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Brief Reviews
by John Doyle

VICTORIA BRANDEN has set herself a formidable task in Give Up the Ghost (Imp Press, 224 pages, $16.95 paper). It`s not that she wants to squelch all belief in ghosts, goblins, the paranormal, and all associated gimcrackery. Instead, she claims that apparently supernatural mysteries can be explained away through simple scientific knowledge. This isn`t an academic study, and Branden`s sources range from the Encyclopaedia Britannica to Carl Sagan to articles in Psychology Today. Mostly, however, she uses common sense, and that`s the strength of this engaging book. Branden looks at the claims for the existence of ghosts, auras, apparitions, ESP, and psychic predictions, and she says hooey! The heart of Give Up the Ghost is Branden`s practical application of basic science and psychology to apparently inexplicable phenomena. She discusses well-documented occurrences of poltergeists and notes the invariable participation of a mentally disturbed person in these cases. She concludes that a home afflicted by knocking, tapping, and flying furniture needs a visit from a psychiatrist or a social worker. ESP and out-of-body experiences are clearly and concisely placed in the context of the standard theories on unconscious mental ability. Given the new acceptance that occult and paranormal cant have found in the New Age movement, it is refreshing to read Branden`s plain-spoken debunking. On the topic of reincarnation, she is exasperated by the sheer illogic of the idea. Looking at the way the world`s population has grown, she simply points out that if we have all had previous lives, there aren`t enough souls to go around. For skeptics who get the willies when they hear New Age babble, this book is a tonic.

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