Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Ghosthunting Ohio - On The Road Again

I'm not one for scary movies, nor do I read books like Steven King thrillers. Although I enjoy true crime novels, on the whole, I'm a big scaredy cat when it comes to those sorts of things. The one exception I have is for ghost stories, particularly for local haunts. I love to see the evolution of ghost stories and legends - almost a modern mythology for us today. It's funny just how many communities have their own version of Crybaby Bridge or Melonheads. As we've heard on the news recently, Slenderman has creeped its way into the vernacular, rising from a tall tale on an internet message board years ago.

And so I picked up a few ghost story books from the library yesterday, interested in revisiting some older favorites, and anything new that appealed to me. I had not seen the America's Haunted Road Trip series before, so I though Ghosthunting Ohio - On The Road Again by John B. Kachuba might be an interesting read. Kachuba goes beyond recounting the local legends and talks about his experiences in visiting the haunted places, trying to capture evidence of the ghosts, much like my beloved Ghost Hunters.

Unfortunately, this book was a huge disappointment. Kachuba is light on details; one of my favorite things about ghost stories is the history behind them. Instead, there are one or two photographs, and a bit of detail before Kachuba starts narrating his ghost hunting experience. He's fairly scant on detail here as well. In all, each location is given only a few pages, and it's quite lackluster to read about EVPs - you lose something when you're not hearing about it.

I also have to question his attention to detail. When mentioning haunted universities, Kachuba devotes a few paragraphs to Miami University. As an alum (and an avid reader of Dr. Shriver's book!), I'm familiar with the campus ghosts - and my mother was able to acquaint me with other local legends. There are many, from the woman who attacks men on the former Western College, to the dormitory which used to be an asylum, and to the now torn down Reid Hall, where an RA was shot to death by a student. I saw those bloody handprints. What about Throbe's fountain? Or the ghost of soldiers that trained on campus? The ghostly motorcycle riding around town? Did that underground tunnel really collapse on some kids? And who's rattling the dishes at the Marcum Conference Center?

Kachuba mentions none of these stories. Instead, he briefly mentions one former president and his haunting of Fisher Hall, and the mysterious disappearance of Ron Tammen in the 1950s. The stories above are all recorded in numerous books - you can even find most on the web. This makes me wonder how much time he put into researching any of the other stories.

Frankly, this book read like a slapdash effort to make some money while Ghost Hunters was hot. If you're looking for an interesting recounting of haunted tales around Ohio, this isn't it. Save your time, and go looking for better books. They're out there. Miami University: A Personal History by Dr. Phillip Shriver, if you're looking for better Oxford tales. For locals, A Haunted History of Columbus, Ohio by Nellie Kampmann also does a better job at describing the history of a tale.

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