The paranormal is one of my guilty pleasures. Don’t judge me too harshly, though. I don’t hold seances or play with Ouija boards. I just watch Ghost Adventures and Monsters and Mysteries in America. (“Did you hear that EVP? The ghost just said ‘mercury’!”)
My interest in the paranormal, if not academic, is informed by my education. I studied early American religious history in university, in the process reading about New Englanders’ visions of phantom armies marching in the sky, visions of angels, and encounters with demonic forces. It is tempting for moderns to pooh-pooh stories such as these, but I realized this: these people, our ancestors, really believed that they had seen what they claimed to have seen. So I am interested in psychological, sociological, and anthropological approaches to the paranormal.
But tales of the paranormal are also good fun. Everyone likes a good ghost story. That’s where Eerie America: Travel Guide of the Macabre (February 28, 2014, Schiffer Publishing) comes in. Written by Eric R. Vernor and Kevin Eads, Eerie America is truly one-of-a-kind: “the first ever book geared toward dark tourism…places of oddities, curiosities, the strange, the bizarre, and the beautiful.” If your idea of a romantic weekend getaway includes staying at a haunted bed and breakfast, as mine may, then this is the book for you.
Eerie America is a coast-to-coast catalog of the macabre. Every state is represented: You’re not safe anywhere! Some states are better represented than others. Poor Delaware is home to only one paranormal site. (Lucky Delaware?) California has many entries, but it’s arguably the epicenter of global weird, so it’s not all that surprising. Entries are helpfully indexed at the beginning of the book, and divided into three sections: “Where to Visit,” “Where to Eat,” and “Where to Stay.” Vernor and Ead devote several paragraphs to each location, and also include addresses, phone numbers, websites, and hours. Eerie America is a book to reference, a book to browse, but not a book to read cover-to-cover, unless you read dictionaries and encyclopedias, which also qualifies you as “eerie.”
Eerie America is handsomely put-together; the production value is high. This is a book you’ll want in print. (I had access to a digital copy.) The pages are full color and include plenty of photographs. Some readers would display it as a coffee table book or conversation piece, if your idea of conversation runs to aliens, cryptids, and the undead. Which it should. The only thing weirder than weird is Normal.
Highly recommended for travelers looking for unusual destinations and fans of the paranormal.
Special thanks and shout-out to Schiffer Publishing for providing me access to the book. (And for being headquartered in Atglen, Pennsylvania, not far from where I grew up in Lancaster.)