Nonfiction — The Frighteners

The Frighteners:  A Journey Through Our Cultural Fascination With the Macabre by Reverend Peter Laws

5 out of 5 stars!!

(**A quick note:  there are three or four editions, each with a different subtitle.  I am using the one from my kindle edition**)

From the Goodreads Synopsis

“… In accessible and light-hearted prose, Peter Laws takes us from the dark corners of his mind to the underbelly of various macabre cultures to illuminate society’s preoccupation with death and horror. The Frighteners combines psychology, religious theory, and personal memoir to create a dynamic and fascinating read that is informative and entertaining.”

So, an ordained minister takes a vacation to an ancient castle in Transylvania, looking for vampires…

Sounds like a weird joke, but it’s not!  From the beginning of this book, I was hooked, not only by Peter Laws’ sense of humor, but his ability to take us on a weird yet informative journey to some of the strangest and darkest aspects of humanity, while also giving the reader some reality checks on common horror tropes through actual scientific and psychological research.

Each chapter starts with Laws’ own experiences.  A much-anticipated “vacation” to Transylvania; wandering around back roads searching for the “werewolf of Hull;” exploring the cavernous basement of a supposed haunted hotel.  Laws introduces us to people who actually believe they are vampires, as well as those who have experienced other bizarre occurrences in the paranormal realm.

Perhaps the most disturbing chapter, not only for me but also the author, involved real life horror in the form of serial killers and those who collect “murder memorabilia.”  Laws visited a shop that not only specializes in the macabre, but their best-selling items are related to serial killers (locks of hair from Charles Manson?  Artwork by Richard Ramirez?  Aileen Wournos’s last TV Guide from her cell on Death Row?  If they don’t have it, there are plenty of places out there that do!).  It’s true, the truth really is stranger, and scarier, than fiction.

One of my favorite chapters involved children and horror.  Why are young kids drawn to the scary?  I know from my childhood, the first movie to totally scare the crap out of me was Child of Glass, shown on The Wonderful World of Disney no less!  Even though this show scared me every time I saw it (from age 5 to around age 10), I always looked forward to seeing it show up around Halloween.  Why?  After reading this chapter, maybe I’m not so weird after all!

Laws’ personal experiences, his humor and inquisitiveness,  mixed with historical references and scientific theories makes for an engaging book.  If you’re looking for a Halloween read that’s not only a bit creepy but also fun and fascinating, be sure to give this book a try!

Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, and Happy Reading!




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