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20th-century-ghosts20th Century Ghosts is a collection of short stories by Joe Hill, whose real identity is Joseph Hillstrom King – son of the horror-meister, Stephen King. My wife got this book for me as a Valentine’s Day gift because I’d been harping on about how good the reviews were. I quickly finished the other books I’d started on to finally get to this one.

But was I in for a major disappointment. 2 days into the book (197 pages out of 383), I decided to call it quits. There was nothing scary about it, some of the stories just went on and on without a clear plot, had abrupt endings and worst of all, lots of baseball talk that bored me to death. I could not find the slightest tinge of horror in this book. Perhaps I had too high an expectation? I doubt it.

There are 14 short stories altogether and of these, I read 5 –

  1. Best New Horror – Spirit of a murdered girl haunts a cinema
  2. Pop Art – Friendship between an inflatable plastic boy and
  3. You’ll Hear the Locusts Sing – Boy turns into an insect and eats his father and best friend.
  4. Abraham’s Boys
  5. Better than Home
  6. The Black Phone – A kidnap victim gets help from the dead through a disconnected telephone.
  7. In the Rundown
  8. The Cape
  9. Last Breath – Alinger and his museum of bottled dying breaths.
  10. Dead-Wood
  11. The Widow’s Breakfast
  12. Bobby Conroy Comes Back from the Dead
  13. My Father’s Mask
  14. Voluntary Committal

I didn’t enjoy this book. Short stories should be plot driven since it’s impossible to build on the characters given the length constraints. But the plots in this book were weak, sometimes plotless .. most of the time it just fizzled briefly like a can of flat soda. So much for the suspense.

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Joe Hill

To be fair, I must make clear again that I did not finish this book. Maybe the subsequent stories are better? I don’t know and my experience from reading the first few stories mean I don’t care enough to know. This is my personal opinion of the book. For those of you who are still curious about it, you might be interested to know that this book won several awards – the  Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, as well as the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection and Best Short Story for “Best New Horror”. Notwithstanding that, 20th Century Ghosts just didn’t cut it for me.

I’ve had no luck finding any good ghost horror novels and would really appreciate if anyone out there could recommend a few to me.

Verdict : 1 out of 5

What’s Good: It’s a collection of short stories, so if it’s painful, it’s only for a while.

What’s Not Good: Stories are dull and flat, not scary at all. Nothing suspenseful about it. A true disappointment despite all the awards and hype.

when-ghosrs-speak-by-mary-ann-winkowskiI’ve always been fascinated by books on the paranormal – spirit hauntings especially. I am reluctant to say this but I have had my share of personal experiences with ethereal entities; all non-threatening thus far, thank God. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that these entities are just souls that are either lost or trapped for some reason on earth, unable or unwilling to go where they are supposed to go.

Mary Ann Winkowski’s book confirmed most of what I thought and gave me a better insight into the world of ghosts. In case you are not familiar with her, Winkowski is the consultant to CBS’ Ghost Whisperer series and also works closely with the FBI on cold case files solving murder mysteries. She has a proven track record and there is definitely nothing bogus or ‘wacky’ about her.

Her ability to see and communicate with ghosts is something she has had since her early childhood, nurtured and honed by her grandmother, who also had the same gift. In When Ghosts Speak, Winkowski describes what a typical encounter is like and explains what she does to help these souls of departed people some of whom have lingered on on earth for centuries.

A few incidents are memorable, such as the ones about the spirits of children who choose to stay on earth. For example in a fire where a whole family is killed, the spirit of one of the children killed had seen her parents and siblings walk into a light but she was scared of following them because of a fear that she might be told off by her parents for not listening to them earlier when all were trying to get out of the burning house. So the child stayed in the home for a while, playing (appearing as an imaginary friend) with the children of new families that moved in and slowly, venturing out of the house and following other children to their homes.

One thing I learned from this book is that spirits are not tied to a certain location or house. Though some are attached to their earthly belongings (like cars and antiques), following these items to the homes of their new owners to make sure they are properly taken care of, some spirits can move around to different homes and families seeking energy. Ghosts sometimes provoke us by doing mischief, hiding things or instigating arguments in the house so that the release of our anger or frustration can be a source of energy to them.

Winkowski explains how she conjures up a white light that she encourages these spirits to walk into so that they can go to the other side. She has met the spirits of accident victims and even a serial killer. Regardless of who they are, Winkowski gives them the chance to go to the other side. As she says in the book, it is not for her to judge them. Her job is merely to help them move on to where they are supposed to go. What awaits them on the other side, whether it be purgatory or judgment, is something she leaves to God.

She also shares with us ways of protecting ourselves against evil entities and ways to avoid attracting them into following you home. All these are both entertaining and informative though some parts are a bit repetitive. I didn’t mind the repetition though and quite enjoyed the stories of her encounters. There are some photographs also in the book of these entities and of Winkowski’s family and the people she works with.

I have been reading and collecting books on the paranormal since childhood; eager to read them but at the same dreading the information later at night when my mind starts to revisit the pages and images. But as you can see, I continue to collect these books and I continue, as I did with When Ghosts Speak,  to enjoy reading them. Winknowski’s writing is very conversational and will keep you entranced and amused throughout. It is one of the better books on spirit encounters that I have had the good fortune of coming across. Well worth reading!

Verdict : 4 out of 5

What’s Good: Easy to read conversational style of writing. Engaging and informative. If you believe in ghosts and love books on the paranormal, then you will want to read this.

What’s Not Good: Winkowski tends to be repetitive with some stories.

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