Tripping

By DANA KLETTER  |  June 21, 2006

Marcelo spends the first 100 pages on London and Paris, scenes of many ancient atrocities, before traveling to New World locales like Poe’s Baltimore. A great deal of attention is also lavished on the New England stomping grounds of H.P. Lovecraft, where the guide tries to exhume the author’s “extremely eldritch essence.”

The film section of the book is all about location, location, location. Marcelo charts a tour through Hollywood’s necropolises to visit the graves of horror greats — Lugosi, Karloff, Chaney, et al. Then it’s on to the settings for scream-fests like George Romero’s Dead films, the Chainsaw Massacre, and Amityville. In spite of its general silliness, and a preponderance of puns, Marcelo’s book is thorough and informative, packed with real data masquerading as a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

In the same vein, Andrea Lankford’s Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks (Santa Monica Press, 384 pages, $16.95) does for the natural world what Creepy Crawls does for the man-made, only it’s a lot scarier. Lankford is a veteran park ranger, and just as the reader is lulled into a false sense of security by her familiar don’t-feed-the-animals voice, she drops to a hushed whisper and starts talking about zombies in Yosemite.

There are apparently a million ways to die on American parkland, and if the rockslides don’t get you, then the sasquatch will. Lankford’s book has a strange split personality, switching from cheerful outdoorsy advice about safety and preparedness, park fees, and camping permits to tales of curses, ghosts, homicides, and disasters. Trail maps are carefully drawn with a key that indicates mileage and level of difficulty. There’s also a spooky rating system that uses heads to indicate the “fright factor,” from one (“Makes a seven-year-old giggle”) to four (“Gave me nightmares, and I’d rather not discuss them”). Suddenly there’s a new reason to dread those family camping trips.

The collection of stories in I Should Have Gone Home: Tripping Up Around the World (RDR Books, 226 pages, $17.95) might discourage vacationing entirely. Since 1994, eminent travel writers and hapless amateurs have submitted tales of travel woes ranging from the mundane to the vaguely uncomfortable to the truly alarming.

Of course some problems are unavoidable: hurricanes, flat tires, missed planes, new boyfriends who become puddles of fear on the floor of the rental car on day one of your romantic getaway. But then there’s the other stuff: “When I was stabbed during a robbery attempt on a visit to . . . an idyllic island off the Turkish coast, I thought my trip had bottomed out. I was wrong,” begins one anecdote.

Lastly, and perhaps the most misanthropic and travel-discouraging book in the world, is The Clumsiest People in Europe: Or, Mrs. Mortimer’s Bad-Tempered Guide to the Victorian World (Bloomsbury USA, 208 pages, $19.95). These travel pieces from the vicious and real-life bestselling Victorian children’s author were found in a New England barn by editor Todd Pruzan. Mrs. Mortimer’s slanderous descriptions include: the Spanish “are not only idle, they are very cruel;” the Belgians are “industrious, honest people,” but, “alas, they worship idols;” in Hungary “the poor swineherds know nothing and many of them are robbers;” and the Russians stop reckless coachmen from running them down in the street by warning them to “mind Siberia.”

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Related: Poetic license, The Paris Review Interview, Vol. 1 introduction by Philip Gourevitch, Theatrical progress, More more >
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