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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book review: Rochester Haunts

I make no net income writing this blog, believe me (IRS, are you listening?). But I do get a perk or two, one of which is the occasional offer to review a book. As an avid reader, I find that hard to pass up, particularly if a book (1) sounds interesting and (2) has some relationship to this blog.
Rochester Haunts: A Ghost Hunter's Guide, from Schiffer Publishing, met both criteria. It's not pizza-related, but it has a Rochester connection, and it did intrigue me.
I'm no ghost hunter, or even ghost believer. (As I'm sure we'll hearing this summer, "I ain't afraid of no ghost!") But I do enjoy reading about local history, and allegedly haunted sites often involve historic sites and local landmarks. So this sounded interesting. And it was. It's a fun read, even if it doesn't quite have me believing in ghosts just yet.
According to the book blurb, author Dwayne Claud is "the director of Western New York Paranormal as well as a specialist in the field of Demonology." (I should probably mention here that Claud is not some kind of devil worshiper. He believes that God has called him to save people from demonic influences.)  Claud's website states that he grew up in Leicester, in Livingston County, so he's presumably got some familiarity with the Rochester area.
The book is divided into fifteen chapters, arranged thematically. For example, "'Rest' In Peace" covers local cemeteries, while "Praise the 'Spirit'" addresses local churches.
Many of the sites listed are no surprise, mostly because they're old, and because they've seen a lot of people come and go. In the case of cemeteries, I guess the people mostly come, don't go.
I don't start a lot of books by reading the index, but it makes a good starting point here. It covers the places and individuals mentioned in the book. Some I would have expected, like Mount Hope Cemetery and Frederick Douglass. Some I wouldn't necessarily have expected, but wasn't surprised to see, like the Main Street Armory, or what's left of the Rochester subway system. Some I'd never heard of at all, like the Stryker Road barn in Scottsville. Others were a complete surprise. The Greece Applebee's is haunted? Who knew?
Claud's approach varies from passing on rumors, of the "there are reports of ..." variety, to more detailed claims, many involving on-the-spot investigations by Western New York Paranormal.  He reaches few definitive conclusions, but it's fair to say he's not a skeptic.
Most readers of this book, though, are not going to be looking for somebody to punch holes in every ghost story that's ever come up around Rochester. And even as a skeptic myself, I liked reading about some local haunts, literally, that I will now see in a different light. Next time I visit the Reunion Inn on Culver Road, I may not attribute that sudden cold breeze to the air conditioner.

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