Epeolatry Book Review: American Cryptic by Jim Towns
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Title: American Cryptic
Author: Jim Towns
Publisher: Anubis Press
Release Date: 18th April, 2020
Synopsis: AMERICAN CRYPTIC is an open-minded cynic’s take on the uncanny and sometimes frightening things which border our accepted reality. Through thirteen stories and essays, author and filmmaker Jim Towns examines several legends native to his own roots in Western Pennsylvania, and recalls some of his own unexplainable experiences as well. From legends of Native American giants buried under great earth mounds, to a haunted asylum, to a phantom trolley passenger, this work seeks not only to present the reader with new and fascinating supernatural tales, but also to deconstruct why our culture is so fascinated by their telling and re-telling.
AMERICAN CRYPTIC is an open-minded cynic’s take on the uncanny and sometimes frightening things that border our accepted reality. Through thirteen stories and essays, author and filmmaker Jim Towns examines several legends native to his own roots in Western Pennsylvania. He recalls unexplainable experiences as well. From folk tales of Native American giants buried under great earth mounds, to a haunted asylum, to a phantom trolley passenger, this work seeks not only to present the reader with new and fascinating supernatural tales, but also to deconstruct why our culture is so fascinated by their telling and re-telling.
With a focus on lore and the paranormal, Towns draws upon local legends or haunts occurring in various areas across the US where he has lived; the majority from Western Pennsylvania—an area steeped with the supernatural. He also portrays a secondhand account of weird tales he has been told.
The book is split into three sections—Ghost Stories, Boogymen, Uncanny Places—which works to categorize the stories. Most of the stories or essays are broken down into backstory and experience. The backstory provides context, history, and grounding for the personal encounter. Yet, I found that a few stories left me wanting more. For example, in the tale of ‘Indian Peter’, I would have liked there to be actual “boogyman” stories added after the history of ‘Indian Peter’ is explained in order to provide the terrifying context about this local legend. There are only a few sentences in the final paragraph that provide insight to the “boogyman” aspect.
Towns put a lot of time into researching the lore and legends within this book. Two essays where the research effort is heavily evident are the ‘Six-toes Man’ and ‘The Giants Under the Mound’. The author’s voice weaves suspense into the research and the personal experience. There is a solid flow between the two that exhibit the strength of Towns’ storytelling. ‘The Deer God Corpse’ is one story that showcases vivid details from Towns’ perspective along with the thoughts and feelings he had observed regarding what unfolded before him. There is a level of skepticism behind his thoughts, which is a nice balance to show that Towns scientifically assesses a situation before chalking it up to the paranormal. That attitude makes these types of stories more believable.
Overall, this book was a quick read. Although a few stories left me wanting more, Towns displayed his storytelling aptitude and brought to life the lesser known legends of the Western Pennsylvania area.
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Born with a love of scary stories and folklore, Amanda Headlee has spent her entire life crafting works of dark fiction. She has a fascination with the emotion of fear and believes it is the first emotion humans feel at the moment they are born. Most of her work focuses on horror associated with folklore as well as writing that would fall into the category of “cosmic horror” — the fear of humanity’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe.
By day Amanda is an Information Services Program Manager; by night she is a wandering wonderer. When she isn’t writing or working, she can be found logging insane miles on her bike or running the back country of Pennsylvania. She’s one of those crazy people who competes in long distance endurance races. She is inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Atwood, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joyce Carol Oates — all who write terrifying tales of their own.
Amanda keeps a blog of her writing, wondering, and wandering experiences at www.amandaheadlee.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.