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WesternSFA
Historic Haunted America
by Michael Norman and Beth Scott
Tor Books, $14.95, 445pp
Release Date: September 18, 2011

This quality trade paperback is a re-issuing of one of the great compendiums of the supernatural in North America . Fifty states and several provinces of Canada are represented here, and the accounts, all based on reported observation or established local tradition, give a sense of time and place and nostalgia. Not all the ghosts are tragic; several are humorous or mischievous, or seem to be a memory of great love. To the extent possible, origins are verified by historical research, and there is an extensive bibliography at the back.

This is like a cozy mystery omnibus, with the distinction of being factual. I love the narrative, which is evocative, considerate, and seems to take you by the hand and spirit you away to each place described. There is no lurid sensationalism, no breathy pseudo-excitement. Descriptions provide a strong, visual impression with interesting details. Some of the ghostly encounters are with nameless denizens of the afterlife, but some are quite famous, or infamous. The shade of the pirate Blackbeard, for example, haunts Ocracoke Island off of North Carolina .

This would be a wonderful book to have for Halloween readings or for an unusual study of Americana . If you have a young family member who is fascinated by the supernatural, this makes an ideal gift. But if you plan any road trips to go ghost-hunting, I’d recommend calling ahead to make sure the landmarks are still there. Since the original work was done, some houses that anchored spirits may have been replaced by newer buildings. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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