Book Reviews

Book Review: Paranormal Realities by Keith Johnson – Bad For Sales of Ouija Boards

For anyone who’s watched the television show Ghost Hunters, the name Keith Johnson will be familiar to them.  He was on the show during the early seasons.  I liked him a lot and often wondered why he (and some others) were no longer a part of the show.

Keith answers that question in his book Paranormal Realities, but it’s really a small part of the book.  It’s mostly an autobiography of sorts about how he came into the field of paranormal investigation and specifically came to be known as a demonologist.

Paranormal Realities covers it all, from his experiences as a child all the way through the television show and beyond.  Keith Johnson selected a variety of experiences to highlight his life and what drew him into the field, even as it seemed that his affinity for the paranormal caused both him and his brother (also a paranormal investigator) to be regarded as strange by those around them, particularly in high school.  But then, just about everyone who has anything unique and special about them finds this to be the case.

Keith’s experiences within the paranormal and particularly the demonology realm aren’t sensationalized or overblown to make Paranormal Realities interesting.  The problems I had with the book were twofold but actually would have been resolved with a better editor.

One is grammar and spelling mistakes.  They aren’t prevalent throughout the book, but when they were present, it stopped me short while reading.  In one case he uses the word “board” when he meant “bored” or “waist” instead of “waste”.   In another spot, a sentence abruptly ended.

The other issue is that the book seems to waver between wanting to be a complete narrative of events right down to every last detail including hairstyles and eye color to be a summary of the events that took place.  The going back and forth made the pace seem off and at times it felt like parts that might have been important to the re-telling of events were glossed over while more attention was given to these details.

I also didn’t care for how in a couple of instances he set up the situations by creating a narrative of what was happening in the home before he was called in.  It just felt more like I was reading fiction, and that’s not what I wanted.  I think there were gaps in the story as well, so perhaps fewer descriptions and a more succinct retelling of events important to his credibility in the field of paranormal research and demonology would help.  For instance, there are no details about how he came to be able to perform religious cleansings in the eyes of the Catholic church.

That’s not to say the stories themselves aren’t good – they are.  In particular, when the story at hand involves Keith’s specialty in demonology Paranormal Realities can be quite interesting.  There was the case of a young Hispanic man who seemed to be possessed and Keith’s experience with the family in a different sort of “exorcism”.  There are a few cases that will be familiar to fans of Ghost Hunters and I was curious to see if Keith’s perspective on them differed from what viewers saw on television or what Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes wrote about in their book.  I have to say there is a great deal of respect in Keith’s book for everyone he encounters, so if you’re looking for a tell-all from a former TAPS member, you’ll be disappointed.

I did like reading much of the information Keith details about demonology itself, including how a religious cleansing is done of a location.  I found these parts along with the advice he gives to be very informative and interesting.  The bottom line with any books about the paranormal field is how credible the person behind the pen comes off and Keith Johnson seems quite credible, not resorting to sensationalizing stories for effect or making them more dramatic.  None of my criticisms are meant to take anything away from the man himself – I think he does excellent work.

I did enjoy Paranormal Realities, despite its shortcomings.  It’s nice to see reasonable people able to discuss the subject and not be labeled as fakes.  Changing styles and proofreading problems aside, it’s a good read for anyone interested in the field, particularly the subject of demonology which seems to be sensationalized for the most part.

5 replies »

  1. You are far more forgiving than I am when it comes to books that have writing issues.

    I can understand typos. An author can be a good writer, have an even better editor, and yet, a typo or two will appear, even in a book published by an established mainstream company. (As a matter of fact, today I found one in one of the last books I bought while I was in Miami…published, no less, by Yale University Press.)

    The kind of mistakes and stylistic choices you mention in Johnson’s book, however, are dealbreakers. Even if non-fiction books about the paranormal were my thing (which I admit they’re not), I would have given up on “Paranormal Realities” and placed it in the recycling bin. If I’m going to spend over $10 on a book, it must be at least competently written, or else I’ll be irked at myself for wasting money I could have spent on a better book.

    Heck, I’m the kind of guy who, when I see a mistake on my blog, be it factual, stylistic, or a typo, I fix it. That’s one reason I don’t promote my first book, “Save Me the Aisle Seat.” I was in a rush to self-publish it while my mom was still around, and I did not exercise due diligence in doing revisions or fixing tiny typos that I should have fixed. It’s because I was a copy editor for so long when I was in college, or it’s because I prefer skillful writing to bad no matter what the genre is, but that’s how I roll.

    • I think this was likely self-published without benefit of a good editor. It’s a shame, because I do think the author knows what he’s doing when it comes to the paranormal, but not publishing a book. He needed a competent proofreader and I don’t think he knew enough to have that done before publishing.

      • A competent editor, or even a ghost-writer might have been a better way to go.

        One of the reasons I now do screenplays instead of novels or short stories is because I know I need a good editor to help me shape a story and pare down the unnecessary stuff. I could probably get by without an editor for a short story if I muster the self-discipline to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, but that’s tough for me. With a screenplay, once it’s in Juan and Adria’s hands, they can rejigger the story and dialogue because they’re pros who know what works and what doesn’t.

        If I had a hell of a lot more money, I would hire an editor for a more ambitious project. I get the feeling that the author of your book was not a trained writer to begin with; his mistakes that you point out hint at that possibility.

  2. Also, editors do more than proofreading. They also guide a writer, especially a first-time one, about how to shape the story, i.e., what plot points to keep, which to jettison, tonality, and other things that make a book work.

    That’s why Harper Lee’s first published novel was not “Go Set a Watchman,” even though that’s what she wrote first. The editor looked at the manuscript, found the parts that worked, and told the young author that the story would work better if the protagonist were a young girl in the 1930s rather than a young adult woman in her 20s and to focus on that. End result: she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” became (depending on one’s political preference) a cherished book about the tug of war between decency and prejudice, or a book to be banned because it’s “woke.” (For thee and me, I think it’s the former!)