Friday, July 22, 2016

...Review of America's Most Haunted Hotels: Checking In with Uninvited Guests (October 8, 2016)...

“The house smelled musty and damp,

and a little sweet,

as if it were haunted by the ghosts
of long-dead cookies.”
~Neil Gaiman

In my post, ...ghostly vacation prep, and a new book... , I share that I’m not really a skeptic and I’m not really a believer in all things haunted and ghostly.

We’ve all walked into a space that doesn’t feel right or that explicitly feels creepy. I believe you when you say that you’ve felt something; I believe you when you say that you believe you’ve heard a voice when no one was around to produce one. It’s freaky and weird and the part of the supernatural experience I enjoy. I do not want you to whip out some device and start tracking its presence. Something about that feels wrong. This was someone’s loved one. Maybe I’ve buried too many friends; I don’t know but isn’t a gentle acknowledgement of the presence better than capturing it on some device?!? Again, probably just me.

Before I discuss Jamie Davis Whitmer’s forthcoming book, America's Most Haunted Hotels: Checking In with Uninvited Guests (October 8, 2016), I want to share where I found it. Sometimes when I’m standing in a bookstore, I quickly do a search on my mobile to read reviews. I don’t care if someone gives a book one star or five; I want to see what they have to say about it. Again and again I kept seeing these lines “I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley for a fair and honest review.” What the heck is NetGalley and can I join?!? Turns out I can.

“NetGalley is a service to promote titles to professional readers of influence. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to request, read and provide feedback about forthcoming titles. Your feedback and recommendations are essential to publishers and readers alike.”

I’ve been running an academic research/ book blog since 2007 that is all book recommendations. I like to read so naturally that part of my life has crept over into this blog. While I do not necessarily get to choose what I read on the other blog (and I am sent books by publishers and authors to read for free), I DO get to choose what I read for fun… and I’m always writing our my thoughts anyway so by joining NetGalley I now get the books that I select for free prior to publication. I’m already in love!

I figured that the books would not necessarily be to my taste. Nope, there are all kinds of books to select! I found America's Most Haunted Hotels: Checking In with Uninvited Guests right before my vacation. And what hotel does the book include? The Crescent Hotel! Yay! Last night I added a little ghost patch from Evil Supply Co. to a tote that I made a few years ago. This is going to be my book tote for all my required reading while I'm on the trip.


Journey into the mysterious world of haunted hotels, where uninvited guests roam the lavish halls, phantom sounds ring throughout the rooms, and chills run along the spine of anyone who dares to check in for a night.
Join Jamie Davis Whitmer, author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums, as she explores nine of the most haunted hotels across America. From the Myrtles Plantation in Louisana to the Palmer House in Minnesota, these hotels are discussed in stunning detail, covering everything from the building's history and legends to first-hand accounts of paranormal activity that happened there. You'll also find photos, travel information, and everything else you need to plan your own visit to these haunted locations.
Initially, I planned to read America's Most Haunted Hotels while I was in a haunted hotel. Then I realized that the author could mention something that I would want to see or do prior to the visit. I just finished the book this morning.  

She covers:
The Myrtles Plantation
The  Queen Mary
The Copper Queen
The Kehoe House
1886 Crescent Hotel
Jerome Grand Hotel
Farnsworth House Inn
Lemp Mansion
The Stanley Hotel
The Palmer House

From the start, I did not care for the book. How’s that for honest. I think I was a bit put off. She begins the very first chapter by writing, “New Orleans is the only place I have ever visited and actively felt evil or dark energy”… but wait, then she slams Las Vegas?!? Let me just put it out there (you can search my blog keyword New Orleans), I have only felt light and love from that city. It’s the home I’ve never lived in, and when some folks this time of year ache for the beach, my heart yearns to return to that city. And, the first chapter isn’t even about New Orleans but St. Francisville, which is 112 miles North above Baton Rouge

Even though the opening made me fussy, I kept reading knowing that the book would get better. And, it did.

What I enjoyed most was her research and tidbits on various cultures that helped reading a book about travel become engaging. For example, in the first section about The Myrtles Plantation she explains haint-blue paint that is often used as the color of porch ceilings derives from the Gullah culture. I already knew this because I’m Southern but these are the types of touches that make me feel connected.

I also really enjoyed the back stories of why each place is considered haunted. For example, I had read a bit of history about Norman Baker’s control of the Crescent hotel BUT the author went into great detail about Baker’s preferences for some odd colors of paint in the hotel (okay, I just realized this is the second paint reference but I promise you that isn’t her focus!) including purple. Apparently, Baker wore purple and had a purple car. I would find that awesome in general but Baker wasn’t a nice guy. She also add tips of where to find some of the eccentric touches that Baker made that have not yet been renovated since his time.  I plan to look for these while I’m there; that along with paying attention to the carvings in the fireplaces. Her book includes an owl carving which is very cool.

Because the author and her husband were unable to do any paranormal investigations as they were able in her previous book, I found the inclusion of such details uninteresting. The introduction includes an explanation of why they were unable to control the environments (mostly because of cost) but if they could this is what they would have done, etc. That being said, if you read her last book and picked up this one assuming that you would receive details about various readings you could be disappointed.

Finally, I enjoyed her conclusion because it includes her reflection of what these haunted hotels have in come. I've read several books about haunted places but I've never seen an author make such succinct connections between the places. Not to give away any of her work but one connection that she did find was the similarity between the places with certain geology including limestone to have powerful natural charges.

I think the book is more interesting if you’re traveling to one of these locations (or if you’ve been in the past). Once I return from vacation, I will do some research on some of the hotels she mentions. I'm developing a course on Dark Tourism for the spring semester and will mention this book to my students as a possible resource for their projects. Some of them may have had experiences or have grown up near these hotels. It will make an interesting discussion for sure. 

2016 NetGalley Challenge


  1. My husband and I LOVE The Crescent Hotel. We spent the night there and I had the most wonderful and interesting time. The history is fascinating as you are learning. The tour was such fun, too. Have a safe and great trip.

    1. Awesome! My mom and I are really looking forward to it. We're scheduled for two tours (one of the hotel and one in town) and I bought my mom a ghost meter. She's very excited!

  2. Netgalley is great, I've forgotten my password, I need to reset it!

  3. Jerome Grand Hotel is the only one of these places I've ever visited and spent the Night in, uneventful from a Paranormal perspective during our visit, but Lovely stay and I'd definitely go again. Especially since Jerome is the Disneyland of Funky places. Your honest critique of the book's positive and negative attributes was a good review and I believe therefore Fair. So glad you were able to sign up for Netgalley. Since I'm not such an avid reader I usually appreciate honest critiques before I would buy a book. Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

    1. Thanks, Dawn! I'll have to check out Jerome. I haven't been there.