my challenges

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Haunted Places

Haunted Places, by Hans Holzer.

I was browsing through Netgalley and saw this book offered and quickly snapped it up, because I had read an earlier book by this author and had absolutely loved it.  Unfortunately, this book did not quite live up to my expectations.  But I am getting ahead of myself.
Let me start by explaining that this book consists of a series of short anecdotes, each about a particular haunted "place" (i.e. not a building, but a field, railroad crossing, etc.) that the author visits, often alone, but occasionally in the company of a medium, and of what he experiences at that location.  Some of these anecdotes are quite fascinating, such as the field where photographs had depicted the ghostly forms of burning monks.  Others, such as the one concerning the ghost who was said to roam the railroad searching for his missing head, were just downright silly.  I do have to admit that one particular anecdote had me peering nervously at the darkness outside the window next to my computer desk and regretting my decision to read this book at night when my husband was away!  However, over all I was mightily disappointed by the lack of substance in this book.

In the previous book I had read by this author, he took great pains to set down a very methodical and almost scientific method that he would follow in exploring the various haunted buildings, and then proceeded to take us through each visit, making use of a medium in each case.  As a result of the time spent setting out a rigorous methodology, and of Holzer's compliance with that methodology, I found that the experiences described had a very strong air of reliability and truth to them.  In this book, however, no such methodology was ever set out, or apparently followed, other than in one or two instances, and so I was left with a much stronger sense of hocus pocus and just plain vivid imaginations at work, rather than any real feeling of confidence in the supposed hauntings, and that detracted greatly from my enjoyment of the book.

In addition, I was really bugged by the fact that each anecdote was preceded by a seemingly random number.  Although I believe the numbers did go up with each anecdote, rather than hopping around, no explanation was ever given for the numbers, and the numbers were definitely not sequential, i.e. 1 was not followed by 2, but by 43 or some other completely random number higher than 1.  I suspect that the numbers were the author's case numbers, but the end result was that not only were you left wondering why he bothered to include the numbers, but you were further left with the feeling that you were being given only some of the information, and left wondering what the author had not told you about and why.  Furthermore, the tone of voice that this book was told in was very folksey and homey; not at all a scientific presentation, and this added to the lack of confidence in the truth of what was being told.

Finally -- and it's a small thing, but nonetheless important -- there were one or two instances where a whole paragraph would literally not make any sense.  I am a pretty advanced reader -- I have a Master's Degree in history and a law degree -- so I'm fairly sure that it wasn't just me being thick.  Hopefully those will be sorted out before the final copy goes to print.

Overall, this was a rather interesting book.  I certainly didn't have to push myself to keep reading it.  At the same time, it could have benefited from a more studious, methodic approach and tone of voice.   I will certainly continue to read books by this author in the future, but remain a bit disappointed in this particular offering.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

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