Travis, Elsie, and Josh, college kids with a ghost-hunting habit, scour New England for the most interesting haunted locales. Their journey eventually leads them to Slattery Falls, a small Massachusetts town living in the shadow of the Weeks House. The former home of the town’s most sinister and feared resident sits empty. At least that’s what the citizens say. It’s all in good fun. But after navigating the strange home, they find the residents couldn’t be more wrong. And now the roles are reversed. The hunters have become the hunted. Something evil refuses to release its grip, forcing the trio into one last adventure.
The best subgenre of ghost story is the ghost hunter story. You no longer have to buy or inherit a haunted house from a creepy person who cannot get away from there fast enough. With a ghost hunter story, you dip into a house or building, collect evidence, and leave. This modern way to get paranormal activity also turns into a great deal of changes in story structure. Libraries and priests are no longer needed when you can get all of the information you need off of the internet. There are enough people who write about historic buildings and events, some of it true, some of it built on rumors and town lore. All of it is used for history on the event that is about to take place. The ghost hunter story is the more modern version of The Amityville Horror or Haunted, and with this comes the fact that some of the stories will be better than others.
Slattery Falls is a short ghost hunter story that spans over ten years. The hunts are started by Travis, the narrator, and his friend Josh, whom he met in college and bonded over Josh’s love for haunted locations. The first hunt is of the Hale House, just the two of them. They see some weird things in the basement and it stops them from hunting again for a while. Josh then finds a new place, The Benson House, and the two guys have an interloper, Josh’s cousin, Elsie. The three of them have some very dangerous paranormal things happen on the Benson House haunt, so they stop for years. This is the first 50 pages of a 134 page book. Slattery Falls moves fast, and there is not any wasted time. The second half of this book happens ten years after the Benson House events because they all give it up afterward. When Josh finds some information about the Weeks House that ties it into the events that happened in the Benson house, there is no choice but to go on one more hunt.
I enjoyed this book in a way that this is a rainy afternoon, one sitting read. So many different things happen that it does not get bogged down with repetitive action. The Weeks House exploration turns into a dark and dangerous haunt, and the anxiety that the characters are feeling really translates in the writing. I cannot help but think of the house in House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, which is a rare comparison for any book, but they both have the feeling of exploration and danger. Slattery Falls is a good novella, and a good example of how to write an effective, if not uneven, ghost hunter story.