One woman’s experiences spirit-hunting across the dark terrain of contemporary America.
Anne Rice biographer and clinical psychologist Ramsland’s previous pursuit of vampire subcultures (documented in Piercing the Darkness, 1998) led her to this latest spooky encounter: a “vampire” dubbed Wraith gave her a possessed ring, which he claimed had belonged to a multiple killer named Christian who himself had been murdered. As in her simultaneously published Cemetery Stories (above), the author follows a circuitous route to meet with other ghost enthusiasts, many of whom become unnerved by the spirit surrounding the killer’s ring. She spends time ghost-hunting at Savannah’s Mercer House, made infamous in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, in New Orleans (“The City That Loves the Dead”), at battle sites like Gettysburg, and at meetings of the International Ghost Hunters Society, which has gained 12,000 members since its 1996 inception and whose founders “offer plenty of merchandise for the well-equipped ghost hunter.” Through the Society’s enthusiasts, Ramsland learns of high-tech ghost-finding equipment like digital cameras (which have replaced infrared photography), although she notes that only some photographers are able to record discrete ghost images, usually “orbs,” occasionally specific forms. Equally puzzling are examples of electronic voice phenomena (EVP), which she records in various “haunted” sites, again via digital technology. Throughout, the author and her fellow believers perceive strange emanations from Christian’s ring, confirming ghost-hunting theory that spirits may fixate upon those who seek them out. The prolific Ramsland is a competent and enthusiastic writer, but her tone remains so high-pitched throughout (“A chill ran up my spine. I could almost feel [ghosts] back there, mouthing silent entreaties”) that it becomes repetitive. And as with Michael W. Cuneo’s superior American Exorcism (p. 841), Ramsland’s sense of drama relative to the hidden parts of American life ultimately overwhelms the relative paucity of hard facts she offers readers.
For believers only—neo-Goths and occult enthusiasts will enjoy this latest midnight mission.