August 17, 2008

Dark Woods

Dark Woods: Cults, Crime, and the Paranormal in the Freetown State Forest Dark Woods: Cults, Crime, and the Paranormal in the Freetown State Forest by Christopher Balzano

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

A volume of tales from the nearby Freetown forest. While one or two of the crimes was not familiar to me, this book will probably only interest someone who is completely unfamiliar with local stories or tales of ghosts.

It's full of weasel words (which makes some sense because many of the events described are impossible to believe) and elevates the dreams of some of its contributors to the same level as actual experiences they claim to have.

I gave this review an extra star because it promotes interest in the local area, and is written by a local author. Some people will be really bothered by the lack of editing (it contained many of the types of errors which are not found by spell checkers) but I have no trouble putting up with that if a story is marginally creepy.

But, really, when you're reading that some boys dreamed about a witch, is that really book-worthy? Who hasn't had strange dreams?

At least it was such an easy read I never felt the need to put it down. On the bright side, I'd never heard of Pukwudgies before, mystical troll-like creatures who are said to inhabit the forest from before the time the Native Americans thrived here. Also on the bright side, the book reads as though you're hearing these stories over a beer at the local tavern, with not much more investigative rigor.

I appreciated that, from time to time, the author admits you need to ignore all sorts of plausible explanations to believe some of the stories. I agree wholeheartedly. I would say this book might be good for budding local skeptics to cut their teeth on, examining just how vague a claim can be, and how wild writers can get with their suggestions that (to paraphrase) emotional energy can punch a hole from this universe into another.

I've heard so much of it before, if not specifically happening in Freetown and southeastern Massachusetts. Perhaps I should not expect much from a book on the paranormal. If that is the case, then neither should you; perhaps seek out a book from which you can expect more. I was mildly entertained, but you probably will not be unless you're quite gullible or easily spooked.

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Posted by James at August 17, 2008 6:13 PM
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Also, this book claims that zombies are not unusual in Massachusetts. Derek will be happy to hear that when he gets back to the US.

Posted by: James at August 17, 2008 6:27 PM

That might appeal to sometime reader Kitten Herder as well.

Posted by: briwei at August 18, 2008 12:43 PM

Pukwudgies! I was introduced to Pukwudgies as a child from the children's book, "The Good Giants and the Bad Pukwudgies" by Jean Fritz

Posted by: Sara at August 18, 2008 4:27 PM

I only heard about that book for the first time yesterday, via the MassCrossroads website:

I wish I'd seen that book when the kids were really young. Our trips through the Copicut Woods would have been more interesting if I'd told them we were on the lookout for pukwudgies. I've never taken them to the "heart" of the Freetown forest, though -- Profile Rock and "The Ledge" (aka. The Assonet Ledge)

So we'll have to do that. Despite them being the sites of known pukwudgie attacks. And zombie sightings.

I've seen deer in the woods. But never zombies. Nor pukwudgies.

Posted by: James at August 18, 2008 4:49 PM

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