True Haunting by Edwin F Becker: Hair Raising Experience

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As Author Edwin F Becker points out, there were no Ghost Hunters a la TAPS in 1970. There was also no Amityville horror; at least not until 1977 when Jay Anson put pen to paper and wrote about the “alleged” ghostly problems of the Lutz family in the house where an entire family sans one was murdered.

It would not surprise me to learn that Jay Anson was not already aware of the ghostly events that plagued the Becker family via a NBC newscast that was aired both locally (where Becker and his wife lived) and nationally. Where else could he have gotten the idea? And  where Anson, admittedly, stretched the truth to breaking and beyond in search of a fast buck; Becker did not profit one cent from his haunted house experience until years later when he self-published his story.

I’d bet a pretty penny myself to say that he’s not profiting much from the sales of his story; his e-book is very affordable.

In 1970, Becker and his new wife and baby, wanted to buy a house. Finding a two-story house with two ready-made apartments already under one roof, he thought he’d found a bargain. Sure the house needed work and they needed to get rid of the “crazy” woman who lived in the downstairs apartment, but Edwin was not afraid of hard work and the “crazy tenant” was on her way out.

So what could go wrong?

Apparently, everything.

Becker recounts what happened when he and his young family moved into the house in the suburbs of 1970 Chicago and the traumatic affect the property had on friends and family. He tells of the Church’s refusal to get involved and of seeking help from two (the only two in the Yellow Pages) paranormal investigative societies available.

He tells his story in a straight forward, no-nonsense manner that convinces and disturbs and (for me anyway) made the hair on the back of my neck stand-up which resulted in my deciding  to read the rest of the book in the daylight. What he does not do is embellish the events to “sell” his story. He steadfastly refused to sensationalize any of the occurrences that he and his family experienced. Hence the self publishing.

When he and his family encountered what, at the outset, seemed like odd events: a kitchen door that refused to stay shut, a mixer that refused to hang on the wall, a phone that kept taking itself off the hook and countless other things, that he found  “logical” explanations for. Or so he thought.

As the haunting began to escalate, he and his wife (who to be fair, sensed this a lot earlier than her skeptic husband) realised that the house was haunted by not one, but several ghosts.

It was Mr Becker’s sincere and plain retelling that both convinced me of the truth of his story combined with “strange” experiences that I myself have encountered that sold me on the validity of his tale.

This is a very understated book when compared with Jay Anson’s nefarious tale of the Amityville “hauntings.” You’ll find no oozing black stuff pouring out of the sockets; no overabundance of flies; no voice telling anyone to, “Get Out!” and no pigs floating outside a second story window.

What you will find is a simply written(not in a negative sense)  tale of growing fear and financial difficulties. Your heart will go out to his (then) young family and the fact that they had so few avenues of help. Before the modern “ghost busting” equipment of today and the digital revolution that enables ghost hunters to track down “spirits and demons” you had psychics and clairvoyants and the odd paranormal scientist. Oh and the clergy, if you could get them to acknowledge the problem. This was a time of real “hit and miss” ghost hunting and something that not many of the main populace knew about.

This was a great read and, as I said before, one that literally “creeped” me out. I will warn you, this is not a book for the overly imaginative. I slept with the light on after reading this book.

I’d give this a full 5 out of 5 stars for no-nonsense reporting of one family’s experience with a haunted house. Do not miss reading this book, it is a great story, even if you don’t believe in ghosts.

Author Edwin F Becker.
Author Edwin F Becker.

HAUNTED The Ghosts that Share Our World by John Pinkney

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HAUNTED is the type of ghostly chronicle that permeated my teen years. After experiencing several “events” that could not be satisfactorily explained, I became obsessed with reading every ghost tale I could get my hands on. I became a devout fan of the writings of Elliot O’Donnell, Ghost Hunter extraordinaire.

Of course years later I found out that O’Donnell was not above stretching the truth about his experiences with things that bump in the night and, in fact, outrightly lied about some of his investigations. This information did not deter me in my search for others who’d had the dubious pleasure of encountering things that weren’t of a solid substance.

As I got older, I read other authors who would also be “discredited” in their tales of supernatural occurrences, most notably were the chronicles of the Amityville Horror by several writers who may or may not have been pulling the proverbial wool over the public’s eyes. This “high-profile” haunting in a house that already had a tragic and obscenely violent past was thrust into international prominence when a “true” account was published in the 1970’s about a family driven from their home by evil and scary apparitions.

Despite the continued debunking of most of these stories of poltergeist, ghostly  apparitions and unexplained sightings, I kept on searching for more books on the unexplained.

As I got older and I continued to experience things that could not be explained easily (if at all) and hearing first hand accounts from people who seen and felt things scarier than I had, I kept reading. Oddly enough, I stopped after it appeared that I was among a minority of people who even cared about the supernatural and/or paranormal aspects of our world.

Books were becoming difficult to find and the ones you could glean from the sparse supply out there were from supposed “clairvoyants, mediums and psychics.” The quotation marks are there because I do not have a lot of faith in professions that are rife with charlatans.

Now with the popularity of such television programs as  TAPS Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters International, et al; books are popping up that are stepping back. Back to the days of my youth and Elliot O’Donnell. The main difference is that these “new” relayers of urban myths and legends are more often than not, skeptics themselves. They aren’t of the same flamboyant ilk as O’Donnell and prepared to pad out their recounting of ghostly happenings.

They just relay the facts and show the readers the photographic evidence (if there is any) and leave up to us whether to believe or not.

*This must be the longest preface to a review ever.*

Elliot O'Donnell (b: 1872 - d: 1965) photograph courtesy of Goodreads
Elliot O’Donnell (b: 1872 – d: 1965) photograph courtesy of Goodreads

Author John Pinkney is a skeptic (like many other chroniclers of ghosts and ghouls) and he is careful to not overindulge his scepticism. In this book, he relays stories of well-known and not so well-known ghosts in “the land down under” aka Australia ‘cobber.’ His collection of tales include the old favourites: theatrical ghosts, TV and radio spectres, Cinema creatures and residential poltergeist as well as the non-residential sort. He also visits legendary haunting sites; such as the Aboriginal Drowning Pool where tourists mustn’t even think of taking a dip in this pool for if they do, they most likely will not live to talk about it. 

I have just finished reading a trio of paranormal parables and Pinkney’s was the last one. Looking on Goodreads, his books seem to have a bit better rating than most. I imagine it has to do with his presentation. He is very good at making the interviewees out to be normal people, which of course, they are. His sources include, town politicians (I know that no politician can be trusted but most will not willingly make themselves look foolish), pillars of the community, vicars, priests, military men, et al.

He also allows the humour and the tragic pathos to lie cheek and jowl beside one another. His stories reveal a depth that is only fitting for such a richly diverse and fascinating country. While some of the stories give off the odour of urban legend, it has been adapted to fit the landscape of its occurrence.

His choice of tales also ranged from the 1800’s to present day. A nice range of time periods and a broad spectrum of ghostly rumblings to fill the pages of his paranormal publication.

If you care to look at John Pinkey’s Goodreads author page you’ll see that he’s  written at least ten books on the subject of unexplained events. Considering the care and effort that went into this book alone, I think it is fair to assume that he has expended the same writing traits in his other works. I will be hunting down and reading all his titles.

Although, I may be a bit smarter in future and read them in the safe light of day instead of in my darkened bedroom with the small reading lamp being my only source of light. One does start to feel a bit uncomfortable after a while and those familiar shadows take on a different feel altogether.

I’ve given this book a 4 star rating. I loved it, but, according to the “Goodreads star template” I did not find it amazing. I think that old Irish ghost hunter Elliot O’Donnell was the last supernatural chronicler who was able to amaze me and I was a lot younger in those days.

If you are interested in things that go bump in the night, give it a try. Just remember to leave a lot of lights on if you decide to do your perusal after dark.

Author John Pinkney.
Author John Pinkney.

Triangle (2009): If At First You Don’t Succeed

Written and directed by Christopher Smith Triangle is the third film that Smith donned two hats for as creator. The story follows Jess (Melissa George) single mum of an autistic child. We first see Jess dockside, she is going on a day-trip with a group of friends on a yacht. Jess seems a little out of it. Dazed and confused, when she is asked about her son, she responds in a very vague fashion. She boards the yacht and so begins our adventure.

Once they get out at sea they are hit by sudden electrical storm and the yacht capsizes. As they cling desperately to the boat, a ship approaches their stricken vessel. The group of five board the ship only to find it deserted. They decide to explore it to see if there is anyone on board the seemingly empty ship. Jess is plagued by a sense of Deja Vue and catches a glimpse of a masked figure.

While the Jess and co. are searching for other people, the masked figure is killing them off, one by one. Jess finally confronts the masked killer only to find that it is her. Jess dispatches  her masked self and dumps her body overboard. While doing this she sees the yacht and herself and her friends boarding the ship. Jess realizes that she has been caught in a time loop and that she must kill everyone quickly before the loop can repeat itself. When she seemingly does this, she discovers that she has apparently been caught in this loop over and over again.  As she kills each of her friends, however,  we can see that she has done this same thing before and by the pile of her friends bodies, she has done it a lot.

Jess escapes the boat and ends up back home where she observes herself interacting with her autistic son. Jess is horrified to see that she is not a good mother. She mistreats her son and is quite nasty to him saying that her life would be so much better without him in it. Jess then kills her other self and decides to bring her son with her on the yacht trip.

This film was brilliant.  While watching it, I would find myself guessing what would happen next only to realize that I was incorrect. The best I could do was figure out the Ground Hog Day aspect of the film but not the O. Henry ending. Melissa George was excellent in the film. And why wouldn’t she be. With a list of horror films under her belt, 30 Days of Night, Amityville Horror, Triangle, The Betrayed, A Lonely Place to Die, she is the new millenniums “Scream Queen”

Triangle opened to positive reviews. Unfortunately this was a case where the critics loved the film and the audience stayed away in droves. I don’t know why this film fared so badly with the audience. I saw the film after my daughter had seen it and then raved on about it non-stop until I said I would see it. After watching it I decided she was right to be so excited about the film. But the die had already been cast, because the DVD came out so quickly that I thought the distributors had made a mistake.

Triangle is a brilliant and tragic film. Watch it and you will not regret it.  Hell, you might even watch it again and again and…