Ghosts Among Us by James Van Praagh

Genre: nonfiction
Secondary genre: paranormal/spiritual
Format: paperback
Rating: planchet

I don’t even want to admit how long this book has been on my TBR. I think I got it in college, or sometime shortly thereafter, and just never got around to it. In my defense, it’s a brick, well over 1,000 pages, and weighs more than most of my textbooks at the time. And it’s in paperback. I wouldn’t want to meet a hard bound edition in a dark alley, is all I’m saying.

By now you’ve probably figured out that I like a good ghost story, but I have to say this book left me fairly luke-warm. I didn’t realize going in, but apparently the author is a tv psychic from the 90s who later worked on The Ghost Whisperer tv show as a consultant. In my opinion, that makes him an unreliable narrator; still, I’m now for reading ghost books just for entertainment, so I plowed on.

This book contains literally hundreds of stories taken from around the US, with a few international stories thrown in. If you’re looking for diversity, however, this book ain’t it. It’s pretty evident from the narration that all the stories come from white people, with maybe two exceptions.

There were some good, creepy tales in this book, but there were also a lot of redundant ones.

In addition to ghosts, this book also covers things like orbs, aliens, and elementals, with a lot of pseudo-science thrown in. There were entire chapters I skipped because they just weren’t my cup of tea (I don’t do aliens outside of Doctor Who. Period).

I have definitely read better ghost books, so if you’re looking for a creepy midnight read, or more information on the theory behind ghosts and hauntings, give this one a pass. There are better books to be had.

Real Ghost Stories by Brad Steiger

Genre: nonfiction
Secondary genre: paranormal
Format read: hard copy
Rating: planchet-3

This is a hard book to rate, because it has literally hundreds of stories in it, and some of them are better than others.

Some of them are traditional ghost stories. Others are personal experiences gained through interviews, newspapers, or the internet. Most of them are from the US, but there are stories from England, Germany, Australia, and other parts of the world as well.

My favorite section was the one on death bed apparitions and moment of death appearances. The chapter on possessions freaked me out and I skipped the one on “ghosts from outer space” entirely because few things freak me out more than aliens.

The two things I disliked the most were the author’s penchant for defending pseudo science, and the photos sprinkled through the book, most of which had absolutely no connection to the stories they were inserted in. I wish the stories had been presented without the author trying to justify them. I wish the photos that didn’t have stories were just in their own section, as some of them were pretty freaky and could sneak up on me when I was reading, like the bookish version of a jumpscare (which I hate).

It was a very interesting read, however, so if you are looking for a good ghost story or twelve (or a thousand) you might try to track this one down.