American Hauntings
The True Stories behind Hollywood's Scariest Movies—from The Exorcist to The Conjuring
by Robert E. Bartholomew and Joe Nickell
June 2015, 172pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3968-9
$55, £43, 48€, A76
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eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3969-6
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Is it possible that ghosts DO exist? If so, is there also life after death?

This work provides an accurate, in-depth examination and scientific evaluation of the most famous hauntings in American history as depicted in popular films and television programs.

Neither a debunking book nor one written for the “true believer” in the paranormal, American Hauntings objectively scrutinizes the historic evidence behind such hugely popular films as The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, An American Haunting, The Conjuring, and The Haunting in Connecticut to ascertain the accuracy of these entertainment depictions of “true life” hauntings. The authors then compare these popular culture accounts against the alleged real-life encounters and impartially weigh the evidence to assess whether each incident actually took place.

Written by highly credentialed, recognized authorities on the paranormal and social psychology, this book contains meticulously documented, science-based information written for a broad audience, from middle and high school students and those taking introductory courses at a university level to general readers. There is no other work that provides as careful and unbiased an evaluation of the most famous hauntings in American history. The book also examines the reliability of popular television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries and Paranormal Witness.


  • Supplies a balanced approach to the subject of the paranormal and social psychology that explores both sides of the issue and evaluates the evidence as a scientist would
  • Examines subject matter that is of universal, natural interest to students, teachers, and the general public, and supplies interdisciplinary coverage of religion, history, sociology, social psychology, folklore, critical thinking, pseudoscience, and media/film studies
  • Provides an ideal resource for students writing reports and research papers
Robert E. Bartholomew, PhD, is a medical sociologist who teaches social sciences at Botany College, Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America's Loch Ness Monster.

Joe Nickell, PhD, is a prominent paranormal investigator and former resident magician at the Houdini Hall of Fame. He is the author of Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection and Real-Life X-Files: Investigating the Paranormal.


“Not to be missed . . . Bartholomew and Nickell are demon researchers with no agenda save getting at the truth. With surgical precision, they adeptly separate myth from reality in this engrossing expose of the real stories behind a crop of successful Hollywood films reportedly based on legitimate ghostly manifestations.”—Bruce Dettman, author of The Horror Factory

“I do not believe in the supernatural or the paranormal, angels or demons, or poltergeists or exorcisms, and yet so powerful are the Hollywood films that portray such phenomena as real that even I get chills watching them. If a skeptic can be so moved, imagine the effect such films have on general believing audiences. In American Hauntings, Robert Bartholomew and Joe Nickell—the world’s foremost ghostbusters—give us the facts behind the stories and natural explanations for apparently supernatural phenomena, demystifying while illuminating the wonders of human psychology."—Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, and author of Why People Believe Weird Things, The Believing Brain, and The Moral Arc

“A delightful and enlightening romp through the little-known scientific evidence underlying seven supposed hauntings, all immortalized in familiar Hollywood films. This is a much-needed reminder that the facts behind allegedly paranormal events are almost always more fascinating than the fictions. American Hauntings is certain to become a classic.”—Scott O. Lilienfeld, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Emory University, and Coauthor of 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology.

“A meticulously researched analysis of some of the most well known cases of haunted houses and poltergeists. Bartholomew and Nickell apply their considerable detective nous and skills in critical analysis to expose and examine the evidence behind each haunting. The result is a spellbinding and engaging read.”—Dr. Keith J. Petrie, Professor of Health Psychology, School of Medicine, University of Auckland
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