Posts tagged ‘ghosts’
Title: The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark
Author: Carl Sagan (my hero!)
Year of Publication: 1996
Genre Keywords: alien abduction, aliens, astrology, belief, credulity, critical thinking, culture, debunking, false memory, ghosts, hallucinations, history, human error, logic, reason, religion, science, skepticism, thought.
Summary: Brilliant popular scientist Carl Sagan takes on a culture of logical laziness in this readable and eloquent volume all about the errors we as human beings make in knowing and interpreting the world around us. He describes typical thinking errors like confirmation bias (our tendency to give more weight to information that supports what we want to believe), inconsistent logic, or confusion between correlation and causation. Along the way, he takes the American government and educational system to task for failing to create a citizen base with the knowledge required to think critically about information presented to them. He acknowledges, though, that it’s hard for governments to promote critical thought, lest they find themselves held accountable by a tough-to-manipulate electorate. For this reason and many others, Sagan argues convincingly, the world needs more skeptics, ready and willing to ask questions and ruthlessly demand the facts.
Who’ll Love It: If you’ve ever made the decision to doubt the received wisdom of any of the authorities in your world, at least some of Sagan’s words will resonate with you. Certainly he’s got a way with words and some highly amusing anecdotes. And fans of the Cosmos television series will practically hear his voice coming through the pages! But be warned – Sagan, like a proper skeptic, holds nothing sacred, and he does discuss ideas that will challenge any reader who takes anything on faith.
Carl Sagan is the reason Richard Dawkins and I agree on anything. Dawkins said in his review of the book, “My candidate for planetary ambassador can be none other than Carl Sagan himself”. Amen! (Can you say ‘amen’ to Richard Dawkins?)
Want More? If Sagan’s words resonate deeply with you, or if they whet your curiosity and you’d like to learn more, I recommend the Center for Inquiry as a great resource. I’ve been following their “Point of Inquiry” podcast, and I find it fascinating, intelligent, and appealing. And I’ve just learned they have another pocast, “Center Stage” – I’m headed straight to iTunes to sign on. Check out their website for more on the very ideas Carl Sagan talks about in this book.
Winter, 1937. It was a bitterly cold night in Evansville, Indiana, the kind of snowy winter night that sees most citizens buried under as many blankets as they can gather together. But at least one citizen was up and about – a solitary janitor whose name has been lost to posterity. He worked nights at beautiful Willard Library, keeping the building safe and warm by maintaining the coal-powered furnace overnight and attending whatever mundane maintenance tasks couldn’t be tackled during the day, when people came in for quiet reading and study. In the early hours before dawn, as our hard-working janitor descended to the basement to stoke the fires yet again, he saw something he would likely never forget.
There was a lady there, clad all in gray, from the veil upon her head to the shoes on her feet. In the dim light, even her skin seemed gray. How could a woman possibly have gotten into the building? The flustered janitor fumbled his flashlight; it hit the hard ground, but it didn’t go out. He watched in shock as the woman before him dissolved into shadows, as if she had never been there.
Throughout the week I’ve mostly been focused on scary stories from the fiction world: after all, Hallowe’en is all about the scary stories we tell ourselves. But there’s a non-fiction side to the paranormal and spooky as well. Believe in it or don’t, people have written countless books about the folklore, spirituality, and science behind the things we see in horror films and in the Hallowe’en decorations aisle at your nearest Wal-Mart. Here’s a sampling.
Title: Good Night, Sweet Angel
Author: Clare McNally
Year of Publication: 1996
Genre Keywords: afterlife, child in danger, ghosts, haunting, murder, parenting, possession, psychological thriller, supernatural, suspense, thriller.
Summary: After her abusive ex-husband dies trying to get revenge on her and her daughter, all Jenn Galbraith wants is a new start. But that won’t be so easy. Evan’s angry spirit is searching for them from beyond the grave, wanting above all to get revenge on Emily for telling the truth about her father’s abuse. Emily has one ally in this supernatural battle – a ghost-child called Tara. But Tara isn’t always a nice friend; she can be capricious and mean-spirited, and she’s causing Emily some trouble. But surely it can’t be greater than the trouble Emily would be in if her father got to her . . .
Who’ll Love It: Anybody who likes a genuinely creepy ghost story will be enthralled by this one. Tara’s ghost leaves nobody at peace; even minor characters feel her wrath in the form of strange hauntings during a Thanksgiving visit. And don’t forget to look out for strange side characters like Laura, the fifties-throwback housewife, her creepy fieldhand, and her troubled son. It left me inspired by its perfect blend of paranormal phenomena and real-world creepiness.
A Touch of Romance: Most of the book’s emphasis is on the fear factor of a malevolent haunting, but even that leaves time for a single mother to find love. What’s noteworthy is how lovable her beau really is! Nick Hasken is an all-around sweetheart, a science professor with a love of karate, ballroom dancing, and really nerdy ties and T-shirts. Even more refreshing, he’s not your average bodice-ripping muscleman from the cover of a Harlequin romance. He has a bit of a belly, an awkward sense of fashion, and ever-present chemical stains on his skin from the science lab. But I’ve rarely found a love interest so endearing in any book I’ve read! (To carry the point forward, the evil ex-husband is repeatedly described as “handsome”. Looks really aren’t everything here!)