Is there life after death? This is the question Mary Roach attempts to find the answer to in ”Spook”. Through visits to mediums, neuroscientists and psychologists (both of the normal and the paranormal kind) she explores such issues as ghosts, near-death experiences and ectoplasm that is secreted out of said mediums’ vaginas.
This is the second book by Mary Roach that I’ve read. The first one, Packing for Mars, left me indifferent to her style of writing. Having read great reviews about some of her other books, I had expected more and was disappointed. So I hesitated before picking up another one of her books. Spook, however, made me see what all the fuss was about. Roach’s way of writing is very entertaining. For a book that is dealing with such a serious issue as death, it was surprisingly funny (even hilarious) at times. Roach keeps an open mind about the paranormal but is quick to mock when frauds are revealed as such.
Reading Spook has been very educational. Some of the phenomena that are attributed to paranormal factors have been shown to have very simple explanations. Well, at least if you are a scientist. I learned, for example, that infrasound and electromagnetic fields can trigger a feeling of unease that is commonly associated with the presence of ghosts. Ketamene can have the same effect as a near-death experience. And so on.
Naturally, the vast majority of the cases that Roach examines are either outright fabricated or self-delusion. But there are still a few cases science has not yet been able to explain. Roach chooses to believe that there might be a soul that survives after our death, if only because no one can seem to prove the opposite. This conclusion was perhaps the only complaint I had. I, on the other hand, will choose to believe there is life after death when I see it.