Saturday, August 02, 2014
that last ghost book I tried to read, set in Mississippi, was a big dud. So as you may expect it was with some combination of dread and expectation that I stumbled across a volume entitled PARANORMAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA in Square Books yesterday. I like things that are arranged encyclopedically! And the busy cover illustration featured the devil perched on the roof of a house, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, like, "Hmm." But the bookmark enclosed by the publisher scared me a little. It's an advertisement practically begging for authors, and carries a whiff of self-publishing about it. But as you know I have had some great enjoyment thanks to self-published material, crudely illustrated ("click" here for just one example that leaps to mind). In fact, it was just such an illustration that sealed the deal for me. I present it above. The caption was also magnificent: "No peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich was safe whilst the BIGFOOT-type monster dubbed MOMO stalked southeastern Missouri." As you can perhaps make out, the facing page contained phrases such as "like sulfur and feces, only worse" and "unprotected peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches." Flipping through, I ran across an allusion to THE GODFATHER of all things ("It seems likely Marie Laveau became the classic 'fixer,' in the sense familiar to many who have read Mario Puzo's THE GODFATHER"), a frequent touchstone of the Frank Sinatra bio I just finished, so that seemed like a good omen. One person who works at Square Books, whose identity I shall protect, saw me looking at PARANORMAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER: AN ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA and asked whether I had ever heard of the Bell Witch. Had I! I won't tell you about it because it's too scary. But anyway, this person told me that the daughter from all the Bell Witch trouble had moved into a house "a softball's throw away" from his or her own childhood home, and that, according to legend, a ghost had followed her there. By the time my informant was born, the haunted house was a storage space for "farm implements" where no ghostly occurrences were reported.