My late grandmother Martin gave me the book. I believe that she bought it as for a birthday gift, perhaps Christmas, I really don’t remember. It changed my life the same way The Bible does for others; each chapter or verse opens a new door of thought previously obfuscated.
It’s called ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook. And the writer is perhaps the most revered ghost hunter this side of Warwick, Rhode Island: Loyd Auerbach.
Auerbach holds a rare Master’s degrees in parapsychology and sat as a faculty member for the John F. Kennedy University’s Parapsychology Program — the only such program in the field of academia — for years. He has become one of the founding fathers of the field.
Newsweek Magazine deemed the aforementioned guidebook the “sacred text” on paranormal investigation in an August of 1996 article. In the “Willard Library” episode of “Ghost Hunters,” Steve Gonsalves gave a little shout-out to Auerbach and the novel when he passed a bookshelf and subtly replied with “Hey, they have ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeist by Auerbach here” — a seemingly off-the-cuff remark but an obvious tip-of-the-hat to the writer and text. The guidebook has become a sought after tome among investigators. Copies are passed around like a haunted-bong due to its out-of-print status. Rumors of ownership occur and emails begin to fly: “Can I borrow it?” Off the bookshelves since the early 1990s, an excellent-conditioned copy goes for anywhere from $60 to $150 on Amazon.
My grandmother’s gift followed me everywhere I went during my middle school years. I coveted it more than any other possession I owned. If I came home from school and found the house on fire, I had a mental plan of kicking in the front door, grabbing the book and my Boba Fett 12-inch figure and my Mötley Crüe tapes, throwing the cat out the window and getting the hell out of there. Among my childhood heroes are both the odd and clichéd: Wade Boggs (pre-Yankees) and Nikki Sixx, Jim Henson and Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Murray and Nietzsche (yes, I read him as a middle schooler; I was that kid). Loyd Auerbach made the list somewhere above Hemingway but not as high as Chewbacca.
(Side note: I am terribly bothered that Word’s spell-check recognizes “Chewbacca” but not “Nietzsche” — what a strange world we live in).
I memorized many portions of the book; haunted locations, theories of hauntings, techniques, questionnaires, and all sorts of random information became a normal part of my regular brain activities.
Somewhere along life’s journey, I lost the book. I am not sure where; I doubt I let someone borrow it. Perhaps it was put into the hundreds of books I had as a child (hence the modern-day literature teaching gig) and donated to a local charity. Who knows? I find myself checking the occult/philosophy section of almost every used bookstore I enter in a futile attempt to track down the book — yet it is never there.
A few months back, I emailed my childhood ghost-hunting hero. A quick Google check told me that he is still in the business, conducting lectures and investigations all over the country. In my email I thanked him for his work in the field and told him how much his early guidebook meant to me and how it not only made me a fanatic of all things paranormal, but also increased my love for the written word and set the pathway for my current teaching position. I told him that I was always looking for a copy of ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists and it can never be found. I was delighted to see that he sells the book in e-copy form off of his website.
He replied. He thanked me for my kind words and was flattered by my appreciation of his life’s work. He told me that the guidebook is out-of-print and copies are rare, but occasionally an out-of-the-loop bibliodealer will put a copy up on Amazon for a few bucks and to keep checking the site for affordable copies.
But until then, he wrote, I have attached an e-copy for you.
He attached the entire guidebook in the email. I have read it as a PDF file over and over again since then. It brings back many memories of my youth, my grandmother, and reignites my love of the field — causing me to forget the bullshit and bruised egos that occupy this field.
We hunt ghosts because we want to hunt ghosts. Jealousy and competition is something that comes with any passion-filled but arguably pointless hobby where participants vary in success (watch the film King of Kong, if you don’t believe me). Fame comes to a few within a field and desire can get in the way of objectivity. But, in the end, we are all in the field for the same reason. We want to hunt ghosts.
I bought a copy off of Amazon this morning for $6.48.
Thanks for the tip, Loyd. Greatly appreciated.