Dead Haunted – book review

Review: Dead Haunted – Paranormal Encounters and Investigations

Author: Phil Whyman

Publisher: New Holland, London, 2007

Dead Haunted is an attractive book. At first glance, anyway. Then you begin reading it. Immediately, Whyman’s chatty, meandering tone irritates. Here’s a sample:

2. Partial Manifestations

            These are similar to full bodied manifestations, though I tend to think this type has a rather more frightening appearance. Why? Well imagine the following scenes…

            You walk into a room and as you do you are met with the floating torso of a man! Or, you walk into a room and you meet a pair of legs slowly walking towards you, with no torso in sight!

            Get the idea? Well, I’ll tell you one thing – I’d probably be out of that room quicker than a rat wearing running shoes. Don’t you think it would be scarier seeing part of a person than the whole thin? I thought so!

If the lame attempt at humour and the liberal scattering of exclamation marks do not irritate you intensely, you may be able to enjoy this book.

That is if you can get over the design. Pages 22-23 are probably the worst. We’re talking light, sans-serif over a bluey-green, blown up, grainy photograph. Even with my new reading glasses and a good supply of light, this spread on poltergeists is almost impossible to read, and this is not an isolated case. Later on, there are many pages of cursive text reversed out on black.

The photographs and their treatment by the designer are appealing, but as soon as you study the content of the photos you will notice that a high proportion of them are gratuitous – merely there to decorate and add flavour. Plus, they all have irritating artificial, fuzzy borders, as do the pages. The book is totally over-designed.

However, from Chapter 5 (Investigation Equipment) onwards, the content picks up. Chapter 7, on how to conduct a paranormal investigation, is pretty useful. The chapter profiling the medium Dave Wharmby is also a good read. Much of the rest of the book comprises reports of investigations the author has taken part in (Whyman is part of the Most Haunted team) and these are all somewhat interesting, but perhaps too numerous. There are also some personal accounts of ghostly encounters, by various people, and a list of Whyman’s top ten most haunted locations. This is excellent if you happen to live in the UK, but if you reside in other parts of the world (except perhaps the East Coast and the South of the US) you may find yourself feeling extremely jealous.

From the pitch of the text and the design of the book, it is clearly aimed at younger readers. For us adults, it’s too damned hard to read, and the content is too lightweight to be of much use. I would suggest this book would make an ideal gift for a teenager who’s interested in the paranormal (ghosts, primarily) and in learning how to conduct investigations. A less graphically beautiful but far more practical volume (and one that will encourage a higher level of critical thinking in your teenage ghost hunter) is ‘The Paranormal Investigator’s Handbook’, edited by Valerie Hope & Maurice Townsend (Collins & Brown, 1999).

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