Hungry Ghosts: An Investigation into Channelling and the Spirit World


296 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-385-25248-X
DDC 133.9'1






Reviewed by J.B. Snelson

J.B. Snelson is a librarian, bibliographer, and (antiquarian) bookstore
owner in Wolfville.


After Fisher wrote The Case for Reincarnation and co-authored Life
Between Life, a study of channelling was a natural for him. He is a
painstaking researcher, although this volume also shows a more emotional
side. Although the term “channelling” is new, the phenomenon is as
old as the Stone Age, and like rebirth, is open to much
misunderstanding. Fisher is all the more effective here because he
admits that he suffered much through misunderstanding and getting
emotionally involved before all the facts were in.

The Bible and most other religious or philosophical works from the past
that mention channelling at all condemn the practice categorically.
Fisher opens with two appropriate quotes, one from Shakespeare and one
from St. John. The latter notes that at the very minimum one ought to
test spirits very thoroughly. Fisher did, but almost too late in the
game. The Bard suggests that evil spirits may well use the truth to
guide us on the road to hell; this certainly is true of those Fisher

Yet the “guides” often met in channelling are not necessarily evil.
Rather, most are what Tibetan Buddhism calls “pretas” (hungry
ghosts). They are the spirits of people who for some reason cannot bear
to leave this world and hunger to return, even briefly, and whose
interest in people otherwise is minimal or negative. Seers who have been
able to visit spiritual realms on their own—from St. Paul to Emmanuel
Swedenborg and Edgar Cayce—warn us about these spirits, whom Jesus
called “unclean spirits.”

Fisher chronicles how he first got involved in channelling; how the
seeming affection of the “guides,” especially one named Filipa, made
him want to believe them; and how investigation of their claims showed
them to be something else.

Channelling is old hat. But the new terminology means that new warnings
are required. Fisher has provided a timely and valuable study. In one
way it is made most valuable because he admits his own failings and
desire to find the guides what they claimed to be. In another way it is
valuable because much of the first part is favourable to the
“guides”; therefore a few New Agers might read a while before
dropping it as a “debunking volume.” Yet the most valuable chapter
is Chapter 19 (the last, except for a short concluding chapter), and I
wonder how many who ought to read it will skim the work and miss the
real meat.

This is a valuable contribution and yet one that I suspect will not be
read by those who most need it. But we do need more who, like Fisher,
can show that the so-called New Age of channelling is really the old-age
dealings with unclean spirits. Little has changed except that the
“guides” are learning to do their tempting better.


Fisher, Joe., “Hungry Ghosts: An Investigation into Channelling and the Spirit World,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed October 1, 2023,