14 November 2015


William J Hall. The Haunted House Diaries: The True Story of a Quiet Connecticut Town in the Centre of a Paranormal Mystery. New Page Books, 2015.

If you want a good ghost story this is it; the tale of a family living in an old farmhouse in a rural suburb of Torrington, Connecticut, who experience all sorts of spooky things, documented in diaries kept for a period of almost 50 years by now owner, who inherited it from her mother.
There is nothing dramatic here and no resolution or indeed apparent meaning behind the events. That certainly seems “real” in way that over dramatic stories don’t. How real is “real” here is of course a moot for a reviewer. Skeptics might point out that Hall is listed as the author of the book and not the editor, and the early diary entries look rather adult for a teenage girl to have written. They are described as transcribed, though I suspect something more than mere transcription is involved. There are other investigators mentioned, at least one, Paul Eno is a real person.

On the assumption that the various experiences recounted here actually happened, the main impression is that most are connected with the liminal zone between sleep and waking, and , thus, can probably be ascribed to hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, dreams, false awakenings etc. Others involve things seen out of the corner of the eye, strange noises and the like.

In one case the source of a false awakening nightmare is quiet obvious; the teenage daughter “wakes” to see her recently deceased aunt scratching on her second story window. It looks like her aunt but is somehow changed and sinister. The scenario comes from the TV series and film “Salem’s lot”, in which a boy vampire hovers outside the window of a former school friend.

The ghost story seems to be linked to various other odd experiences, including a car journey into an unknown landscape, tales of secret military basis etc. The area appears to one of those on the boundary between habitat and wilderness, often associated with reports of anomalous experiences.

An idea which is worth exploring in these cases is that house can be seen as symbolically as an extension of the self or the family. It might be significant that one set of grandparents of this family were both adopted by the same woman, regarded as “great grandmother”. Their biological parents are an absence on the family tree, could this be part of what is “haunting” this family.

This seems a more interesting line of enquiry than the various speculations of the investigators, though Hall seems by far the most sensible of these. -- Peter Rogerson

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