From real haunted spaces to magic spells you can cast at home, these three new books offer plenty of spine-tingling spookiness.
THROUGH THE GLASS
It’s a given in many a fairy tale and myth: There’s more to a mirror than meets the eye. Mickie Mueller explores the legends and the lore the glass has inspired over the centuries in The Witch’s Mirror. An expert on natural and fairy magic, Mueller delivers a crash course in wizardry via this little volume, providing background on what makes a magic mirror tick while urging readers to tap into the power that lies behind its silvered facade. Would-be witches will find instructions on how to prepare their own magic mirrors, along with a wide range of incantations involving the glass (who can pass up the “You Are Beautiful Spell”?). Mueller also provides advice on using mirrors for meditation and astral travel. Filled with insights from practicing witches, this handbook of enchantment is an October treat.
It’s hard to imagine a better-qualified chronicler of America’s paranormal past than historian Colin Dickey, who came of age not far from our nation’s most haunted abode, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. A longtime connoisseur of the macabre—he was once director of Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum—Dickey takes readers on a spine-tingling tour of supernatural sites in Ghostland. From Portland, Oregon’s Cathedral Park, where a young woman was brutally murdered in 1949, to Shiloh, Tennessee’s infamous Civil War battleground, Dickey explores the hotels and homes, bars and brothels, asylums and—yes—cemeteries that have hosted all manner of eerie activity over the centuries. Along the way, he addresses larger questions about how the living deal with the possible presence of the dead. Pursuing ghosts from coast to coast, Dickey delivers a truly creepy travelogue that’s a must-have for Halloween.
Marc Hartzman resurrects a disquieting bit of British history in The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell. A political heavyweight who helped orchestrate the downfall of King Charles I, Cromwell was interred in Westminster Abbey in 1658. King Charles II, seeking revenge for his father, dug the statesman up, cut off his head and placed it on a post at Westminster Hall, where it remained for two decades, until—liberated by the forces of nature—it began a protracted postmortem journey, passing through the hands of curio collectors and museum owners. In his deliciously twisted book, Hartzman tracks the unhappy fate of Cromwell’s pate over the course of 300 years, and in a ghoulish turn of ventriloquism, he lets the head do the talking. From beginning to end, this startling yarn is recounted by Cromwell’s long-suffering skull, and it has quite a story to share. Unsettling, yes, but also irresistible.
This article was originally published in the October 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.