My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.

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Review: The Lost City of the Monkey God

Thriller writer Douglas Preston proves that truth is as exciting as fiction in his gripping memoir of a search for a fabled lost city.

The Lost City of the Monkey God—Douglas Preston, 2017. Rating: 4/5

In 2012, cinematographer Steve Elkins has the unconventional idea of using airborne LiDAR—Light Detection and Ranging—to hopefully pinpoint the location of Cuidad Blanca, the “White City” or “Lost City of the Monkey God” deep in the Honduran rainforest. Elkins’s gamble pays off: the LiDAR reveals evidence of man-made ruins, created by a previously unknown culture. Douglas Preston, in his capacity of journalist, is along for the preliminary LiDAR flights.

After years of battling red tape, in 2015 Elkins secures the blessing (and permits) from the Honduran president to mount a ground expedition. Elkins, along with his film crew, team of archaeologists and specialists, and Preston embark on a rugged trip into the dangerous, largely unexplored Mosquitia region of Honduras. A tough ex-SAS team with decades of jungle training goes along for protection—a necessity in a region where plants, animals, insects, and the weather can all be deadly, and that’s in addition to the human threats posed by drug cartels in neighboring cities. What the group discovers changes adds important new information to humankind’s historical understanding of indigenous peoples in the new world. Their discovery ignites academic controversy and seems to wake an ancient curse: multiple expedition members, including Preston, fall victim to a puzzling disease.

Preston, perhaps best known for collaborative novels with Lincoln Child, is also an acclaimed journalist, having contributed to both National Geographic and the New Yorker. His account of the search for Cuidad Blanca is narrative nonfiction at its best: fast-paced, terrifically exciting, and powerfully thought-provoking. Preston takes a deep dive into the history of the new world and the devastating effect of old world exploration. He explores contemporary technology, epidemiology, and Honduran politics. Readers get a dramatic first-hand account of natural wonders of the rainforest, like a near encounter with the terrifying fer-de-lance, one of the world’s most venomous snakes. Preston seamlessly weaves these many threads into what is both a thrilling adventure and a sobering reflection on the effects of anthropogenic activities worldwide.

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Review: The Haunted House Diaries

The Haunted House Diaries: The True Story of a Quiet Connecticut Town in the Center of a Paranormal Mystery. William J. Hall, 2015.

The first 173 pages of this book are absolutely riveting.  We are treated to perhaps the most well-documented, pervasive haunting across time of a 1793 New England home: The Fillie home in Litchfield, CT.

Starting in 1966 when she was sixteen years old, Donna Fillie recorded her observations of strange and paranormal events in her home on any scrap of paper she could find: from the backs of envelopes, to her kids’ school papers.  She continued her documentation all the way through the winter of 2015.

Fillie’s verbatim notes are straightforward, honest and intelligent.  She and her family take experiences in stride that would send others scrambling for a new home.

For instance, the Fillies have witnessed strange, elongated figures; jewelry gone missing and returned in different places; orbs; toys moving on their own; clocks that shouldn’t work ticking away; weirdly shaped creatures; voices laughing, groaning, and even talking; footsteps following family members throughout the house; even UFOs.  Fillie emphasizes that the family is not afraid, but desperately looking for answers.

Fillie’s integrity shines through her writing, as does her frustration with all the bizarre events taking place around her family.  She simply wants to know.  What does it all mean?  If spirits or entities can do all these things – from levitating glassware to raining money – why can’t they communicate more clearly?

It is the latter part of the book that is a letdown.  It struggles with organization and almost undermines Fillie’s heartfelt and carefully documented account.

Author William J. Hall, a performing magician and paranormal investigator, begins by cautioning us to be aware of our preconceived beliefs regarding paranormal.  How we interpret things is dependent on our life context and our own belief systems.  Yet Hall himself offers some potentially controversial beliefs from his own perspective as givens for us.  The existence of a multiverse. Possessions, and extending that, evil, are in the eye of the human-centered beholder and “can always dispelled without the use of any religion.”

We are then offered opinions on select elements of the hauntings in Fillie’s diary by two experts in the field, Paul Eno and Shane Sirios.  If you have not heard of them before reading this book, you are not given much of a background introduction to their work here.  Eno is known for his radio show, Behind the Paranormal, and Sirois is the founder of  According to Hall, Sirios’ near-death experience has made him sensitive to otherworldly things and he has a 100% success rate “resolving” paranormal problems and parasites for people without using religion.

The investigation section covers a scant sixteen pages and is mostly impressions of things that Sirios senses in and around the home, such as someone running outside, a sensation of non-human entities, the perception of a protecting entity Native American spirit in backyard, and the feeling that the land is a portal to the multiverse.

It seems this investigation has taken place across multiple visits to the home, but the reader doesn’t get a good sense of its chronology or how it took place.  What methods were followed, what experiments were tried, what evidence was accumulated?  There are a few photographs, and references to EVP recording data that seems to validate the presence of a “Harry” who might have originally helped build the house.  But after reading Fillie’s methodical documentation, the investigation and analysis part of the book seems like a hodgepodge.

What begins as a fascinating account of one family’s dissolves into a mixed bag of opinions and snippets of investigation.  The Haunted House Diaries is definitely worth reading for the first half, and is frustratingly interesting for the second.