Storr v. The Supernatural

Will Storr. Will Storr Versus The Supernatural: One Man's Search for the Truth About Ghosts. Ebury Press, 2006.

'Lad's mag' Loaded journalist Will Storr sets out on a transatlantic ghost hunting expedition, following the trail of an American demonologist, a variety of English ghost hunters and psychical researchers, the Vatican's top exorcist, and a sceptic or two. Obviously if he interviewed the dwindling band of moderate parapsychologists and moderate sceptics there would have been little entertainment value, so the focus is on people who are, how shall we say, rather eccentric, words like barking mad not being exactly politically correct these days.

Of course, some such as Maurice Grosse have a good excuse, they are overwhelmed with the grief of the loss of a loved one and looking for solace; others are clearly fantasists and attention seekers of various sorts. For example there is the guy who is chasing the Satanists who hide in Clapham Woods, and for whom every passing rustic is a Satanist in disguise, then there is the has-been pop star who interviewed a family of vampires presided over by a werewolf.

It's clear that some of this stuff is getting through Storr's lapsed Catholic psyche, and he has a number of odd experiences, which strike the sceptical onlooker as excellent examples of the power of suggestion. Much can be said for many of the experiences narrated by others here. Storr is at least half convinced by all of this, and begins to sniff out ghosities and demons round the corners. His belief fluctuates, but is no doubt fuelled by his naive assumption that the 'investigators' he meets are basically honest and are not making things up or faking some of it themselves. Those of us who been in this sort of field for years know that is a very dangerous assumption to make. A good motto in this field is 'believe nothing, not even the evidence of your senses, and trust no one, not even yourself'.

Despite the talk of oppressive atmospheres, orbs, satanists, werewolves, shadows in the corners of perception, and of lurking demons, real evil only appears twice in this book. Once is the exorcism of a an autistic child by a mad American fundamentalist, the other is the sinister Ultramontane traditionalist Vatican exorcist defending the fatal exorcism of a German teenager with classical ends justifying means arguments. You just know this guy would burn you at the stake if he could get away with it. -- Peter Rogerson

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