Grave’s End – A True Ghost Story by Elaine Mercado (Book Review)
Plot: When Elaine Mercado and her first husband bought their home in Brooklyn, New York, in 1982, they had no idea that they and their young daughters were embarking on a thirteen year nightmare. From weird sounds and smells to creepy laughter, balls of light and suffocating dreams, this book is the true story of how one family tried to cope with living in a haunted house.
My Review: When it comes to movies, I don’t tend to read reviews before I go into it, unless the movie looks like it could be something stupid. When it comes to books I try to seek out generalized reviews on what the book is really about because when it comes to Horror novels there are tons of times when the description on the back of the book doesn’t give you any clue to what the real story is. Like in the case of the book Urban Gothic which I just finished.
When it came to Grave’s End, I read a couple of the first reviews on GoodReads, and they were mixed, but most weren’t good. I’ll get to those in a minute.
The book starts off with the author, her two children, and her husband, trying to buy and move into an occupied house. There’s a whole process to it where a elderly couple refuses to move out, so they continue to stay in their cold crappy apartment even though they’ve purchased the house. The author goes on to talk about her husbands “business” and their poor relationship. She mentions both repeatedly and never elaborates on just what his job is, or what their fights are about. And while its nobodies business what their arguments were she kept bringing them into the story it grew slightly frustrating to read them, but she explained away the “haunting” from time to time with the “bad energy” from their fights.
The book goes onto describe various things that happened to most of the people in the house and why they chose to stay at the house and never did a thing about the haunting. For the most part the author doesn’t believe in ghosts so chalks everything up to something else. She does eventually seem to come to terms with the fact that it is a haunting, but never out right says it until its over and done with 12 + years later, thanks to the help of a medium and psychic. I pretty much said “no shit Sherlock”.
What annoyed me the most about this book was the author never does anything other then repeatedly be afraid of her house and be scared (I would be scared too though). Why didn’t she attempt to do research on the house when she first started experiencing the activity? Why didn’t she just TALK with the neighbors without coming out and saying anything specific about ghosts? She was friends with them she says. Maybe its because it was in the mid 80s or something and things weren’t so out in the open about hauntings. I’m not sure. But I know I would have been talking to neighbors and visiting the library asap!
They experienced a lot of phenomena around the house. Balls of light, full apparitions, mist, sounds, laughing, voices, and suffocating “dreams“ (which she claims she was really awake for, so why call them dreams?!?). Two things that irritated me about the suffocating dreams is that she never once thinks perhaps it could be sleep apnea, or something medical. Yes, her daughter experiences it too, but who’s to say whatever it was wasn’t genetic? Later on her husband does feel the same thing, but that’s years down the line. The 2nd thing that pissed me off, is that she in the very beginning she mentions that the suffocating dreams are almost sexual (years later they get more sexual) and she knows they are happening to her YOUNG daughter, but she doesn’t hightail it out of there? Or go to someone and tell them what’s going on? I mean, ok, if you can deal with it yourself, but your kids? A lot of other reviewers had problems with her staying in the house for all sorts of “spooky” reasons, but I’d say this would be the #1 reason. You don’t keep your kids in danger. Then again, I lived in a haunted house from the time I was born, and while I never felt in “danger” we still lived there and dealt with it until I was 13.
When I’ve tried to tell people about my ghost experiences I find that the layout of the house is really important to visualize what happened most of the time. I find that true with most ghost stories I read. I’d love to know the layout of the house or place where the haunting was taking place. The author could have improved the book with a map and or some photographs of the house inside and out. I’ve seen other haunting books do this.
Some reviewers complained about the writing of this book. She’s by no means a professional writer, but I found nothing wrong with her writing style other then the fact that she is sometimes all over the place with the timeline of events. Sort of like “oh and I forgot this happened so I’ll tell it here”. There is no significant change of time in the book. Just one day they’ve been living there for 12 years.
She also seems to contradict things she brings up in other chapters. As I said above, at one point she says that her thighs and breast are being touched, but then later goes on to say that they turned sexual for the first time years later….at another point someone from outside her family says that some of the “light” ghosts followed her home, but then a chapter or so later she says she knows the ghosts won’t follow her or her daughters should they move because they never followed them to hotels on vacations. She also states in the beginning of the book that she’s having “suffocating dreams” but claims she’s awake, but she always calls them dreams or nightmares. She never goes on to talk about what actually happens in the “nightmares” or is it just that she’s being held down by some unseen force? She also mentions that she didn’t want to work the night shift anymore incase her daughters got sick…however they were pretty much adults at this point, not 2 year olds. Maybe she got confused with the timeline again, I’m not sure.
Some of the dialogue seemed really fake. It probably wasn’t the exact things that were said at the time, I’m sure the author couldn’t remember every little detail of every conversation. But it made some of the stories feel phony. For example there is a part in the book when for some reason the two sisters (one now roughly 20 years old) are asleep together, wakes up to use the bathroom and sees an obvious ghost on top of the other sister and proceeds to hide under the covers and sleep. . . To me this seems VERY odd. The whole incident is told the next morning at breakfast. Perhaps the author just didn’t know how to word it or something, but its sounded ridiculous to me. Not really the incident, but the fact the one sister didn’t do SOMETHING, scream for help, wake up the other sister…anything! The dialogue in this whole “scene” was terrible.
I also want to throw in that I find it odd that while they were kids they weren’t frightened by anything going on in the house, not at all really. There might have been one or two incidents where they seemed frightened, but for the most part it seemed like they didn‘t care. The one child that had the “suffocating dreams” only really seemed to complain of lack of sleep, and she was pissed when the house was cleansed. Odd.
I’m a believer in the supernatural and ghosts, and I’ve seen and heard some very unexplainable things in two different haunted homes I‘ve lived in. But even as a believer its always exciting, scary, and somewhat unbelievable to read other people’s accounts of what happened to them, because you aren’t there to witness it yourself. I think this is true for most “unusual” true stories people hear or read. One of the things I didn’t like about this book and found a hard time believing was that there was a “vortex” or “portal” in their house supposedly that the spirits could enter through. I’ve never believed in that sort of stuff. Even the author later states she doesn’t know if she buys it either.
Overall: I admit there were times I was spooked while reading this alone at night, and I had a hard time putting it down other then those times I was alone. But as the book went on I found it less spooky (even though the activity increased) and I found it easier to read at night. It isn’t the scariest book I’ve ever read, not even close, but it was an interesting true ghost story. I saw a lot of people who didn’t believe in ghost’s review & rate this badly, and all I can say, why are you reading it if you don’t like, or believe in ghosts?