Stalked in the Woods: True Stories – Stephen (Steph) Young, 2016.
I’m not going to mince words: this book was a sad disappointment.
Having recently moved to a home surrounded by tall, somewhat sinister woods, I was truly looking forward to creeping myself out with this book. Instead it left me irritable.
Stalked in the Woods reads like a leveled book for upper elementary school students. On the plus side (maybe?): There are no hard words for you to worry about.
On the minus side: You are stuck trying to parse your way through so much awkward phrasing and writing mistakes (thanks to crummy – if any – editing), that any potentially spooky content is lost in frustration. This is maddening, because there are a few stories that could have been chilling.
Mistakes abound: eccentric and random capitalization of nouns, wrong choices of homophones (their/they’re), inconsistent use of single and double quotation marks, problems with possessive apostrophes, and a bizarrely hyperbolic use of the ellipsis. You know, those three little periods trailing off to end a sentence in suspense… In this book, they are variably punctuated with sometimes three periods… or four periods…. sometimes there are five periods….. and on one occasion, eight periods…….. Yes, I counted them. It was making me crazy. There are misspellings. One story, for instance, takes place in the “Missouri Oxark’s [sic].” Double whammy, there.
Editing mistakes aside – and trust me, it is hard to put them aside – there is distracting weirdness going on with the typography. Extra spaces between words. Random switches in font size. Line breaks in the middle of sentences. Some text unaccountably appears in italics. Other text is underlined.
The book is divided into categories of stalkings, sort of. They’re not all stalkings. They don’t all take place in the woods. They vary from disappearing hikers, to a story about Oliver Cromwell selling his soul to the devil, to man pursued by a bogart in England. No, not the ghost of Humphrey. I think they meant a traditional “boggart.”
After a section on vanishings, which reads like blandly re-written newspaper articles, Young switches perspective and presents stories from people who have contacted her to share their experiences. This does not – or should not – excuse all the grammar and vocabulary errors. The onus is on Young to produce a professional publication that doesn’t feel cut-and-pasted from her in-box. Additionally, you can’t always easily delineate where Young’s voice comes into the contributor’s retelling. All of this tragically gets in the way of some potentially spooky content.
For well-written books of creepy true accounts, I highly recommend any of Jim Harold’s Campfire series which compiles tales from his podcast contributors. Or try True Ghosts, which contains stories originally published in issues of Fate Magazine. Leslie Rule’s Coast to Coast Ghosts or any of her other well-researched and haunting titles are wonderful. These are all chillingly satisfying reads. None of them will leave you cranky. Hmmpf.