J.G. Montgomery’s recently published A Case for Ghosts is an engaging book to read. It’s as if the author were sitting with the reader in a pub, in front of an open fire, telling anecdotes about his explorations into the ghostly universe that may possibly shadow the everyday — or everynight — one.
Montgomery seems to have spent a lot of time in search of ghosts. England, the United States, NSW and Tasmania are some of the locations he has explored. And he also investigated Canberra’s cast of ghosts quite thoroughly; he has visited graveyards, churches, hotels, and, of course, the Air Disaster Monument. Indeed, he questions whether Canberra may be a kind of ‘magnet’ for supernatural events, as well as political ones.
The author is quite open-minded in his approach to the subject. He does not preach as to the existence or non-existence of ghosts, but tantalises and entertains. He is sometimes given to self-deprecating humour, as when he recalls sitting in a rock shelter, thinking about the many generations of Aboriginal people who have gone before him:
‘From the semi-darkness you can believe that you have been magically transported back through time to when Europeans had not yet discovered this land. It is a humbling and thought-provoking experience. And yet, does this add to my quest for the supernatural? Does sitting in the semi-darkness of a rock shelter while having your blood sucked dry by mosquitoes open any doors to enlightenment? I believe so.’
That the sighting of ghosts is both widespread geographically, and deep in terms of time, fascinates the author. He presents various explanations for ghostly phenomena, but (perhaps appropriately for the subject matter) refuses to take a fully solid position on whether ghosts are real. This adds to the book’s charm. Sentences often start with the word ‘And’ as if there are new thoughts constantly occurring, and Montgomery must get them onto paper as soon as possible. At the same time, there is much research and thought behind A Case for Ghosts.
As a non-believer in ghosts, I was worried that I would find the book a little arcane for my tastes, but the anecdotal approach and exuberance pulled me through my scepticism. Some may find Montgomery’s ability to leave questions unanswered frustrating. Personally, I found it a refreshing way of writing. It is very much an idiosyncratic exploration, as the author states, rather than an academic work, and there are several snippets of autobiography mixed in. He even designed the cover!
Montgomery is a guide rather than a gatekeeper, and there is much to enjoy in this atlas mapping the haunted world. I was momentarily distracted by a factual error, which I leave to the reader to discover, but the trip is, quite simply too entertaining to let that get in the way.
The book can be ordered from the publisher’s website (scroll down to Montgomery):
There may still be copies haunting Smiths books as well.
Reviewed by Poetix
Poetix has been published by Ginninderra Press.