White sheets and trickery: Professor Richard Wiseman’s Paranormality

I am now fully prepared for my next meeting with Derren Brown. I’ll be able to sit and watch him while sing-songing in my head “I know what you’re doing”, well maybe.

Why this new-found confidence?

I have just read Paranormality by Professor Richard Wiseman*. I feel a little bit bad about this as I’ve had Mr Brown’s Tricks of the Mind for absolutely ages and haven’t read it yet (sorry Derren). I assume it might cover similar ground and I’m actually not sure that Derren will manage to be any more entertaining than Prof Wiseman. Did I just say that? Sorry Derren – please don’t hypnotise me.

When I say I’ve read Paranormality, I’m normally greeted with with “you know it’s not true don’t you?”. It seems we, well at least many of my friends, are hugely sceptical of the paranormal. Yet actually drill down and ask them about it, many will claim to have seen/heard/felt something spooky – they’ll argue the case for it because a family member said it, and why would they lie?

People I’ve spoken to have assumed that Wiseman’s book takes the ‘believer’ stance: they haven’t even entertained the idea that a book on the subject, might, just might, be written from a scientific and psychological viewpoint.

This is exactly what Prof Wiseman has achieved, a highly entertaining, sceptical account of the paranormal and how ‘we see what isn’t there’.

A mix of real life accounts/stories and tests, followed by their ‘reveal’, it really makes you ask; ‘how have they done this one?’. Wiseman’s style is just the right side of teasing; at times making you think that this case might be one that stumps the specialists. It never is.

There are hints and tips on how to contact the dead, become a medium, and play mind tricks on your friends.

Does it take away the magic? Maybe. The book has an argument against most things paranormal.

But while things like this: ‘Family being terrorised by poltergeists in a haunted house’ still get into the papers I think he’s needed. 

*Thanks to Thrifty Gal for the recommendation – buy it now: Paranormality: why we see what isn’t there, Richard Wiseman.

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