Educational studies indicate a critical lack of scientific awareness in children and young adults. Is it because science is no longer perceived as challenging, interesting, or just plain fun? Looking for scientific facts can be as enjoyable as “playing detective”.
Joe Nickell realized that a mere series of debunking stories might hold a child’s interest, yet not kindle the development of critical skills. If children could be fully involved in the investigation of strange occurences . . . if the investigations could have all the thrill of a ghost story yet reinforce rational over irrational thought, and science over superstition . . . then the book as a whole would be an appealing introduction to logic, critical analysis, and the scientific method in action.
In The Magic Detectives, Nickell presents thirty “paranormal” investigations in the form of brief mystery stories. Clues are embedded in each story; at the end of each account, the child can turn the book upside down to reveal the conclusion that professional “magic detectives” have already reached. Included are examinations of the “mummy’s curse,” bigfoot, haunted stairways, the Amityville Horror, the Loch Ness monster, poltergeists, and more.
The “note to teachers” which follows the text of the book recommends that The Magic Detectives be used as an illustrative aid for teaching valuable skills to young people. Nickell makes specific suggestions for assignments, and includes a list of references consulted which can serve as a list for further reading.