Monday, March 26, 2018

Book Review: Wild & Wonderful (and Paranormal) West Virginia

Title: Wild & Wonderful (and Paranormal) West Virginia
Author: Denver Michaels
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 18, 2017)
Amazon Ordering Information

I get giddy whenever I come across an interesting new book on West Virginia's paranormal history. Therefore, when I saw a review of Denver Michaels' Wild & Wonderful (and Paranormal) West Virginia, I decided to skip the wishlist and just go ahead and order my copy.  As an unexpected, yet VERY cool surprise, when I ordered my hard copy from Amazon, I was given a free ebook copy, as well!

Because of that free gift, I have managed to finish the book and prepare this book review before my print copy has even arrived.  Although it was packed with information, it was a quick and engaging read; I easily tore through it in an evening and was not disappointed!

Throughout ten chapters, Denver Michaels manages to cram in stories about ghosts, UFOs, various examples of West Virginia's creepy critters, and all manner of Fortean phenomenon in the Mountain State.  Hometown favorites such as Mothman, Sheepsquatch, and The Braxton County Monster are featured, but some lesser-known weirdness is included as well. Creatures such as 'Vegetable Man,' The Grafton Monster, and the Snarly Yow make an appearance within the pages of this book.

Trying to take on ALL of the strange stories from within West Virginia would be impossible to accomplish in just one book, but I think the author does a fine job with touching upon some of the more interesting cases. However, I had two slight problems---the first being the fact that the author is not from West Virginia. Now, that in and of itself is not a problem.  Michaels is actually from Virginia and has stated that he has lived within an hour of the West Virginia border his entire life. The problem is, there were several instances where he relies heavily on sightings and stories that take place in Virginia and nearby states, and then sort of mentions that similar things have been reported or easily could have been found in West Virginia. It was nice hearing about bordering states' creatures, as I feel that gives the whole phenomenon a much broader context, but I would personally like more examples from here.

Secondly, and this is probably biased---but I felt like the whole section on hauntings was really glossed over. Only a handful of popular locations, many of them pay-to-play sites, were mentioned, with not a whole lot of history, evidence, or even reports of activity to accompany them. Again, I completely understand that trying to include a comprehensive selection of haunted sites from West Virginia would be impossible in one book, but since ghosts and hauntings are my personal favorite aspect of the paranormal, I was a little disappointed.

However, there was one aspect of the book that I was REALLY pleased with seeing. The author tackles the intriguing question of WHY. Why is West Virginia such a hotbed of paranormal activity? Why do we seemingly have such a high number of ghosts, UFOs, creatures, and other strange phenomenon?  I won't give too much away, but students of West Virginia history and/or ghost lore are probably familiar with some of our Native American legends and the fact that West Virginia is a state born out of a bloody Civil War. Could our violent past and history of strange inhabitants be the cause of today's sightings?

Overall, this was a really good book. It was well-written and flowed nicely, giving a good cross-section of West Virginia weirdness. I'd definitely recommend a copy of Wild & Wonderful (and Paranormal) West Virginia to anyone who loves a good dose of the unexplained.

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