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.

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.

Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007): Small Budget, Big Scares

I have said this before, “Every once in a while, you find a real gem hidden amongst the dross. When this happens it reaffirms your belief that there is still real talent out there in search of better actors and a bigger budget.”

Last night we found another of these ‘hidden gems’ via LOVEFILM. It was actually as scary as Insidious but on a slightly different scale. Where Insidious seemed to have perfected the ‘jump’ scare, Death of a Ghost Hunter, despite the apparent non-existence of a budget, perfected the creep scare.

The amazing thing is, I passed over this film repeatedly in the menu screen on LOVEFILM. The combination of the screenshot used to tout the film along with the lack of a rating made me ignore it at least a dozen times.

Directed and co-written by Sean Tretta (Mike Marsh was the other writer of the screenplay and he also played Colin Green the videographer.) Death of a Ghost Hunter delivers more than it’s fair share of scares. The low budget (so low that it doesn’t appear to exist on any website) is a bit detrimental to the film’s overall success. Mainly in the area of sound, specifically dialogue. If ever a film could have benefited from ADR or just good old fashioned ‘looping’ Ghost Hunter is that film.

The film opened to mixed reviews most of which praised the scare factor but dammed the acting. I felt that the acting was  pretty damn good considering just how low budget the film was. The plot and the story were written extremely well and the film was excellently paced.

The odd ‘clanger’ of a scene would appear every now and then, but it was usually followed by a scene that more than made up for the jolting moment of less than pristine acting. I still think that most of the film’s acting problems would have been eradicated with better sound equipment.

The plot is fairly straightforward.  The film opens with a woman in a nightgown murdering her family and finishing by shooting herself after writing a note of explanation.

22 years later we are introduced to paranormal journalist Carter Simms (Patti Tindall) who is on her way to the house where the murder/suicide took place. She has been offered $5000.00 to either prove or disprove the existence of ghostly happenings on the property.

Arriving at the residence, she meets the owner Joseph Masterson (Tim Wadhams) who is a close relative of the family who died there. He explains to Simms that she will have a local ‘team’ to help her in her investigations. Not overly pleased, but unable to resist the money offered, Simms agrees.

Patti Tindall as Carter Simms

Later she meets her ‘crew’ Colin Green a local videographer and Yvette Sandoval (Davina Joy) a local journalist.  A third person arrives who says that Masterson has asked her oversee the events and to minimize the damage that could be caused to the church that the deceased belonged to.

Despite their initial misgivings the group accept Mary Young Mortenson (Lindsay Page) believing her explanation of intent. Later they find that Masterson has no idea who she is and demands that she be removed from the property.

We find out, along with the ghost hunters, that the Masterson family who lived and died in the house were not your normal everyday bible thumping zealots. This family were, in effect, cultists who worshipped the father of the family and allowed him to sexually molest young women in the neighbourhood. Families would bring their daughters to him for ‘cleansing’ on a regular basis.

This film was brilliantly scary. The build-up and sequences of dis-jarring events kept you off balance enough to really deliver the scares. I can only imagine what this film could have been with a bigger budget.

Running at just 107 minutes the film is not overly long and it paces it’s creepiness brilliantly in the time alloted. I really think that if you can find this film that you won’t regret spending  107 minutes of your life getting the crap scared out of you.

I will be keeping my eyes out for the team of Sean Tretta and Mike Marsh and any future films that they might be making together. They have worked together at least two other times and we can only hope that they repeat the experience for our entertainment enjoyment.

Death of a Ghost Hunter is easily a ‘2 bagger’ of popcorn viewing scary fun. Highly recommended viewing if you can get past the bargain basement budget of the film.