Theresa Argie & Eric Olsen | America’s Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places (Penguin Group USA)

book americas-most-hauntedAt its best, the book makes you want to visit these locations, and perhaps harass these restless spirits yourself.




When I was growing up, I had a particular book that I read several times. Things That Go Bump in the Night by Louis C. Jones was written in the late 1950s and had a beautiful, straightforward way about it. Half informative, half scary as can be, the book offered stories and background, which helped to explain where some legends came from and why they persisted. It certainly helped that many of the stories took place in houses and neighborhoods that were driving distance from my home. Jones, an English and history professor in the New York State University system, offered a scholarly approach to ghosts that dovetailed nicely with my later consumption of Ray Bradbury, who wrote smart, scary fiction. My imagination was filled, and allowed to travel with this macabre knowledge.

America’s Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen seeks to do some of the same things. The authors host an Internet radio show called America’s Most Haunted. The book covers 10 locations throughout the country that you “shouldn’t visit alone.” If you spend any amount of time watching ghost shows on cable, you will be familiar with many of the locations—among them The Villisca Ax Murder House, The Queen Mary, Bobby Mackey’s Music World, and the Ohio State Reformatory—as well as some lesser-known haunts, including the Knickerbocker Hotel and the Lemp Mansion. The book is a tour guide for the locations, describing amenities, the physical structure, and the paranormal happenings. Mixed in are first-person accounts of the happenings, many of which come from Argie and Olsen, who have spent their share of time in these and other haunted locations. It also recounts visits to these locations by the media heroes of such shows as Ghost Adventures (featuring buff, hyperactive Zak Bagans) and Ghost Hunters (which offers a skeptical approach to investigation, though almost never lacking some odd occurrences). The book further acts as a guide to the tools of paranormal investigators.

At its best, America’s Most Haunted makes you want to visit these locations, and perhaps harass these restless spirits yourself. It will be a boon to the already-blossoming ghost tourism industry that offers to take you to places and scare you. Many of the stories are fascinating, whether you choose to believe in ghosts or not. Untimely deaths and human tragedy are always sadly fascinating.

At its worst, Argie and Olsen tend to get far too wordy in their presentation of the stories. Facts are piled upon facts (and I use the word “facts” very loosely here), and sometimes the authors could have pared down the accounts or their own attempts at social commentary. One thing that bothered me about the book is that it did spend a lot of time recounting experiences of television show interactions by people whose show titles often start with ”ghost” or contain the word “haunt.” These shows would not exist if something did not happen that can be construed as a paranormal experience. As a result, you often get the meatiest story ever about something that could have just been a squirrel in somebody’s attic. The same goes for paranormal investigators whose fame (and presence in this book) are based on translating an anomaly of light or sound into an interaction with “the other side.”

America’s Most Haunted is a fairly well-researched book about ghosts, but it is more about ghost hunters and ghost hunting than the spirits themselves. On one hand, it seems to suggest that you visit these places, while on the other invites you to sit on your couch watching The Travel Channel or the SyFy Network. No imagination required. | Jim Dunn

About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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