Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Haunting of the Tenth Avenue Theatre


Rating: 2 Stars


I received this as an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. As such, I sincerely hope beyond hope that this book went through major revisions and editing before its final publication. I am not saying this to be purposely disparaging, but because I love reading books about paranormal investigations and really would like to see the field taken more seriously. Amateur writing about these experience contribute to the field continuing to be perceived as amateurish. I do think there is a good story here to tell, but again, more editing was hopefully done before its release.

The author begins with recounting her childhood tales of ghost hunting, which perhaps were meant to show how her career began. Instead it came off as this book being all about her. It never was really explained why her mom wanted to keep her away from that 'stuff', and was never explained later on either. It came across as filler, but again could have had as much to do with the writing style as the content. I think one of my biggest issues with the writing style had to do with how conversational it was, because that too came across as unprofessional. The book meandered from some history of the theatre finally, to the author's readings staged there, to conversations between the team members, literal conversations - if it was not recorded and she does not know for a fact that the conversations happened in the way portrayed in the book, then no thank you, please do not include them. So many times it was "I stated...". Many sentences started with 'Because'. Tenses changed often. I had to remind myself several times that this was an ARC, and would hopefully not be the final copy. My concern though, seems reasonable. I've yet to read an ARC that needed SO much editing still in order to be ready for publication.

In addition to the writing itself, there were more than a few situations that did not seem to make a lot of sense if this were a professional team who worked actual cases. When the first investigation into the theatre was set to happen, the author says she doesn't even think there will be a lot of activity. Yet she had a pretty major unexplained experience during the performance of her first play there when the lights were set for her, despite no one being in the booth. Not to mention several other unexplained occurrences told to her by people she knew well.

Maybe I have been spoiled by my love of Ghost Hunters (who work on debunking as much as they can FIRST, and then move on to labeling things 'unexplained' BEFORE calling anything paranormal), but I also could not believe the behavior of some of the members of the author's team. One member, Rick, seemed to be afraid of even the idea of a paranormal experience occurring. Two members of her team - Rick may have been one of them, I do not recall - ran yelling down the stairs at the end of the investigation because they claimed to hear a voice say, "Mommy". If that is what it takes to frighten two team members, then perhaps ghost hunting is not their vocation, or even hobby. On top of that, the author had been sort of on-the-job interviewing a potential new team member during an investigation. She talks about needing to trust the team 110%, and suddenly he is on the team and the investigation is not even over? How can you trust someone who has zero experience to begin with in the field, particularly on an investigation where there has been very little interaction? How do you know this guy won't run screaming down the stairs like the other guys? Again, it comes across as unprofessional and there are enough non-believers who already think we are crazy. Standards have to be raised if we want to be taken more seriously.

All in all, I was expecting so much more from this one. I myself have had paranormal experiences (I mean come on, I stayed at the Stanley Hotel. Chase and I purposely went looking for ghosts on our own and had some really awesome experiences that neither of us can explain) and I love reading about the experiences of others. I love the history of these supposedly haunted places, learning about how they came to be and who might still be hanging around. I do not love though when the projects related to them become more about the investigator than the investigatee. I know, it is not a word, but whatever. I can't say I would recommend this one whole-heartedly, as it was an ARC, but perhaps give the published version a chance.

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