Pros: Most of these are new stories where some field research was done
Cons: Poorly written, most stories have no background and some lack credibility
The Schiffer Publishing company, along with the Canadian house, Lone Pine, is grabbing a niche for itself in the market by developing a substantial line of books on regional paranormal folklore. One of its latest entries is Haunts of San Jose. While Author David Lee's pursuit of finding some of the city's lesser known true ghost stories is admired, the actual writing is so poor that only someone with a hard core interest in phenomena in San Jose is going to appreciate it.
This trade paperback is divided into eight chapters, classifying the stories either by the section of the city, venue, or type of haunting. The chapters cover the east side, downtown, professional hospitality establishments, medical buildings, the Winchester House, schools, the west side, malevolent entities, the south side, and San Jose's neighboring towns. The main body of text is supported by acknowledgments, an introduction, conclusion, bibliography, and places & street index. There are also plenty of black & white photos to help illustrate the stories.
Among the stories documented are those of Valley Medical Center, where workers in the dietary department believe a supervisor, Susan, still oversees its daily routines despite having died several years ago. One heard the large walk-in refrigerator door being slammed when no one else was in the area. Others have heard a woman say something to them when no one else was around. One man saw Susan standing by the handwashing sink after her death.
Before Chuck E. Cheese took possession of its location on Tully Road, the building had housed a toy store and disco. During its first incarnation as King Norman's Toy Store, it is said a little girl fell from its third story floor and died. One of the pizzeria's employees said that he and a co-worker completely cleared one section of the dining room, only to turn around and find a table set for six.
At Clyde Arbuckle Elementary school, it is said people who pass by in the evening have seen the apparition of a boy who was murdered there in the late 70s, with a knife in his back.
It's actually quite impressive that Lee found so many stories in and around California's third biggest city. He overlooks a couple that are fairly well known, such as the White Lady who strolls down Alum Rock Road and the negative energy surrounding Milpitas's Marsh Road, but overall he put a lot effort into finding many true ghost stories that have had little or no publicly released documentation. Lee should also be applauded for putting together the first book on this subject to exclusively cover San Jose.
Where his work falls apart is in the actual writing. The stories are new, but little, if any, research has been done on most of them. A huge part of what makes good ghost folklore is determining the background of how the haunting arose. A few of Lee's stories are as short as a single sentence reporting a sighting by a lone witness who makes one wonder if the author is being jerked around. When a good journalist cites facts he is much more credible when he has three resources he can put on the record. Even the chapter devoted entirely to the Winchester House lacks the depth it warrants.
It is disturbing to see yet another author incorrectly retell the story at the Wyndham Hotel. The guest who committed suicide in room 538 in the late 70s was a woman. Lee also never specifies whether the haunting of the AMC Theatre at El Paseo de Saratoga is at its current building or the one that was demolished when that strip mall was completely rebuilt several years ago.
Lee's actual writing style is so poor readers could easily believe this 2008 book was self-published. He frequently refers to himself in stories that he had had no personal involvement at all. The sentence structure is little better than what can be found in an elementary school primer. He inserts the word ghost in his narrative like a baked potato that's being salted, not giving the reader any credit to figure out what is suggested by the sequence of events. In addition, it has some typos and spelling inconsistencies.
Schiffer obviously took this project seriously, though. What this book misses in copyediting, it made up for in other aspects of production. The cover is a loser, showing little to identify it with San Jose, but the interior layout is well done. This book has excellent binding. The signatures were printed on sturdy white stock and were actually sewn together before being glued to the spine. With the current trend of POD publishing, it's also impressive to see such care go into the actual construction of a book.
On the other hand, the writing of this collection of stories is so poor it loses its entertainment value for those whose interest is just casual. Haunts of San Jose is recommended only to readers who have a passion for true ghost stories of San Jose, California; otherwise, avoid it. Perhaps Schiffer will select better manuscripts in the future.
More California ghost folklore:
The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts (The Big Picture), by Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert
Ghost Hunter's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, by Jeff Dwyer
Ghost Stories of California's Gold Rush Country and Yosemite National Park, by Antonio R. Garcez
Ghost Hunting in Mother Lode Country, by Hilber H. Graf
San Francisco Ghosts, by Mark Lyon
Haunted Houses of California, by Antoinette May
California Ghost Notes, by Randall Reinstedt
Ghost Notes, by Randall Reinstedt
Ghost Stories of California, by Barbara Smith
Ghosts of San Francisco, by Kathryn Vercillo
Ghosts of California