Major Thad Krasnesky,
Fright to the Point: Ghosts of West Point
(Schiffer, 2011)

Originally built in the 1700s as a fort, West Point has come to be known as the U.S. Army's most elite military school. It would be expected that West Point would have graduated some strong personalities, such as Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, World War II generals George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Captain George Armstrong Custer, whose name was immortalized at the battle of Little Bighorn. In addition, West Point has been involved with a host of interesting characters, both civilians as well as military personnel. But what is the likelihood that some of them never left? More likely than you might think.

In Fright to the Point, Ghosts of West Point, Major Thad Krasnesky brings us tales of a doomed train that is forevermore destined to make its final run again and again, sightings of the "not right" statue of Captain Custer moving about the grounds, and even an enchanted forest. But herein the book suffers from a few issues. The author reverts back to the "it is often said" formula, such as "many witnesses have described...." Who are the many? And "one cadet even stated...." What cadet? Is he a recent graduate? It becomes apparent that this collection of tales is pure folklore, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Although the history behind each tale appears to be very well researched and the delivery is excellent, it is hard to tell what is embellishment and pure speculation on the part of the author. He gives intricate details that could not possibly have been known. The specifics would be long lost and there is no way to verify what the subjects were up to. However, this is part of the author's exceptional talent for story-telling, and it is easy to see why a bit of embellishment would be necessary to bring to life some of the older tales.

Krasnesky ends his summary with the wish, "I hope that at least [the stories] entertained. Perhaps they allowed you for just a moment to indulge in the 'what if' inside all of us." In this respect, the book does not disappoint. These stories have the potential to be (and maybe have been) told around countless campfires, while the wind whistles in the trees. However, it must be kept in mind that these are legends that have been "told and retold," going back sometimes hundreds of years, not contemporary ghost stories.

If you enjoy a well-written, good old fashioned dose of legend and lore, you'll find it here. If you're looking for contemporary, verifiable ghost stories with eye-witnesses, look elsewhere.

(Please join me in offering a heart-felt salute and "thank you" to all of our troops, both living, dead and possibly somewhere in between, for keeping the United States the free nation that it is.)

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

12 May 2012

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