Reviews of Books You May Have Heard of: Weird New England

What’s this, then?:  Well, having recently been taken to task over my loose use of the phrase “books you’ve never heard of,”  I’ll admit that I’m not exactly diving through the bargain bin for this one.  But I thought it would be cool to fit a non-fiction book into my whole creepy October theme, here.  So, Weird New England is a collection of New England based folklore and esoterica.  This ranges from the weird but true, like outsider art installations and the umbrella cover museum in Peaks Island, Maine to the let’s say less provable stories of ghosts, haunted places (the abandoned Danvers mental hospital) , and a robot hitchhiker.  There’s a whole series of these for different regions of the country (and two or New Jersey) and I believe they’re all more or less similar, so you can learn what’s weird in your neck of the woods.

Well, s’it anygood?:  Sure.  I mean its just good fun.  I’m not sure its the kind of book that was intended to be read cover to cover, but then again, I’ve done so several times.  It’s sort of a coffee table book for paranormalists, ghost hunters, urban olklorists and other weirdoes.  There are pictures of some of the places and items in question and illustrations of the more fanciul stories.  The book sometimes prints locals’ accounts of legends in part or full.  The combination of the tellers’ utter sincerity in telling their stories and the fact that those stories happened in places you might be amiliar with makes them more creepy than any horror iction, because even if youremain skeptical you have to admit that someone more or less like yoursel (maybe even rom your home town) had some unexplainable experience.

What’s the best bit?:  Well, the book contains the Doc Benton story and the Panarchy ghost, which are pretty cool for you Dartmouth people.  The Dover Demon is always the story that sticks with me, which probably has to do with a phobic reaction to Grey-like aliens rom watching too many episodes of Sightings as a kid.  New England apparently has several legendary groups of inbred mutants like the Melonheads and the Frog People (who maybe influenced Lovecrafts “Innsmouth Look,”  which Stephen King kind of has now that I think of it).  I suppose whatever grabs you most will depend on your curiosities, fears and locality.

Anything else?:  This book really makes me want to get out and explore some of the weirdness out in my backyard.  Technology is connecting people from different places more that ever — which is awesome — but things like the Travel Channel make it easy to orget that where you are right now is pretty cool.  Every place has its own stories, and October’s as good a time to remember that some of them are horror stories.  The uncanny, or in German, the unheimlich, is all about eeling not-at-home at home.  This perhaps explains why Lovecraft and King are often local color writers as well as horror writers.

There is now a Weird Massachusetts book, and I know a certain fellow who it’d make a great Christmas gift for.  He lives, incidentally, just north of Dunwich.

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Published in: on October 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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