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Haunting of Twentieth-Century America, The (Book)

Cover art:

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The Haunting Of Twentieth-Century AmericaWritten by William J. Birnes and Joel Martin

Published by Forge


I generally don’t read non-fiction. I read to escape reality for a bit, not delve deeper into it. The exception is anything Fortean, anything relating to the paranormal or preternatural. Ghosts, UFOlogy, cryptozoology, demonology, etc. I’ve been reading them since I was old enough to comprehend them.

I was excited to receive The Haunting Of Twentieth-Century America, then, because this is the sort of non-fiction that I deeply enjoy. Billed as ‘a journey through the shocking paranormal influences that shaped American history’, I was anticipating an examination of 20th century events that shaped American culture.

Now if only that’s what I received.

THOTCA is a book that puzzles me. I honestly don’t know why it exists. I can’t find even a hint of the stated goal within its pages. Instead of a work detailing how certain events influenced 20th century America, we have a collection of essays on a wide range of paranormal topics that have virtually no connection to each other. Some don’t occur in America, many don’t occur in the 20th century or have a great deal of influence on the century, and almost none have a single thing to do with ‘hauntings’ in any definition of the term.

Subjects covered vary wildly. For example, the first chapter deals with the Nazi fascination with the occult. From there, we go to a discussion of the paranormal history of New Orleans. Wait, what? The events in the first chapter don’t occur in America and had no influence on American culture. The events in the second didn’t happen in the 20th century, even if they did certainly influence the culture of New Orleans. The chapters in the book are really stand-alone essays on subjects that have little in common, if anything at all, and there’s absolutely no ‘theme’ or common ground between them.

We have chapters such as No. 5, which covers the psychology of the subconscious. It doesn’t seem to have any place in this tome at all and would be more at home in a psychology textbook for a college course.

That’s really at the heart of the issue here, more than the subjects compiled. To quote a very good film, this thing reads like stereo instructions. When reading it, I felt like I was studying for a test. It’s written with all the flair and panache of a textbook. What’s more, like a textbook, it feels like a compendium of facts and tidbits from other sources. No new ground is broken, no suggestions or conclusions are presented from the authors; they simply regurgitate information gathered from other places and create essays out of it. It should come as no surprise that there’s a 12-page bibliography at the end of the book.

I’m sorry to say that The Haunting Of Twentieth-Century America is a complete waste of time. Every topic covered in it has better, more entertaining articles written about them online, free of charge. Books have been written about every subject here as well, giving more information and likely in a more entertaining manner. Stick to those and skip this one.

1 out of 5

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Mr. Dark

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