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Ghosts From Our Past review

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"Ghosts From Our Past Both Literally & Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal" by Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates, with Andrew Shaffer is a tie-in book to the upcoming Ghostbusters movie. Written in-universe, this is a revised edition of a book written by Erin and Abby years before they became Ghostbusters, when they just graduated from college with their bachelor's degrees, intended to render all other books in the field of parapsychology obsolete. Things didn't go so well and their friendship ended as a result of it. Fast forward a bit, after the events of "Ghostbusters," and now they've updated and re-organized with what they learned to be fact. The book will be on sale June 28.

"Ghosts From Our Past" starts off with quotes about the book from characters in the movie-universe. The new forward for this revised edition is also from one of the characters in the movie-universe. It's a humorous read and sort of a major spoiler considering who portrays this character so I won't say. It definitely sets the tone for the rest of the book.

"Ghosts From Our Past" is divided into four sections: History, Research, Methods, and Resources.

Part 1 is "Our History" and goes into detail about the back story of Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert. It starts in their childhood, to how they met in high school and their early college years. It will be interesting to see how much of this is exclusive to the book and how much we'll also see of it in the actual movie. From the trailers, there is one tidbit so far that is nod to them being social outcasts. The section concludes with Abby and Erin meeting their mentor in the field of paranormal and go on their first ghost hunt. By the time you finish this book, you'll either empathize with these two or conclude they are a bunch of weirdos.

Part 2 is "Our Research" and schools readers on the movie universe's cultural history of ghosts, historical paranormal investigators, the science of the paranormal, and lastly the methodology of classifying and categorizing ghosts. This was the most impressive section for me. It was just an amazing read and a masterful combination of fiction and non-fiction. There will be many times when you will stop and ask yourself, "Wait, is this real?" and you'll fire up a Google search to check. The cultural history looks at ghosts in ancient history, cultural antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Spiritualist Era, and Present Day. If you read "A History of Ghosts," by Dan Aykroyd's father, it is a similar narrative. Then the historical paranormal investigators delve into the pioneers in the field, some you never heard of and some you definitely have. The science section was very cool - definitely something Ghostbusters fans wanted to read since well, forever. Abby, Erin, and Andrew apply quantum physics to ghosts and introduce their Spectral Field Theory then get into the nature of psychokinetic energy, barriers between dimensions, ley lines, ectoplasm, and why ghosts manifest in the first place. Then even cooler comes a brief history of people who took a stab at paranormal taxonomy - terms and classification. The frontrunner is a person named Maureen Kemp, who for all intent and purposes appears to be the John Tobin of this movie universe. The section ends Abby and Erin commenting on Kemp's work. Think Spengler's Spirit Guide from the Extreme Ghostbusters animated series. Eventually, Egon wrote an updated version of Tobin's Spirit Guide with the Ghostbusters' cases integrated. So from Class 1 to Class 7, they break it down here from Kemp's definition, Abby and Erin's definition, and case studies spotlighting an entity or two for each class. There's definitely some neat callbacks to the movies and animated series in this section. Rounding it out is an addendum of terms that most longtime Ghostbusters fans should recognize, such as "Anchored" or "Repeating."

Part 3 is "Our Methods" and goes into the tools of the trade, a primer on haunted locations, conducting an examination and a stern warning from Abby and Erin. The first couple pages of tools are the basic of basic stuff you would see on those reality TV shows. But then, we're treated to a couple pages by Jillian Holtzmann going into detail about how the P.K.E. Meter, Proton Pack Mark II, and Trap works. You also learn a little back story on Holtzmann as well along the way. The next section is advice on picking locations to investigate like houses, battlefields or cemeteries. Run of the mill info. Then you get to read a selection of famous haunted locations written by Patty Tolan. And it's a mix of real world and fictional famous spots as well as two from the movie (one of which you'll learn a lot about). Then the next section is about how people have attempted to communicate with ghosts - seances, mediums, ghost boxes, radios, and the like. Then it seems like the really good part when Erin and Patty explain how their field theory relates to luring ghosts across the barrier and it's redacted. For reasons only alluded to, it appears after the events of the movie, the revised edition had to be heavily edited. So there's a clue in itself about what role this book plays with what happens in the movie.

The book rounds off with an afterword from Erin and Kevin. Then the resources section lists like what paranormal books to read, a sample liability form, Is it a ghost? quiz, a table of Kemp's classification scale, sample interview form, sample investigation journal pages, glossary of terms, bibliography, and blank pages for taking notes. The final two pages are an excerpt of Abby and Erin's next book which definitely seems to be influenced by the ending of the movie. Flip to the back cover for a photo of main authors of the book.

The complaints are far and few between. I was surprised Part 2 didn't mention the Kenneth P. Higgins Institute of Science when the section on paranormal investigators and groups came up. It just stops in the early 1980s with Rhine. What happened in the 30 years between the Rhine studies and the movie is left unknown. I was hoping to see more movie-specific ghosts in case studies, equipment and locations in Part 3. Part 3 might have spent bit too much time on basic ghost hunting tips.

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"Ghosts From Our Past" is a highly recommended purchase for Ghostheads! It's the sexy lovechild of "A History of Ghosts" and "Spengler's Spirit Guide"! Andrew Shaffer did an admirable job diving into the new Ghostbusters universe, taking something from the movie, and making it his own. A beautiful blend of fact and fiction, it's true you won't want to put it down. I couldn't. I read it cover to cover in about two hours when I got my copy. Along with my review copy, I also received a "Ghosts From Our Past" postcard signed by Andrew Shaffer, an in-universe book cover postcard for "The Heiss Guide to Frightful Entities" by Vernon Heiss, a business card from Zhu's Authentic Hong Kong Food (which will fans who have been keeping up with the new movie will immediately recognize), and an apology letter from Kevin who admits "some little spud" tried to eat the book. If you buy this book, you get unique resource and insight into many characters, equipment, terms, and locations ahead of the movie's release in theaters that you won't get anywhere else. As the press tour begins for the movie and the July 15 release date draws closer, the wave of interviews, trailers, TV spots, and merchandise should draw in fans, old and new. But the jewel among them hand's down is "Ghosts From Our Past."

"Ghosts From Our Past" is for sale on June 28, 2016 in paperback, eBook, and Audio as well as hardcover internationally. More information on the book and places to buy it from can be found on the book's official website ghostsfromourpast.com.

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