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.

Ghost Hunting for Beginners by Rich Newman: Things to Help You Find Boo…

If you look at the list of books I am reading on Goodreads right now, you will no doubt notice that they are all a bit “ghost heavy.” I guess there is something about this time of year (near Christmas) that brings out the urge for ghosts. Call it the Scrooge complex if you will, Dickens certainly grabbed my imagination with his three ghoulish messengers to the old tight-wad on Christmas Eve.

I say later in this post that I picked the book up on a “whim” but that doesn’t explain why I picked up a further three books about ghosts.So I will definitely lay the blame on Dickens and Scrooge and just maybe the Muppets. Still this isn’t about me, it’s about the book. So friends and neighbours read on if you want to or stop now and make some eggnog.

Published in 2011 and written by Rich Newman (who is the founder of the group Paranormal Inc) this little book – 218 pages – really does contain “everything you need to know to get started.” If you ever felt the urge to investigate the supernatural like Scy Fy’s TAPs or the Ghost Busters, here is your chance.

Newman, who obviously loves his work, has set out an almost “See Spot Run” guide to unveiling the things that go bump in the night. The eight chapters of the book deal with different aspects of investigating the paranormal.

From defining a ghost to setting up your own paranormal group, Newman tries to cover it all. He also throws in the odd case note or two; some are his own cases and others are more of a historical nature (Borley Rectory for instance).

This is not just a collection of anecdotal stories of how Newman and Paranormal Inc have solved cases dealing with haunting and the supernatural, he really does keep the ghost stories to a minimum. He does list the types of equipment that you need, what each piece of equipment does and how you use them.

He also gives tips on how to act with the owners of the property you want to investigate and how not to insult the recipients of a haunting.

This really is a practical handbook for the ghost enthusiast. The equipment that Newman references ranges from the affordable (for the beginner who has a small budget) to the massively expensive (one particular piece goes for $10,000.00).

The book also tells the reader how to run an investigation and how to recruit for your group.

I picked up the book on a whim from my local library. I’ve had an interest in the supernatural all my life. But after reading the book, I realised that I was not really suited to the actual “nuts and bolts” of ghostly investigation. Sure I like watching TAPS and Ghost Hunters International, but the listing of the equipment and all the necessary add-ons left me a bit cold.

That’s not to say the book is not helpful or thorough in its usefulness. From just common sense supplies (like extra batteries) to suggestions for which editing software to use, Newman is pretty all-encompassing. In fact if you are turned on by the thought of starting your own paranormal group of “Ghost Busters” then this book will definitely get you started in the right direction.

Newman finishes the book with a gear list, a step-by-step investigative check list, some other books that might tickle your fancy, a few websites and last but not least a glossary of terms. All in all this is a great little book for the amateur ghost hunter.

I’d say this one is 5 out of 5 stars for information and equipment check lists. Just don’t be too disappointed that Rich Newman is not Jason Hawes or Grant Wilson or perhaps more accurately the two TAPS “pin-up girls” Amy Bruni and Kris Williams (although Kris is now a regular on International).

I have to admit that after reading the book and seeing all the things that go into paranormal investigations, I’ll probably limit my “activity” to watching  TAPS or Ghost Hunters International. They at least have the bonus of pretty assistant “ghost hunters” and it’s a lot less expensive.

Author and founder of Paranormal Inc Rich Newman.