By: Jamie Davis, with Samuel Queen
Published 2013 by Llewellyn Publishing
First off, let me say that I really thought the premise of this book was a great idea. Two friends with an interest in the paranormal travel the United States, investigating some of the country's most well known (and most haunted!) pay-to-play locations. And, as the title suggests, many of these types of institutions that allow for public ghost hunting are places such as asylums, prisons, and sanatoriums. Examples include Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Waverly Hills, Mansfield Reformatory, and St. Albans Sanatorium.
Each chapter covers a different location, with the main author giving a brief history of the location and the results of their investigative experience. Included is the information that is desperately needed for those planning an investigation of the location. This information ranges from the mundane, such as the nearest airports and where to eat nearby, but it also offers information that you rarely see in these types of travel guides. The authors graciously provide handy tips such as if the location has restrooms on site, safe room amenities, price, and whether or not the facility operates as a haunted house attraction during the Halloween season.
I personally have never been a huge fan of the pay-to-play locations, but I fully understand that there are many people who just want to have fun with ghost hunting, or try a low-pressure venue to get their feet wet before investing their time, money, and sanity into going "full-time" in the field. This book is a great resource for that purpose, and its a fairly fun read on top of that.
Unfortunately, I did have a few problems with the book that prevented me from giving it a higher rating than I normally would have. For starters, the book just wasn't super well-written. I know that seems a little nit-picky, but it felt choppy and amateurish in spots. Secondly, there were two locations thrown in that although the duo did investigate, completely deviate from what the book was allegedly about. One location was the Farrar School, which while does have a reputation, was a plain ol' school...it didn't house children who were physically or mentally ill or criminals--just normal kids. The other place was Yorktown Hospital in Texas. While it seemed to fit the theme a bit better, this location is actually not a classic pay-to-play location. The closing remarks clearly state that this location is not open to the public and the owners must be contacted directly for permission to investigate.
But, the aspect of the book that just had me gritting my teeth in frustration was the investigation style of the pair, especially the main author. As the book progresses, the constant theme of, "I'm not saying I'm an empath, but I'm an empath" was absolutely grating. For one who claims to approach the subject with skepticism, this chick sure got the crud scared out of her a lot...and put a lot of stock into perceived events.
And, once again, I do realize that the authors don't dedicate their lives to the field of paranormal research, and aside from having the means to jet set all over the country for public ghost hunts don't have much experience...but the dedication to the "flashlight trick" as gospel was beyond irritating. This method, which for those who aren't familiar with it, I'll post a link below, has been debunked numerous times, yet made up the largest part of these investigations. Each chapter made sure to include a lengthy transcribed interaction between the authors and the suspected entities, with the author jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and adding her own lil' commentary. The appendix even contains a list of questions to ask during this process!
Anyway, I know I was pretty hard on this one, but its not an awful book. It's not necessarily one I would recommend to seasoned investigators, but again, its a great resource for those looking for play-to-play action. I especially enjoyed the section of the appendix with additional tips on what you should and shouldn't do on public ghost hunts. There was some great information there that even though it may seem like common sense, isn't really something you necessarily think about, especially when you're excited and ready to get down to the hunt.
Here's the video from Colorado Para-Tech investigating the flashlight method: