I lived in Chicago for an academic year, but didn’t make it off of the University of Chicago campus very often. Reading The Ghosts of Chicago made me...moreI lived in Chicago for an academic year, but didn’t make it off of the University of Chicago campus very often. Reading The Ghosts of Chicago made me wish I’d have explored the city more, or at the very least, taken a tour. Author Adam Selzer is a tour guide for haunted Chicago tours, and while I doubt he was in operation while I was attending classes there, I think I would have really enjoyed taking one of his tours. I got the next best thing, though: this book.
Selzer takes the reader through Chicago’s neighborhoods and historic spots, bringing to light ghosts both real and legendary. I learned about the history of Chicago through his description, and he explains how the city grew and how streets and neighborhoods changed over time. I have little doubt that he’s actually done some research on the physical locations, working to pinpoint historic addresses that have long since changed.
Selzer’s interest in ghost hunting seems to mirror my own. I’m not interested in things like K2 meters or orb photographs. I don’t need to use technology to tell me a place is creepy. Rather, I’m interested in doing what Jeff Belanger calls “legend tripping,” or visiting spots where legends and stories have developed. I care about the history and the stories people tell. Adam Selzer’s book really scratched that itch for me.
The Ghosts of Chicago works as a combination of ghost stories, history, and travel guide. You don’t need to be familiar with Chicago to read and enjoy it, and if you’re going to visit, you may want to have this book on hand to look up some interesting spots (or, if you’re not into ghosts, to know where to avoid!).(less)
Know what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the ofte...moreKnow what's more fun than a bunch of ghost stories? A bunch of ghost stories that take place in a funeral home! This book is completely about the often creepy, but sometimes touching, encounters with the spirits of the dead in the place where most of us will eventually wind up.
A part of me really wishes that this book had been written and marketed as fiction rather than as a true encounters kind of book. I love hearing the stories, but if somebody is trying to convince me that all of these things really happened to her, my inner skeptic is going to speak up. I've heard de la Croix interviewed a few times before, and she really does maintain that she is a psychic. It's the kind of thing you just can't argue, but I also have a really hard time believing. It seems too convenient to have ghostly encounter after ghostly encounter when so many of us have had no experiences. Granted, a funeral home might ratchet up the spook-factor.
De la Croix's writing voice didn't always work for me. It can be overly saccharine at times. I think this is a problem with the chemistry between my own personal tastes and her way of expressing herself, so others may not share this viewpoint. Subjectively, I would have preferred a bit less of calling people "dear" or the way she spoke to the spirits to get them to stop what they were doing.
What I enjoyed most about this read were the ins and outs of working in a funeral home. De la Croix shares some of the practicalities of embalming and cremation, but she also gives us an idea of the many little things that come with the job, like bringing in more tissues for mourners, or setting alarms and turning off lights at the end of the day. This provided a nice grounding and insight into this as an actual career, rather than simply a setting for the stories.
Restless in Peace is a fairly quick read full of plenty of ghostly encounters, and is a fair choice for those who are curious about funeral homes and want some creepy stories.(less)
I’m pretty skeptical when I hear that a ghost story is based on a real life haunting. When I was a little kid, I lived in a haunted house, but not too...moreI’m pretty skeptical when I hear that a ghost story is based on a real life haunting. When I was a little kid, I lived in a haunted house, but not too much happened. We certainly weren’t chased out of the place. It was mostly footsteps that would happen on certain stairs at certain hours, which past tenants had also heard. That would make a terrible story, though. Way more happens in the horribly haunted house on Baxter Street in Anatomy of a Haunting. However, any scares I might have gained from this book were lost due to the poor storytelling and writing style. I found myself wishing the novel would make up its mind about what it wanted to be: a non-fiction retelling of a real-life haunting, or a fictional horror novel. It never found its stride nor defined where it stood, leaving me wanting something more.
In the tradition of other “based on a true story” haunted house books, this one begins with a young couple who moves into a home with a disturbing history. While lacking the hallmark demon possession, there are plenty of creepy dolls, revealing diaries, and bodies buried in the yard. The haunting begins almost immediately, and the neighbors all seem to know about the dark history of the home. In fact, the couple is warned on countless occasions that they should leave because the house will eventually kill them. They don’t listen, though. Why do people stay in bad situations? I wanted to scream at the main characters that they should have left after the initial ghostly attack. Don’t spend another night in that place, but no. They stay. While there would be no story if they left, I still found this incredibly frustrating. Even the people in The Amityville Horror left after about a month (I thought that was a poorly written book as well).
There are plenty of paths the book takes us down, but I never got a clear resolution to them. Ghosts plead with a main character that he’s the only person who can release them, but nothing more ever comes of this. Guess they won’t get released? Many parts of the narrative just didn’t make sense.
I felt deeply disappointed with Anatomy of a Haunting. I wanted to love this book. I am a big fan of horror fiction when it’s done well, but like horror films, it can be laughable when done badly. Inevitably, there will be those who read vociferously in this genre and will be able to forgive the flaws I saw in this book, and those people are the best audience for this kind of writing. If you’re a casual horror reader looking for something really good, I’d skip this one. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be scared, just disappointed.(less)
I was so happy that Paper Valentine wasn't just another pretty face (cover). Yes, the cover art is gorgeous, but I also found the story and characters...moreI was so happy that Paper Valentine wasn't just another pretty face (cover). Yes, the cover art is gorgeous, but I also found the story and characters contained within to be equally as enticing. There are multiple themes and storylines happening at once, offering readers a complex, but never over-complicated, story centered around the depressed and lonely Hannah.
Hannah isn't like other girls. Her best friend, Lillian, has recently died of complications of anorexia. That doesn't mean that she's gone, though. Lillian hovers around Hannah, both comforting and tormenting her. At times, Hannah just wants Lillian to leave. At others, she can't imagine life without her constant presence. Hannah's also struggling with her attraction to bad boy Finny Boone, a large, tough looking classmate missing a finger, who turns out to be surprisingly tender.
At the heart of this story, though, are murders. Yes, this is a murder mystery. Young girls are turning up dead in their town. Since the shop where Hannah works processes the crime-lab photograph, Hannah sees that the murders have a pattern of knickknacks and paper valentines left with the bodies. And I totally didn't guess who the killer was.
What I love about this book is that Yovanoff isn't afraid of letting things get creepy. There's an awesome Ouija board scene, and Hannah begins to descend down into her own dark psyche in order to help solve the murders.
Paper Valentine's a must-read for fans of young adult darkness and mystery. The insight into Lillian's anorexia and the dynamics of the mean-girl clique, as well as how people treat Finny Boone, will get your interest, but the murders will spurn you to keep reading to the dark end.(less)
I love a good ghost story. I like my ghosts to be mysterious, haunting, yet not too gory. There needs to be sadness and tragedy attached to them, and...moreI love a good ghost story. I like my ghosts to be mysterious, haunting, yet not too gory. There needs to be sadness and tragedy attached to them, and maybe a pinch of anger at the living. It also helps if the ghost is that of a child, picked before its prime. All this can add up to a stale story, though, if it’s just a continual rehash of a body buried in a lost grave and a wandering ghost. Fortunately for us, Graham McNamee has added enough of a twist to the age old ghost story to make it fresh again.
Jane has issues. She sleepwalks constantly, waking up in the middle of the road at night in nothing but her sleeping clothes. It’s so bad that her parents lock her in her room and make her wear a GPS device. That’s not all, though. Jane’s shadow seems to have a mind of its own, causing her to attempt suicide against her will. The shadow detaches and subjects her to potentially fatal actions, like drinking poison or grabbing a live fallen electrical wire. It’s a miracle Jane is still alive at all. She’s terrified because she doesn’t want to die, not again, not since she experienced a near-death-experience in the operating room.
Sleep is creepy: a state that looks similar to death when we’re at our most vulnerable. McNamee plays up the sleep/death connection throughout this book in waking nightmares as well as sleepwalking. Beyond was genuinely spooky, and satisfied my need for solid dark ghostly horror, giving new meaning to “shadow people.”(less)