One may not have heard of Richard Estep, but if In Search of the Paranormal: The The Hammer House Murder, Ghosts of the Clink, and Other Disturbing Investigations‘ multiple ghost-hunting stories are to be believed, he’s been around the paranormal block a few times. A founding member of the Boulder County Paranormal Research Society (BCPRS), Estep has worked as a paranormal investigator for a number of years, and his newest book seeks to document some of those findings in multiple chapters of case files. In Search of the Paranormal reads less like tales from the haunted places he’s visited than it does a study report about the findings, and throughout the book, Estep presents research that he both believes or discounts based on his scientific theories.
That’s a key factor one must keep in mind while reading In Search of the Paranormal, because it’s far too easy – with our current self-publishing techniques – for someone to pen a bunch of made-up mumbo jumbo, print it up, and then get it in a local book store under the New Age tag. Estep’s book doesn’t read like that, and he’s not out to prove or disprove his experiences to anyone. It’s a book that’s meant to appeal to those curious about the paranormal who may actually be much more skeptical than naive, and it’s telling that Estep continually refrains from offering what he might consider “clear evidence” of supernatural forces.
Estep sets aside chapters devoted to different areas he’s explored either with friends or his paranormal team; some are simply quick stories, and others, like his experiences in the Clink, are more thorough investigative reports. Some might find Estep’s writing a bit too procedural – he spends quite a bit of time documenting the lead-up to investigations, the mental faculties of the researchers, and the EMF readings of the environments beforehand. But these case files are much more believable than someone throwing down anecdote after anecdote about coming face-to-face with a ghost.
What’s even better about Estep’s stories is that often he documents no evidence of paranormal haunting. In one particular tale, the manifestation of spirits turns out to be more closely related to a person’s psychological state. I appreciate that Estep doesn’t attempt to exaggerate investigations that didn’t lead to any phenomena; his truthiness (to use a Stephen Colbert idiom) is elevated because of this.
Obviously, though, with a book of stories there’s no hard evidence to either prove or refute Estep’s experiences. Still, for a Halloween read, In Search of the Paranormal is a series of paranormal experiences that doesn’t need to offer up such proof because Estep’s writing refrains from treating his experiences as definitive paranormal encounters. That way, readers can enjoy for the experiences and not worry about whether the author is misleading.