28 December 2007

There are weird things about Ohio, believe it or not

Weird Ohio
James A. Willis, Andrew Henderson, and Loren Coleman
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2005

Despite having hack writer and former Decaturian Troy Taylor at the helm, Weird Illinois--a companion to this volume--makes for great bathroom reading. The production values and colorful images more than compensate for Taylor's leaden prose and inane editorializing. I love this book so much that every time I visit my best friend's Chicago apartment, I make time to secrete myself away in the john and hunch over it. I got to wondering what I would think of the book if the writing were as good as the production, and so I decided to check out another book in the series to see.

Luckily, I picked an absolute winner with Haunted Ohio. The writing is great, and not just because I'm comparing it with Taylor's ham-fisted oeuvre. The three co-authors balance a love of a good scare story with a desire to know the available facts about any site they describe; it constantly amazed me how they could debunk a particular legend with one or two salient, documented facts without ever abandoning the joy of repeating the original legend."Who cares if it isn't exactly true?" they seem to suggest, "If you're reading a book of weird stories, you're probably into it more for the chill it send down your spine than for any empirically verifiable facts it may reveal." As mentioned before in the context of Haunted Illinois, the production values are superb, and the addition of stories supplied by readers and locals really capture something uniquely Midwestern about these weird people and places.

The sections of the book deal with various weird topics like local legends, ancient mysteries (e.g., the Serpent Mound), fabled people and places, unexplained phenomena (e.g., UFO sightings, Hangar 18, and the ever-popular pancakes from space!), bizarre beasts (including the Mothman), local heroes and villains, personalized properties, roadside distractions (like the Longaberger Basket HQ featured on the cover---it's the building shaped like the giant basket, complete with handles), haunted places, cemeteries, and abandoned buildings and roller coasters.

A very fun, entertaining, and even (gasp) informative book.

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