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A History of Ghosts: The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts, and Ghostbusters

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  252 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Peter Aykroyd spent his childhood watching his family's parlor séances through the crack of a basement door. Here, for the first time, Aykroyd tells the strange and delightful story that inspired his son, Dan, to make the mega-hit, Ghostbusters. Part history, part family legend, A History of Ghosts starts in 1848 in upstate New York, where the spiritualist craze first bega ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Rodale Books (first published 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 30, 2010 Barbm1020 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating story of several generations of a well-known and respected Canadian family's connection to the world of seances and otherworldly things. The origins of "Ghostbusters" is revealed. The author also gives a timeline of personalities and trends in the search for the unseen, along with notes, remarks, and an excellent bibliography on paranormal subjects. It's also quite entertaining. I was enthralled throughout a week of hot sticky summer nights, and recommend it highly.
Jan 22, 2010 Carolina rated it it was ok
I was hoping for campfire type ghost stories, based on true events that Aykroyd witnessed. But this book was just a history of spiritualism (90% of mediums suspected as frauds), and most circumstances are debunked in Mary Roach's Spook. If you are looking for a more fun ghost book, I recommend Ghost Hunting: True Stories of Unexplained Phenomena from The Atlantic Paranormal Society (SciFi's Ghosthunters).
Amy L. Campbell
Mar 23, 2010 Amy L. Campbell rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people mildly interested in doing research on Spiritualism
This book was a great overview of the history of Spiritualism, it's movers and shakes, it's skeptics and supports, and some of it's techniques and practices. There was a lose narrative surrounding the grandfather of author Peter Aykroyd as well as means of also providing anecdotal information and perceptions from a Spiritualist who lived during the time it was at it's peak. While I think this is a great resource for someone who is mildy interested in the movement, I would not call it particularl ...more
Nancy Ellis
Sep 28, 2015 Nancy Ellis rated it liked it
Interesting summary of the author's father's journals from 10+ years of hosting seances at his home in the 1920s-30s. There are also some sections on current day activities involving mediums and ghosts, including, of course, interviews with his sons, Dan and Peter, who are both active in the field of the paranormal. I felt it became rather tedious after awhile, because I couldn't really see the point of the seances. They were trying to become "advanced" enough to make a ghost materialize, but th ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Dustin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy, modern
So it's a mostly history book by Dan Aykroyd's dad, based mostly on the journals of Dan Aykroyd's great-grandfather. So there's that.
This book is firmly on the 'ghosts are real' side of things, validating claims and downplaying skepticism. It's a fair position to take (especially when several generations of your own family have grown up under the particular belief system.) It's also a pretty dry read, with a few interesting personal anecdotes sprinkled throughout what is basically a light histor
Jul 04, 2014 Shelley rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned-books
I don't "abandon" books. I can only think of two books in my adult life that I couldn't finish. This book was one of them.
The title is misleading. The book is not about ghost and séances. What I could force myself to read was similar to a college textbook on spiritualism.
Save yourself and don't waste your time!
Dec 05, 2009 Kate marked it as to-read
I had no idea until I read the preface that this is written by Dan Aykroyd's dad and tells the story of their family's long-time obsession with Spiritualism. Being such a big fan of Ghostbusters, I should have already been all over this...damn.
Joshua Vine
Jan 08, 2014 Joshua Vine rated it really liked it
A very good read if you like the topic of ghosts and Dan Aykroyd's dad!
Jan 18, 2012 Martin rated it it was amazing
The large and longstanding Aykroyd family, many of whom still reside close to their old homestead near Peterborough Ontario, have been responsible for bringing us much wisdom and entertainment over the years, though so many are unaware of the extent to which this family of reasonable and astute observers has impacted the paranormal community at large.

Peter H. Aykroyd’s newest book, A History of Ghosts; The True Story of Séances, Mediums, Ghosts and Ghostbusters (With a foreword by Dan Aykroyd) i
Dec 25, 2011 Eden rated it really liked it
I would say that the past 15 years or so, all things paranormal have become really popular. There have been so many shows about ghost hunting, aliens, Bigfoot and other strange creatures. And let's not forgot all the movies, books (fiction and non-fiction) that are about the paranormal.

Personally, I love it. I love there is so much paranormal stuff to read or watch.

And of course, some my favorite movies are the two Ghostbusters movies.

This book was originally released in 2009 and I became inter
Apr 04, 2012 Courtney rated it really liked it
This was actually a pretty good read. Inspired by a long-dead Aykroyd relative's interest in the paranormal (that was sustained through multiple generations of the family), this contains lots of good information about the spiritualist movement both in America and overseas. The only complaint I really have is the use of the word "Ghostbusters" in the title. Obviously, with the last name of "Aykroyd," we are meant to understand that this is a relative (it's his father, btw) of Dan Aykroyd of Ghost ...more
Tom Schulte
There certainly are a lot of negative reviews out on this book, but I found charming, even interesting. This is written by the father to the actors Dan and Peter Aykroyd and is bookended with the genesis the family history of paranormal investigation gave to the film Ghostbusters. This is well narrated and well written, thanks to co-author Angela Narth, I suppose. The septuagenarian author as a child observing seances and researching family history makes for a century of paranormal investigation ...more
Katrina Stonoff
Dec 07, 2011 Katrina Stonoff rated it it was ok
This book was disappointing -- both as a history and as an entertaining read.

The historical part only covers a few hundred years (though ghosts have been around much longer). It's really a history of modern paranormal studies.

As a read, it was very dry: lists of names and seances with few concrete details, and very little about the ghosts themselves. Though Aykroyd makes jokes now and then, it felt like someone who takes a subject *very* seriously pretending to take it lightly -- and the jokes
Sep 24, 2011 Marianne rated it it was ok
This book was as boring as bat shit. I have always been interested in this topic, and was hoping for a more lively discussion from the notes of an eye-witness. The author does detail dates/times/places in an organized fashion, but presents them in a social vacuum. Desperate women (in particular) attempting to speak to the sons and husbands and brothers they'd lost in the trenches of WWI played an enormous part of spiritualism's popularity. The final chapters that make an apologia for some of the ...more
Oct 01, 2009 Heather rated it liked it
An interesting if light survey of the history of paranormal apparitions of various types. Aykroyd does not seem to have many credential that make him an "expert" on such phenomena, so the personal experiences he relates are by far the more interesting and better conceived parts of the book. It's a little unbalance, but I learned about a world I really know nothing about, and I am a firm skeptic, so perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I was more of a believer. As a skeptic I felt that Aykroyd ...more
Dec 05, 2009 Kate rated it it was ok
I am definitely a skeptic and this book did nothing to change that. It gives a history of spiritualism, but mostly focuses on mediums. It gives a list of who's who of mediums including modern ones. It tells a little bit of the origins and what each medium is famous for. Mildly entertaining at times, I got prettied bored fast and only made about half way through the book. I was hoping for a more in depth discussion on the veracity of the mediums and the evidence for or against it. Rather most of ...more
Sep 23, 2014 Jeff rated it really liked it
If you know anything about Dan Aykroyd, then it will probably come as no surprise this book was written by his father. What may come as a pleasant surprise, however, is that this book is nowhere near as hucksterish as something I'd expect Dan to crank out. While Peter makes his biases towards his belief in spiritualism known, he doesn't skim over the rational explanations for the phenomena he presents. In fact, probably the most fascinating parts of this book are those in which he details the me ...more
Jan 27, 2016 Rachel rated it it was ok
I enjoyed when the author discussed his own family's history and experience with the subject. The exhaustive descriptions of events, mediums, scientists, spiritualists, and other participants in the movement became tedious for me. As I am not a believer in ghosts or communicating with the dead in general, it was an odd choice for me to read in the first place. I don't believe I would blame the author for my disinterest, I believe it was well written and would engage someone more interested in th ...more
Oct 11, 2013 Mike rated it liked it
Shelves: read-books
A different kind of ghost stories book. It's more about paranormal experiences, whether they are real spirit contacts or an illusion set up by a trickster, or perhaps simply an apparition of a thought projection. Whichever the case may be it does make for an interesting read.

I was thinking the book would get a little spooky, but it never really does. It's more of a fascinating read from a scientific point of view mixed with some honest insights on spirits.
Aug 30, 2012 Heather rated it liked it
Written by actor/writer Dan Aykroyd's father, this is both a general history of spirituality and ghost-hunting, and a personal history of the Aykroyd family's connection to the subject. Some interesting historical information, but I preferred the personal stories more. Also includes remarks from Dan Aykroyd himself on the inspiration for the movie "Ghostbusters."
Leslie S.
Dec 28, 2011 Leslie S. rated it liked it
The book is definitely fun, and the history of the Aykroyd family is neat to get view to, but the book, overall, suffers from the author being a true believer. Some of the pictures / examples presented as *fact* are incomplete, obviously faked, or have even been proven hoaxes - those facts are just conveniently left out.
Nov 30, 2011 Anna rated it liked it
An interesting true story of a family of paranormal researchers and stories passed on for generations. It was at times slow and more factual than I anticipated. It is less ghost stories and more scientific and biographical research.
Jul 21, 2011 Christine rated it it was ok
I expected that this would be more about ghosts and less about mediums and seances (I guess I should've paid more attention to the subtitle, huh?). Some of the history was interesting and unknown to me, but the book was a little too true believer-y for my taste.
Oct 24, 2011 Nicole marked it as to-read
After meeting with Dan Akroyd (the author's son) on Sunday, he clued me in to tell me the book was mainly about Mediumship, but that it was intriguing.

Knowing how long the Akroyd family has studied the after-life, I am very excited to read this book!
Oct 18, 2009 Kathleen rated it really liked it
Am I the only one who did not know that Dan Aykroyd wrote "Ghostbusters" based on family history? This book really changed my views on paranormal and spirits.
Mar 15, 2010 Deana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting subject, but not a page turner. It took me a while to get through, but I didn't dislike the book.
Jul 07, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
who's who in the spirit world, a must read if you like and believe in spirits and ghosts, so much of what we read and watch is documented in this book.
Nov 14, 2010 Katie rated it it was ok
I guess I shouldn't really rate it since I couldn't get past the first few chapters. I was hoping for more "ghosty" stuff, but it was more a dry history of seances and other paranormal claims.
Jul 01, 2013 L. rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I actually read about one-third of this book. The organization and diction was awful. He really needed about collaborator. The subject itself is fascinating. The execution was sophomoric.
Dec 15, 2009 Michelle rated it it was ok
This was a very complete history of ghosthunting. I never realized that Dan Acroyd had a serious connection to "Ghost Busters".
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