Top positive review
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a good balance between story and fact
on January 6, 2011
Haunted highways follows ghostly tales situated on strips of road way or streets rather than a haunted house, the classic is the `phantom hitchhiker' who is picked up late at night by a good Samaritan but who disappears before he can take her home and while Ogden does cover this he finds far more such tales.
The cover of the book says the tales are `retold' by Tom Ogden and in the introduction he admits some of the tales have been altered for dramatic purpose. Those words filled me with more dread than any spook. I was afraid I'd bought the worst sort of drivel but as I read on I was wonderfully surprised. All too often books on ghosts and haunts are either so caught up in telling a good story that they start to drift away from fact or become so dry they are like reading the ingredients on a box of cereal. A handful of writers manage to walk the fine line between these two extremes and write a book that can be entertainingly creepy while still providing information. Happily Tom Ogden falls into this narrow strip and the result is a wonderful book of ghost stories that is creepy and informative.
Each chapter is a different haunting and has two parts. The first part are the conditions that led to the haunting- a jilted girl walking down a dark road a woman murders her children etc and then in the second part a modern traveler encounters the ghost. I suspect these are the parts altered. These give a bit of a chill. The nice thing is the appendix at the back of the book provides historical facts as they are known when they may be at odds with the truth in a good story. For example in the most famous phantom hitchhiker case, Resurrection Mary, she is said to appear in the same white ball gown she was buried in, in Resurrection cemetery. But the woman `credit' with being `Mary was not buried in that cemetery and was not buried in white. Or in the Japanese haunting of Oiwa, the original story was a Noh play that merged existing legends but became so famous that the characters have entered folklore and people say they've met them as if modern Americans might claim to have seen Huck Finn going down the Mississippi on a sunny day.
If I have a complaint it is that some of these stories are already so well known that you wish he'd gone to something newer, Peter Rugg, Borley Rectory, Resurection Mary for example are some of the best known hautings in western history but then again if this is your first foray into ghost stories, it's certainly a creepy good start. The effect between good stories and the appendix giving good corrections, if needed means, that we are left with a very good book for someone who likes ghost stories. I see Ogden has written other books and it should be interesting if his talent holds.