Halloween is next week and that always puts me in the mood for some kooky spookiness. You too?
I have three book recommendations for you … but one of them you should definitely not read if you plan to carry on with your life as you have known it until now. (Seriously. It will fuck your shit up. I’m not kidding.)
Let’s start with light and enjoyable and then work our way up to shitting yourself in horror, shall we?
The most satisfying haunted house book ever
The first one is, in my mind, a classic. It was out of print for a long time but it seems like it’s back in print now. Yay! I first read Night Stalks the Mansion back in high school, and have re-read it several times since then. It is the supposedly true story of a family’s experiences living in a mysterious old mansion in Media, PA. The Amazon writeup for this book says that it’s a “supernatural detective story,” and I’d say that’s a great way to describe it. The story unfolds tantalizingly slowly and then, unlike many other paranormal books, delivers a solid typing up of loose ends. It’s such a satisfying read.
Here’s something that’s even more satisfying: I read this book in the pre-Internet ’80s. In the late ’90s, I got a job not too far from where the house was supposed to be. I mentioned it at lunch one day and one of my coworkers was like, “Oh yeah. That place was abandoned for years. People used to break in when I was teenager.” Sure enough, I went back to my desk and typed “Heilbron Mansion” into whatever search engine I was using then (lordy … we’re talkin’ pre-Google days) and boom! Pictures of the actual place. Accounts from people who had been inside. So deliciously awesome.
I drove past the place 10 or so year ago. It’s now rebuilt and inhabited, but I still got a nerdy thrill out of it.
Contemporary ghosty goodness
Honestly, I’ve read so much about paranormal topics over the years that it’s hard for me to find stuff that’s interesting anymore. But recently a friend was raving about a ghosty book she was reading so I was inspired to check it out. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay turned out to be the best paranormal book I’ve read in a long time.
This one is fiction. As a paranormal junkie, I appreciated that Tremblay upheld the traditional mythologies surrounding oppression and possession. The guy really did his homework.
Tremblay also did some interesting things with the structure of the book. He interspersed blog posts with the narrative and at times, it was unclear exactly who was telling the story (but in a good way). He also brought a reality TV crew into the mix, which was a great device to add another layer to the story. I found myself continually questioning what was real, what was imagined, and what was something else entirely.
There were also several interesting twists in this story. At first, I was like, “OK, Paul. I see what you’re doing there. It’s nice, but it’s a little obvious.” But then you know what? I ended up being surprised anyway, and more than once.
The scariest book you should never read
OK. So first let me start by saying to my friend Nicole that THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR YOU. DO NOT READ IT. And I’m not saying that in a teasey, you-know-you-want-to sorta way. Girl, if you even think about picking up this book, expect me to show up in your brain and mentally smack it outta your hands. Or your brain. Or your brainhands. Whatever.
This book is also not for you if you’re like Nicole and believe, as an adult, that you really should catapult yourself from your bedroom door to your bed so as to avoid being grabbed by whatever scary thing happens to live under your bed.
I’m pretty well-read within the paranormal genre. I practically never get scared about things I read anymore. But The Demonologist by Gerald Brittle is stone-cold terrifying. This book terrorized me for weeks after I read it. Like, so much so that I was afraid in my own home in the middle of the day.
This book contains stories from the case files of famous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Until recently, the Warrens were probably best known as the people who investigated The Amityville Horror house. In the last few years, several tales from this very book have been made into movies, including The Conjuring.
In fact, the updated version of the book has a new forward written by the actress who played Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring. She admits that she felt a sense of terror whenever she opened The Demonologist to prepare for her role. I get that. This book screws with your head so much, it’s almost like you’re afraid of the actual book itself by the time you’re done. You sorta feel like you want to get it out of your house.
Why is that? Because this book is not about ghosts. It’s about demons. Demons are things that I did not used to believe in. UNTIL THIS DAMN BOOK. Now I’m not so sure. Do I sound like a kook? Yes. I know. And you will too if you decide you’re man enough to read this book. (You’re not. Enjoy sleeping with the light on for the next few weeks.)
Happy Halloween, everyone!
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