I don’t always read non-fiction but, apparently, when I do, it’s about ghosts.
“A Haunted Love Story is two tales in one: a modern family’s attempt to embrace their strange, spirit-inhabited home and a vintage love affair kept secret for six decades. When Mark Spencer bought the beautiful old Allen House in Monticello, Arkansas, he knew that it was famously haunted. According to ghost lore, the troubled spirit of Ladell Allen, who mysteriously committed suicide in the master bedroom in 1948, still roamed the historic mansion. Yet Mark remained skeptical – until he and his family began witnessing faceless phantoms, a doppelganger spirit, and other paranormal phenomena. Ensuing ghost investigations offered convincing evidence that six spirits, including Ladell, inhabited their home. But the most shocking event occurred the day Mark followed a strange urge to explore the attic and found, crammed under a floorboard, secret love letters that touchingly depict Ladell Allen’s forbidden, heart-searing romance-and shed light on her tragic end.”
The book starts when Spencer and his wife, Rebecca (who, I have to admit, came across as quite stubborn and not entirely likeable though maybe that was just a consequence of his writing style; I’m sure she’s a pleasant person in real life), purchased the house and ends with Spencer’s (mostly extrapolated) explanation of why Ladell Allen committed suicide.
The best parts were his descriptions of how it felt to interact with ghosts: the ghost who took on the form of Spencer’s own son, making him think little Jacob was standing silently in the downstairs hallway when he was really watching TV in the upstairs bedroom; the murmurings and different voices that the “ghost hunters” recorded during their investigations (my favourite anecdote: when the lights mysteriously go out one night, an investigator wonders aloud if it was a faulty transformer and a voice is recorded whispering “Not a transformer”…). All those details were creepy yet thrilling and often induced a shiver or two. A part of me wishes that the book had included any of the photos mentioned (Ladell as a child, the face in the attic window, etc), while the other part of me – the part that likes being able to sleep at night -is forever grateful that those were excluded.
Dr. Spencer is a professor and is probably used to writing academic papers but he does a good job writing in a more narrative style – some parts of the book read like regular fiction. But he occasionally shifted into a more academic voice which was a little jarring. I also felt it could have used a bit more editing, but that’s probably because my brain is still in copyediting-mode.
All in all, it was a fascinating read. It was a little slow to start with, but I guess, in a case like this, you can’t really jump right into the story without setting it up first. Plus it had all the elements of a good story – love affairs, tragedies, ghosts – and it’s all (allegedly) true.