The Haunted Heart of America – Logan Corelli

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.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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.

Norman: The Doll That Needed to Be Locked Away – Stephen Lancaster

If there’s somethin’ strange

In your neighbourhood

Who ya gonna call? 👻

So, you’re no doubt well acquainted with Chucky and Annabelle, but have you heard of Norman (the doll, not the shower scene Psycho 🔪🚿)? I hadn’t but I love all of that ooky spooky stuff so thought that this was the book for me. After all, it’s written by a man who’s been a paranormal researcher for 20 years and the front cover told me it’s a true story. ‘Sign me up,’ I thought.

I’m one of those people that will watch an episode of The X Files, any episode, and believe that whatever’s happening on screen has either already happened, is possible or at the very least plausible. So, fairly high on the gullibility scale. I tend to find the supernatural fascinating. I’m one of those 👽 I Want to Believe 🛸 types but if something appropriately ooky spooky was ever proven I am fairly certain I’d be happy to watch the movie rather than be in the room with it. So, gullible and a scaredy-cat.

With that in mind I decided to begin reading this book while the sun was shining brightly outside and the birds were chirping happily. I needn’t have bothered. I could have read this at midnight during a full moon on Friday, 13th with a raging lightning storm outside and wind rattling the windows and I still would have been okay with reading this in the dark.

The title says it all. Norman: The Doll That Needed to Be Locked Away. So where was it kept? On the headboard of the bed where the author and his girlfriend sleep, along with an assortment of other allegedly haunted dolls and toys. Huh???

Some will believe this story is true and others will think it’s baloney. If it is true then I’m wondering why child and animal protection agencies haven’t been involved. It’s fine if you want to make potentially reckless decisions for yourself as an adult but when those decisions affect minors (the 15 year old daughter of the author’s girlfriend as well as her son’s 8 and 10 year old kids) and animals (four inside dogs, one inside cat and about half a dozen outside cats), then as far as I can tell that’s reportable, not just poor judgement.

It you don’t believe in this type of Paranormal Activity and read this as fiction, then I expect you will wonder why the characters do a lot of the things they do, such as (and these are just some of the questions I want to ask the author personally):

  • With all of this stuff going on that you attribute to Norman then why does he remain in the master bedroom for most of the book? That’s where you sleep, people!
  • As you wonder about Norman’s questionable behaviour and the fact that all of the other haunted bits and bobs have witnessed this and may have similar ideas now, do you also wonder if maybe now would be a good time to remove them from your bedroom?
  • Did anyone ever consider trying to contact the woman that had Norman before these people or at least someone who knows her to find out some handy information about him and his history?
  • Is there no other place for you to conduct your research into paranormal creepy dolls other than your bedroom? Again, you sleep there, people!
  • If you have seen a single horror movie you know your animals are in danger yet you still have them in the house with you and the creepy doll, even though they are scared stiff of said creepy doll.
  • If you don’t want to burn or bury the doll because of the human spirit or whatever that resides in it, then why do you not have any qualms trying to sell the thing on eBay (or whatever anonymous site you listed him on) three times?
  • If you truly believe that there is a child spirit inside this doll then wouldn’t locking him in a room with no human interaction and cartoons playing constantly on the television annoy him slightly after a while? Also, why is he still in your house? In the room next to where you sleep?!
  • You mention how difficult it is to sleep. Duh! 🤦‍♀️
  • If the 15 year old’s door closes all by itself, why does she sleep in there immediately after you all review the footage of the door closing. All. By. Itself.

If you believe this is a true story, then I imagine you would question these things even more.

The photos that are included to support the author’s claims unfortunately had the opposite effect with me. For example, there are two photos showing a significant change in temperature near Norman that was reported to have happened a minute apart. Yet there’s no time stamp on the photos and even if there was the author makes mention of their “top-notch video editing software” so it would be difficult to know with certainty if they were real or fake anyway.

There were many typos in the ARC that will hopefully be corrected prior to publication. If they’re fixed, then the funniest ones you missed out on are:

  • “Hannah continued to stay with her bother”. I’m an only child but I can imagine if Hannah had written that part brother becoming bother could’ve counted as a nice little Freudian slip.
  • “What happened next about gave me a heart.” Here’s one! ❤️ I loved this sentence so much but I’m not sure I was supposed to be laughing when the author was explaining how scary something was.

So, do I believe the events in this book are true? I wasn’t there so I can’t say for sure, but the way it was written raised more questions than it answered for me. Unless or until the author decides to make the video footage public I’m going to have to sit on the fence and hope it’s not too uncomfortable. I’d prefer to be standing firmly on one side or the other but there’s not enough evidence or debunking (I love that word!) to give you a confident answer. I know I still want to believe!

Content warnings include the murder of an animal with details of what its mutilated corpse looked like. Also multiple ARC typos including various there/their/they’re and to/too/two violations.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When paranormal investigator Stephen Lancaster brought home an old doll from an antique shop, he had no idea what bizarre and terrifying things were about to occur. From day one, Norman the doll raised hell. He caused sudden infestations of rats and spiders. He frightened dogs and put children in trances. He even moved on his own in video surveillance footage. And that was just the beginning.

Norman takes you on a thrilling journey into Stephen’s life with a doll that has held the spirit of an unborn child for over fifty years. A haunted doll that still lives in Stephen’s house, locked away in his own room to keep him from once again endangering the house and Stephen’s family.