Unlike most who read this, I went in completely blind. I never listened to the podcasts before reading this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect other than the subject material. I saw previews for the Amazon Prime series and decided to buy the book on a whim when I saw it in the bookstore.
This subject matter is something that has always fascinated me, especially once I had experiences of my own with the unknown. I chew up material like this constantly, in the form of TV shows like A Haunting. Therefore, many of the stories within the book were familiar to me. The tale of Robert the Doll is one example of the stories found within its pages. Lore tends to capitalize on paranormal stories that have been told from dozens of other sources before. Even those who don’t read or watch paranormal documentaries have probably heard at least half of the accounts. While the material is still interesting, the lack of personal stories that were uncommon was a bit of a disappointment to me. However, that wasn’t something completely unexpected, nor did it spoil the read for me.
Since the paranormal and supernatural are sensitive topics that some people not only disagree with, it angers them, I appreciate it when the channel in which the tales are told remain neutral and allow the audience to form their own opinions. I don’t like it when the author or narrator gives their opinion or tries to explain the event. I’m more than capable of doing that myself. This was something Aaron Mahnke did throughout the book which drove me nuts. Look, I know that not everyone who claims to have a paranormal experience, actually experienced what they believed took place. I’m more than capable of looking into things myself and seeing possibilities the claims might be debunked. Mahnke’s explanations and attempts at debunking some of the claims were distracting and annoying.
Overall I found the book interesting and entertaining. Despite the lack of new content, there were a handful of fresh tales that I hadn’t known about before. If you like reading about true stories of the paranormal I would recommend this book, despite its flaws. Overall, I give it a 3.5/5.
We all know the saying, “Just because everyone believes it doesn’t make it true.” Most people understand this is truth intellectually. At the same time how many people believe things just because it is popular, or due to authority figures or intellectuals adhere to the same beliefs?
A common phrase I hear “studies say” is used to shut down conversations with supposed intellectual superiority. Someone may know of a study’s findings and suddenly they are armed with absolute knowledge. However, studies always have flaws. Sure, they are they are the best we got to gather information. Studies are useful tools, but they are based on averages and probabilities, not absolute truth. There are almost always exceptions. I have seen and heard countless discussions about what studies say such as “Liberals are more…” or “Conservatives are more…” which might be true based on what the sociologists discovered, but that hardly is supposed to be a justification for blanket statements.
It isn’t just studies that are abused to justify beliefs, so is science in general. Disclaimer, I am not anti-science. I really like it and appreciate it. I simply do not believe using the phrase “most scientists believe…” as evidence in and of itself. That is an appeal to authority fallacy. Show me the proof as to why scientists came to the conclusion they did, do not tell me what they believe. I want to know why.
These are two reasons I’ve seen large amounts of people believe something, and many times the data is warped to the point it becomes untrue. Ideology often gets in the way of facts. We certainly see that in the modern political sphere. Liberals are apt to criticize Conservatives and Conservatives do the same but neither side regularly critiques their own.
It is an easy trap to fall into. It is our duty to sift through truth, even if we must dig deeper. Truth is often masked in ideology and buzz words these days. The result is large crowds of people believing something just because others who think like them believe the same. We see things through the lens of ideology and emotion more often than we use facts. There is a cultural pressure to believe certain things right now, and those who disagree are branded with harsh labels at minimum. Once again, just because a large amount of people believe something, or pressure others to think the same way, doesn’t make it true. That pressure is transitioning to us creative writers. Our job as authors is not to pander, as I’ve said before. We must tell stories that people can learn and relate to, not become popular through forcing certain tropes.
Social pandering has gone over and beyond ridiculous. We must be careful what we say and to whom, and even the most benign thing shared can cause outrage. Why is that? Words are hurtful, there is no doubt about that, but why must we walk on the proverbial eggshells anymore?
Bullies exist, they always have and always will. It is a toxic part of humanity and a reality most people face sometime in their lives. However, that doesn’t seem to be why people are so hurt by words lately. It appears that large masses of people have thin skin and have an axe to grind against anyone who shares a different viewpoint or vocabulary.
Below is a screenshot of a reaction someone had to a tweet. Keep in mind my wife runs my Twitter account and was the one that posted this, not me, which is massively ironic. The not-too-subtle accusation of sexism. The point isn’t to vent because I’m offended. It is to point out just how thin-skinned, so many people of our culture are. Why is something so innocent as my wife and I celebrating our teamwork in need of criticism?
Our culture is growing ever more sensitive to the point where it finds problems where there are none. No matter how benign a statement, social media post, or thought is, someone is bound to get offended, but not just offended, that person may feel the need to “educate” you and put you in your place. Offended people now are the social bullies. Attempting to silence any voice that is different from their own in the name of “good.” How do we fight this? Call it out for what it is, bullying. Us writers need to keep writing our thoughts and what’s on our mind. Not cater or pander to anyone, no matter how loud and obnoxious their voice may be. The irony is that it is typically those who speak of tolerance and acceptance that are guilty of the very things they claim to hate. Perhaps this is a window into everyone’s psyche, we are often guilty of the things we hate the most. Therefore, before getting sanctimonious over silly things on social media, let us examine ourselves and see if we live up to our own standards. We all need this. Certainly, there is a time and place to speak up, and that is where wisdom and discernment comes in, both qualities though seem to be sorely lacking in our society.
We hear about open-mindedness a lot in our culture. It is often viewed as a good thing, a virtue even. Those who adhere to traditional values on the other hand are viewed as the antonym of open-minded, and the enemy of diversity. While that certainly can be true, open-mindedness, like everything else must be tempered.
Being open to ideas, experiences, and other people’s beliefs is a generally a good thing. In a society that is so divided, a little more of that would do wonders to bring about healing. Not all ideas are equal. Some view all religions, political beliefs, and philosophies to be the same. If only people would understand that, then there would be peace, right? Not exactly. Many belief systems are destructive, and because we are human, even the good and true ones often get warped.
A balance should be struck between the hardened skeptic and the hippy that believes anything goes. Listening to people is always important, but that doesn’t mean their ideas are valid, in fact they might be very toxic to society. How much toxicity have we allowed into our culture for the sake of being “open-minded?” That is a question the reader will have to answer for him or herself. I certainly do not have the answer, but with all the dystopian media I have consumed along with the insane ideas now peddled as truth, I cannot help but wonder if fiction is closer to reality than I had thought.
Humor can be difficult. There is such a wide range of humor and what people find to be funny, it is difficult to pin down a concrete set of rules to go by. While that is true, it is also true that there are things that more people will find funny than others. I believe the root of successful humor is reality. Something we find funny is usually an exaggeration of reality.
I recently wanted an episode of “The Last Man on Earth” a show which I felt has gone downhill since last year. However, the last episode my wife and I saw came across as no where near the realm of funny but down right absurd. Now I’m not going to give away spoilers or details, but it came across to us as 4th-6th grade humor. I’m sure the comedy displayed on the show appealed to someone out there. After all it is still airing new episodes. For me it was so wildly sophomoric that I thought it was dumb and the furthest thing from funny.
This had me thinking about humor. As authors we need to convey a range of literary elements, and humor is one of them. When it comes to comedy, sometimes creativity doesn’t reign supreme. Instead, how funny something is has to do with reliability. We see the world through the lens of experience. Of course, not all experiences are relatable, and thus where the differences in tastes lies. That is okay, but when “comedy” crosses the line into implausibility and absurdity, that is when it becomes immature.
This is why over-reliance on fart jokes for a movie geared towards adults is typically frowned upon. Farting can be funny, but adults don’t relate to the idea that every fart is funny like a child would. For us writers, we must keep this in mind when we include comedic scenes. Not all my find our attempts at humor funny, but we should at least aim for the situation to be as relatable as possible.