Book Review: Ghost Under Foot by Kenneth W. Harmon

12755471Title: Ghost Under Foot: The Spirit of Mary Bell
Author: Kenneth W. Harmon
Genre: True Haunting, Non-Fiction
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
Publication Date: March 8th 2012
Rating: 3 stars
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Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

Just weeks after settling into their new home in Fort Collins, Colorado, retired police officer Kenneth W. Harmon and his family make a chilling discovery: they’re living with a ghost.
This true haunting story begins during a ghost tour at the famous Stanley Hotel, where the Harmons experienced headaches and paranormal phenomena. Once back at home, strange rapping noises, eerie whispers captured on film, and unidentified dark shapes in his photographs compel Ken to research the land’s history. What he learns shocks everyone: in the backyard sits the unmarked grave of Mary Bell Wilson, a young woman who died of typhoid fever in the late 1880s.
As his fixation grows, Ken uses a dowsing rod to communicate with Mary Bell’s spirit and investigate her brief life. The spirit’s surprising answers shed light on mysteries of the spirit world, crossing over, heaven and hell, and God.

I love ghosts, but prior to reading Ghost Under Foot: The Spirit of Mary Bell, I had no idea there were so many true hauntings books out there. To be honest, they’re my new passion. I’ve always been a believer when it comes to ghosts, for a long series of personal reasons, but it felt great to read a book based on true events by people who have seen and sometimes even lived with ghosts. The results? I’m addicted to true haunting stories now. Go figure.

After moving to a new house, the author and has family start to suffer from a series of strange, unexplainable events. Soon enough, the author grows convinced his house is haunted. He tries to communicate with the ghost using various methods, which vary over time as technology gets more and more advanced. He begins an investigation to discover the identity of the ghost troubling his house and finds out it’s the spirit of Mary Bell, a girl who used to live where his current house now stands. When he’s established that, he tries to find out more about Mary, her life, her thoughts and why she’s stuck here as a spirit, unable to cross over.

Kenneth W. Harmon, the author of Ghost Under Foot is a police officer, and it shows. He uses the same research techniques and scientific approach he probably used while working as a police officer to take on the ghost situation in his own home. He starts out thinking logically, and tries to connect with the ghost via seances in the living room. He also takes photographs, hoping to catch sight of some orbs, cameras and a whole listing of other methods. Unfortunately, he often disregards the opinion of his various other family members while doing so, which sometimes annoyed me. For instance, when he wants to set up a seance in his living room downstairs, his daughters, who are age 3, 5 and 7, admit that they’re scared. Instead of dropping the subject, or making them feel more comfortable, the author just tells them they have to be there. I really don’t understand why he does it. He seems like a very good father, and I wouldn’t argue that he isn’t, but in that moment, I felt like hitting him on the head with a frying pan. His daughters were scared. Even I would be scared if we were going to do a séance, and I’m an adult. It’s normal for those little kids to be terrified, and instead of protecting them and making them feel safe – as a father should do – he puts them in the middle of danger. Another issue happens when his oldest daughter tells him she doesn’t want him to leave a camera in her room. He goes ahead and does it anyway, violating her privacy. And for what? To capture a ghost on tape? I wonder if that’s worth it.

It seems to me that, although the author started out with all the best intentions, he quickly becomes obsessed with the ghost, putting not only himself but his entire family in danger. Ghosts aren’t meant to play with. They’re not toys, or imaginary friends. Mr. Harmon was very lucky that the ghost troubling his family was a friendly spirit, and not a malicious one. I may not be the greatest expert when it comes to ghosts, but even experts know that it’s risky business they’re getting into when contacting a ghost. You don’t know what you’re dealing with. These are forces we’ve only begun to grasp. If the spirit was evil, then Mr. Harmon could’ve been the victim of the next Paranormal Activity movie. And he willingly put his children in the middle of all that. That annoyed me, and I’m pretty sure you can see why.

On top of that, Mr. Harmon’s obsession leads him to believe his ghost is his new friend. Rather than helping Mary cross over, or find out why she’s stuck, he goes to ask her silly questions like who Jack The Ripper was, who murdered Kennedy, etc. Although some may find this fun and interesting, I didn’t, mainly because I don’t believe it. It looks like Mr. Harmon has his own views and beliefs, and put them in Mary’s mouth who, being a ghost and all, is in no position to defend herself. It also becomes very apparent towards the end of the book that Mr. Harmon is truly obsessed with the ghost inhabiting his house. Obsessions are never good, especially not when one’s obsessed with a ghost.

However, as for the writing style, I must say I really enjoyed this book. Mr. Harmon doesn’t use overly colorful prose. Instead he focuses on the story as it is, without trying to exaggerate anything by using grand descriptions. I really liked that about this book. It also adds a lot to the credibility of the story. Mr. Harmon’s ghostly guest does what we expect from ghosts – it doesn’t have any superpowers that would make this story unbelievable. That’s one of the main reasons why I believe this isn’t all in Mr. Harmon’s head. I do think his house is truly being haunted. If the ghost is truly Mary Bell, well, I’m not entirely convinced about that. It looks to me as if Mr. Harmon got to the point where he lost track of the big picture. In his mind, the ghost was the spirit of Mary Bell. No more questions asked. I hope he’s right though. I hope he’s right, and I really hope the ghost isn’t something evil that has been masqueing as good all this time.

That said, after a while all the orb photographing and positioning cameras and recurrent séances, began to feel repetitive. This book could’ve easily been made 50 pages shorter.

Ghost Under Foot: The Spirit of Mary Bell is an entertaining account of a house haunted by a ghost. Mr. Harmon has definitely done his research, and he provides the readers with some interesting scientific methods to communicate with the dead. I read some more true haunting books after devouring this one, and I must admit that this is one of the most genuine ghost encounter accounts I’ve read so far. If the spirit is truly Mary Bell remains to be seen, but I’m convinced Mr. Harmon’s house is truly haunted. If you’re looking for a true haunting story that isn’t exaggerated, but instead feels very real and something that could happen to everyone of us, then this book is an excellent choice.

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