Reader becomes judge of ‘Ghostly Evidence’ _lowres

'Ghostly Evidence' by Kelly Milner Halls

“Ghostly Evidence: Exploring the Paranormal” by Kelly Milner Halls. Millbrook, 2014. $20.95.

Do you know the definition of the word ghost? What is a shadow figure, a spirit orb or a ghostly mist? How about a residual image?

In “Ghostly Evidence,” Halls tells us the difference between these and many other paranormal phenomenons. She also relates tales of each. But are these things real or figments of our imagination?

Sometimes what we think are otherworldly presences can be logically explained.

“The strange light in your hallway that looked like a woman floating was really the headlight of a car driving by your house,” Halls writes.

Then again, those eerie sights, sounds or feelings cannot always be reasoned away. Does that make them real? Maybe. The author gives us the information and leaves it up to us to decide if we believe or not.

However, there is a section in the book titled “Supernatural Hoaxes” where Halls tells the stories of scam artists. After the Civil War and World War I, these swindlers convinced people they could communicate with the dead or photograph them. During times of so much death, there was a lot of money to be made from grieving folks.

One of these con artists even created a photograph with the “ghost” of Abraham Lincoln, standing behind his widow with his hands on her shoulders. But the most interesting part of this segment is about how famed magician Harry Houdini exposed so-called mediums and then wrote a book about them.

Louisiana haunts mentioned include The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville (of course) and the Mortuary Haunted House in New Orleans. Most of us know about the ghosts visitors are said to see at the Myrtles, but do you know about the Mortuary Haunted House?

Just one block off Canal Street sits a former mansion, turned mortuary, turned falling-down building, then haunted house/tourist attraction. There is much ghoulishness at this spooky destination, but is it all just an act?

One day, the manager was looking over photographs he’d taken of a tour. The first photo of the staircase was perfectly normal, but in the second picture of the same spot, the image of a little girl peeked around the staircase. The child was not a member of the cast and he could see right through her. Could this be a lingering spirit? More than twenty thousand bodies were embalmed there, maybe someone decided to stay.

Does Halls believe in ghosts? After four years of research, she has seen no proof. She still wonders about things that go bump in the night.

Kelly Milner Halls is the author of many nonfiction picture books. Her subjects include mummies, aliens, Sasquatch and albino animals. She is writing a series of animal adventure novels inspired by true stories for the same age group, 10 to 14.