Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ghosts of Central Arizona - Heather Woodward

Summary: Take a ghostly road tour of Central Arizona. Ghoulish legends and the author’s personal experiences make for an entertaining—and sometimes scary—trip. Visit the Jerome Grand Hotel and stay in one of their “Death Rooms.” Travel through vortexes at Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon. Learn about the ghost sightings at the Chapel of the Holy Cross and, if you get hungry, the Haunted Hamburger serves up a good ghost tale. From Superstition Mountain to Flagstaff, with just a touch of “Hollywood in Arizona” legend thrown in for good measure, you will experience Central Arizona’s ghost stories. So come along for the ride … if you dare. (Summary from book - image from - complementary review copy from publisher)

My Review: At one point in this book, the author states that ghost hunting is mostly waiting in the dark, not knowing when, how, or even if a spirit will put in an appearance. That’s a good metaphor for the book itself—so much time is spent on ghost hunting techniques, background information, and stream-of-consciousness accounts of the author’s every minute, waking or sleeping, on the trail of hauntings that I began to wonder if the spooks would make it into the book before the Index.

When the ghosts did show up, they were a mixed bag, with all the good stuff happening “off stage.” The author—a psychic and long-time paranormal investigator—promises to personally investigate the legends of haunting, but we learn more about her thoughts on exercise (only while shopping!), Catholicism (creepy and morbid!), and Nicholas Cage (crush-worthy!) than about her experiences with ghosts. In fact, for all but a couple of haunted locations, all we get are third-or-fourth-hand rumors—the author never even visits them.

For all of its rambling and meandering, though, Ghosts of Central Arizona does have some redeeming substance. Even though I’ve never lived in Arizona, and have never been ghost-hunting, I found myself drawn into the stories, the history, and the worldview that finds the past infused, spectrally, into the very bricks and stones of our mundane world. Best of all was the story of Superstition Mountain, which is everything a ghost story should be—mysterious, macabre, and, above all, believable. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the book can’t live up to the same standard.

My Rating: 2 stars. Caution: Portions of this book may be offensive to Catholics and members of the Sedona New Age community. The whole thing is offensive to a skeptic, but you probably could have guessed that from the title.

Sum it up: Unless you’re a ghost hunter yourself, a historically-minded Arizonan, or bored and curious, there’s more fluff here than substance.

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