Conversations with Ghosts

By Heath, Pamela | The Journal of Parapsychology, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Conversations with Ghosts


Heath, Pamela, The Journal of Parapsychology


Conversations With Ghosts by Alex Tanous with Callum E. Cooper. Guilford, United Kingdom: White Crow Books, 2013. Pp. xxvii + 138. $15.99 (paperback). ISBN: 978-1-908733-55-9.

Conversations With Ghosts by Alex Tanous and Callum Cooper is a short compilation of chapters, photos, interviews, and stories all centered around the somewhat legendary figure of Alex Tanous, best known to parapsychologists for his work with Karl Osis at the ASPR in New York during the 1970s and 1980s. It appropriately begins with a brief introduction by Cooper explaining who Tanous was and how the book came about. Those wishing to know more about Tanous' private life may feel a bit disappointed at the brevity of personal information presented here--readers are referred to Tanous' autobiography for those details. Instead. Cooper focuses on Tanous' qualifications and the types of research in which he participated. This sets the stage for the six chapters that represent the body of the book, which are either transcriptions of Tanous' notes and interviews or were written by him for an unfinished set of case reports.

The first chapter introduces the reader to the idea that not all hauntings are alike. In addition, Tanous shares his thoughts on why hauntings may occur in some cases and not others and describes the manner in which the ASPR would go about choosing and investigating cases. For some of us, this is something of a walk down memory lane. Tanous, as an extremely gifted psychic, played a key role on the team. Data collection was only the first step in a case. After they gathered that information, the team would figure out what was needed to resolve the situation to the mutual satisfaction of both the living and the dead. This varied greatly from case to case but often involved letting spirits tell their stories and providing counseling to all parties as needed.

The next three chapters are arguably the most interesting. They describe Tanous' first-hand experiences at Cedar Rapids, Hawk Mountain, Dandy House, and other haunted locations. This provides intriguing insight into how Tanous worked and the ways in which he made sense of his experiences. For example, the fact that Tanous took on the viewpoints of the spirits who told him their stories could explain why he stated that "There are no truly evil ghosts; any unpleasant effects of the presence are only the results of an unhappy lingering energy resulting from the act of injustice or imbalance itself' (p. 8). After all, every person is the hero of his or her own story! Tanous also discussed what he called a "spiraling effect" where "multiple manifestations converge on a site, drawing to the house people with similar character weaknesses as the original inhabitants who had begun the cycle" (p. 11). We might think of this as a kind of resonance, where the living are (perhaps unconsciously) drawn to a certain energy while others are repelled by it.

The fifth chapter represents a jarring stylistic shift compared to the earlier, more personable ones. This is because it is the edited transcript of an interview Tanous gave on his work in 1981. In it, he touches on everything from ghost ethnicity and types of manifestation to his utter lack of belief in demons and possession to survival research and what part of personality, if any, survives death of the body. Tanous believed every person was comprised of three things: a body, a spirit, and a soul. He refers to the soul as "individuality," whereas the spirit part of us that can leave the body without us dying (i.e., our conscious awareness) he called "personality" or "the apparition" (pp. 72-73). One gets the feeling he is struggling to give us a glimpse of the ineffable but falls short due to the inadequacy of language to capture its complexity and nuances. The reader might be forgiven for wishing for a more comprehensive explanation of what all this meant to Tanous or at the very least a good glossary.

The last chapter returns to the style of the first ones, with a few words about Tanous' and others' beliefs on what part of personality, if any, survives the death of the body. …

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