Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Most Haunted House In England–Count Harry Price


It has been my experience that finding a book written on a paranormal topic by someone with a scientifically skeptical mind is a very hard thing to do.  I feel like it is just as shortsighted to dismiss the idea of paranormal activity outright as it is to believe it wholesale.  While I am definitely interested in things described as supernatural I am not interested in reading accounts by people who approach the subject willing to accept every single bump in the night as proof of ghosts and ghouls.  But, the vast majority of books I have encountered on the subject are written by those types of people.  It bothers me that paranormal investigation has to (almost always) be undertaken with an idea of all or nothing.  Some people believe all, and in doing so damaging their credibility and the study they are trying to prove, and some believe nothing, not bothering to try at all to understand anything described as paranormal.  That leaves the market for nonfiction paranormal books flooded by phony baloney conmen seeking to sell something of which they are not really trying to understand.

Enter Harry Price and the story of Borley Rectory.  Price is exactly the kind of person I want to see investigating paranormal phenomena, a skeptic who is willing to admit that strange things happen.  A scientist in the truest sense of the word he tried to know the unknown, he did not disregard it (as most scientists are wont to do) as mere foolishness or figments of men’s imaginations.  Even if the things people see and experience are part of intricate hallucinations, wouldn’t science benefit by understanding why the human mind is playing such “tricks”? Instead of following this course, science is all to ready to ignore the entire area of study.  It is a shame.

borley-rectory-2-tnBorley Rectory is a fantastic case of paranormal activity.  Locals reported strange phenomena in the vicinity of the building as early as 1863.  Sightings included those of a wandering nun (supposedly bricked up in a wall for her sins) and a ghost carriage driven by a headless man.  In the book Price debunks the story of the nun, yet continues to record sightings, witnessed by himself and others.  During the years of his investigation of the Rectory Price notes the sinister change in the activity from mere sightings of repetitious apparitions to full fledged poltergeist activity.  Ringing bells, flying objects, names and messages scrawled on walls by unseen hands.  Price not only recounts phenomena witnessed by himself but he also lays out a case for the scientific study of the supernatural.  He details an entire process of bringing new and skeptically minded observers into the house in order to garner untainted information from many different witnesses.  His description of the set up borders on ingenious.

Borley Rectory soon became known as a cursed place, abandoned by even the church that owned it.  In the effort of his study Price actually rented the building for a year to continue his work.  All of which is laid out with great detail in The Most Haunted House in England.  Price has a refined writing style that bespeaks a gentile nobility and a fine, educated mind.  This book was a pleasure to read.  If only there were more books of this ilk on the topic, perhaps we would know so much more about the paranormal than we do today.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gold After Gray–Part 3

I knew he was following me, and I knew that he was good. I am not an easy person to find. But why? The question did not bother me much, never kept me up at night; only once in a while did I stop to ponder why that handsome stranger was forever on my tail. At first I thought it coincidence, if we were going the same direction, on the same freeway, we might cross paths at more than one motel. After a while I knew he was after me. Too bad for him, I hold all the cards. A man like that is not easy to forget, he is handsome, his voice rich and smooth, his smile so oddly intriguing, his eyes so bright they almost glow. So I remembered him, noticed him several times in the past two years, where a lesser man might have been invisible. I have done many things in my life that would put the law on my tail, maybe even the FBI, CIA, or some other government agency. I have survived in ways that others would shun, but never have I crossed my moral code. The man at the gas station, the woman beating coward, he was not the first, most likely not the last. Some people deserve what they get, and if I am around they get what they deserve… perhaps that last statement drips with a little too much machismo, an arrogance that I can afford. Nobody has yet to take me down a peg, but, I am not god; I am not the angel of death… I realize now that I could fill thousands of these pages telling you what I am not, but less than one telling you what I am.

So he follows me, this mystery Adonis, to what end matters little. He represents a cage, or shackles, or some other unpleasantness. Although I cannot say that I am happy, I can think of no other way of life that would suit me better than this. As an oddity on display, or a prisoner in a cell, or a test subject on a cold steel table I would be far less happy than I am now; so I keep to the road, Mr. Handsome at my back and any chance of disappointment with failed friendships far away.

Tonight I write this from a campsite inside the Utah border, my small tent is pitched against a light spattering of rain, and the burning steno provides enough light to illuminate the pages of this worn journal. What I hope to gain from laying down this story even I cannot say. Perhaps someone will know me by my words on this page better than anyone has known me by my face or voice. Maybe somewhere here will be the key to unraveling the truth. But for the moment it helps me fill the lonely minutes between turning off some stretch of highway and falling asleep to face the twisting and turning of my dreams.


“I dunno why I done it Sh’rif!” The Walrus slash trucker blubbered into his beard as he stared at the Sheriff’s stoic face. “I done told ya, He was yelling at Betty there in the CafĂ© and he called her a Bitch, so something just said to me ‘ya oughta whoop his ass for that’ and so I just jumped him, he was being mighty rude.” The Sheriff just stared at the big man for a moment.

“Lou Ross” The Sheriff started calmly, and then paused.


“Aint you done called Betty a bitch once or twice?”

“Well that’s different; she’s my sister in law.”

“And so you always stickin’ up for her when someone starts to hasslin’ her?”

“Well no… but this time it just rubbed me the wrong way, and then that stranger started tellin’ me that I was big enough to whoop up on the fella and I just decided he had it coming.”

“Which stranger?” the Sheriff asked, his interest piqued.

“The handomse looking one” Lou Ross smiled a bit at the fading memory of the stranger “with the fancy car.” The Sheriff remembered the man. He wrote something down on the yellow pad placed before him.

“So the stranger talked you into it, kinda pumped up your courage?”

“Well, I didn’t even care really, ya know Betty Sh’rif, she is a bitch and all. But the stranger told me that fella was being rude, and I could whoop him, and I just decided I did wanna whoop him, because well I can call her that, she is my sister in law after all and he was just some cross country driver off the freeway coming into town and calling my sister in law a bitch, so well the stranger he had a good point.”

“You know Betty was mighty flattered ya done that for her, said she was gonna put up your bail.”

“Awww damn.” Lou Ross grunted and looked put out.

“Whats wrong?” The Sheriff asked, genuinely concerned “We are gonna have you out of here tonight, that other fella aint even hurt and he won’t be pressing charges because he cant be bothered to come back through for court, but I promised him I would hold ya on disturbing the peace.”

“Its just…” The big man paused then huffed out the last words “Well, I don’t wanna owe that bitch no money! She’s gonna be holding it over my head for the rest of my life, and tomorrow she will have forgotten the beating I gave out for her.” The Sheriff wanted to chuckle, but something about this incident disturbed him. That stranger seemed mighty out of place, everything about him was wrong. Sheriff Graves didn’t believe in coincidence, last night a murder, first in a decade, and today this.

“Let him go, he aint gonna hurt nobody else.” The Sheriff motioned toward Lou Ross as he stood up snatched the hat from the desk, slammed it on his head and walked out. As The behemoth trucker waddled out the front door of the small adobe jail he caught a brief glimpse of the Sheriff’s Buick as it turned onto the highway and sped in the direction of the Gas n’ Go.


The stranger stormed out of the ancient gas station, the pimpled teenager behind the counter had told him nothing, and he would have, even now the youngster was staring out the window at him with a fond, loving, smile painted on his face. There was just nothing to tell. And there was no surveillance tape. That had been turned over to the Sheriff, of course. The tape was out of his reach, he would not confront that old lump of a law man again, not unless he was prepared to gun him down and rid the planet of one who could resist his trick. He had searched the area and found the motorcycle tracks in the dirt behind the building, same as he had been seeing for a while. Maybe Gray was getting sloppy, the stranger didn’t dare to hope that he was following Gray unknown, he had been given the slip too many times for even someone, even as unusual as his pray was , to do it by accident. He saw a few blood droplets, probably the victims, Gray would never leave behind his own DNA, that would be very bad for him. But the stranger scraped it up anyone and bagged it to send back to the men at the top, they would figure it all out. Nothing here helped him much; his mind kept going back to that surveillance tape.

He was following a shadow, Enigma Man, was the name he had been given back when the stranger was assigned this case. It had been a long time ago, he had been after the shadow for a long time, too long for some of the men at the top, things were coming to a head and the stranger intended to come out on top, like always. He needed that video tape, he was a smart man, along with being handsome, and charming, and soulless. He wanted all the imagery of Gray that he could find, and maybe then he could piece together something that would shine some light on the shadow.

He went back to the truck stop and rented a dirty little room in a one level motel whose rooms stood in a single straight row with fading orange doors. When he entered the room he smelled dust and cigarette smoke, he saw nothing, it was dark, the blackout curtains worked in the room, if nothing else did. Without disrobing he lay down comfortably, sensuously, on the bed, his nobility noticeably out of place on the drab and tattered quilt below him. He slept, the deep and calm sleep of the truly confident man, he knew he would awaken, and when he did he would get what he wanted. Only a few hours had past when he awoke, eyelids peeling back from sapphire blue eyes, he was out of the room quickly. Car keys slid from his pocket as he walked, he was in the black machine and out of the motel parking lot in only a few seconds up the highway toward the little desert town. It didn’t take him long to find the Sheriff’s office. It was low and flat building, built of adobe and tiled with red clay, one side was home to the jail and the other to the municipal library. The building sat surrounded by a park, filled with rusting swings, jungle gyms and slides disintegrating from neglect. He parked his fancy car a few blocks away, out of site of the jail and walked casually down gutterless streets, without sidewalks where lawns met road, and he could not quite tell where one stopped and the other started, the macadam giving away to dirt, the dirt sometimes contained clumps of brown grass, usually not.

He crossed the highway that led south to the Gas N Go and North to the truck stop and walked into the park. He noticed as he strolled that the Buick the Sheriff had driven was parked in front of the jail and a shiver that began in his solarplexes wracked him. He was overcome with a wave of fear, anger, and disgust, mostly with himself. He tread on dead grass and passed dying implements that once evoked tinkles of childrens laughter, a sound only mocked now by the rusty screeching of chain blown back and forth in the breeze. He settled in under a gnarled tree of some desert variety with which he was not familiar. He worried for his fine suit so he dared not sit. Instead he stood perfectly still, hands in pockets, golden hair flicked occasionally by a hot draft of desert air. And the sun set behind him, it framed him, a statue in roman style, poised, ever vigilant.

Slightly before the sun dipped below the purple mountains on the edge of the world he stiffened, the sheriff walked out of the building and the enormous trucker who had done his bidding followed shortly behind. The trucker settled in on a bench out front of the library, apparently waiting for a ride home. The stranger grinned and thought of some old idiom. And then he was walking, if anyone was watching him they would have never been able to say he had started walking, he was just moving, moving toward his rotund acquaintance of earlier this morning.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Dead Boys – Royce Buckingham



The Dead Boys was the first review book I have ever received since starting this blog, and I found it oddly fitting. I carried it along with me as PoseySessions forced me to drive her 3 hours away to attend a book club with a local author. I sat in the sun baked parking lot with the book on the passenger seat, contemplating what to do, I was in a big city and had a few hours to spare. The magnificently creepy cover of The Dead Boys kept calling me, and I gave in. Rather than exploring or finding something else to fill my time I cracked open this gem of a book. The fact that 2 hours later, in that same hot parking lot, with windows down on the car, I closed the back cover over the book and let out a contented sigh just goes to show how gripping and exciting this book is.

The Dead Boys is a Middle Grade novel, probably as can be judged from the title, geared for young boys. Buckingham is a fantastic kids author. He really brought to life the sleepy and dreary little desert town. He made me sympathize with Teddy moving to a new city, and later on he scared the pants off me as some of the visuals he described leaped off the page at me. The book is excellent. The narrative is straightforward and easy to follow, it jumps around a little bit but not enough to really lose the reader. As you close the book you realize it made sense all along, and all the little slips in the story were part of the intrigue.

The book was SCARY, yes, scary enough to make me, a grown man, in a brightly lit school parking lot, in the middle of the day, jump a little bit at a couple of really awesome parts. Buckingham has a well developed style that works extremely well in a spooky novel. I felt like I was watching events unfold, that I could SEE them happening on the page, not just reading a page of black and white text. The idea of the book is original and really fun. Buckingham trims the fat from the story, leaving out a lot of the little extra stuff that does not need to be in these kind of novels. It makes the book streamlined and focused, which is great, because this is a scary story, nothing more. It is a great scary story.

I really love these fun little stories, it transported me back to my childhood and late night reads of anything with Goosebumps written on the cover. The story is along those lines, but Buckingham’s story is more refined, more well thought out, and downright creepier.

I highly recommend The Dead Boys as a spooky Halloween read for anyone looking to be a little creeped out.

page image stolen from Aykanozener @ Deviant Art show some love, check it out.