Jennifer Lauer & Dave Schumacher,
You've Got Ghosts! Haunted Tales from the Inbox
(Schiffer, 2011)

Ever had ghosts in your inbox? Bet not. In You've Got Ghosts! Haunted Tales from the Inbox, authors Jennifer Lauer and Dave Schumacher from the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group share with us the fun, excitement and drudgery -- yes, drudgery -- that are part of being a professional paranormal investigator. This is not the glamorous job it's cracked up to be on the slew of paranormal investigation shows popping up on TV lately. Lauer and Schumacher wade though a virtually endless sea of emails on a regular basis -- the interesting, the bizarre and the mundane.

The emails presented here are raw, unedited and exactly as the team received them -- no revisions, no corrections. The emailers share stories, ask questions about haunted locations and often request an investigation at their site. In most instances, the team answers these enquiries for us with a brief response, which is usually respectful of the querent's situation. But in some instances, these short quips, which I can see are intended to be humorous, actually come off a little snippy and sarcastic. In other cases, we get a longer explanation of how the team debunked, defined or otherwise dealt with the situations presented.

So how exactly are real paranormal investigations carried out? We get a look at that, too. It can be exciting, boring or just plain weird. And, as we see, it can be tricky dealing with difficult clients. One woman was unhappy with the team's findings, and it became apparent she was actually just looking for an excuse to leave her husband. Huh? At least that's how I read it. Obviously, paranormal investigation can be a thankless job, so why bother? Lauer and Schumacher explain that investigators should enter the field "for [their] own knowledge and satisfaction," rather than for recognition, and, quite simply, that's why they do it.

A small aside: It is a sad commentary on the U.S. school system that so many adults cannot construct a proper sentence or use correct punctuation or capitalization. I guess that's all gone out the window in this era of quick texts and emails on the fly. I mention this because the authors have an annoying habit of their own: They constantly refer to individual email authors as "they," rather than "he" or "she." It was constant throughout the book and it really bugged me.

So are paranormal events common? Are there a lot of believers out there? Judging by the sheer volume of emails this team receives, the answer would seem to be yes. This is a fun little book, and a quick read. But overall, it's just not exciting. The emails are monotonous and far from spell-binding. I appreciate Lauer's and Schumacher's dedication in reading each and every message they receive. However, had the rest of the book been as exciting as the last chapters, which detail a more intriguing investigation as well as some of their own experiences, oh boy would this have been an exciting read. But of course it couldn't be any other way; that was not the point of the book. The emails are front and center.

I do hope the authors will someday pen a tome highlighting their most fascinating investigations and experiences. Now that would be electrifying.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

16 February 2013

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