The World’s Most Famous Ghosts by Daniel Cohen (Book Review)
Plot: In this collection of ghost stories the author investigates many famous ghosts from around the world. From the Legendary Man in Gray to the Horror of No. 50 Berkeley Square in London, Cohen provides colorful commentary on some of the scariest ghosts of all time, including President Lincoln as well!
My Review: I came across this book in my collection of books. It was from way back when I was in Jr. High. I didn’t have much of a memory about the stories in it so since it was a short read I figured I’d read it again.
The stories in this book are:
Lincoln’s Ghost: This is about Abraham Lincoln’s fascination with ghosts (séance‘s in the white house, dreams about his upcoming death, etc etc), his assassination, and him returning to haunt the white house and other locations, such as his gravesite. Reports state that past presidents even claimed to have seen Lincoln’s ghost at the white house.
The Bloody Tower: The tale of the Tower of London and how it was once used for many many executions, including that of two little princes that were quietly murdered most likely by King Richard III. It is said that the little princes haunt the tower, along with others who have been executed there, including Henry the VIII‘s beheaded wife, Anne Boleyn.
Ghost Ships: As the title suggests this chapter is about ghost ships. This is probably the shortest chapter and 2nd most boring one. They only cover really the Flying Dutchman and how when a boat sees it it brings misfortune to the crew. Other then that the chapter is pretty dull.
The Many Ghosts of Aaron Burr: I have to be honest, I had no idea who this guy was till the story told me. In my school we didn’t learn too much about certain times in history. This story centers on Aaron Burr who was once almost elected President of the United States in 1800, but instead became Vice President. Aaron got into a duel with another man and killed him. Its said that that man’s ghost haunts the place he was taken to after having been shot. Burr’s daughter’s ship was lost at sea and her spirit is said to wonder the beaches. Also talked about is Burr’s last wife and her ghost. I had zero interest in this story, which sucked because it was long, but didn’t really get into any “spooky” details.
The Berkeley Square “Horror”: This tells the tale of a haunted house (which looks like a big brick building connected to other big brick buildings and looks a little more like an apartment above a store). The story goes on to say that a man had moved into the house in the 1860’s. He asked a woman to marry him and she refused. From that time on he acted weirdly and from then on the house was deemed haunted by various ghosts. One a child, and another of a suicidal woman. There’s a story about a man who kept his insane disfigured brother locked up in one of the rooms, feeding him through a slot in the door. Another story is that there is no ghost, but really some tentacle creature living in the sewers. Not once does the chapter state any of the experiences that happened to make people think it was a “haunted”. Of course there is also a story about people being dared to spend the night there but in this tale the man died of fright. Who knows if its really true or not. At the time of publication of the book (1978) the place was turned into a bookstore with no new ghost stories. This was an interesting read, but again, no “evidence” as to what happened or why people find the place haunted.
Drury Lane Ghosts: Drury Lane is a famous old theater in London. Its haunted by the Man in Grey and they have refused to attempt to exorcise the place to remove the spirit. He in fact is considered a lucky spirit. The Man in Grey isn’t the only ghost that haunts the theater…
New Orleans Ghosts: This chapter talks about Marie Laveau, aka the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, and how it appeared as though she never aged. Some claim that there were actually TWO Marie Laveau’s and that perhaps the 2nd was the originals daughter. The story also explores the possibility that Marie never died, instead she turned herself into some sort of animal. The chapter also very briefly mentions another two ghosts.
Screaming Skulls: This is the tale of a skull thought to belong to a slave from Bettiscombe Manor in England. Before his death he requested that his body be returned to Africa, and it wasn’t. The skull now must be kept in a box in a drawer to hide its screams. There is a lot more history with the body, and different versions of the story are also mentioned in this chapter as well as tales of different screaming skulls.
California’s Ghost House: This is probably one of my favorite stories to read about. The Winchester Mansion in the Santa Clara Valley of California. It’s a house that was built by Sara Winchester, she married the heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune. She claimed that the spirit of her husband told her through a medium to build a house for the spirits of those killed by the rifles. She found a house and had it built onto 7 days a week for the rest of her long life – about 35 years. It’s no ordinary house though. There are over 160 different rooms. Rooms that lead nowhere, doors and staircases that lead nowhere. Windows opening to brick walls. 13 of every item you can think of throughout the house. Sara claimed the spirits told her how the house should look. Sara even slept in a different room nightly to hide from the ghosts. The house is now a huge tourist attraction. I hope one day to visit it.
The West Point Ghost: The story of a maid that haunted the superintendent’s house. Again, one that didn’t really interest me much.
This book is very much so for 8-13 year olds, probably more towards the older age group though. Most younger kids want a ghost story, not a history lesson.
One thing that was really annoying and got old very quickly was the fact that every word that might be unknown to a child is explained within the sentence.
Overall: It’s a VERY quick read 30-60 minutes (99 pages) depending on if you are a speed reader or an adult. I’m sure there are probably other books out there that go into more graphic detail about the haunting that are brought up in this book, but this one IS for children so I‘m sure they‘ve toned it down a lot. I’ve reread it now and gotten it out of my system, and see no reason for me to read it again, there just is no reread value to it. I can find better stories with better detailed experiences of ghosts and the supernatural.