Book Recommendations: The Casebook of Carnacki and Haunted Media

I wanted to hop on and tell you a bit about a course I’m taking this semester, which I think may be of interest to you guys, our readers and fellow paranormal fans.  Currently I’m working on finishing up my Master’s degree in Media Studies from The New School University , and I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got an email during registration for this semester, citing that a course entitled “Dark Media” was being offered this fall.  The syllabus notes that the class will explore the role that the media plays in both proving and disproving instances of the supernatural, as well as the idea of media itself being haunted, and media being used as a tool in which to communicate with the dead.

Interesting stuff, no?  I am really excited about the opportunity to combine my personal and academic interests, and so I wanted to share what I’ll be reading and watching along the way.  Since the only things I’m being haunted by these days are endless assignments and group project deadlines, I’ll keep this recap short and sweet.  Stay tuned for more updates as the semester progresses.

Currently, we’re delving into the occult detective genre with William Hope Hodgson’s The Casebook of Carnacki – The Ghost Finder, which, if you’ve never read it before, I highly recommend.  Comprised of several short stories that each recount the investigations of an early 1900’s ghost hunter, they are pretty formulaic in structure, what with Carnacki simply recounting each story to his very obedient dinner guests, but at the same time they’re also delicious little morsels that you can read in a single sitting.  Carnacki, like any good investigator, is scientific and methodical in his approach, always looking for possible practical explanations before determining whether or not a case is paranormal, and so each story is presented as an unraveling mystery that always ends with Carnacki’s conclusion on the very last pages.  It’s the kind of book that makes you want to curl up in a chair on a crisp fall night with a glass of wine in hand, and live vicariously through Carnacki’s adventures.

We’re also getting some theoretical background in with Jeffrey Sconce’s Haunted Media, which is interesting for the historical framework that it provides.  This book starts with the invention of the telegraph, and how it established the notion of media as an animate object, and also, from a technological standpoint, how the existence of the actual telegraph allowed for the Spiritualist movement’s spirit telegraph to be perceived by people at the time as a plausible explanation for how mediums could communicate with the dead.  I haven’t gotten further than that chapter yet, but I’m on board so far and am looking forward to the rest.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy these books at your leisure – for you there will be no grades, papers or pop quizzes.  Happy reading!