First off, how pretty is this Australian cover of Spook? Sometimes, other covers are so much better than ours.
This October we met to discuss Spook by Mary Roach. We’ve always tried to read something in conjunction with Halloween for our October selection and Spook fit this bill quite nicely. You may remember that we’ve read another book of Ms. Roach’s (Bonk back in December 2012). This book’s subject is the afterlife, but it certainly isn’t a horror story or quite like any of our previous October reads. This one is all science and let me tell you, sometime science is gross!
There were bits about “ectoplasm” appearing during the séance craze in the 1800s with discussion about the mediums hiding said ectoplasm in their . . . . orifices. One notably nutty lady claimed that she was giving birth to bunnies and actually putting dead or dying rabbits all up in there and having people witness the “births.” Yeah, gross. It was pretty funny that the group said they didn’t want to talk about some of the nastier bits and then we spent lots of time dissecting each of those bits.
The conversation about Spook was fascinating. We had hoped that Mary Roach would have had some sort of solid conclusion, but unsurprisingly science isn’t there yet. We agreed that we would have heard about it if she’d come up with some conclusive evidence that the afterlife exists. We discussed how things like electricity existed before science could measure it so perhaps that’s the case with the spirit world too.
Most of us really enjoy the way Ms. Roach approaches her non-fiction science writing. She isn’t afraid to include things that are kind of silly, for instance, we all enjoyed a scene where she asked a “believer” in the afterlife if they’d ever seen an elf, only to have the person look at her like she was crazy and say, “No, have you?” It was only later that she found out that the elf they’d been talking about was ELF or extremely low frequencies.
We found Roach’s discussion of infrasound very interesting and each had a little story to tell about when we hear something that other people don’t. Most of us have been able to identify the noise as being electronic, though. Steeper Kristin, who is our in-house scientist also told us about “pareidolia,” the idea that humans are able to recognize facial patterns, sometimes even if they’re not there. This, she tells us, is an explanation for people who see Jesus in toast or when we think we can identify shapes in the clouds.
I also shared a little story about visiting a “psychic” about a year ago with two of my girlfriends. She had some very uncanny things to say, but nothing that couldn’t be divined by situational awareness. “You’re unhappy with your weight.” Well, yeah, me and 60+% of women. The funniest part was that she didn’t try to sell my girlfriends anything, but I was informed that my chakras were out of whack and for the low low price of $500, she could help realign them for me. Angela pointed out later that I was the only one of us wearing diamond earrings, diamond rings, and a diamond pendant. We agreed that perhaps many of the world’s psychics, both today and yesterday (even if they have a genuine gift) have to rely heavily on observations, making them talented con-artists.
Steeper George wanted to know what it meant if my chakras were out of whack, so I tried to explain the idea of chakras and somehow told him that it was my right elbow chakra that was misaligned. There is no right elbow chakra. It did, however, make me mad at myself because while I didn’t pay the psychic $500, I did buy myself some “chakra fixing” teas. Mostly, because they tasted nice. I wish I had brought one of them as our specialty tea.
We mostly enjoyed Mary Roach’s Spook and gave it a solid 3.5 teacups!