudoscience. Yet it is hard to ignore the much-needed dollars a good “ghost hunt” can rake in for historic house sites.”
- “In the interest of full disclosure, I do not personally believe in ghosts or the so-called paranormal. But I am at least sympathetic to historic sites who feel compelled to indulge in it. And, when done in proper measures, it can be an effective means of introducing members of the public to history who might not otherwise think to walk through the doors of a house museum. Attempting to leave my skepticism aside, Greg Caggiano’s Ghost Hunting Confidential: Investigating Strauss Mansion does a reasonable job of straddling the two communities.”
- “Caggiano opens with “A Brief History of Ghost Hunting,” broadly tracing interest in the paranormal from early religions through the Spiritualist Movement of the 19th century, the fraudulent Fox Sisters, Harry Houdini’s crusade to expose the tricks used in séances, spirit photography, to the modern application of video and sound recording and other devices. He is candid that these days some ghost hunting groups engage in competitive egotistical efforts to one-up each other, even manufacturing or embellishing “evidence.” Caggiano claims to be more evidence-driven, whether one wants to attribute that evidence to a spirit-world or more prosaic causes.”
- “His description of the “Four People You Meet on a Ghost Hunt”—The Skeptic Who Believes Nothing, The Skeptic With an Open Mind, The Believer Who is Skeptical, The Believer Who Believes Everything—is aided by some cute illustrations of each, as is “How Not to Behave on a Hunt.” To his credit, Caggiano also lists some of the “misidentifications” such as reflections, noise pollution, the power of suggestion, etc. It is often frustrating to see how many folks post images of “orbs” on Facebook when they have long since been explained as the out-of-focus reflection of a camera flash on a piece of dust floating in front of the lens or an insect. Much of the first chapter deals with ghost-hunting in general, methods, equipment, and broader themes. The second gets down specifically to the Strauss Mansion, describing three sessions, one in August 2013 and two in May 2014.”
- “Caggiano has written this book as much with the skeptic in mind as the believer. He includes examples of false positives as an acknowledgment not everything that goes bump in the night is a spirit. I know the author and some of his team from another house museum and am certainly not prepared to accuse him or them of lying. I don’t doubt that they experienced the things they claim. Where I do differ is in causation. The origin of every noise or breeze or glint of light is not always going to be immediately apparent. That in itself, however, doesn’t justify leaping to the conclusion that it must be a ghost or “paranormal.””
- “All that aside, Ghost Hunting Confidential: Investigating Strauss Mansion is a slim volume, but well-laid out and illustrated. Even if one is an ardent skeptic as I am, it is nonetheless entertaining. And, in keeping with the economic pragmatism that inspires many historic houses to embrace the “haunted house” image, all the proceeds from the book go to support the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society.”
To read the full review, or to see the entire June issue of Garden State Legacy (there are some great articles), please click here. This review is located in the last section when you scroll to the right, titled, “GSL Reviews”, or you can click here.
Signed copies of my book are available through AHHS by clicking here.