by Zakary McGaha
[Note: I need to start this review by touching on the frequent reference of my own paranormal encounters. I am, in no way, laying my experiences down as trump cards for those who don’t believe. I don’t distrust myself…what happened to me happened…but I’m open to the possibility that my age played a part in some of my early experiences. Logic leads me to believe that the house I lived in as a young’un was haunted since the experiences, which were quite intense and terrifying, stopped after my family moved (ironically, to a house where someone actually died). I’ve had subsequent encounters, some of them while ghost hunting, but none of them have been as horrifying. I’m not going to list them or anything, since this is a damn book review; I figured I would simply touch on my frequent allusions, since my own experiences influence my reading of the book.]
Ghost stories and supernatural discussions are simply entertaining. But they’re not simple. In fact, the topic can get very complex; philosophy plays a heavy part. For those of us who have been graced with genuine, unexplainable encounters, the topic plays out on a human-to-human basis: it’s a topic you discuss with REAL people who aren’t afraid of having their academic integrity shattered.
Ours in an age in which materialism and industrialization go hand in hand. Religion and spiritual topics seem to be fading into the past. It’s no surprise, though, that paranormal happenings have become enormously popular topics in entertainment. Since spirituality is draining out of our lives like blood from a machine-fucked factory worker, it makes since that the population would try to stop the leak by following the path of least resistance: watching TV!
Ghost-hunting “reality” shows have always attracted me. The main reason for this is that I’m both naturally curious and naturally drawn to dark, spooky things, but the fact that I’ve had frightening, paranormal experiences since an early age probably influences my fascination as well.
While I like the entertainment these shows provide, I can’t help but feel saddened by the fact that our society HAS to attach “science” to the topic. Like, seriously: if there are ghosts and spirits running (floating?) around the world, what makes anyone think “science” is going to help them understand the fuckers? By definition, they exist outside of science: it’s a case of “consciousness” surviving the death of the body.
But I digress. Luckily for me, Joey and Tonya Madia digress as well. One of the first topics they discuss in Watch Out for the Hallway is the world of ghost shows. They discuss the two types: ghost-hunting shows like Ghost Adventures and story-driven, eyewitness-interview fests like My Ghost Story…(which just so happens to be my favorite television program ever, after SpongeBob SquarePants). Although they come to a similar conclusion I do…Joey discusses his love of using story arcs to attack the philosophy of the paranormal, considering the fact that our very lives are stories we tell and re-tell ourselves in our minds…they realize that physical manifestations can be recorded, and can even act as modes of communication.
HOWEVER, they agree that relying on “science” and “technology” in this respect is sure to lead to disappointment: who says ghosts are going to perform for your finicky little gadgets? If I was a ghost, I sure wouldn’t: I’d be a dick. However, if some investigator flattered me and brought me some roses, I might be willing to give ‘em something.
It’s this approach that Joey and Tonya use in their investigations. They’re not strutting around like frat boys trying to punk out ghosts who may or may not be there. Instead, they’re using intuition, psychic abilities, and genuine, normal attempts at communication to elicit responses. And boy, does it provide some interesting material in the way of EVPs.
Although the main topic of discussion in Watch Out for the Hallway is the couple’s two-year long investigation of the Webb Memorial Library in Morehead City, North Carolina, a subtext running throughout is how deeply paranormal happenings can impact your outlook on life. In fact, my favorite parts of the book involved stories that weren’t related to the main topic. Some people, it seems, have a tendency to experience this sort of thing more than your average joe…or, perhaps your average joe is simply prone to shrug off said experiences.
Nevertheless, documenting experiences…the couple obviously keeps a record of the stuff that happens to them while ghost hunting and not…provides for some highly engrossing reading material that, when added together, shows you that life is a lot more magical and meaningful than your boss at the local office compound would lead you to believe.
Now, as for the meat of this book: it’s more than intriguing. Two years’ worth of serious paranormal investigating at the same place can add up to a lot of material. Everything from EVPs (ghost voices caught on tape, for the few out there who don’t know that) to guest testimonials are compiled for your reading pleasure.
There’s a profoundly human aspect the ghosts at the Webb had that I found to be both chilling and beautiful. Many of them displayed the moods we all go through on a day-to-day basis…some days, we’re happy and jovial, other days we’re don’t-look-at-me bastards…and others appeared to be consistent jokesters. Many of the ghosts were referred to by the authors as “characters,” which is an interesting take: the spirits aren’t mere attractions or pawns that are supposed to provide chills and thrills to dull-minded hucksters; instead, they’re complex…albeit mysterious…beings that deserve respect.
Other entities were mentioned in this book, such as “interdimensionals” and “men in black.” One of the greatest paranormal books ever written…The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, which deals with the possibility that a lot of paranormal entities, from ghosts to mothmen to aliens, may be things that are trying to trick us into believing they’re something they’re not…is referenced a couple times, which only deepens the mystery of the Webb and the paranormal world in general.
All in all, if you’re a paranormal enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with this book. It’s got everything you’d want. However, you don’t have to be “in the know” on anything to thoroughly enjoy it. It’s a well-written, entertaining read that’s sure to keep you up at night. Plus, it got a fucking blurb from Nick Redfern.
GO READ IT!