October is upon us! (But we’re almost hitting 80 degrees in New York City this weekend, so it does feel a bit…less than autumnal.) Still, that means it’s time for the annual celebration of all reads spooky and scary from Molly @ Silver Button Books: Frighteningly Good Reads!
I’m not much for reading challenges because I’m easily overwhelmed, but I love participating in this one every year. Who doesn’t love something atmospherically spooky for these Halloweeny times, for one, and for two, Molly is wonderful and the most relaxed challenge host. In her own words, here’s how it works:
This is the most laid back read-a-thon and follows my own 2021 commitment to Read for Joy. If it feels scary to you it counts as a Frighteningly Good Read, so join in however you want to from October 1 – 31st, 2021.
I try to fit in at least one scary read for the month, which is already ambitious considering my reading slump, but I’ve checked it out from the library so I’m on track so far! This year I saved Stacy Horn’s Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory specifically for Frighteningly Good Reads.
From The Sixth Sense to Medium, Ghost Whisperer to Ghost Hunters, the paranormal stirs heated debate, spawning millions of believers and skeptics alike. Nearly half of us say we believe in ghosts, and two-thirds of us believe in life after death.
What would you make of rain barrels that refill themselves? Psychic horses? Mind-reading Cold War spies? For a group of scientists at the Duke Parapsychology Lab under the leadership of Dr. J. B. Rhine—considered the Einstein of the paranormal—such mysteries demanded further investigation. From 1930 to 1980, these dedicated men and women attempted to test the bizarre, the frightening, and the unexplainable against the rigors of science, ultimately finding proof that the human mind possesses telepathic powers.
Anyone read it already? I’m skeptical as they come but I love anything that pits science against the “unexplainable” and looks into the history of research already done in this area.
And I have some suggestions pulled from my last year of reading in case you’re looking for some nonfiction ideas to participate and scare yourself with:
After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond, by Bruce Greyson, M.D.: A psychiatrist has done thorough research into the phenomenon of near-death experiences (NDEs) and shares a number of stories from those who have experienced them as well as his own research methodology, findings, and ideas. I found the commonalities between NDEs really interesting, and good to know how certain scientific principles can be applied to better understand them, even if there remains a long way to go in this still-murky area.
Cursed Objects: Strange but True Stories of the World’s Most Infamous Items, by J.W. Ocker: The host of the podcast Odd Things I’ve Seen compiled an entertaining compendium of “cursed” objects, from museum exhibits to graveyard stuff, attic finds, mummies, strange stones, and the business of buying and selling cursed items. It even covers things like the suicide-inducing song Gloomy Sunday. The stories are quick and light — as far as anything this macabre can be light — and pretty educational.
The Unidentified: Mythical Monsters, Alien Encounters, and Our Obsession with the Unexplained, by Colin Dickey: Dickey is a master debunker and thorough researcher, author of one of my favorites, Ghostland, which looks at haunted places and haunting stories across the US. In his latest, he turns his talents to researching monsters, cryptids, aliens, and various “paranormal” legends, looking at where and why they arose, the social culture around them, and the likely reasoning why these beliefs have sticking power. It is absolutely fascinating with perhaps surprising resonance around our capacity to believe, considering the recent crossing-over of many a conspiracy theory into the mainstream.
The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story, by Kate Summerscale: Alma Fielding was an English housewife who began experiencing a poltergeist haunting in 1938, an especially good year for the weird and uncanny — Daphne du Maurier’s gothic classic Rebecca was published, and a storm was brewing in uneasy Europe. Summerscale brilliantly uses context like this to look at Alma’s life station and circumstances and what caused her to be “haunted,” and follows the investigators at the International Institute for Psychical Research, including Hungarian parapsychologist Nandor Fodor, who catches on to Alma’s manipulations and changes tack quickly to catch her out. It’s one of the best, most detailed looks at why haunting stories arise in the first place, and what psychological benefit they can have for humans.
That was a debunking-heavy list, but I promise they’re fun nevertheless!
Be sure to let Molly know if you’re joining in and link up your Frighteningly Good Reads with her. What spooky scary nonfiction are you reading lately?