Book Review: Embracing The Spirits by Barbara Parks

17436884Title: Embracing the Spirits

Author: Barbara Parks

Genre: Non Fiction, Ghosts and Hauntings

Rating: 2 stars

Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide

Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Traumatized by a poltergeist as a young adult, Barbara Parks never imagined she would overcome her fear of the spirit world. This collection of true ghost stories relates her dramatic, heartwarming journey toward embracing her gift for spirit communication.

Barbara uses pendulums, table-tipping, and her own homemade Ouija table to speak with spirits in old taverns, hotels, schoolhouses, theaters, and her own home. Some spirits need her help in reuniting with loved ones or delivering a special message. Barbara also offers comfort to suicide and murder victims, crosses over troubled spirits, calms an angry poltergeist who can manifest and hurl stones, and captures spirit energy in photographs. These real-life paranormal encounters illuminate the mysterious spirit world–and the fascinating life of a medium.

Embracing The Spirits is the second book I’ve read by Barbara Parks about her encounters with spirits, poltergeists and the supernatural. While I enjoyed In The Presence of Spirits, her first book, I was not as impressed with this second book. I feel like she lost track here, and instead of telling a coherent story, she handles case by case, but never providing us with much detail, or with an ending. The chapters are extremely short, and by the time we get to know the setting, the spirit in question, and what is going on, the author has already moved on to another chapter.

Barbara’s methods are also questionable at best. She uses ouija boards, which can be very dangerous, especially for mediums. When she tells us about her table-tipping adventures, I either grew convinced she herself is being haunted by a poltergeist of some sort, or these stories were invented, or at least dramatized. Table-tipping can happen, but hardly as often as she makes it appear, and certainly not with every reading. If this does happen, then either some kind of spirit has attached itself to her, or something strange is going on. Either way, if these events are true, they give reason for caution, and I’d urge the author not to do anymore table-tipping sessions for a while.

I didn’t enjoy this book, mostly because by the time I was fully interested in a spirit and their story, we’d already moved on to something else. Pages pass without anything happening, except the occassional telling about how the author practices to enhance her gift. The book was a bit dull because of that, and I wish she’d stick with the premise of her first book, and focus on one case mostly. That probably would’ve made the readers more involved in the story.

Book Review Surrounded by Ghosts by Janet Larkin

17436874Title: Surrounded by Ghosts

Author: Janet Larkin

Genre: Non Fiction, True Haunting

Rating: 3 stars

Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide

Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

As a newborn, Janet Larkin died and came back to life. At three her sister drove over her skull with a tractor. And when she was eight years old, she had a conversation with her dead grandmother.

So began a life full of ghostly encounters. When she was still a girl, Janet received forewarning of a triple homicide next door and saw the ghost of one of the victims. In their Memphis apartment, she experienced a terrifying being posing as her husband. Growing up on an orchard in the 1950s, Janet has seen more than her fare share of spirits and spooks. In Surrounded by Ghosts, Janet recalls her creepiest stories and grapples to make sense of a life overflowing with unexplained phenomena.

Surrounded by Ghosts is the written account of Janet Larkin, who has been seeing ghosts ever since she was eight years old. When she was a newborn, Janet died and came back to life. She had another traumatizing accident during her youth, and when she was eight, she had a dream in which she met her deceased grandmother. If her ability to see the dead and communicate with them is because of her passing away and coming back to life, remains to be seen, but it certainly seems plausible. Ever since she met her deceased grandmother, Janet has been seeing ghosts way too often to ignore.

One of the accounts in the book is how Janet received a forewarning of a triple homicide about to happen next door. She deals with this quite well, in a very rational way, not blaming herself for being unable to do something about it – which lots of others certainly would have. That’s an example of how she behaves throughout her life as chronicled in the rest of the book, with a certain passivity when it comes to the supernatural. She’s not an actor, more like a victim, a person who dreadful things happen to. Instead of taking charge of her abilities, she appears content to let them slumber.

Then there’s the demons and angels, which turned an otherwise believable and relatable story into something almost unbelievable. At some point, Janet has an encounter with a demonic entity posing as her husband in her appartment. I’m wondering if maybe this wasn’t a hallucination. Why would a demonic entity pose as her husband once, and then leave her alone for the rest of the time? Why would they have it in for her? And why, after this encounter, did they leave her alone?

When taking only the ghostly encounters into account, the book is an easy read, and it’s not hyped or sensationalized. I liked the writing style – it was simple and to the point, and didn’t distract the reader from what Janet Larkin had to say. Overall, this was a decent read, but it could’ve done without the demonic encounter or the angels – especially if so little proof was given.

Book Review: Battling Demons of Darkness by Brandon Boston

17436885Title: Battling Demons of Darkness

Author: Brandon Boston

Genre: True Haunting, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications

Publication Date: September 8th, 2013

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon, Llewellyn Publications

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

During a seemingly ordinary Sunday church service when he was a young child, Brandon Boston experienced his first encounter with the paranormal–an exorcism. After that life-changing day, demons and dark spirits relentlessly haunted Brandon as he grew up. Now a young man determined to face his destiny, Brandon shares his true, first-hand stories of battling demons.

Join Brandon on his transformative journey from a terrified boy running from dark entities into a confident man whose purpose is to defeat them. Experience his terrifying encounters with demons. Meet the families he has helped escape their own hauntings. Discover how to fight evil spirits yourself. Battling Demons of Darkness will give you the inspiration needed to fight any entity of darkness in your life.

In Battling Demons of Darkness, Brandon Boston gives an account of his experiences battling evil spirits and even demons. He witnessed his first exorcism at his local church while being a small child. His account of the events is so strange I wonder if he maybe imagined it all, seeing as he was a little kid. I’m open-minded, so I’m willing to believe in exorcisms and demons, but I’ve never heard of any exorcism ever performed the way he described it in this book. Either way, that aside, Mr. Boston has been tormented by evil spirits almost his entire life.

I find it a bit peculiar that from all Goodreads reviews this book has gotten so far, mostly 5-stars, these all come from users without an avatar, who’ve rated between 1-18 books, and gave all other books low ratings. Almost like sockpuppet accounts. Or maybe friends from the author. This book certainly doesn’t warrant a 5-star rating, as far as I’m concerned.

Mr. Boston deals with all issues by using his faith. When a demon appears, he calls out to Jesus to help him. I have no problem with that, except that maybe Mr. Boston goes a step too far. For every person he meets who is visited by demons he comes up with the same explanation: wavering faith. Whenever his own faith wavers, he’s visited by tempting demons. Right. Then how come atheists aren’t constantly the target of a demonic attack? Or have the demons already succeeded with the atheists because they no longer believe in God and Jesus? Right. For some reason, I’m not buying that.

I think Mr. Boston is a bit too eager to blame everything on demons. Footsteps in the middle of the night when no one is around? Demons. Objects moving on their own? Demons. While most paranormal investigators would claim these phenomenons are caused by poltergeist, Mr. Boston is happy to blame everything wrong with this world on demons.

Evidence is scarce and pseudo-scientific. Not enough explanation was given for me to truly believe it, and I had trouble with the constant blaming everything bad that happened on demons. Bad things happen to people every day, not because those people are supposedly tempted by demons, but just because that’s life.

I liked the book, and it was well-written, but I had plenty of criticism on it as well. A nice read if you like books about demons and spirits, but a little too heavy on religion for me. Mr. Boston’s faith is strong, which is admirable, but doesn’t convince me demons are real or that everything he’s battling are demons.

Book Review: Haunted Asylums, Prisons and Sanatoriums by Jamie Davis

17436893Title: Haunted Asylums, Prisons and Sanatoriums

Author: Jamie Davis

Genre: True Haunting, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Llewellyn, Amazon, B&N

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Shadow Man haunts penitentiary cell blocks. A chilling wind runs through the Death Tunnel.The Red Eyes Apparition lurks in abandoned hallways.

Explore frightening ghost stories and true paranormal encounters at ten well-known, haunted institutions across the United States. This unique collection of investigations is filled with terrifying photos, spooky highlights from on-site tours, and historical information about each location.

Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums explores the country’s scariest institutions, including the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia Penitentiary, and St. Albans Sanatorium. Discover creepy conversations between the authors and restless spirits, interviews with facility staff and knowledgeable ghost hunters, and helpful tips gathered from each investigation. You’ll also enjoy an introduction to basic ghost hunting equipment and detailed information about organizing your own visits to these haunted establishments.

Haunted Asylums, Prisons and Sanatoriums takes us inside some of the darkest places in history, where people suffered or were treated in a cruel, dehumanizing way. Throughout the book, we learn more about the history of these places, and their supposed hauntings, as the author conducts research to find out who the ghosts are haunting these spots. Each chapter is dedicated to a seperate location, and begins by talking about the location’s history, then its specters, and then the author and her team conduct a thorough ghost hunt of the place. At the end of each chapter is information on how to get to the place, if/how you can do ghost hunts on your own, etcetera.

This is one of the best non-fiction books about hauntings that I’ve read. The book is well-organized, and well-written. The author doesn’t lose herself in trivial details when talking about history, and instead what we learned is significant and intriguing. The stories are backed up with pictures, some of which made shivers crawl down my back. One picture in particular really set me on edge. The strange thing is that it’s not even talked about in the book. I mean, it’s included, and it’s mentioned that it’s a picture of the Farrar school, but Davis makes no mention of the two figures on the picture – one little girl and a larger person. It’s one of the clearest ghost pictures I’ve seen in a while, and really impressive! I hope I’m not the only one seeing it though, because that would be totally creepy.

The language is quite informal, like Mrs. Davis is telling us a story. This might not be for everyone, but I really liked it, basically like she’s operating as some sort of tour guide, which fit the theme of the book. I have some comments about the way Mrs. Davis and her team conduct ghost hunts though. They rely heavily on a flashlight, using them for flashlight conversations. It’s the first time I’ve heard someone use this method at such lengths, and it would’ve convinced me more had there been video evidence included (of course that’s tough for a book) but I wasn’t really convinced the flashlight responses were anything other than random spikes. I much prefer actually hearing voices on tape, or seeing pictures of ghosts. Also, the questions asked during the flashlight conversations weren’t always to the point, and sometimes had a double meaning ghosts may not be able to interpret. I thought more fitting questions should’ve been asked, and other research should’ve been conducted as well, rather than just the flashlight conversations.

As a travel guide, this book is extremely useful, especially with the info about each location at the end of each chapter. For people interested in ghost hunts and the author’s personal experiences, the book lacks vital info – I had the feeling much more research should’ve been done at each spot to get a good grip of what’s happening.

The book was a very pleasant, enjoyable, sometimes chilling read. I can’t wait to visit these haunted asylums, prisons and sanatoriums!

Book Review: The Ghosts of Chicago by Adam Selzer

17436876Title: The Ghosts of Chicago

Author: Adam Selzer

Genre: True Haunting, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Llewellyn Publications

Rating: 4,5 stars

Purchase: Llewellyn, Amazon, B&N

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From Resurrection Mary and Al Capone to the Murder Castle of H. H. Holmes and the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln, the spine-tingling sights and sounds of Chicago’s yesteryear are still with us . . . and so are its ghosts.

Seeking to find out what we really know about the ghastly past of this famously haunted metropolis, professional ghost hunter and historian Adam Selzer pieces together the truth behind Chicago’s ghosts, and brings to light never-before-told first accounts. Take a history tour like no other of the famous and not-so-famous haunts around town. Sometimes the real story is far different from the urban legend–and most of the time it’s even gorier.

The Ghosts of Chicago is one of the most thoroughly researched, in-depth books I’ve ever read about ghosts and hauntings. The book talks about all kinds of haunted locations in Chicago and the specters haunted them. Each chapter talks about a different location. He also gives addresses and locations of the sites he mentioned, which makes it a lot easier for non-locals to find them. He talks about the lore and history of each place, and only then starts talking about the ghost sightings over the years, sometimes including his own experiences.

There’s an entire chapter about H.H. Holmes and his murder castle, which made me google him and I spent several hours browsing through articles about the man. Murderers and their motives intrigue me almost as much as ghosts do, so this was a welcome distraction. There are also several stories included about Al Capone and his squad of gangsters, so it’s not all ghosts and no history – it’s a pleasant combination of both.

Mr. Selzer writes with a hint of humor, and his writing is very entertaining and not condescending at all (a complaint I often have about authors of true haunting books). He isn’t as interested in semi-scientific ghost hunter equipment like EVP meters and such as he is about feeling the vibe of a place, visiting the spots where stories originated from and figuring out for himself whether or not a place qualifies as creepy. I loved that. Sometimes ghost hunters lose themselves in semi-scientific rambling without staying focused on the task at hand: telling us about the ghosts. Mr. Selzer definitely has no problems with that.

I’m still amazed by how well-researched this book was, how the writing seemed to flow with an astonishing ease, and how much I enjoyed the overall experience. An excellent read for fans of traveling, ghosts, mystery and history.

Book Review: Devil in the Delta by Rich Newman

16249290Title: Devil in the Delta
Author: Rich Newman
Genre: Non-Fiction / Ghosts & Hauntings
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Llewellyn, Amazon, B&N
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A television that shoots fire. Objects flying through the air. A demonic possession. A ghost hunter’s worst nightmare.

When author Rich Newman first arrives at the battered doublewide trailer deep in the Mississippi Delta, it’s clear that this is no ordinary haunting. Called from Memphis to assist a local ghost hunting team, Newman’s investigation of the Martin house has become his most terrifying and mysterious case to date.
What starts out as a malicious assault quickly spirals into a story of obsession, possession, witchcraft, and murder. When the evidence becomes overwhelming, long-buried memories from Newman’s past come back to haunt him–memories he’d rather forget. Collecting physical evidence, researching the violent history of the property, and interviewing the world’s most famous demonologists, Newman’s investigation of the Martin house plunges him into the darkest depths of the unknown.

Devil in the Delta was a confusing read for me. On the one hand,  I kind of liked the author’s scientific approach, armed with cam recorders and voice recorders and how he’s not overly fond of psychics. He appears analytical and rational, the kind of ghost hunter who I wouldn’t mind inviting into my house if the other side went haywire. If this is Rich Newman’s most terrifying case to date, then I’m actually glad for him, because to me it didn’t sound all that terrifying. All right, some parts of it were enough to give me shivers, but it’s pretty tame all through-out.

Then there were parts of the book that thoroughly dissapointed me. For one, the house didn’t have such a violent past as the blurb made me believe. Secondly, the accusations of witchcraft and demonic possession. It’s obvious from the get-go that the trailer’s inhabitants are after some cash, and it makes their entire story a lot less believable, but thank God the author caught this. However, he jumps to demonic possession rather fast, and also to the witchcraft thing. It’s not because they were storing some items that look like they could be used in witchcraft that anyone was actually practising witchcraft on the premise, and even if they were, that doesn’t instantly mean they invited something evil into their house. It’s these thought-jumps, drawing conclusions where there shouldn’t have been any, that made me wary of this book.

All in all, the writing was good, straightforward, and for the most part the author appears as level-headed and rational and not someone who’s convinced the slightest breeze is a ghost. On the other hand, he draws conclusions fast, blaming demons for everything that remotely goes wrong, and this didn’t work in his favor. An enjoyable read, but the synopsis makes it sound a lot scarier than it is.