J.W. Ocker,
The New England Grimpendium
(Countryman Press, 2010)

I like odd things and unusual places. J.W. Ocker, the author of The New England Grimpendium, does too, as is evidenced by the obvious glee with which he wrote this book.

Ocker, who runs the website Odd Things I've Seen, has scoured the New England countryside to compile this, as he puts it, "guide to macabre and ghastly sites." And he's succeeded, ranging from murder sites to movie sets, monuments to monster haunts, as well as tombs and cemeteries, statues, museums, memorials and odd objects in eccentric collections.

Not a ghost tour as such -- and, after all, New England has already inspired a wealth of ghost-story collections -- this book seeks attractions for the horror enthusiast, the gothic junkie, the fan of anything "ick." Some of the connections to New England are a bit tenuous, granted, but Ocker's most basic requirement was there must be something for visitors to see at the sites he includes here.

It's an entertaining book that is fun to read and could easily inspire a road trip or two (or three, or four...) -- but the best part is the sheer joy with which Ocker infuses his work. You can tell the guy had a ball researching this book (which often involved dragging his pregnant wife along on harrowing adventures), and he imparts that excitement on every page. According to the back cover, Ocker covered 7,000 miles of New England roadways in the process, and it's worth every gallon of gas he expended along the way. There are 200 or so entries, broken down into five basic sections: "Horror Legends & Personalities," "Infamous Crimes, Killers, & Tragedies," "Horror Movie-Filming Locales," "Notable Cemeteries, Gravestones, & Other Memento Mori" and "Classic Monsters."

Even if you never intend to set foot in New England, read this book for the entertainment value alone. If you're just a little more adventerous, plan a trip around a dozen or so of Ocker's best entries -- I can almost guarantee it will be a trip to remember.

book review by
Tom Knapp

1 December 2012

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new