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Haunted America #2

Haunted Heartland

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A fleeting figure dressed in a white party dress roams the streets of southwest Chicago. A long-dead Iowa college student treads the staircase in an old building. A ghostly, plaid-shirted workman plays peek-a-boo with a ticket seller in a Minnesota theater. A phantom wolf prowls Ohio's Jackson and Pike Counties.

For decades, journalist Michael Norman has been tracking down spine-tingling tales that seem to arise from authentic incidents in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In Haunted Heartland he offers more than eighty entertaining, eerie stories. Are they true in the world that we know, or only in a dark vale of twilight?

More than 150 true stories of the supernatural Midwest. Readers will enter an America they never knew existed--that of ghosts, haunted houses, possession and exorcism, of vanishing people and ships, mystery lights, premonitory dreams and more. A perennial Halloween favorite.

504 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1985

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About the author

Michael Norman

51 books44 followers
Michael Norman is a writer who makes his home in Western Wisconsin.

He is the author most recently of "The Nearly Departed: Minnesota Ghost Stories and Legends," published in 2009 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

He is the co-author with the late Beth Scott of the popular Haunted America series of ghost stories, and the co-author with writer Carol Roecklein of two vocabulary books written for ages 12 and up.

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5 stars
815 (34%)
4 stars
737 (31%)
3 stars
641 (27%)
2 stars
142 (6%)
1 star
29 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews
Profile Image for Meredith.
96 reviews5 followers
April 18, 2008
I read this when I was younger. Some creepy stories.

I remember then one about the hand print that was permenately on a window and could be cleaned off. Another of a lady on the side of the road, she was really a ghost. And another about a really scary house with ghosts.
Profile Image for Sandy May.
21 reviews
August 20, 2015
A nice little collection of "spooky" stories. Mostly ghost stories, things I could see being told around a campfire. I don't know what to think about ghosts, but that doesn't really matter. The ghost stories weren't the ones that really weirded me out. The story about the unexplained fires and spontaneous combustion freaked me out. The story about the psychic detective was especially interesting. And the stories about weird reincarnations and body-switching REALLY freak me out.

There's no way to tell if any of these stories are true, or just old local legends, but that doesn't make them any less interesting. It's probably a mix of truth and legend. Most of the stories seemed to be from the mid-1800s to the early to mid-1900s. That makes it sort of difficult to research them in much depth. I mean, I'm interested, but not THAT interested. I googled a few of the stories, but I'm not interested enough to hunt down all the books in the bibliography. Maybe just the stuff about the body-switching, that was the story that really fascinated me.

Anyway, overall a good collection of midwest ghost stories, though I was a bit disappointed with the selection of stories for Ohio (though I might be biased, being from Ohio).
Profile Image for Granny.
237 reviews12 followers
September 30, 2013
A large collection; divided state by state, of ghost stories from across the American Midwest. These stories are written along the lines of local folklore and legends. This is not a bad thing; but if you are looking for a more scientific analysis of ghostly phenomena, I would take a pass on this book.

But it is a lively and entertaining book, lots of stories, lots of local history tidbits. With a healthy suspension of disbelief, this is an enjoyable volume.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
571 reviews24 followers
February 26, 2021
SO...very long book. Well written. The stories in this book are just that...ghost stories. They are the stories and legends told in the places mentioned. The authors did not intend this to be a documented telling of "true hauntings," replete with investigations and deep history searches, they intended it to be a bunch of really interesting tales that are told on dark and stormy nights. And they are highly successful in doing just that.

I gave it four stars for that reason. I much prefer investigative works of this type, or first-person accounts, but one cannot deny that these tales were very well told, indeed.
Profile Image for Natalie.
604 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2019
I really had fun reading this. Yes, it's dated (the book was published in the mid 80's) and the stories are primarily from the 1800's to the mid 1900's, but that doesn't make them any less creepy or entertaining. I appreciated how the authors separated the stories into the states they came from, and the states were in alphabetical order. The stories weren't written very well, but they didn't feel repetitive or stale. Every one felt new and fresh, and I was never bored or wanted to stop reading- however, at the same time, the selections aren't long and it was easy to pick up and put down. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves ghost stories, or is looking for something easy to read after plowing through a long or particularly difficult novel.
Profile Image for Cindy.
1,624 reviews9 followers
October 13, 2022
Copyright 1988. This is a reread, but many years since I last read it. 10 chapters with a different state for each chapter. 150 short stories.

This IS a reread, but the only story I remember is The Corpse In The Closet in the Michigan chapter. Usually that means I didn't like the book so much, but I think it's because I read too many ghost stories. I haven't read these stories in any other book (that I remember). The stories are told in an easy to read manner & are for the most part spooky. I wasn't kept awake though, so the horror level is low. This is a good book to read this time of year!
Profile Image for Meen.
539 reviews95 followers
August 28, 2008
Update: Nope, I just can't do it. This is now the second book that I am purposefully not finishing. I was just looking through some other folks' shelves, and you know, there are just too many good books to get to. Or even not so good books, just not fucking Midwesterny BORING books.

About 1/4 of the way through: I am reading this book now 'cause I wanted something not-too-strenuous but scary to read before I go to sleep. But it's just not scary. It's basically just recounting ghost stories from all the Midwestern states. And what do ya know, they all have pretty much the same ghost stories as everywhere else in America... I may have to not finish this. I've made it into Iowa and it really is just the same story over and over.

PS. Southern ghost stories are much better. It's the humidity.
Profile Image for Nicole M..
72 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2016
I remember kids checking this book out of the library in elementary school. In an attempt to get into the Halloween spirit this year, I checked it out again. I think these stories were much scarier in the third grade. The stories aren't particularly well written, although some are curious indeed. And it is always neat when you recognize a nearby site mentioned (for me the Summit mansion in St. Paul). Still, I ended up getting bored and returning it to the library...Maybe I will read the rest of the states next Halloween.
Profile Image for P.S. Winn.
Author 75 books345 followers
January 15, 2019
This collection is best read with lights on and will leave goosebumps long after the last page is turned. The stories are based on actual events.
Profile Image for Isidore.
439 reviews
July 31, 2011
Aside from an annoying addiction to exclamation points, the authors write well--so why do I feel the results are lacklustre? Somehow the stories are too cozy, too undisturbing. The problem is not one of content, but one of style: Hauck has covered some of the same hauntings, and his accounts have a kick which eludes Scott and Norman, partly because he does not try to spin them out into short stories, but also because he knows how to highlight a dramatic detail: for instance, in telling about the Mason Court Apartments affair, Hauck zeroes in on the "two gray fingers" protruding through the floorboards--the most horrific element in the narrative, which pretty much gets lost in a welter of irrelevant detail in this book (the authors even miss the greyness of the fingers, an important touch). All in all, pleasant, if insipid fare.
Profile Image for Jason Gusman.
102 reviews3 followers
August 12, 2011
This is a neat little collection of places in the Midwest that had odd things happen in them. A lot of the stories are centered on ghost/ poltergeist activity, or mysterious things that happened at some point in time like a spontaneous combustion. But there is a story in here that talks about 'The Light" by Watersmeet. Well, it's the exact same thing in another state :). None of the stories are really spooky or evil. A lot are innocent haunts involving civil war soldiers and normal thumps and footsteps in the night. Overall a fun read when you really have nothing else around that is enticing. In other words, I wouldn't go out of my way to read it.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,842 reviews27 followers
October 22, 2015
It's October so it's time for scary books about things which go bump in the night.

I wasn't up for a heavy read (The Exorcist, for example). I needed something light and easy-to-pick-up-where-I-left-off. This fit the bill.

The stories are brief and cover America's heartlands. Some of the stories are old legends; others are (relatively) new encounters. A few were good enough to make me put the book down.

I liked the mix. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a nice book of scary stories with a grain of truth to them.
Profile Image for Steven Peterson.
10 reviews14 followers
June 6, 2016
Haunted Heartland By Beth Scott and Micheal Norman is a collection of spooky stories accumulated from the best part of America, The Midwest. Throughout the collection you will see the specific flavor that the Author broadcasts unto the reader as in some stories it will be creepy and detailed about some ghost then on another story the Author will switch to an almost comedic and nonchalant account of the haunting's being depicted in that story. It's a perfect read for October and I recommend it to anyone who loves The Midwest or Based Michigan. I give it a 5/5/ it was pretty good.
Profile Image for Laura.
213 reviews5 followers
October 14, 2010
A good, entertaining collection of ghost stories and legends from the Midwest. Stories are organized by state and are based on published reports, oral histories, and testimony of participants or their descendants. The authors are candid in their purpose to merely document - not prove or disprove - the veracity of the tales. A recommended read for those interested in local history, or "true" ghost stories.
Profile Image for Cyndy.
467 reviews
October 20, 2012
Since this is a collection of stories, I have not read the entire book. Most of the stories were just fun to read but there were a few that really creeped me out. One of the stories was about a haunted house in northern Wisconsin. This house was profiled in Life magazine back in the early 80's and there was a picture of the house. I remembered back then being creeped out just looking at that house!
Profile Image for Claire.
1,014 reviews53 followers
September 16, 2008
This is a pretty good ghost story book. I pick it up from time to time, usually aroud halloween or when the weather decides to turn just a tad bit cooler and its good to scare yourself. Sometimes though, this book gets into the history of the place more than it really needs to and I find my mind wandering. I read these for light reading, not for a history!
November 16, 2014
If you love to tell ghost stories, watching hauntings on tv , THIS BOOK is For YOU! Each tell is based upon a family's true life experience with the OTHER SIDE. With all the chills and thrills and things that creep by our bed while we sleep at night, this book will definitely have you turning on ALL THE LIGHTS as your reading it.
Profile Image for Kim Ess.
132 reviews
January 18, 2016
Boring. More historical than haunted. The places written about are too popular and for for generations have been know as being "haunted". More folk tale than anything of substance.
184 reviews5 followers
December 15, 2016
The stories in this book are interesting but I don't think any of them will really stick with me.
Profile Image for Marilyn Fontane.
796 reviews1 follower
October 8, 2018
Haunted Heartland by Beth Schott and Michael Norman is a collection of stories that are related in an almost newspaper like form; they are not expressed (other than an annoying use of exclamation points) to raise suspense or thrills, but merely related in a straightforward manner. On the other hand, although there is a fairly extensive bibliography, they are not actually documented for any purpose than to show people told them. The authors even claim not to know whether any of this material is true or not--only that someone believed it enough to tell it.
The stories themselves vary in interest.
They are organized alphabetically by state, starting with Illinois. Of the 23 stories from this state, "Buried Alive" was interesting since at the time methods of ascertaining death from trance or catatonia were lacking and bodies were not mummified so a person, believed to be dead, could regain consciousness. The several stories relating to Abraham Lincoln in "Lincoln and the Supernatural" were interesting historical notes.
Of the 14 Indiana stories I found "The 'Unofficial' Librarian" who kept the collection of Governor Whitcomb in De Pauw University in Greencastle intact the most entertaining.
Of the 9 Iowa stories, certainly "The Possession of Emma Schmidt" is the most classic. However, I don't think it is as well-documented as the possession incident in St. Louis (Missouri is in the group of states covered in this book) which was grossly modified (even changing the gender of the victim) into a movie. But the real incident occurred in Alexian Brothers Hospital and the wing in which the exorcism occurred was locked off from the rest of the hospital for its duration.
The 14 Kansas stories seem to cover a lot of college stories--probably because of a collaborator on campus (Kansas State U in Manhattan is most frequently mentioned) who collected the stories for the authors. It does include a nice Indian story, "The Legend of White Woman Creek), and a pony express story, "Phantom Riders of the Pony Express" as well however.
Many of Michigan's 19 stories are about ships on the lakes. But "The Soul Of Stephen Strand" is a nicely developed story of reincarnation or possession.
Of the 11 Minnesota stories, "The Horrors of Heffron Hall" uses St. Mary's College in Winona to show some of the evils that can be perpetuated by the catholic priests, and "The Levitation of Archie Collins" uses theater, magic shows, to show it is sometimes impossible to tell whether an act is real or make-belief.
Missouri with 12 entries, starts with the well-known story of Pearl Curron who became the automatic writer of Patience Worth in "Patience Worth." It includes a wonderful story of two giant mastiffs who helped a physician travel through the snow in "Sentries in the Night", and tells of Samuel Clemens premonition of the events of his death in "Mark Twain, Psychic."
The 7 Nebraska entries are all short ghost stories, as are many of the 11 Ohio entries, but the last one, "Old Raridan" is about a wolf.
Wisconsin has 13 rather unique entries, but "The Psychic Detective" about Arthur Price Roberts is an interesting story about a unique man--a truly psychic detective.
The book as a whole? A mixed bag. Some good, some boring stories presented without much appeal. Someone looking for ghost stories would not get enough emotion from any of them. Someone looking for scholarship would be dismayed that the authors are telling what they heard, not checking for accuracy. But it is an interesting collection of maybe folk tales of ghosts from the 10 states.
6 reviews1 follower
March 7, 2022
Haunted Heartland is a spooky, easy-to-read book filled with short stories spanning across America's Midwest. Each chapter represents a different Heartland state and each state brings a new bunch of tales. While the stories vary in interest to me, personally, I can appreciate that each is a genuine urban legend from that area rather than something made up for that particular book. I like this book's short story format because I have troubles paying attention to longer, overarching stories in books. It becomes a chore to sit through and a pain to keep track of. The short story method eliminates such a feeling. The stories themselves are urban legends collected over the years such as the tale of a man whose hand got imprinted in a glass window even after his death, These continue on to be about anything between the starcrossed love and haunting of a Native American man and his wife and a headless horseman-esque figure in the dark in Illinois. The variety in the spooks was one of this books' biggest benefactors. as they weren't all about some cheesy ghost or particularly restless spirits. This allowed me to enjoy the variation of things that could haunt Midwestern America.
Profile Image for M. Langlinais.
Author 15 books147 followers
November 11, 2019
Maybe more like 3.5 stars. I love ghost stories, but there is almost too much here to process; by the end of the book I had fatigue. The tales are couched in much detail, but it’s not clear how the authors know these details or whether they are embellishing for the sake of atmosphere. And in some cases there is hardly anything worth reporting aside from one or two odd incidents. There is at least one story that I felt sure was entirely made up, not by these authors but by the owners of the house being described. (Who finds a dead body and decides to just leave it behind the wall of the house? Only someone making up the story of having found a dead body.) In all, an average collection.
Profile Image for Linda Sear.
2 reviews
January 28, 2021
This is a very old paperback book of mine that I remember buying from my Mom's former store years ago when I was young, that I haven't read in years, or at least not all of it. It's a must-read for anyone who enjoys a good, as well as historic, ghost stories that are all based on actual events that occurred in many parts of the U.S, alphabetized according to state. Some of the stories will shock you! I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for charlotte.
54 reviews
June 26, 2022
really interesting in a lot of places but the story structure got kind of repetitive, a lot of them ended on a note than reminded me of the “THEN WHO WAS PHONE?” creepypasta meme, and i wished there had been more historical and cultural context surrounding the stories and why they might have begun. but on another note, as an aspiring horror writer there are some juicy fucking bits of inspiration in here.
Profile Image for Pat.
Author 19 books5 followers
October 2, 2018
Brief writeups make this fun to dip into. A good bibliography, so you can read the sources yourself. Bought this to read on an airplane trip (worked well: the stories are interesting, but the book doesn't require a lot of concentration); now I read a handful of stories when life seems just a little too tame.
Profile Image for Kayla Anderson.
1,127 reviews4 followers
October 25, 2020
Fun for Halloween. It would be more interesting to read while visiting the places described, though it’s fun to read about St. Louis, Chicago, and a few other places that I’ve already been. I find it hard to believe some of the stories, but I was also scared out of my mind at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, and was pretty sure there were ghosts there, so who really knows?!?
Profile Image for Nancy.
7 reviews
April 5, 2019
This is a nice collection of haunted tales that is part of a collection. Haunted Heartland, Haunted America, Historic Haunted America,and Haunted Heritage (forgive me I may have missed one). I love a good ghost story and this book fits the bill. Some of the stories are a bit more gripping than others but it is arranged nicely and overall is a great collection.
Profile Image for Quinn.
652 reviews
October 16, 2020
This is a collection of short tales about paranormal activity throughout the Midwest. Most stories I thought hmmm. Then there were a handful that would have frightened me if they happened in my house. Good for a paranormal investigation group if they want to visit any of these sites.
Profile Image for Emmalee Collins.
18 reviews
June 26, 2022
Even though these are just he said she said legends, some of the stories are very entertaining and good paranormal stories. I now have an irrational fear of spontaneous human combustion.

Some stories I wished would have more detail and some were very hard to follow.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 92 reviews

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