on July 28, 2010
First of all, let me state that this book's conceit is a wonderful one: rather than explore a state, a region, or an entire country, as so many of these books do, Offutt confines himself to an area of no more than 100 miles from his home (and I literally mean his home...the first examined incident takes place '1 mile from home.' The next is '1.1 miles from home,' and so on in an ever-expanding circle until he reaches 100 miles).
Secondly, the limitation he's made on himself in the writing of this his book also serves to vary his subject material. Rather than 'all ghosts, all the time,' we get a mix of everything from hauntings to UFOs to the mysterious black-eyed children. They all make appearances here, and the great thing about the book is that you don't get 'ghost fatigue' or 'UFO fatigue' from reading too much about one particular type of phenomena.
Offutt's a journalism professor, and his writing style shows this. While it's light on analysis, the book goes from newspaper accounts and interviews with witnesses. There are no 'friend of a friend' tales here, and the book benefits from it. It also benefits from newer experiences...there are several cases from the last decade here, and that lends the book a freshness in tone, that it's not the same set of cases rehashed for new readers. There's genuinely new stuff here.
While I would have liked to see a few of the cases more in-depth (it's a fairly short tome, and a light read), this book is definitely better than most of its kind, and I recommend it. As he says in his afterword, "Nothing is as it seems. It's much, much weirder." Well done.