I’ll be honest. I wasn’t keen on giving Jim Harold’s Campfire: True Ghost Stories a read at first. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as Director of Paranormal Tourism for Haunt Jaunts, everyone has a ghost story. And everyone thinks theirs is the weirdest, spookiest, most interesting of all. Even I’m guilty of that.
I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. I like hearing true ghost stories. In fact, I never pass up the chance to be told a new one. But reading a collection of random ones? I don’t know how to explain it, but it didn’t seem all that appealing to me.
So I probably took a little longer getting to Jim Harold’s Campfire: True Ghost Stories than I should have. Once I finally got around to it, though, it was one of those books I was looking for opportunities to get back to.
Due to summer and the opening of the pool, I’ve had a couple of days with uninterrupted hours to just relax and read. I finished Jim Harold’s book pretty quick then.
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK
It’s basically what the title suggests: true ghost stories –and then some. Listeners of his paranormal podcast (Jim Harold’s Campfire, for which the book is named) sent in paranormal stories of all kinds from all over the world.
Harold separated them into five different sections:
- Ghost Stories
- Of Monsters and Aliens
- Tales of Dreams and Death
- Something out of This World
- Eating My Own Dogfood (Harold’s personal accounts)
BENEFITS OF THE BOOK
I don’t think Jim Harold realizes the importance of this book. It’s more than mere entertainment or curiosity. In his introduction he touched on one of the book’s benefits briefly:
Many listeners have told me that the program serves as a kind of paranormal support group. I give no psychological advice nor claim any experience in the field whatsoever, but I do think that it is therapeutic for experiencers to know that others from around the globe have also seen things they cannot explain by mere logic. Via this shared electronic campfire, we realize that we are not alone….
As I mentioned above, there are not only true ghost stories in his book, but paranormal stories of every variety: from UFOs and aliens, to other strange creatures and premonitions of future events. It really is comforting and helpful to know whatever kind of experience you may have had, someone else has likely experienced something similar. There’s power in knowing you’re not alone.
But from a paranormal research perspective, Jim Harold’s Campfire: True Ghost Stories is a fantastic source of documentation. Perhaps not from the perspective of specific locations. In some cases people gave details about specific places, but in most cases they didn’t.
That’s okay. I think the details they shared about their experiences in general are the real golden nuggets of information anyway.
For instance, many mentioned electric sensations when describing their ghost experiences. Now, most investigators use devices and gadgets to measure electrical charges. I realize this isn’t anything new.
But what if we could simulate the feeling someone had when they felt they were in the presence of something else and hone in on that frequency or what have you? Is that the range all ghosts manifest in or at? Could you create a device, or modify an existing one, to signal when that frequency starts to transmit? It might be something worth studying and trying.
Another common one was the heat or cold associated with an experience. I don’t recall people saying they “felt” the electric sensation first, then heat or cold. It’s not so much the two went together. But temperature played a part.
What causes that? I know many investigators try to detect such changes in an environment, but what actually physically has to happen to alter the air like that? Beyond measuring the temperature, is there a way to understand mini-atmospheric drops or rises like that? If we could, could we better understand how ghosts manipulate that and use it to either manifest themselves or try to communicate with us? Can we give them some sort of fuel to feed on to “nourish” them into being?
The stories within this book got me thinking about more than just how to evolve paranormal research. Below, I’ve listed story names with what it got me thinking about.
- “A Call From Grandpa” – The storyteller classified his experience with hearing a Direct Voice Phenomena when trying to conduct an EVP session as “minor.” Was it? What constitutes a major paranormal experience from a minor one?
- “Smoke” – The person sensed a presence but asked it not to show itself because she was afraid. This was another thing a lot of stories shared in common. People were actually okay with a spirit hanging around, as long as they didn’t see it. Why are people more afraid of seeing a ghost? Is it because we believe what we see, and seeing is the scariest thing of all?
- “Part II: Of Monsters and Aliens” – In his intro to this section, Harold wrote, “Most of us assume, whether it is the case or not, that [ghosts] represent those who have ‘crossed over.’ So, most people are a little more comfortable with them than, say, monsters or aliens.” I know for me this is true. Ghosts can’t physically hurt me. Monsters may eat me. Aliens may abduct me. Monsters and aliens pose more of a real physical threat…or do they? Is it like snakes and spiders? Are they more afraid of me than I am of them?
MY FAVORITE STORIES
- “A Light That Wasn’t Quite Right” – This one was about an alien abduction with a twist. The teller wasn’t the one being abducted, as is usually the case. Instead, he told of a time his mom was. He and his and sister saw a bright light, went to tell their mom, but they couldn’t find her. Their flat door was locked from the inside, the mom couldn’t have gotten out. It really tugged my heartstrings to think of this little five-year-old boy and his eight-year-old sister not knowing where there mom had suddenly vanished to. About two hours later, she was back –sitting exactly as they’d left her when they’d went to bed. She was surprised they were so excited to see her. She’d been there all along after all, she’d just sent them to bed. But she hadn’t. For her, time was still 11:30 p.m. not 1:40 a.m. She couldn’t account for the lost time.
- “The Thing In The Woods” – This one freaked me out. It was about a glowing light that formed into a shape. The boys who encountered it in the woods got away, but they heard about another guy who said when he saw it, it broke into shadows and attacked him and he ended up in the hospital. Reminded me of the movies The Darkest Hour combined with Vanishing on 7th Street.
- “Part III: Tales of Dreams and Death” – I loved this section probably best. All my life I’ve had super intense dreams. Some are prophetic, some are premonitory, some give me great stories ideas. I love reading about others who are similarly affected.
There was only one part I disagreed with: Harold’s pick for “Campfire’s Spookiest Story,” which was the one he ended the book with. I thought “Herman,” which was the Campfire Essay Contest Winner, was freakier. It sure left the hairs on my arms at attention!
I’m really glad I finally got around to reading this book. For me, it was more than just some true ghost stories. I was going to do a giveaway for it, but I’ve flagged, underlined, and in general abused the copy I was sent. It’s a keeper, one I’ll refer back to for sure.