By Joshua Gee
144 pp.; ISBN-13: 978-0439922555
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
With a ton of photos, interviews, trivia, and interactive opportunities, the Encyclopedia Horrifica is all but guaranteed to keep readers of all things frightful interested for hours. Promising "the terrifying TRUTH about vampires, ghosts, monsters, and more," it delivers. From real-life based characters like Dracula and werewolves to spirit phenomena and superstitions, the book is set up like a paranormal investigator’s file, including plenty of photographs, film stills, vintage-styled illustrations and artwork, and reproductions of letters, newspaper clippings, and other artifacts. Narrated with enthusiasm by the chief investigator Joshua Gee, it’s hard not to want to run out and join the nearest paranormal investigation group.
The Encyclopedia Horrifica gives readers background information on how paranormal investigations used to be conducted, compared with how most investigators work these days. The reader is also invited to vicariously spend the night with a couple of real life ghost hunters in a haunted house. There’s also a detailed breakdown of the numerous types of close encounters with aliens, kinds one through seven. The legend of the infamous Bell Witch is retold along with an interview with a psychic spy. No matter the topic, the author’s approach is authoritative and friendly, with an "I dare you to join me" style that’s fun and engaging, full of details.
For impatient readers, there’s a quick horrific checklist — want "mitten-biters," see pp. 90; for zombie schoolgirls, pp. 106 — along with the required "Turn back now!" warnings in the front of the book. Want to know how the body count matches up between Bela Lugosi’s "Dracula" versus Vlad the Impaler? How about an x-ray of the mermaid baby? The Encyclopedia Horrifica is full of weird and wonderful trivia, scary legends, and true stories.
The nice thing is that readers get plenty of chances to get involved, too. There’s a sheet of Zener cards (the ones with a star, circle, square, wavy lines, or cross on them, used in mind-reading experiments) to be photocopied, cut out, and used. There’s also a "hoax or haunting?" photo gallery where readers can test their own ghost-busting abilities.
Complemented by a detailed and lengthy index and list of related sources of more information, the book’s a terrific jumping off point for readers interested in the paranormal. Well laid-out pages present a large volume of information well, and plenty of creepy photos add drama, plus an ick factor that will be fun to show moms and squeamish baby sisters. (Seriously, don’t read this book while eating lunch — I almost lost mine when I turned the page to a photo of a reproduction of the Feejee Mermaid at the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT.) Most appropriate for mid- to upper elementary school aged kids, the book’s probably most likely to have strong appeal with boys, especially reluctant readers. It’s easy to jump in and out of the book, no need to read cover to cover.
And just when you think the book is over, there’s one last unsolved mystery — the author goes missing! Select pages of his notebook are reproduced on the book’s endpapers, giving readers a do-it-yourself chance to use the clues provided to solve the mystery (it’s no kiddie cakewalk — I’ve been looking at it for three days and am completely stumped). If forays into the unknown are your thing, you can’t go wrong with Encyclopedia Horrifica.