Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Will Storr vs. the Supernatural by Will Storr

Will Storr vs. the Supernatural: One Man's Search for the Truth about Ghosts by Will Storr
Copyright 2006
HarperCollins Non-Fiction/Occult
310 pages, incl. "The 10 Most Haunted Places in America"
Author's website

*Update*: I somehow managed to hit the wrong category and had this book labelled "not recommended". HUGE oops. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and highly recommend it. Apologies to the author and big, huggy thanks to SuziQ for bringing the error to my attention!!!!

What led you to pick up this book? I'm going to say it was recommended to me by Tammy. She seems a natural scapegoat.

Describe the book without giving anything away. Journalist Will Storr set out as a firm skeptic when he went on assignment to interview "demonologist" Lou Gentile in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Loaded magazine. But, his initial experience with Lou made him question his personal beliefs. Could that white orb that followed a woman up the stairs of her allegedly-haunted house be a ghost? Or, was it just a trick of light, a speck of dust, an illuminated insect? And, what about that sensation that Will had been shoved out of his seat? Curious after his initial experiences with Lou, Will Storr decided to investigate further. The result is a sometimes-terrifying, often hilarious, and utterly absorbing book that should probably only be read during the daylight hours.

From the author's website:

What Will expects to be a straightforward piece, poking gentle fun at an amusing eccentric, turns into a terrifying nightmare of spectral ghost lights, suburban possession and horrific demonic growling. It is an experience that instantly demolishes all of his safe, adult preconceptions.

What did you think of the characters? They were characters, all right. Some of the folks Will Storr interviewed seemed, at the outset, completely normal people with an interest in the supernatural (usually because of past personal experience). But, those who were most convincing often made their apparent normality disappear via a single sentence. And, yet, he described his experiences without ever being judgmental; rather, Will Storr presents information and dialogue then leaves the reader to formulate his own opinion. The author has a great sense of humor and a deft turn of phrase, which makes the book a combination of light and fun paired with turn-on-all-the-lights-please frightening moments. I loved his ability to step back and analyze what he personally viewed, the information from those he interviewed, scientific data and historical research with a neutral eye. Well, mostly neutral.

4/5 - Really enjoyed this book, although it occasionally scared the peawaddin' out of me and I found myself setting the book aside, taking Lou Gentile's advice to "bathe yourself in a Jesus light". It sounds funny, but just try it . . . Jesus light is massively soothing.

In general: I'm never touching a Ouija board after what I read. Did he convince me that there is such a thing as supernatural activity? Actually, I've had my own singular ghost experience about 8 years ago and I'm still iffy. I wrote about my experience for a humor column during my 3-year stint as an ezine columnist. You can read my account, here. I don't think it particularly matters how I ended up feeling about the supernatural. Will Storr vs. the Supernatural is a fun read that is well-written if occasionally disjointed. I'm pretty certain I'd read just about anything written by Will Storr.

Recommended for daytime reading. Not for the faint of heart.

24 comments:

  1. I've ghost stories so I think I need to add this one to my list. Did you ever read "Spook" by Mary Roach? Same kind of premise but unfortunately I was a bit letdown by that one.

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  2. Nancy, Nancy, Nancy...

    Haven't you ever heard the expression be careful what you wish for?

    I loved the write up about your experience in England. And the book sounds wonderful. I will definitely give it a try.

    As for me, I love ghost stories and have had my own encounters that I consider paranormal. I never miss Ghost Hunters on Sci-Fi and want to go with them!

    cjh

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  3. Iliana,

    I've heard of Spook, but I haven't read it. I think I considered it and decided against it, based on the reviews of a few trusted reader friends. I think Will Storr vs. the Supernatural is a good one, myself, but I'm prone to nightmares and can't say I've read much (since The Amityville Horror, which he mentions as a proven fraud -- a fraud that kept me up nights, nonetheless).

    CJ,

    LOL! Trust me, I have not "invited" another ghost to visit me, after that experience! It was wild, really, because we were in Farnham 3 nights in a row and we only had electrical trouble that one night. Hmmmm.

    The book is fun. It did spook me a few times, but not enough to induce nightmares or keep me up late. You know, bathing in the Jesus light -- it works. LOL

    I've never seen Ghost Hunters, but yeah. You know I've had my own experiences. It's kind of a conundrum . . . like 50% of me is 99% convinced. Do the math on that one for me, would ya? ;)

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  4. I'll take the blame for turning you on to this one. I loved it. I loved Will's skepticism turned into probable belief. Your comment about turn on all the lights please made me giggle. I do think I read this one in the daylight as well.

    Ghosts? I'm 99% sure they're there. I've watched too much Ghost Hunters. Plus I've had an experience and many of my friends have. How else to explain it?

    Good review, btw.

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  5. Tammy,

    The more I think about it, the more thoroughly convinced I am that you recommended the book.

    Daylight or bright lights -- a necessity. But you know I'm a total wienie about scary books. LOL

    See, I can't totally convince myself, even though I've had that one ghost experience (seriously, the husband was NOT moving -- I can't explain it away). Ghost Hunters would probably throw me over the edge of disbelief.

    Thanks. :)

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  6. What a great cover!! I'll have to add this one to my list--not really sure how I feel about the supernatural, but my mother-in-law is convinced she has ghosts at her house (and that after some of her dogs have died they've come back...). Anyway! Thanks for the great review--and I'll definitely remember to read it during the day as I'm a scaredy cat.

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  7. Trish,

    Isn't that a great cover? Funny about your MIL. I could have sworn my cat made appearances in her favorite chairs for a short time, after she died. But, now it's been a year and I'm not seeing marmalade cats when I turn the corner, so I can't help but wonder if it was wishful thinking. LOL

    Definitely read during the daylight!

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  8. totally giggling at "Recommended for daytime reading" ;-) This sounds interesting. My sister-in-law has a ghost - not in the house, but outside. She's one of the most logical, practical people I know, so when she's convinced, I believe.

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  9. oooh that sounds interesting! The logical part of me does not believe in ghosts, but I had one experience that can NOT be explained and even thinking about it now- 14 years later- brings goosebumps. HAS to be real. Off to read your story now!

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  10. SuziQ,

    Oh, please tell me all about your SIL's ghost!

    I'm not kidding about the daylight thing. LOL

    Lisa,

    That's it exactly -- there's a partt of me that says, "Illogical! Illogical!" But, really, I simply cannot explain away the whump on the bed and the flickering lights that only occurred the night I invited a ghost to visit me. I'd love to hear your story!

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  11. This sounds good! Yep, I'd have to read it during the day, I can be quite impressionable.

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  12. OK - here's SIL's ghost stories.
    She lives out in the country and last winter heard something - when she went outside she clearly heard a male voice say "sorry for disturbing you", but she saw no one and none of her 3 dogs acted like there was anyone around. Later - footprints in the snow out by the old barn - but they started and stopped in the middle of the road where no one could have jumped to or from make those prints. Then, one of the dogs kept getting out and back in through a locked gate (fence too high for him to jump). The cats also get let in and out of the closed house. One day she asked the ghost to stop letting the one dog out because the neighbors were complaining if he showed up in their yard - the ghost stopped letting the dog out. She's certain that it's a male ghost who primarily lives in the barn, but likes the animals. Like I said - my SIL is far too logical and level headed - if she's convinced it's a ghost, I am too.

    BTW: why the 'not recommended' label for a 4 out of 5 stars?? just curious

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  13. Tara,

    I'm nightmare-prone, myself, so you'll never see me reading anything about ghosts at night! It's a great book.

    SuziQ,

    Thanks for sharing your SIL's ghost story!!! I love it -- especially the fact that she asked the ghost to please stop letting the dog out and he did so! Too cool.

    As to the "not recommended" - YIKES! I usually just type the first letter or two and then hit whatever I want from the drop-down selection and I must have accidentally hit the wrong one. It's definitely recommended and I've just changed the post to reflect that. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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  14. Ohhh....I want to read this!! And for the record, I haven't touched a Ouiji board since I saw the movie The Exorcist. Scary stuff, man!!

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  15. My husband loves stuff like this, and like Iliana, was let down by Spook, the Mary Roach book. I'm going to recommend this to him--thanks!

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  16. Stephanie,

    It's a fun book. Hope you like it as much as I did. I'll be haunting your blog, waiting for your review. Hahaha. Haunting. Okay, yeah, that was bad. I've never seen The Exorcist because I am a Serious Chicken. I gave up horror after Jaws. Pitiful, but true. LOL

    Gentle Reader,

    Wow, I'm glad I decided not to buy Spook! There was one time I picked it up and considered, but a negative blog review swayed me. You guys are going to make Will Storr happy. LOL I hope your husband enjoys it as much as I did!

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  17. I really liked Spook. Not scary at all. Will Storr sounds good but since I too am a big chicken.....I'll wait on this one. :)

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  18. Now, see, I'm just too impressionable. One person I trust says, "I liked Spook" and I'm thinking, "Maybe I should read it, after all." No wonder I'm drowning in books.

    I'm a chicken, too. I'm a BIG chicken. There's always Jesus light, ya know, Miss Carrie. ;)

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  19. I loved this one, but I hated Spook. ;) Just saying...

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  20. Eva,

    Thanks. The pendulum has now swayed in the opposite direction (again). :)

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  21. The cover grabbed my attnetion before I even read what you had to say about it. After reading your glowing review, I've put a request in at the library - thanks!

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  22. Lesley,

    That cover really is a grabber, isn't it? I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did! I can't wait to hear what you think. :)

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  23. Ishtar7:27 AM

    I recently started on this book and now I'm trying to summon up the nerve to continue. I have an over-active imagination and I live alone in a rather poorly-maintained creaky flat so at night...well, you can imagine. :-)

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  24. Ishtar,

    I can see how that would be a problem! I'm fortunate to have lived in my home long enough that I know what all those little creaks, rattles and scratching noises mean. I suggest daytime-only reading. :)

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