Reviewed by Jeanne
Since this book showed up just before Halloween, I thought it would make a good seasonal read. How could it miss? As it turns out, it could—at least for me.
The book started out promisingly enough. There is a great chapter which discusses the different kinds of ghosts and theories about ghosts. For example, one category is “living ghosts” which would seem to be an oxymoron but which is explained as seeing people from another time going about ordinary tasks, seemingly unaware of being observed. One theory is that these are glimpses into time slips or parallel universes. Another is the “imprint ghost” which is seeing the same deceased person repetitively performing a task: these sightings may be by different people but the ghost is always doing the same thing in the same place. This theory holds that these sightings are residual energy left by a person. Then there are the “sentient ghosts,” those who seem to be aware and try to communicate. And so on. There is also a discussion of the various ways in which ghost hunters try to document their findings, what consciousness is, and theories about why some places are more likely to be haunted.
I thought all of that was very interesting and was keen to see it applied to the promised tales. Unfortunately, the stories were very brief and somewhat generic as the author skipped from one subject to another. Reading that people see Elvis walking around Graceland or hear his music there, or in the studio where he recorded or that people have seen Marilyn Monroe dancing the ballroom of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel without first-hand accounts or much in the way of detail didn’t spark my interest. Some just sent me to the internet to find out for an explanation, such as “Actor Victor Kilian’s ghost haunts the forecourt area, pacing back and forth as if looking for someone, although he was murdered at a different location. His killer was never found, and those who have seen his dark figure… suggest he might be restless from trying to find the perpetrator.” Who? What?
This would be a good browsing book for anyone who wanted to pick it up for a few minutes. At 368 pages, there is a lot to browse and it is divided up by categories such as “Plantations,” “Bridges, Roads, and Caves,” and “Notorious Ghosts.” There is also a section of first person accounts but that doesn’t start until page 337 and I burned out around page 103. I’d have done better to have read the first chapter and then jumped to the last, but that’s just me. I wanted more detail. Someone else might gobble up the earlier bits of info like a movie-goer eating popcorn, and this book is perfect for that.
Jones did a lot of research and has an obvious love for Old Hollywood though a lot of modern stars traipse through the pages too. There is a nice list of articles in the back of the book and—be still, my beating heart!—an index! This came in very handy when I wanted to check a particular person or place.
This isn’t a bad book at all—it’s just not the book I thought it was going to be. And that’s okay. It’s stuffed full of brief stories about interesting people and places that might encourage the reader to look further, just as I did with Victor Kilian (and that is a fascinating story). While I didn’t finish a straight read through, I think I might pick it up again sometime and read some more.