Review of Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin – 6th and Final Post in my Haunted Cabin Series

FiveNightsCabinThe cabin season is about to come to a close, at least here on this blog. Sorry, but it has to be this way. After all, one cannot be forever “cabinated.”  Unless, perhaps, that “one” happens to be a ghost that haunts the cabin.  But even in that case, I think the ghost will eventually evaporate, dissipate, and therefore, no longer “cabinate.”  But what of a cabin beset with residuals hauntings; echoes of the past in motion, or “repeated playbacks of auditory, visual, olfactory, and other sensory phenomena that are attributed to a traumatic event…” (from http://parapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Residual_Haunting)

Do such hauntings endure forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and…

Authors Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross claim to have witnessed several residual hauntings while staying at a cabin located in Gold Country in California. They document this experience in their book Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin . It is a short but highly fascinating read.

Unlike all the other stories that make up my haunted cabin series, this account is real. It is a real cabin, in a real place, visited by two very real people. At least I hope Thorne and Cross are real. I have reviewed several of their books,  I have heard real voices when I tuned into their Internet radio show Haunted Nights Live and I have had real exchanges with them on Facebook. It would be a shame if, after all that, they turned out to be bots! But I’m betting this is not the case.  And I believe that their experiences inside that cabin are real…allowing for subjective interpretation.

Thorne and Cross have collaborated on many novels. They write as a team, and as far as I can tell, they are what the kids call BFFs. They are like brother and sister.  While their acquaintanceship began virtually, they first met in person at this cabin that is the subject of this book. Knowing that the cabin had a reputation for being haunted, Thorne and Cross decided that it would be a great place for two authors of the paranormal to finally meet. After securing permission from the cabin’s owner to stay for several nights and conduct an investigation, these two went forth with their plan. Stayed five nights they did!  And things got creepy , creepy, creepy.

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Now, I bet you’re wondering – what makes this particular telling creepy? Let me answer this by stating what this story is not, especially when compared to the other tales of haunted cabins that I have reviewed. Spirits of natives are not descending upon the cabin (Rough Draft – Oops, I forgot to put the part about “Native American spirits” in the review), there is no witch in the woods (Maynard’s House and Revisiting Maynard’s House), Thorne and Cross are not succumbing to demonic possession (The Evil Dead), the cabin is free of scurrying, severed hands (The Evil Dead 2), and finally, there is no underground organization manufacturing zombies (Cabin in the Woods.)

What Five Nights in a Haunted Cabin offers is far more subtle and therefore, possibly, creepier.  It’s a “things that go bump in the night” type of scary.  It has cuckoo clocks that cry out at strange times, scratching noises on walls and doors. Then there is an unnerving silence, as if the wind is afraid to breath.  There are other disturbances as well; doors opening and closing, objects are found in certain places when the authors are sure they set them down some place else.

These incidences that take place in the cabin can be explained in two different ways: 1) The cabin is really haunted. 2) There is a logical explanation to all these occurrences. Being the “septic” that I am (That’s “skeptic” in Archie Bunker language), I tend to go with option #2.  But even if there is no haunting, the accounts documented in this book continue to be creepy because they realistically mimic “the stuff” of a haunting.  Because these disturbances are subtle, they are believable and therefore – creepy, creepy, creepy!  And perhaps this cabin is haunted! Don’t let my “septicism” ruin you, embrace the haunting if you must.

In my article Beyond the House: An Examination of Hauntings Within Alternate Structures – Part 1 – Cabins , I say this about haunted cabins:

Maybe it’s not the cabin that is haunted. Maybe it’s the surrounding environment that reeks of terror

HOWEVER

They (the cabins) are susceptible to the surrounding elements and therefore very permeable to the stuff of the supernatural

In sum, the haunting begins outside and then makes its way into the cabin. But that’s NOT what happens in Thorne and Cross’s book. Instead the inverse is true: the haunting begins in the cabin and then goes on to infect the surrounding environment, as testified by the birds. What birds? Exactly!  The tree-filled perimeter is absence of bird-song.  The environment is too disturbing for these feathered creatures! Thorne and Cross did their research and discovered that murders and suicides occurred inside the cabin many years ago. Perhaps the emotional trauma of these events remains (a residual!), discouraging even birds from coming to close to the cabin.  Hmm, maybe there really is a haunting going on!  (Or maybe birds are just sometimes absent or silent.)

There is something that I wish the book had touched upon. Thorne is meeting Cross for the very first time. I would have liked to learn about their first impressions of each other. It would have been interesting to read about how they warmed up to one another. Was there a single moment that broke the ice? Was there a relationship-defining event? Somewhere in Facebook land, I learned that Tamara shaved Alistair’s back hair during this stay. That should have been in the book!  That must have been a truly “haunting” experience for Tamara!  But seriously, I do think a dual story about two people meeting for the first time in the midst of a haunting would have gone a long way.  And it would have fit in so well with the format of the book.  Thorne writes a paragraph, and then Cross follows with his paragraph or two, commenting on what Thorne had just written.  It’s like listening to two people at a campfire taking turns telling a story while helping each other with the telling along the way. It definitely made for some cozy reading.  It would have been even cozier had they shared more details of their meeting.

All in all, this is a good book. I say buy it. Read it.

 


 

And with that, here ends my series about haunted cabins. I hope you have enjoyed it. Too-da-loo! (for now)

Revisiting Maynard’s House – Second Posting in My Haunted Cabin Series

mhOnce. Twice. Three times is the charm. This is the third time I am posting about the book Maynard’s House by Herman Raucher. The first was for an article I wrote called From Summer to Autumn: The Spirit Remains the Same (The Darker Sides of Ray Bradbury and Herman Raucher.) In the article I compare the season in which the stories take place to the central themes of the books. I compare an earlier work of Raucher (Summer of 42) to Maynard’s House:

The first book is about the building of a man. This man is constructed on a warm sandy beach in the wake of a wartime tragedy. The second book is about taking apart a man. He is deconstructed in the cold winter snow

Maynard’s House is the story that takes place in the snowy mountains, the story that deconstructs a man – inside a cabin! (Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Cabin time!)

The second time I wrote A Review or Maynard’s House , a fitting review since I write about haunted houses and the house that is central to this story, out there on a snowy terrain, is most certainly haunted. But it’s not really a house per se, it’s more of a – haunted cabin! (Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Cabin time!)

It should be obvious where I’m headed. This third time I am posting about Maynard’s House in order to place it in the context of this month’s theme – haunted cabins. If you haven’t already done so, please read my article Beyond the House: An Examination of Hauntings Within Alternate Structures. Part 1 – Cabins In one section, I write about cabins from a “solitary confinement” perspective. What the heck is that? To be honest, I had this book – Maynard’s House – in mind when I wrote that bit. Oh hell, I’ll just copy/paste that section into this article. It’s only two paragraphs:

The cabin sometimes becomes the mirror-for-the-disturbed-mind for the sole cabin dweller. Quite often, this solitary character, when confined to a cabin and cut off from civilization, will develop a psychosis that is caused by a lack of human contact. In this scenario, the character is an unreliable narrator and readers often discover that the things that haunt the cabin manifest from his/her own broken mind. But that doesn’t make these things less scary, or even less real.

Trapped spirits are a major staple in a haunted house story. The walls and roof confine them. An old large house has the time and space to trap many spirits from different eras. In a similar manner, the thoughts and temperament of the sole cabin dweller, the “vibes” if I may, have nowhere to go. They coagulate in the corners and add a disturbing stuffiness to an already cramped space. Eventually they boomerang upon the solitary dweller that has conjured them. They morph into ghosts and demons.

The main character of Maynard’s House is all alone in a cabin in the wintry mountains of Maine.  What does he do there? He reflects. Reflect reflect reflect. On his life. On his experiences serving in the Vietnam War. Does he create the spirits he sees or do they exist independently of his mind? Are the children that visit him real?

This lone man, in a cabin that acts like a mirror for his disturbed mind – does this scenario occur in other works? To a smaller extent it occurs in the film I am going to review next (I’m not telling!). But how about to a larger extent in other books or folk tales? It seems as if it does, or that it “should”.  But I tell ya’, this theme is very much at home in Maynard’s House.  If it exists out there in the “wilds of literary motifs”, then Raucher has found it ,harnessed it, and clothed it well with the pages of his book. Raucher develops the theme so well  that the events that occur in his book seem as though they have been prewritten inside our collective unconscious. What happens has always happened. (This time paradox also occurs in the book.) Dog gone it, Raucher, you just had to brand things in my brain before I had even met your work!

It should be obvious that I really, really, really enjoy this novel. With that, nuff said! For more details read the other two articles I have written. Or better yet, read the book!

(Stay tuned – Films about haunted cabins are coming next!)

Review of Rough Draft – First of the Haunted Cabin Series

Rough DraftSometimes Facebook ads really do work. Every once in a while (sometimes its more like twice or thrice in a while),  a post will appear in the Facebook newsfeeds; not a friend’s post, not a post from a liked paged or a group to which one belongs, but from a seemingly foreign source.  In small letters under the post’s heading, the word “sponsored” appears.  This is how I discovered Michael Robertson Jr.’s 2014 novel Rough Draft. Had it not been for the cool looking picture of a log cabin against a gray sky and murky background, I might have passed it on by. The picture caught my attention because, see, I already had this month’s theme in mind – haunted cabins – when this ad appeared in my newsfeeds. So I clicked on the post, and I believe it led me to it’s Amazon page, where I discovered….Yes! This IS a book about a haunted cabin, just what the doctor ordered! (Does anyone still you that expression? Well I did just now, and I am someone!)

Thankfully, this was not some “rough draft” that an author was furtively trying sell as a finished work. (In these days of Amazon scams, you just never know). I confess I don’t like the title. But it does make sense in the context of the story. I do, however, like the taglines that describe the skin of the story:

Three strangers. An abandoned cabin in the woods. And a chilling one hundred year-old mystery that doesn’t want to be solved.

A mysterious blackmailer forces three authors to meet at cabin and write a “rough draft” for a prospective horror novel about the cabin, the surrounding woods and a nearby town. They HAVE to complete this assignment – in one weekend – or face the consequences.

And so, the authors travel across the country and arrive at…gee, I forgot the state, Colorado perhaps? Anyway, two meet at the airport and ride together, where they then have to journey across dangerous terrain to find this isolated cabin in the snowy mountains. They pass over a flimsy bridge, hoping the car can make the crossing. Once they arrive at the cabin they find the third author waiting for them. Now they are three – Robert, a good-looking, smart-alecky kind of guy, Vic, a woman who fools her fans into thinking she is a male, and Finn, a geeky Zombie apocalypse story writer. What happens next? Lots of stuff. Some good stuff. Some disappointing stuff.

The overall atmosphere of the story is delightfully chilling. The build-up to the mystery is done very well. Some scary shit goes down. As it turns out, the authors don’t need to develop a fictitious account of a haunting; the place is already haunted. During the night, their cars are stolen or damaged. They are truly abandoned. But who could have done such a thing, there is absolutely no one around…not another living soul for miles and miles . Things begin to go bump in the night. Hell, the whole cabin shakes at one point. Could this have anything to do with the strange story that they had heard before making their way into the mountains? (One hundred years ago, all the residents of the nearby and former coalmining town. At one point Robert leaves the cabin to go exploring, only to discover mysterious figures weaving in and out of a trail of trees. He then makes a startling discovery in a nearby cave!

 

Kudos to atmosphere and tension-building drama, the laying out of the mystery, the casual influx of ghostly happenings. But alas, the mystery doesn’t go to a place worthy of the compelling setup. In sum, it falls into a “good guys vs. bad guys” trapping that, IMHO, is a quite lame. Also, there is this other flaw; or maybe its “three flaws”. At least two. Two very noticeable and damning flaws. I refer to the characters, especially Robert and Vic.  Robert is shallow and somewhat smug and yet he is presented as this likable hero. Likewise, “Vic” is an annoying “damsel-in-distress.” At one point, Robert and Finn are very careful not to accuse her of being over-emotional so as not to come off as sexist. The way I read this, it’s really the author, Michael Robertson Jr, that fears that he has written his character much too stereotypically (and he has,) so he adds this part only as if to say, “See, I am wary of stereotypes. I don’t do them.” Oh but he has.

So, what happens to these three characters? Do they become friends? Lovers? Enemies? Dead? That is for you the prospective reader to learn. I cringed at the outcome but who knows, maybe you will find the resolution quite enjoyable.

In sum, good start, great tension-building, atmospherically frightening. But it digresses into the land of the banal, dragging along some very weak  characters.

 


** Haunted Cabin Analysis Time ! Woo hoo! Haunted Cabin Analysis Time ! Woo Hoo!**


 

In the article Beyond the House – An Examination of Hauntings within Alternate Structures, I discuss various themes that may or may not occur in haunted cabin stories.

I name the first theme “Outposts on the Edge of the Unknown.” By this I mean that the haunted cabins of stories are surrounded by all kinds of spookiness. Sooner or later, that spookiness will find its way to the cabin. This theme certainly plays out in Rough Draft. Quite often the haunting begins outside. Arrows are found pierced into the front door, as if a phantom archer was taking aim at the cabin.  There are spirits in the surrounding environment and at one point in the story….ah nevermind, I don’t want to give anything away

The second theme I call “Isolation”. Simply stated, cabin horror stories frequently feature dwellers that are trapped in their location with little to no communication with the civilized world. In Rough Draft, their cars are damaged or stolen. Their generator often fails to work. They have laptops that are connected to a private network – the network that is set up by the mastermind of their unfortunate situation. They do not have general Internet access. The third theme, “Micro-Haunting,” states that the haunting is symbolically simple and that haunted cabin stories usually only feature a few characters. This is certainly true in Rough Draft. The fourth and final theme, “Solitary Confinement”, does not apply since this theme pertains to the solitary cabin dweller.

Stay tuned for the next haunted cabin feature. I know which films and books I will be reviewing but I haven’t decided on the order yet, so sorry, I can’t say that the next post will be a review of Blah Blah Blah. But the educated horror fan should be able to guess at the movies I have coming down the pike. Either way, you won’t be disappointed!

Bundle Up for “A Winter Haunting” – By Dan Simmons

A Winter Haunting 3

Have I got a haunted house book for you! It’s a very decent read,; a brilliant piece. And, it is seasonally appropriate. Published in 2002, it is called A Winter Haunting by author Dan Simmons. The action of the story begins at Halloween and ends post New Years Day. Yes I know, we already finished those holiday celebrations. To reengage in the them would require us to look back instead of moving forward. Well golly gee, isn’t that what hauntings are about, looking back?  Don’t you want to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with the slightly unbalanced professor Dale Stewart in a haunted farm house from his boyhood town?  But of course you do. Besides, it’s got the wintery stuff that targets us Midwesterners right now, including, but not limited to, snow, chilling breezes, and a house to escape the elements of the cold season (although this house must be shared with…certain things. Scary things).  Well, enough of all that, come along now.  Come on!

First a disclaimer. A Winter Haunting is the second book of a series. Technically, it’s full title is A Winter Haunting (Seasons of Horror Book 2). To date, the only other “seasons” based book by Simmons is Summer of Night (Seasons of Horror Book 1), published in 1991. Summer of Night has spawned several successive works. It is a story about the memorable summer of 1960 and the group of pre-adolescent boys (and one girl) that participated in it. Filled with the stuff of nostalgia, it successfully makes the reader yearn for those summer days of our youths. But that is not what makes the summer memorable; not for The Bike Patrol (the name of the club the boys of 1960 had formed) anyway. For those characters inside the book, it is a memorable summer because they were put in a situation where they had to spend a good deal of their time  combatting evil, supernatural forces.

Simmons follows Summer of Night with several books that contain some of these children characters as adults.  These include Fires of Eden and Children of the Night. As far as I know, these two books do not belong in the “Seasons of Horror” series. A Winter Haunting also deals with one of the Bike Patrol boys all grown up.  While I do think the book stands well on its own,  it’s probably wise to read Summer of Night first, if anything than to avoid a major spoiler that unfolds about “that summer.”

So, why am I reviewing A Winter’s Haunting before Summer of NightTwo reasons.

  1.  As previously mentioned, A Winter Haunting is seasonally appropriate at this time. For those of us who live in a wintery climate, we are more apt to relate to Dale’s walks across snowy fields when we ourselves are blanketed in a frosty climate. The holidays mentioned in this book are fresh in our memories.
  2. Technically, Summer of Night is not much of a haunted house novel. True, the school building is facilitator of the things that haunt the town of Elm Haven, so technically it is about a haunted structure (a certain part of it is any. Oh but I can’t tell you about it. Spoiler!)  But the book is more about the supernatural manifestations that spread throughout the town of Elm Haven.  The most frightening elements of the book occur in cemeteries, children’s bedrooms, nearby forests, and down country roads.

But since the school is a respected historical structure, and since some of the book’s supernatural activity does occur inside its walls, I will review the book. But I will do this at the beginning of summer 2018. Mark your calendars!

Back to A Winter Haunting, which is in some ways very different from its predecessor. Different in time, different in tone. Summer of Night, while horrific, contains elements of timeless joys and youthful freedom. It is a story of young boys. A Winter Haunting closes those chapters of our lives many years later. It is about settling rather than striving. It is about coming to terms with what you’ve become and living with the sins of the past. Professor Dale Stewart (a Bike Patrol member) in not happy with the way things in his adult life are going. He leaves his wife and children to start a relationship with one of his students. The student, in turn, leaves him. He attempts suicide. He turns a pistol on himself.  When he fails to kill himself, he seeks therapy.

Dale decides to rent a farm house in his childhood town of Elm Haven for a winter.  A Winter HauntingThere he will write a book about that memorable summer – the summer of 1960. He seems to want to revisit the past, perhaps to see how far back things had gone horribly wrong. Maybe the answers to his current problems are here in Elm Haven; here in the house. If the bullet had discharged from the gun he turned on himself, the wound he would have suffered would have been considered self-inflicted. In a way, what he experiences at the farmhouse is a self-inflicted haunting. If you dig for ghosts you just might find them. And Dale does.  The places in and around the farm house, the people he meets from his past, all of this is part of this self-inflicted haunting. Dale is romanticizing his past while at the same time – it scares the shit out of him.

It’s very difficult to describe this story without encountering spoilers.  There is some very interesting backstory surrounding this farm house, but I can’t get into that for fear of ruining parts of Summer of Night. It has an upstairs that is mostly sealed off from the rest of the house. Weird things occur beyond that plastic sealing! There is a basement with interesting books and devices.  There is something about one of these devices that comes as a shocker to Dale near the end of the story. Then there is the ghost that is most important to the story, but I cannot delve into it’s nature. This ghost is with Dale at the beginning, becomes more intertwined with his current state of affairs while he is at the house, and remains with him at the story’s end.

There is a lot of psychology at play in the book, although it is not always obvious. The overall scenario is a common one: a writer is alone with his or her thoughts trying to write a book, struggling with both fantasy and reality. We see this play out in The Shining.  This plays out in my book The Housesitter as well. But as the story unfolds, we the readers discover things that are uniquely Dan Simmons, such as his knowledge of ancient epics and religious myths.  This knowledge fits in remarkably well in what is otherwise a folksy down-to-earth tale.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one of the bests of its genre.  You may want to give Summer of Night a read first, which is, admittedly, a long book.  But is you choose to pass on Summer of Night (And I don’t recommend skipping this book), please read A Winter Haunting. The story can be well understood without reading any previous books. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!

 

 

A Review of Julia – by Peter Straub

“Julia Dream. Dreamboat Queen. Queen of all my dreams.” – Pink Floyd

 

 

I love “Julia Dream”, a song by Pink Floyd. I don’t, however, love Julia , a novel by Peter Straub. I mean – I like the novel. A little. Somewhat like. I guess.   Okay, okay – I’ll stop dripping out these qualifying phrases and get to the heart of the matter.

Here’s the synopsis – A woman (Julia) fleeing a troubled past finds herself living in a haunted house. She struggles to make sense of her new surroundings. Who is that young mysterious blonde girl that she keeps encountering in the nearby neighborhood? And why does Julia sometimes hear the sounds of someone rummaging around her house while she sleeps at night.

As per the synopsis on Amazon:

Julia’s first purchase upon leaving her husband is a large, old-fashioned house in Kensington, where she plans to live by herself well away from her soon-to-be ex and the home where their young daughter died.

Does the mysterious girl have something to do with her daughter’s death? Is Julia being haunted by ghosts?

Many of the haunted house novels and movies that I have absorbed follow a formula similar to this. Authors Darcy Coates and Blair Shaw, for instance, have published several stories about women who suddenly find themselves living alone in a haunted house. Often they are burdened with the baggage of tragedies past, and this only makes their haunting encounters all the more unbearable. Or maybe, these encounters are one and the same with what has haunted them in the past; maybe these are old phantoms disguised as something new. Jeffery Konvitz abides by this formula in his novel The Sentinel The story within the film Sensoria follows this pattern as well.  Yet Julia, published in 1975, predates all of these. Is it then a first of its kind? Probably not.  Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House has a somewhat similar synopsis. The protagonist is not alone in the haunted house, but she does arrive with plenty of emotional baggage, so much so that she becomes an unreliable narrator.  Her sense of reality is in question, and therefore so are her perceptions. This is the same situation readers face with confronting Straub’s central protagonist. Are Julia’s experiences real or are they hallucinations; byproducts of her troubled mind? Thus, the influences of Shirley Jackson are easily recognizable.

 

I have no objection to an adherence of a formula, so long as it’s not a strict adherence. Julia_PeterStraub_156There needs to be ingredients of originality in the brew somewhere. Julia is not without originality. My criticism with the story has to do with its telling. At times, the events of the tale are ambiguous and vague. I found myself confused; is this event that Straub is describing real, or is it a dream. Or, is it just a section that’s poetically licensed to do whatever the hell it wants to do? I know what you’re thinking  “Well this kind of writing is to be expected in a mysterious novel that features an unreliable narrator.” To a degree I agree (hey that rhymed!). But as my great grandmother would say, “enough is enough of anything.”  When a situation is written so vaguely that comprehension is lost and the flow of the story suffers, then Houston, we have a problem.  Sometimes I wasn’t sure as to which character was  thinking/dreaming up a specific surreal situation.

It is well known that the supernatural is a staple of Peter Straub’s works. He is considered one of the masters of his genre and I in no way wish to challenge this mastery. However I learned from Wikipedia  that Julia is Peter Straub’s third novel, but it’s also his first attempt  at writing about ghosts and the supernatural. Bryant Burnette who writes for the blog Truth Inside the Lie has read Straub’s first two novels, and wasn’t all that impressed with them. He saw a marked improvement in Julia, at least in terms of character development. At the same time, he too finds his vagueness daunting.  He says:

.. failing that understanding, our lack of understanding is a part of the narrative.  Straub isn’t 100% successful at this 100% of the time — he occasionally falls back on the old trope of having a character be vague when it makes much more sense for them to be explicit — but he gets it right way more than he gets it wrong.

I would say he gets a right more than half the time.

 Having not read his first two novels, I can only compare Julia with the one other novel of Straub’s that I have read. A fitting comparison it is, because they are similar in certain ways. But the later novel, Novel # 5, (reminds me of this song, replace “novel” with “mambo”) is superior. I am referring to Ghost Story.

Both Julia and Ghost Story convey the idea of a vengeful, female spirit. Julia is a relatively short novel whereas Ghost Story is a gigantic, ambitious work. To me, Julia is the “practice novel;” an exercise Straub must perform while on the way toward the masterpiece that is Ghost Story. Straub learns from his early works. The fruits of his creative and mechanical maturity bear out symbolically, from the ghost of a young girl (in Julia) to the ghost of a fully grown woman (In Ghost Story). This time, Straub’s vagueness add to the overall eeriness of the story.

I am no expert of the works of Peter Straub. He is a favorite of many, including Stephen King. In both of the works that I have read I see talent. But Ghost Story is where his talent is fully realized.  In Julia, this talent – it’s there, but  it is still struggling to come to fruition. Therefore, alas, I can only give it a half-hearted recommendation.  But at least I put my whole heart into explaining why I  “sort of liked” and did not “love” this book, as I promised I would do way back at the end of the first paragraph. Remember? But of course you do! You rock, but not was well as Pink Floyd.

 

The Woman in Black – Modern Gothic at its Best!

My claim to expertise has been compromised!   

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How dare I claim to be an expert on haunted house literature when I have only just recently read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill!  I am sooo late to the game – very late! I apologize for my tardiness.

(Readers be like:  MadEmojiUseMadEmojiUse2MadEmojiUseMadEmojiUse2 )

This is a major faux pas, since what we have here is a modern “classic”, in every sense of the word.   The Woman in Black is a novella of high quality. It serves as the definitive model for the various adaptions that premiered across various mediums including two films (Made for British TV movie of 1989  and Made for the Big Screen in 2012) and one TheWomanInBlackplay (In London 1987 ). It relays a standard and reminds us of the “shoulds” of a ghost story; it should be descriptive, mysterious, suspenseful, and of course scary.  In addition – Susan writes with a nineteenth century style, giving the story a welcoming Gothic flavor . All of this is a testament to its greatness; a greatness that I should not have ignored for so long.

The story is simple. Who needs a lot of complexity when “simple” gets the job done, right? Anyway, retired lawyer Arthur Kipps refuses to join with his wife and stepchildren in the frivolity of telling ghost stories, for he takes the matter seriously. His real experience with ghosts rivals all of their silly yarns. His true tale is disturbing and deadly; his family wouldn’t understand.

As a young London lawyer, Arthur is sent to the remote coastal village of Crythin Gifford to attend to the affairs of the late Mrs. Alice Drablow. He must attend her funeral and then retrieve all of the significant legal documents that are scattered about at her former place of residence – Eel Marsh House (gotta love that name!) At her funeral, he sees a mysterious, sickly woman dressed in black. When Arthur mentions her to another funeral attendee, the other freaks out and won’t admit to seeing her. Likewise, no one in the village wants to discuss the late Mrs. Drablow. They want nothing to do with her house, which exists a few miles outside the village. It is surrounded my marshes. It is impossible to get there at high tide. Arthur heeds not the warnings of the people, for he has a job to do. He stays all alone at Eel Marsh House. In the end he will experience something so horrific that he will not be able to share the story with his stepchildren many years later.

As I read this novella and prepared for this review, I could not help but notice parallels between several aspects of this story and certain themes that I have written about here at this blog. First, it pays homage to the “Christmas Ghost Story”, a topic I have written about extensively (For starters, there’s this:  Christmas Ghosts and Haunted Houses ). The ghost story sessions mentioned at the beginning of this novella occur on Christmas Eve. One of Arthur’s stepchildren correctly points out that such a pastime is part of the English Christmas tradition; at least it was in the days of yore. I am reminded a bit about the Christmas haunted house story by the name of Smee. (See  Review of Smee – A Christmas Ghost Story by A.M. Burrage. To date, this post receives the most traffic). Like Arthur Kipps, the narrator of the ghost story in Smee is reluctant to take part in certain holiday festivities on account of a past terrifying experience. In Smee, the activity that frightens him is a hide-and-seek type game. In The Woman in Black, it is the telling of the ghost story that is unsettling. In both cases, readers learn of the backstory that causes these protagonists to fret on Christmas Eve. In both scenarios, its is this backstory that will turn into the main story.

TheWomanInBlack2Second, the haunted house of this novella is surrounded by terrain that is descriptively creepy. Ghostly grounds are a nice compliment to the haunted house that stands on its domain. I wrote about this here: Ghostly Grounds: Explorations Outside of the Haunted Houses of Film and Literature. While eerie events take place inside the house (inside the locked nursery!), most of the terror takes place outside the walls of Eel Marsh House. There is a nearby cemetery where Arthur once again sees the woman in black. Even more creepier are the marshes. Only by a Causeway can a traveler make safe passage to the house. However, the frequent sea frets often obscure the safe passages. It is here out on these foggy marshes that Arthur hears what I deem to be the most terrifying element of the story. In a good ghost story, things that are not seen are more frightening then then the stuff spoiled by sight. Had I read The Woman in Black before writing the “Ghostly Grounds…” article, I certainly would have made reference to Susan Hill’s story.

Finally, Susan Hill strives for the style of the traditional English ghost story. In my opinion she succeeds at this feat. I have written about the traditional English ghost story, in articles such as J.S. LeFanu and Haunted Houses and Everything I Know About Haunted Houses I Learned from British Literature . First of all, though published in 1983, the book is written in the Gothic style that permeates these ghostly tales of yore. For instance, The Woman in Black is told in the first person and is a story within a story, which was a common plot device back then. The sentences are long and they often give way to passive voice. Susan Hill will write “my spirits rose” instead of “I began to feel better” or “you look unwell” instead of “you look sick.” Furthermore, the story is saturated with descriptions, often about the sky, the grounds and the weather.

What does this style do for the story? A lot! In establishes tone and wraps readers in a certain kind of chilling mood; a mood that modern ghost stories just aren’t able to invoke. And yet, with all its mimicry of the old style, there is something “modern” hidden within that I cannot explain. Somehow this work stands apart from Hill’s literary predecessors. Perhaps it’s the absence of archaic terminology that I often stumble upon when reading the ghosts stories of yesteryears. Maybe she benefits by learning from the old stories in a way that the authors of the traditional stories could not since they were but fledglings of their time. I’m just guessing here. But this “something” that I’m so desperately trying to convey testifies to the overall mystery that surrounds this novel. Heck, even the time period of the story is somewhat enigmatic. Like most gothic tales, this is a period piece. But Hill never explicitly states the year. Cars appear in the book, but so do traps and horses. A man on the train “takes out his watch”, he doesn’t look at his wrist. Telephones are mentioned, but so is the telegraph. Often communication is left to old fashion letters and telegrams.

I have heard good things about the 2012 film version of the book starring Daniel Radcliffe – Good ol’ Harry Potter! I am looking forward to seeing and reviewing that film. But the book is a tough act to follow, so we’ll just have to see. But I’m optimistic.  I’m sure I will enjoy it, but probably not as much as the novella.

 

Review of The Witches of Ravencrest (The Ravencrest Saga Book 2)

WitchesRavencrestOnce upon a time, I absorbed the “Ghosts of Ravencrest.” Then I needed a break. I had to let these ghosts settle into my consciousness and give them time to digest into my subconscious before moving on. And move on I did,  carrying these ghosts with me, for they were stored in my memory banks. But alas, many of these banks were locked; their contents – irretrievable?  I had hoped not, for any understanding of the book that is under review depended on unobstructed access to these ghosts. Were “The Witches of Ravencrest” able to set them free?   Short answer – yes!

For those that have no clue what I was babbling about in the preceding paragraph, I refer you to this review: The Ghosts of Ravencrest  The Ghosts of Ravencrest is the first book in the Ravencrest saga. The subject of this review is The Witches of Ravencrest, the second book of the series. I finished the first book back in February. When I started the second book in the late summer, I was a bit worried. It had been a while since I visited with the occupants of Ravencrest Manor – the haunted house of the Ravencrest series. These occupants are members of the Manning household; would I remember them?

As far as family goes, the task was easy. The only living family members are Eric Manning and his two children. Check, check, annnnnd check!  But this household includes more than just this trio of living relations – so much more.  First there is the household staff. There is Belinda Moorland, the governess for the Manning children and the aspiring love interest of Eric Manning. Since she is the central protagonist, I had an easy time recalling her as well. Being the newest member of the household, it is through her eyes that readers of the first book come to meet the rest of the staff; a collection of  odd individuals whose idiosyncrasies  range from the charmingly eccentric to the dangerously disturbed.  Then there are those other “entities” that lurk about in the house; abhorrent creatures living in the walls and mysterious spirits that haunt an entire wing of the mansion. Going on memory, it seemed that each household member, living or dead, had a role to play in this somewhat complicated  and continuously unfolding plot. Oh Lordy! How was I ever going to reacquaint myself with all these characters and remap this plot?  Turns out, the task was not that difficult.

With familiar ease, I rediscovered Grant Phister the butler and his husband Riley the gardener. Grant is the eyes and ears of Ravencrest and he seems to be the one tasked with managing the overall affairs of the household. This is no easy feat since part of his job, unofficial though it may be, is to keep the supernatural carnage at a minimum. His ease of character and witty humor make him memorable.   Officially, the untrustworthy Cordelia Heller is the household manager. She is bound to the estate by matters of wills and legality.  It took me very little time to refamiliarize myself with her wicked ways.  For she is an ancient witch that has worn different clothing’s of flesh over her many years. She has it in for Belinda, who is learning, little by little, that she has her own magical abilities that, when fully realized, may rival the skills of Cordelia.  But for now, Cordelia’s power is great! In The Ghosts of Ravencrest, she transformed a man into a crawling abomination that lives inside the walls. This thing, known as The Harlequin, is back in this second novel. He passed out of my conscience for a time, but he crawled back into my brain with the same ease for which he crawls about in the ventilation system.  Cordelia is in charge of the maids who she regularly disciplines down in the dungeon, thereby adding some BDSM flavor to this novel. Ah yes, how could I have forgotten the spicy Dominique, the Latina maid whose obsession with Jesus Christ is taken to an erotic level! Oh and I had forgotten all about Walter Hardwicke, the chauffer, always doing the bidding of Cordelia.  He is also a serial killer. Once reintroduced, I “remembered him fondly” (not really, I just wanted to use that phrase!)

Of all the ghosts that haunt Ravencrest, the three nuns stand out the most. I never forgot them and they are back again, gliding in unison in the haunted wing, forcing anyone they encounter to “Eat, eat, eat!” the cursed persimmons that they have in their possession.  But perhaps of more prominence are the ghosts of Mannings long since dead. To what extent these men and women haunted Ravencrest in the first book I could not remember. But they shine with meaning and revelation in The Witches of Ravencrest.

 The first book introduces us to all these characters and lets us readers know that GhostsRavencrestRavencrest is haunted not only with spirits but also by a strange history of familial drama wrapped in murder and treachery. This second book goes beyond the supernatural manifestations and explores the agents of such phenomena; the summoners of spirits, the casters of spells. In short, we move on from “The Ghosts of Ravencrest” to “The Witches of Ravencrest”.  In the first book we learn what we are dealing with. In the second book, we learn more about the whys and wherefores of the “whats”. We learn of the complex roles of the characters and begin to understand how they fit into the larger story.

For better or worse, The Ravencrest Saga has the makings of a literary soap opera. There is love and eroticism, murder and betrayal, a subplot here, a trail of story over there, here a conflict, there a conflict, everywhere a con-flict – Eric Manning had a house – E-I-E-I-GHOST! Some may not like this style, especially those horror fans that are not into romance sagas. While I am not a follower of such a genre, I did enjoy this book. What I missed, however, were the trips back in time that were prevalent in the first book. There are places in The Ghosts of Ravencrest where the story creeps back to the distant past. The writing style of these sections reflects the style of the period. We go back a century or two and learn about the Manning family of yore. We see how ghosts and witches were a part of the makeup of the family even back then. In The Witches Of Ravencrest, while the ghosts of the old times visit the present, we as readers are rarely allowed back into the past. I miss the old world of the story. Oh well, time marches forward I guess.

So to wrap it all up, The Ravencrest Saga offers interesting characters and a compelling story. It mixes erotica with the gothic. Sometimes this mixture works well. At other times it…I don’t know, it just “works” these other times, minus any supporting adjective. The soap opera style can be daunting, especially if one is not attuned to this style of storytelling, but in the end it pays off with its creativity of content.

 

 

 

 

Review of Ghosts of Manor House

ManorHouseIf you have been a regular reader of my reviews, it should be no secret that I crave certain things from the haunted houses of literature. I have a criteria by which I base my story preferences. That being said, there are many decent  haunted house stories that fail to abide by this criteria.  I may enjoy these stories, but chances are, for me to knight a book with greatness, it has to live up to my standards.  Mind you, these standards are subjective. But hey, much of this entire blog is devoted to my points of view – so let me continue on subjecting you to my subjective opinions!

In my article Social Theory and the Haunted House, I have delineated between two types of haunted houses. They are either:

A)    A place for a bunch of ghosts to hang out.

Or

B) A place that is greater than the sum of its ghosts

I prefer B) I want the houses to do more than just serve as a backdrop for exhibitionistic ghosts.  I want the house to be as much of a contributor to a haunting as the spirits that occupy it.  A good haunted house has consciousness. Maybe the house itself is a spirit. Or maybe it is alive.  The house should be able to exert its will on its inhabitants, with or without ghosts. The house should have a rich history; it should have stories from the past that speak to its present nature.  A good haunted house has a memory. Moreover, I love a house that exerts the power of symbolism. It should stand not only as a structure of brick or stone, but as a representation of an enduing entity. A kingdom perhaps, or a lineage or family. Maybe it stands for existence itself; for endurance incarnate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: Manor House. This house meets most of my criteria. Its ghosts respect and honor their home. So let’s give it up for Ghosts of Manor House, an excellent novel by Matt Powers.

Here are some words from the author himself:

When writing a book, people tell you to develop your characters and soon they write themselves. This became true for me, but the characters that spoke to me the most were Manor House and its partner, Mr. Travels. These two entities drew me into their world. The others are satellites, flies caught in the web of old spirits. Like the characters in this story, Manor House drew me in and captured me.

This paragraph is taken from the beginning of the book in a section called Note From the Author. And I have to say, these two “characters” spoke to me too.  I got to know Manor House in its many carnations. From a courthouse in its early years to a bed and breakfast in a more modern age.  From a revered building where harsh judgments were cast upon doomed  detainees to an inviting retreat center that loves its guests so much that it just doesn’t want to let them go!  While a regular old, aging  house collects dust, Manor’s House gathers up ghosts.  I just love Power’s description of a  “web of old spirits.”  It suits Manor House to a tee!  And now, from a tee to a tree!  The tree is Mr. Travels. Its sinewy branches cast shadows across the grounds of Manor House.  It too has seen its share of history.  Many people perished on its low hanging branches. The stuff of legend has given it a most unique origin. It is connected to Manor House in a most mysterious way. Perhaps it serves as the pulse of the house?  It wouldn’t be surprising. While the author was giving me a tour of the house via the story, I could swear I felt the house’s heart beat. Was this in the basement? I can’t recall.  Maybe its best that I don’t remember.

The bulk of the story takes place in the mid 1970s and revolves around Edmund and his family. The family has suffered through a tragedy, so Edmund arranges for a getaway to help ease their suffering souls. He reserves Manor House for his wife Mary and his children. It comes equipped with a full staff; a butler, a maid and a gardener.  Now get this – in chapter entitled “One Week Later -Escape from Manor House”, Edmund is fleeing the house while some of the staff are trying to convince him to return.  In the following chapter, “Welcome Back to Manor House,”  Edmund is alone, getting set up in his new place that is Manor House. He is supposed to meet his family there and….where are they? THAT is the question that pulls readers to the end of the book.  Yes readers, Ghosts of Manor House is a suspenseful novel.   To keep the suspense alive, Powers’ reveals just enough information – here and there, chapter by chapter. It’s all about healthy, measured spoonfuls of clues. Never too much – there are no mass information dumps. You will not get literary indigestion.

At 133 pages, Ghosts of Manor House is what I would consider a short novel. It is short, but it is complete. Within this novel of limited length, there is a tome of possibility. I’m looking for sequels and prequels. Of course that is up to the author.  Or maybe it isn’t! Maybe it’s Manor House itself that is in control. Matt Powers brought it to life and maybe the house will exert its living influence back on the author and entangle him in its “web of spirits,”  forcing him to write his way out!  With no sadistic intentions, I hope this happens.

Visit Matt’s Blog at https://www.ghostsofmanorhouse.com/  or just click on the picture below an teleport yourself over there!

ManorHouse2a

Review of Maynard’s House

MH2For this review I present an extraordinarily original story that is sadly overlooked. A Google search for Maynard’s House yields a few relevant results but not many. If not for a burning desire to revisit the summers of my youth, I would have missed this fascinating story about a haunted shack in the blizzardy mountains. That’s right folks, you read correctly: a severe case of summer nostalgia led me to a cold and isolated terrain that scrambles the real with the unreal. How did a wholesome quest for summer bliss lead to all this?  I’ll tell ya.  Read on!

Two and a half months ago, the summer of 2017 was just beginning. There I was, your humble and lovable Haunted House Host, yearning for those teenage summers. Yearning to go to a place where time took a leave of absence, where rules were meant to be broken. Breaking the rules is part of growing up, is it not? I was wishing to approach new experiences with wide eyes and a weightless soul.  Well, none of that was happening, so I did the next best thing; I read about such experiences.  Long story short, I sought out novels with the theme of summer nostalgia.  One such book was The Summer of ’42 by Herman Raucher. Known mostly for the movie adaption of the same title, it is author’s memoirs of a summer he spent on the island of Nantucket as a teen. It is a summer of mindless shenanigans, of idle times and ravaging hormones. It is also a tale of bittersweet romance and sorrow.

Now, how did I get turned around one hundred and eighty degrees from a summery love story to a winter’s horror tale? Well the article: From Summer to Autumn: The Spirit Remains the Same (The Darker Sides of Ray Bradbury and Herman Raucher),  contends that each book has similar themes. So in fact, they might not be polar opposites. Ah but that is a topic for another article – like the one I just referenced! But to get back to the original question, I have to thank good ol’ Amazon (Henceforth referred to as “Amzy”); Amzy is always so keen with its suggested reads! Naturally, since I downloaded one book by Herman Raucher, Amzy assumed I would want to read others by the same author.  Amzy showed me There Should Have Been Castles and A Glimpse of a Tiger, two love stories involving teenage characters. Who would guess that an author known for penning humorous stories of youth and romance had a real scary story within him? His final book (to date), Maynard’s House, is that story. Standing up on the Amzy lookout post with all the other members of the Raucher collection, its stare met my eyes while the glazes of the other titles brushed passed my shoulders. Ghosts are always looking for new places to occupy. When they see a man with an aura in the shape of a haunted house (hint: that’s me!), they move in for the taking.  I didn’t find Maynard’s House – it found me.  It found me at the closing of one of those other titles, standing on the sunny shores of a New England beach. It pulled me out of The Summer of ‘42 and took me across the ocean, over the horizon, to a different kind of reality.

While I have said that there are similar themes in both books, a paragraph from the From Summer to Autumn… article summarizes a key difference between The Summer of ’42 and Maynard’s House:

The first book is about the building a man. This man is constructed on a warm sandy beach in the wake of a wartime tragedy. The second book is about taking apart a man. He is deconstructed in the cold winter snow.

mhAustin Fletcher will come apart. He is a war-weary veteran of the Vietnam War. His war buddy, Maynard Whittier, dies on the battlefield. Maynard wills his house to Fletcher. This house is a simple shack in a hostile wilderness. But Austin will reside in it. After all, he is very much like the house. He is a simple man living in an inimical world. The house, however, will not take to him.  Unaware of his final fate, Austin makes his way to the snowiest regions of Maine to seek out the shack.

Austin begins his journey to the “salvage center for his soul” (not from the book; I made that up) via a freight train with some passenger accommodations. He is the only passenger. Snow halts the train, but Austin marches on, contending with the harsh elements on foot. He almost dies, but strangers help him along the way and he warms up at way stations.  Austin doesn’t take to these strangers. Although kind and helpful, he is put off by their localized eccentricities.   He doesn’t seem to take to much. He’s not exactly the most lovable character. The story itself describes him as forgettable; a face in the crowd.  Nevertheless, I as a reader was anxious to continue on the journey with him, partly out of morbid curiosity.

Maynard’s House is psychological horror. It is implied that Austin suffers from PTSD. He is an unreliable narrator. It’s always fun to take an unreliable narrator and stuff him inside some house and wait for the fun to begin. Ordinary objects take on such horrifying shapes. Anything can happen.  Eventually Austin makes it to the shack. Shadows dance at night. A rocking chair creaks and moans.  We are forced to ponder – is all this real?  The things he sees, are they just images from his mind?

Projection. According to Wikipedia, “Projection” is a psychological defense mechanism “in which humans defend themselves against their own or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.”  This often bares out in horror stories. Take the horror that is on the inside and project it outwards. We saw this happen in The Innocents (Henry James – “The Turn of the Screw”). We see it again here. Austin’s brain is the projecter. The Shack, “Maynard’s House”, is the screen. On this “screen” he projects his ghosts. The fun thing about projections – they can be sliced and diced into symbols. The oversize bear that threatens to bring down the shack, is it a projection of his own self-destructive nature, is it a symbol of the harshness of the world against a vulnerable man, or is it literally a big bad bear?  The freakish, elusive imps that disappear into snow drifts, are they really some kind or primordial species or are they children, a boy and a girl? If  one is a young girl, sometimes youthfully forbidden while at other times seductively mature, is she the physcial manifestation of sexual guilt?

Literalism. What you see is what you get. Books such as Maynard’s House need a dose of literalism for nothing more than to keep the reader guessing. Austin’s encounters might not be the results of symbolic projections at all. The hauntings just might be the very real consequences of curses and witchcraft. Legend has it that a witch was hanged on a nearby tree back in the sixteenth century. Maynard tells Austin some of this before he dies. Locals fill Austin in the stories as well. Diaries found in the shack tell the story of past inhabitants, dwellers long before Autin and Maynard. The House didn’t like many of them either.

Witches. As I learn about the traits of the various classes of horror characters, I am coming to realize that witches exceed at mind-fuckery. Ghosts, demons, zombies – they frighten and terrify. Witches do the same, but they have this uncanny ability to manipulate reality and turn it on its heels, sending their victims spiraling off into the insane unknown. This might be what is happening to poor Austin.  There’s the pointed witch hat the “knocks” at his door. Should he answer?

Maynard’s House is a gripping novel. It deserves the same appreciation that is bestowed MH3upon so many of the great haunted houses books. It hides among Herman Raucher’s novels of youth and romance. Perhaps Raucher’s claim to fame, Summer of ’42, steers his brand on a course that leaves horror far behind. Well it found me and now I am presenting it with the hopes that it finds you.   The house might hate you and try to throw you away. However, the house might also love you. In that case, it might try and keep you. Forever.

 

Speed Dating With the Dead – A Review

Attention Everybody! God is temporarily breaking down the barrier between the living and the dead.  And that’s not all!  The Almighty is hosting the angelload of all social events – Speed Dating With the Dead!  I shall participate! Here I go…..

*** Sitting on a cloud. Waiting for my date to materialize. Waiting… Waiting…

DanMarylinCloudThere she is! Jack pot! It’s Marilyn Monroe!  I must be on cloud nine! Gee Marilyn, your halo is almost as golden as your hair!  My earthly beauty will never match your heavenly brilliance. Talk-talk-talk/Listen-listen-listen .  Uh oh., our time is almost up, the cloud is about to get me a new date. Hey Marylin I enjoyed our….

CloudLightningAni2

Lizzy Borden, uh…h-how interesting, you even have a “ghost axe”. Isn’t that, uh, something. S-shouldn’t you DanLizzyCloudbe part of the speed dating group that is being managed by, well, the people “downstairs”? You’re shaking your head “no”.  Hmm awkward chat/awkward chat/awkward chat.  Well gotta go, our time is up…

 

CloudLightningAni2

DanAmeliaCloudWow, Amelia Earhart! Nice to meet you! What’s that? You never died? You flew your plane into the clouds and broke through Heaven’s door, and you’ve been living among the angels ever since? Ha Ha Ha!  What a way to cheat death! Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me!



Yeah so,  regarding all those clouds and “dates”;  none of that has anything to do with Scott Nicholson’s book Speed Dating With the Dead. The novel has nothing to do with dating; speedy or slow, ethereal or substantive – none of that stuff.  It is, however, about a paranormal convention that convenes at a hotel that is supposedly a hot spot for ghostly activities. Turns out, this group of paranormal thrill seekers gets more than they bargained for.  They are expecting ghosts.  They will get demons instead.  The highly creative title comes from the observations of one of the ghost tour leaders, “Roach.” Roach suspects that the hotel is populated with entities that are far more dangerous than the residual spirit.  He is a trained demonologist and he frowns upon amateurs who trifle with paranormal sightings as if they were some kind of amusement park attractions. Thus, he terms this activity “Speed Dating With The Dead.”

From the book:

The Roach nodded while ignoring her. Paranormal tourism had all the inherent risk factors of traditional outdoor adventuring, with the same fear and response and endorphin rush. The Roach frowned upon speed dating with the dead, but he figured he could best serve on the front lines where meta-physical bullets flew hot and fast

The two main characters are Digger Wilson and his teenager daughter Kendra. Digger is the head of Spirit Seekers International and he arranges the paranormal tours at White Horse Inn. He has a special interest in this hotel. It is rumored to house several apparitions, but he is mainly interested in making contact with one specific specter – the spirit of his late wife Beth. On her deathbed, she promised to reunite with him at The White Horse Inn, the same hotel where they had celebrated their second honeymoon.

There are so many characters in this novel. The perspective is constantly changing and this jumping back and forth between characters is kind of like speed dating.  This is one of Nicholson’s styles. I have read five of his books and in all of them the story unfolds within the viewpoints of several characters.  On the one hand, this method widens the story. Readers come to understand different story angles and they meet some very interesting fictional people. However, it can get tedious trying to keep track of who is who.

Nicholson can be considered a craftsman of the modern ghost story. As much as I like the gothic tradition, this is not Nicholson. He’s not about prolonged descriptive atmosphere and hidden symbolism. His scares march to a faster beat.  He’s more about scenarios such as – You’re locked in the basement – There is no light – Sparks ignite from a broken down furnace – There are demonic things in there with you – people are panicking.  Look for this and other similar scenarios in Speed Dating With the Dead, a book that has the flair of modern horror films. It is The Conjuring and/or Insidious put into words.

As for the “whys and wherefores;” I’m not sure they exist. What is the meaning of the story? I have no idea. There is some kind of revelation at the end that makes no sense to me.  Parts of the story seem missing. Maybe the demons ate them, I don’t know.  But it is a scary book. The situations these ghost hunters get into when they break off into small groups and tour the many rooms and floors – wow!  Things might not always hold up plotwise, but there are some scary things hiding in the dark corners of this story.