Check It Out: Get in the zone with scary tales of haunts and the supernatural




Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

For example, visiting a place you’ve never been to before then suddenly feeling — with complete certainty — that this was not your first visit? And you can’t blame it on poor memory skills? (In case you’re wondering, this example may or may not have happened, and the person it happened to, ahem, may or may not be yours truly). But, if you know of what I speak, well, my friend, you may have inadvertently “enter[ed] another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind — an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

Cue the music: Doo-doo-Doo-doo, Doo-doo-Doo-doo.

Speaking of “The Twilight Zone,” the show’s creator, Rod Serling, bless his soul, certainly had a knack for storytelling. He could take an ordinary object — a stopwatch, for example — or a common activity — riding in an airplane — add one unexpected element and create a story so out of the ordinary that it was possible to watch the series and feel entertained and discomfited at the same time. I’ve just hinted at the two episodes which will forever haunt a small corner of my brain.

“A Kind of Stopwatch” reveals the highs and lows of owning a stopwatch that has the ability to freeze time (it’s mostly lows). The other episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” well, let’s just say you’ll think twice about choosing a window seat by the wing when you take your next flight. If you haven’t had the joy of experiencing these two unsettling episodes, be sure to go to the library and check out Season 5 of TTZ.

Because it’s October — a month for all things eerie, dearie — I have prepared a reading list full of specters, shadows and supernatural encounters. Brace yourself for tales of phantoms, haunted houses, cursed destinations and macabre events. One title — “The Smile Stealers” — may seem out of place, but it chills this librarian to the jawbone. Reading about the evolution of dentistry will set your teeth a-chattering as you stare in dismay at illustrations of early dental tools (a.k.a. instruments of torture). Let spirits bedevil me — just don’t put me in a time machine and send me back to a 19th century dentist. Hear me, H. G. Wells?

Here’s to spine-chilling reads (and the invention of laughing gas.) Brush, floss, rinse, repeat!

• “Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations,” by Olivier Le Carrer.

• “Chronicles of the Unexplained: True Stories of Haunted Houses, Bigfoot & Other Paranormal Encounters,” by Gary Gillespie.

• “Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places,” by Colin Dickey.

• “Haunted Washington: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Evergreen State,” by Charles A. Stansfield.

• “The Smile Stealers: The Fine + Foul Art of Dentistry,” by Richard Barnett.

• “Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries,” by Mark Leslie.

• “Trucker Ghost Stories: And Other True Tales of Haunted Highways, Weird Encounters, and Legends of the Road,” by Annie Wilder.