Between you and I, I thought Peter Venkman was telling a furphy when he said he had a PhD in parapsychology, but that’s the exact qualification the author has. I knew from watching American TV growing up that American colleges and universities have much more interesting subjects than we do in Australia, but parapsychology? I definitely would have studied at least one subject in that field if it had been on offer.
So, besides his PhD in parapsychology, the author has a doctorate in metaphysics and is also an ordained reverend (yes, his bio confirms he’s performed exorcisms, although there are none in this book).
This books provides some basic historical background for some well known American haunted locations, including Waverly Hills Sanitarium and the Myrtle Plantation. Then the author gives their impressions of each time they’ve investigated them.
If you were to ask me if I’m a Mulder or Scully, I’d tell you I’m both. I want to believe but I also want the science to back it up. Considering that to label something paranormal means that current scientific knowledge doesn’t have an answer for it, I’m fully aware that I want to have my cake and eat it too, but I’m okay with that.
Without fail, I wanted to scream, ‘Have you not studied Horror 101?’ every time the group of investigators decided to split up. I also may have groaned each time someone got an impression, a “feeling of unease” or “a strange sensation”.
I got a playful, innocent feeling at times and a scared, threatened feeling at others.
Vibes weren’t exactly the kind of evidence I was looking for.
Speaking of evidence, there were some times the author said they recorded voices and said what they heard. At other times, though, it was claimed they recorded … something, but never specified what. Then there were the times someone heard a voice but no one else did, or someone heard a voice but it wasn’t picked up by the recorder. I would have loved to have been given a link so I could listen to these recordings myself.
There were some photographs included in the book that were said to be showing a ghostly face or other spooky occurrences. The quality of the photos in the copy of the book I read weren’t good enough for me to decide one way or the other. The photo I most wanted to see but was not included was the one that showed a disembodied eye.
I never felt like I knew anything significant about any of the other investigators. Most were only introduced by name, although some of the early introductions included a brief description. We had an “experienced and innovative” investigator and a “mysterious” one, but “talented” Michelle was also “the most beautiful investigator I had met at the time”. I didn’t know whether to be offended on Michelle’s behalf for having a label attached to her that had nothing to do with her skills. I also wondered, yet at the same time didn’t care, who now holds the title of most beautiful as it’s implied Michelle has been demoted.
I did appreciate that the author was willing to say that at times nothing happened or, if something did happen, there was no way to prove that it was supernatural. The writing style, though, was very dry. There was a lot of ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened and then we went to bed’. The emotion that you’d expect to accompany occurrences like feeling someone was tugging on your shirt or voices coming from nowhere weren’t evident in the writing.
It was frustrating when the author said they saw or heard something significant but they didn’t have any equipment with them to record it, or when they witnessed something while in a group but decided for whatever reason not to mention it to anyone at the time.
If it was me, I’d be asking everyone around me if they saw or heard it too. I’d want the confirmation that I wasn’t hallucinating. I’d also want someone to freak out with. Believe me, if I ever witness something supernatural, no one will be able to accuse me of being casual about the experience.
Because everything was written in such a matter of fact way, it was difficult to become invested in each suspected haunting. At no time was I caught up in the atmosphere, so I was comfortable reading late at night in the dark. I never felt the need to look over my shoulder or turn the lights on.
Content warnings include mention of death by suicide.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
An ironing board jumps off the wall and flies straight toward an investigator’s head at the famous Villisca Axe Murder House. Shadow figures rise out of the ground and run between the gravestones of a haunted cemetery. The mischievous spirit of a deceased child pulls the blankets off an investigator, humming a song from the other side the whole time.
Featuring investigations of famous paranormal hotspots like Waverly Hills, Myrtles Plantation, and The St. James Hotel – as well as many lesser-known though equally fascinating locations – this riveting book details years of creepy stories, hair-raising experiences, and intriguing physical evidence from one of the heartland’s most experienced investigators.