The problem with second hand accounts of ghost stories is the fact they're second hand. A second problem, involving this story at least, involves the involuntary passage of time. That means the story is no longer valid these days, as the event about to be detailed was curtailed with human intervention.
I heard this story earlier this year from a friend of mine in whom I confided that, someday, I will gather all my necessary resources, hop in my preferred mode of transportation, and drive around hunting up the haunted spots of Arkansas that are both well known and those that are not.
My friend then proceeded to tell me a real life tale from nearly 12 years ago from when we were in high school. He heard this story a dozen years ago from a reliable source, heard the cautionary dare associated with it, and decided on one slow night to go take up the challenge and see the event for himself.
I realize this story, by the time you read it, will be third hand. To me it is second hand from a very reliable source who isn't known for confabulation. So take the leap of faith as I assure you the yarn I'm about to spin is from an accurate source.
Nearly a twelve years ago, in a small off the interstate town called Clarksville, there was an out of the way church that bordered a large concrete wall that ran alongside a nearby structure and, eventually, became part of it.
These structures were situated off a road that had the street name and the theorized numerical symbol of the devil: Six hundred and sixty six. (Why this address bordered a Christian church I cannot say.)
The account goes that, should you drive up to the wall at night, turn the car off and shine your headlights at the wall, after a certain amount of time, you'd get that tingling, mysterious feeling of something isn't right. You don't belong here.
That subtle feeling would grow slowly until demonic shadows were somehow cast upon the wall as if they were standing and moving about between the wall and the headlamps of your vehicle.
The associated dare with this happening was this: you can walk up next to the wall, but you can't touch the wall no matter how hard you try.
This is the story my friend was told and, on a particular slow night in our small hometown, he and the one who told him the story drove the nearly 70 miles or so down to Clarksville.
They sat in the vehicle, lights shining at the wall. The nervous, malevolent feeling appeared. The figures appeared on the wall.
My friend then opened the door, said "I'm going to touch that wall," and walked straight up to it. He reached out with all the abundant determination of a man intent on proving another man wrong...and was unable to touch the wall.
Imagine pushing on an invisible barrier as hard as you can with your palm flat on the transparent surface. Now push harder.
This is exactly what my friend did. He could not move his hand anymore beyond the few inches that kept his hand from the surface. If he'd been there in the daylight, you could not only touch the wall, you could lean against it. There's nothing to keep you from feeling the surface.
With his curiosity satisfied, and a dare unfulfilled, he came home.
Apparently, not too long after that, the story was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries," yet I must admit I have looked and could not find it referenced on their website.
After the story aired on the television nationwide, people kept coming to the wall at night. So many came, in fact, that the congestion was keeping the church from having its nightly rituals and matters were taken to take down the wall. The address was subsequently changed as well.
The story may still be told in Clarksville. Truth be told I'm not certain if it is or isn't anymore. I've only been there once in the last several years, and that was just a week ago.
But if it's a current, and active, haunting you want I suggest you tune in reruns of "Ghost Hunters," where they came to Eureka Springs and explored the Crescent Hotel. It was quite hilarious for me to see these boys from the East Coast who, when they crossed the state line, was amazed by the local scenery.
"Beautiful" was the word Jason used, I believe. He was also astounded, as most people are, that something that's as seemingly dreary as Arkansas can actually look quite remarkable and parts of it can be sophisticated.
Another active haunt is in Van Buren, at the King Opera House. I've considered calling up the TAPS team to investigate, and even more so now that a fire broke out on the upper levels. And, as those familiar with ghost stories know, renovations and repairs often stir up old memories and entities.
I read wiseguy's comment this morning and how he told me to keep pushing for an Igor movie, one way or the other.
Oddly enough, up until I read that I'd been having trouble writing the new query letter which is used for promotions. So with that encouragement, plus some of Maelstrom's older comments also on the subject (and a generous helping of Ricky Nelson's song "Garden Party") I present to you the letter which will most likely reprsent "The Life and Times of Igor" in its miniseries format.
If this doesn't take, we'll go back to making the standard movie. Something's gotta give somewhere.
Ready? Here we go...
B-Movie monsters, classic literary figures and the original "Frankenstein" story by Mary Shelley are delivered their comedic due in The Life and Times of Igor, a true monster mash mini series of the hunchback's and mad scientist's earlier days, how their dreams of scientific discovery could be realized, and what was it that brought them together.
Episode One: Origins finds our heroes as misunderstood children. Igor likes science, and isn't fond of the little league he's forced to play in, not to mention being bowled over by fastballs returning from the crack of the bat.
Young Victor, however, is the son of circus clowns that only want to make the world a happy place to live in, while Victor's one wish is to rule it with an iron fist. His parents remove him from elementary school and proceed to home school him in an attempt to fix him.
As the years quickly pass, Igor and Victor are now teens trapped in the middle of their turbulent worlds: Igor's dad hasn't squashed the desire for science out of him, but Victor is on the road to recovery as, it seems, as all he ever really needed was an audience to shower him with attention.
Igor's technical achievements are soon heard of, and he's recruited by the local Temple of Scienceology, where he's assigned the task of brain washer in the basement of the temple. Victor, however, soon becomes the unwanted love interest of the new bearded lady, Bertha, at his circus and after a night of attempted snuggling, Victor escapes with Dr. Nefarious bound for Evil Medical School
As Victor excels in his studies, Igor has fallen into an easy pattern of scrubbing brains in a vat. But graduation is upon Victor, and membership is being asked of Igor, and in an attempt to shake up their lives and careers, both embark on a trip to the circus to find inspiration and discover each other.
Episode Two: World's Apart takes the archetypes we've known for so long and tosses them out the window. Frankenstein has retained his circus training and requires spotlights while in the lab. Igor is simply loyal to his friend.
And on an electrically charged night, members of the Clean Environment Coalition arrive to arrest Frankenstein for dumping toxic waste in Salt Lake City. Frankenstein is arraigned in the trial of the century and Igor is left without a way to pay the bills.
Forced to find a new job while Victor rots in a maximum security prison, Igor resorts to walking the Wolfman, who is part Jack Russell terrier, and immediately fails at the position. Next up is the opportunity to conduct tours at the local museum, but curiosity gets the better of Igor and he reanimates an ancient Egyptian pharaoh and sets the Mummy loose on the world.
Victor's time in jail is no more successful, as he's forced to entertain the unruly prisoners while undergoing psychological evaluation from Dr. Jekyll, who has a secret identity or two with a scheme up their cerebral sleeve: one wants to utilize Victor's lab and knowledge for something truly evil, and the other has insidious dreams of its own: to tango.
Episode Three: Reunited finds Igor working up in Redmond, Washington, as a pencil pusher for a cybernetics company while Victor is making room for his new cellmate who looks suspiciously like Bertha the Bearded lady from his youth.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll's personalities have broken into Victor's lab, unintentionally awakened the monster, and set things in motion that require the mad scientist and his assistant's attention, or else something truly evil unlike anything young Victor ever dreamed of will be released from the confines of a man suffering from multiple personalities.
Special appearances are also made by Quasimodo, Igor's bell ringing cousin for whom he has a certain envy concerning Igor's large hump, Dracula who's undergoing shock treatment for a certain bloody addiction, plus a gelatinous Blob who sells transgenic biological gels door to door.
Pardon me while I riff off of Neil Diamond's classic hit, "Forever In Blue Jeans," but let's be honest: George Lucas' popularity talks, but it can't sing or dance, and it certainly doesn't walk.
I spent the last 15 minutes of this evening watching an episode of the Clone Wars on Cartoon Network. It is, again, further proof "Star Wars" is doomed.
I openly admitted I wanted to see the "Clone Wars" CGI movie, cause it actually looked good. But from what I've just witnessed, well, I'm having more than second thoughts on the matter.
I can get past the animation. The dialogue, somehow, has gotten worse. I thought we'd hit rock bottom with the battle droids in the prequels, but oh no! Hell no! It got worse! The main culprits? Those same stupid battle droids!
So, let's hope this disappears into the void forever.
And, if that wasn't mediocre enough, we've got the animated series of "Spaceballs," a classic comedy that made its jump to the small screen and, really, Mel Brooks should've known better.
In Mel I Trust, as always. But whoever was in charge of the scripts for that animated series needs to be strung up next to the creative talent behind "Clone Wars."
I guess every popular space opera that made its way to animation via the television is required to SUCK! Remember the Star Trek animated series? I do! Oh how painful that was. How the blood flowed from behind my eyes as they tried to jump from my skull and into the nearest squirrel's mouth.
Please, Lucas, this must end! Please Mel, don't try to be a hero! Making bad animation will kill you! Look at Roddenberry! He died! It may not have killed him, but let's not take any chances! You only have years at most left Mel!
This blog comes in two parts. The first is served with rum drinks and drooling drunks!
I'm still thinking about "The Life and Times of Igor." It's not on obsession, it's not much of a passion anymore, but it is more along the lines of I've come this far. I've used a lot of ink, paper, and put a lot of ideas into this to just let it die once and for all. Keep pushing forward.
No, this isn't optimism. Not really pessimism. Think of it as a scene in a movie, where the hero is trying to escape from jail. He's tried everything, and now he's resorted to just beating his head up against the bars in the window and they just happen to come loose, not to mention giving the guy a headache.
That's about how I feel.
So, to kill the pain, we've got rum drinks! (Personally, I don't drink though.)
Wiseguy stated he loved the idea of Igor as a stripper, singing "I'm Too Sexy." Originally that was a dream (or more appropriately) a nightmare sequence. Igor, dressed up as a policeman, dancing about while drunk, horny young women are screaming TAKE IT OFF!!!! while ripping off his clothes.
So, to keep my brain fresh, I thought "instead of making it a dream sequence, let's just actually have it happen. Igor can be drunk. That could be interesting."
Now what Igor would be like drunk I don't know yet. I intend to find out though.
The second part of this blog concerns the ghost loving maniacs out there, namely joeybaloney and LittleNell, among others, who have so far not spoken out.
I have sent a message to the Chief Maniac, saying, roughly, "hey Chief Maniac, someone should do this. I can, but even if you feel I can't, someone should."
Although I admit I'd like to do it. I can read, I can right...uh...white...uh...wait...(checking dictionary) oh it's WRITE! Silly me! I only do it as a career choice! I only spent the last several years shaking down criminally apathetic Hollywood agents, not to mention one comic book agent.
And I keep doing it! Keep swimming, or the sharks will come up and bite you in the ass!
Alright, everyone start singing!
Ahem, cough, cough!!!
OH MY LOVE! MY DARLING I'VE HUNGERED FOR YOUR TOUCH! A LONG, LONELY TIME! AND TIME GOES BY SO SLOWLY AND TIME CAN DO SO MUCH!
Well, that's enough of that.
With all due credit due to the Righteous Bros, I think my version sucks. (Long live blue eyed soul!)
Actually this wasn't meant to dive into that movie, nor the song it's so well associated with.
The original intention was to say "yo, mania, dig these crazy ghost stories."
We've got LittleNell hunting out haunted spots up North. We've got people trouncing "Most Haunted," and praised "Ghost Hunters."
And you've got one lunatic (me) off to the sides jumping up and down screaming "I could review the ghost books for you! Me! Me!" while acting like a complete and total fool.
(Side note: did you know that Marley from "A Christmas Carol" is said to carry chains for eternity, not to clank them, but due to a legendary specter that haunts rural British areas? It's called the Jack-In-Irons.)
I say there's an interest here at mania by certain maniacs who love ghost stories. Real ones.
I also say "I'm your man" when it comes to reading, reviewing, recommending or recycling said books.
Hey, if you can't count on a guy who just used that much alliteration of the top of his head in less than ten seconds, who could you count on?
Now where was I? Oh yes.
I NEED YOUR LOVE! I NEED YOUR LOVE! GOD SPEED YOUR LOVE TOOOOO MEEEE!!!!
LONELY RIVERS FLOW TO THE SEA! TO THE SEA! TO THE OPEN ARMS OF THE SEAAAA!!!!!!
I don't know about the rest of you, but for some reason I'm not too interested in "Smallville" anymore.
I own the first two seasons, and one book which I've never read. The book was two dollars and in good shape at the local second hand book shop.
All told, I've likely seen less than five first run episodes, and that was only made possible due to my DTV converter which I bought this past spring, and only then could watch the show when the local affiliate just started broadcasting The CW in the digital format with only three or four shows left in the season.
I bought Seasons 1 and 2 at the same time. I had a birthday, so my present to myself was this show I had no access to whatsoever other than the complete seasons available via Best Buy.
It wasn't like falling in love at first sight like, say, "Eureka" or a Joss Whedon offering. The first season of the young Clark Kent seemed a bit...well...it's like it wanted to be in the vein of the "X-Files," yet not as good.
It was also annoying, when I pieced together how old the characters were supposed to be. Hell I'm as old as Tom Welling, and it's not until Season 4 (which I have not seen) where he enters his senior year at high school. So that places him in 9th grade in the series premiere.
The only thing more ludicrous was how old he was supposed to be in Season 1.That walked hand in hand with Lana also being Clark's age, yet dating Whitney who, apparently, was a senior. How many seniors do you know who went around dating 9th graders in high school? Seriously?
So Seasons 3 through most of 7 have been unseen, and then I realized last week Season 8 was up and running. Curious to see what had transpired, I tuned in my digital signal and found what, apparently, is no longer worth of the title "Smallville." It looks more like "Lois And Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" from the 90's.
Not certain if that's an improvement or not. I will say Teri Hatcher made a FINE Lois Lane though.
About ten minutes ago I sat down to play another round of F-Zero, and one lap into Mute City III I looked over to the clock and saw another new episode of Smallville was on. And I actively ignored that fact.
Hell instead of turning on the television I came over here to complain about a show that was faulty from the start: all pretty boys, lovely girls, some often convoluted story ideas, and the fact that it's not really worth tuning in from week to week as I did earlier this spring.
Not that it was much better earlier this year. That whole 'It's A Wonderful Life" ripoff episode where Clark is forced to imagine a world without him was just filler of the worst kind. I wouldn't fertilize my garden with that manure.
So, who is with me? Isn't it about time they just slapped the tights on Tom and ended the series straight away?
PS - Yes, Stargirl is still on hold. I apologize to all those who have to wait while I sort out my various other projects and such here.
Hold on, I've had a thought: The CW makes shows with the bare minimum of substance, so long as it has pretty faces. I wonder...a Stargirl television show? Hmm...I may have to consider this.
I've talked about magick here before some, but I ought to mention exactly WHY I got involved in it, and what arena of it specifically.
Defensive magick, that was the key.
This house I live in, when it was being built a few years back, was the scene of some unusual happenings. I saw doors close of their own volition. I heard noises when I was alone in the house that I'd never heard before.
And, possibly most curious, the man commissioned with the task of putting a house here was also the one who had the most problems trying to get his cellular phone to work properly when all others around him would, not to mention the fact he had full signal and somehow had no connection at all.
I talked to him about it, comparing his cell usage to those who lived in the area, and found he had the same signal strength, the same provider, and was the only one who had any difficulties sending calls on this hill with its unobstructed view of the horizon all around me.
Magick had been, up until then, a somewhat taboo subject for me. The fact I didn't want to be living in a house with someone (or something) that could these few things, and possibly more, pushed my boundaries open.
I started by looking up, not magick spells, but simply defensive magic. I found one site that listed an assortment of herbs, their magickal use, the element they represented, and so on. At the bottom of that page was a source book from which this information was taken: "Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs." (A book I'm certain I've mentioned here before.)
So, instead of further printing out pages and pages (and always looking for an excuse to visit Books A Million) I headed South for town, made my way to the retail chain, sat down in front of the WitchcraftWiccaMagick section and started scanning the shelves.
I found Scott Cunningham's reference book, read the "Part I: The Basics," which dealt with the herbs themselves, how to use them, what not to do, and so on. He even gives a list of eleven points which he lists as "magical principles." Oddly enough, the second one follows the Wiccan golden rule: "so long as you harm no one, not even yourself, do what you will."
With that in mind, the book in my hand, and another confused young woman up at the checkout lane, I purchased the book. I put its listing to good use. That afternoon, while no one was on the property, I mixed up more than enough of the herbal concoction, spread it liberally across the perimeter of the house and out onto the surrounding area, and waited.
Night fell and the sun debuted on a crisp new morning. I watched the building contractor as he went about his work, and his ability to use his phone once more. Halfway through the day, when he wasn't busy, I approached him.
"How's your phone working today?
"It's good today. Don't know why."
And, in my usual habit of needing to be mysterious at times, I promptly replied "I took care of it," smiled and walked off.
He didn't question it, although I'm betting he was scratching his head for about a minute, then promptly forgot all about it cause he never mentioned problems with his phone again for the remainder of the build time.
You too can learn the properties (and practical uses) of magick. You'll also learn the things it's absolutely not to be used for. I limit my use to defense, but I should also mentioned I've had to use it a few times in various settings over the last few years as well.*
*(Two haunted houses, one much more so than the other. I still haven't completely cleaned that one out. It's a very determined, very unlikable presence in that particular house. I can weaken it, I can push it away temporarily, but it always seems able to maintain a hold on the house no matter what I do.)
It's powerful, it's reliable, it commands respect, it is not to be monkeyed around with, and it's kept the peace when circumstances were less than stable. It's not to be feared, but it's also not a toy.
This concludes this broadcast.
It's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, so I'm gonna keep on squeaking
I am mouse, now hear me squeak with delight as I point out books that look interesting and could benefit from a review or two (hint, hint.)
The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House by Steven LaChance
A very recent publication detailing LaChance's experiences in a Missouri household ripe with extreme paranormal circumstances. LaChance's story was featured in an episode of "A Haunting," and said experiences lead LaChance to form the Missouri Paranormal Research Society.
The Complete Idiot's Guide To 2012
This comes out next week, it seems. I love "Idiot's Guides." This one will be relevant for a few years still, but let's face it: there is more to the Mayan Prophecy than just the Mayans going on about it. A documentary that runs on the History Channel devotes itself to 2012 as more than just a Mayan phenomenon: the I-Ching, Merlin, the Mayans, and other cultures and techniques all seem to point to 2012 as the time it all goes to hell.
Personally, when it was just the Mayans saying it, I dismissed it. But with lots of people, from different times and places, all saying the same thing....well let's just say I won't be living along fault lines or near the coast.
Just in case.
The Complete Idiot's Guide To Alchemy
This came out a few months ago. I've never read anything about alchemy. It's a future read for me, seeing as how I'm gathering sources for what could become a great fantasy game.
Magic Words: A Dictionary by Craig Conley
Apparently, a dictionary of magical phrases used from cultures around the world. You'll likely find "abracadabra" in here. (I already know that meaning.) This comes out tomorrow, it seems.
Doubt you'll find petrificus totalus though.
Little Giant Encyclopedia: Runes
Hermione is always going on about how "ancient runes is a fascinating subject." I'd agree, thinking of it as a magical version of hieroglyphics. Available now.
Lore of the Ghost: The Origins of the Most Famous Ghost Stories Throughout the World by Brian Haugton.
I already know I need this one.
This uncovers the original stories behind the vanishing hitchhiker, the headless horseman, and so on.
FYI: There's a headless horseman specter down in Texas. I'd have to look it up again to tell you where exactly, though.
This book arrived 15 days ago. (And to think no one reviewed it.)
Ghosts, Apparitions and Poltergeists: An Exploration of the Supernatural through History by Brian Righi, who is a member of a ghost hunting group down in Texas.
Yes I know this is a sloppy assemblage of books. I can barely type this morning. But this wasn't meant to be professional, just to whet the interest of crazed ghost fans like me.
Someone should read these books and proclaim their value (or lack of).
UPDATE: It seems my resume, and sample materials from a previous opportunity that presented itself in the form of Hallmark Cards Creative Division is curious about me and my output.
Which is odd - I filled out that application LAST YEAR. I, apparently, need to resubmit my sample materials and that's it.
What a crazy world.
Before I delve into the main point of this blog, I want to again thank wiseguy for his comments on what he did and didn't like about "The Life and Times of Igor." The likes greatly outweighed the dislikes.
More thanks to NotAFan, Maelstrom, and anyone else I might be forgetting at this current moment in the Earth's rotation.
Also, I should also mention why my entries have, of late, been off my usual topics. Truth be told, the paranormal IS my topic, I just haven't blathered on about it here. I'm trying to convince Mania (with a certain amount of subtlety) that someone there needs to review books on the paranormal at least once a week, with one highlight during said week in the New AgeSupernaturalOccult field(s.)
I had that idea while playing F-Zero.
I use my somewhat ample video gaming selection these days as a form of meditation and relaxation. It sets my brain free, while XM's channel Audio Visions resonates in my skull and problems can be resolved. Ideas can be found. Inspiration can come knocking. It's really quite amazing.
So I'm sitting in front of my television, just making turns around corners, and the idea that Mania needs someone to review ghost books literally crept up on me and hit me over the head, in much the same way I knocked Jarrod senseless in our last game of Brockian Ultra Cricket.
Sylvia Browne calls that phenomenon "infused knowledge." Look it up in her book I reviewed in an earlier blog entry called "Phenomenon."
Since I, not only have the insatiable curiosity of the ghostly stuff, and I'm capable of reading, I thought I'd step up to the plate, offer the idea and myself as the ideal candidate. We'll see where it goes.
Back to Igor.
10 minutes ago I arrived home from my 1 mile walk I take everyday. It's another form of meditation. As I pound the gravel and dirt I'm working on the problem of what to do with Igor.
Wiseguy liked the big sequences that require interaction. He enjoyed the Wolfman being part Jack Russell Terrier. He loved Igor being forced to perform as a Chippendales dancer, singing "I'm Too Sexy," and such.
So I'm taking Igor out of the comic book business.
I will, however, consider these possibilities: a new revised version of the original movie, or a 3 hour mini-series.
I haven't decided which it should be, yet. Either way, lots of material will be shuffled around.
Oh, and I should mention the Stargirl project: she's on hold. I'm not throwing the idea away, I like it too much. But I can only focus on 1 creative project at a time. And Igor will need a lot of attention, especially if he becomes a 3 hour mini series.
And, if you enjoy the blogs on ghosts and related topics, don't be afraid to shout it out.
The old saying goes, "never judge a book by it's cover," and so the topic of this entry will seem counter intuitive. It's also necessary.
More on that in a minute.
October is fast approaching, and for the bookworms and shelf crawlers across America, you'll likely enter your local bookshop or library and encounter a display for that most wonderful paranormal time of the year: Halloween.
If you stop and stare at these displays, you'll have a buffet of both good and bad selections. Some may seem hokey. Some can be invaluable. It all depends on your taste.
Or does it?
I officially began exploring books on the supernatural in the Fall of 2001. Unofficially, I'd been sticking a toe into those waters off and on sporadically throughout my life. I remember one instance, while in elementary school, I was examining a book that detailed a gothic statute out in some unnamed cemetery with glowing red eyes.
A friend of mine said she knew what it was, why it was, and promptly went off to tell a few others the story of why its eyes glowed red, and associated lore. I, somehow, was left out. And for a while, the mysteries would remain such.
2001 comes along (no 911 wasn't responsible for my interest) and I purchased my first official book on ghosts: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings." I picked it out of an endless crop of books that looked weird, and I wouldn't dare go near the books on witchcraft. (Fear and ignorance, plain and simple, kept me from them.)
I read the Idiot's Guide. I waved it around in front of friends. I started watching John Edward on the Sci-Fi Channel. I read his books, since he seemed reliable. I started reading Sylvia Browne. I watched more programs on Discovery, Travel, and the History channels. I threw myself into this topic and subsequently got a better education outside of the college campus because of my rabid interest.
I read book after book, examined chapter after chapter and, I feel, became fluent enough to figure out what should be read, could be worth reading, and what to avoid. This brings us back to the point of you can judge a book by it's cover.
Here's a tip by trick way of doing it:
1. Know Your Author(s): This works well for the more established individuals, such as Sylvia Browne, John Edward, James van Praagh, Jeff Belanger, Rosemary Ellen Guilley, Dennis William Hauck, Hans Holzer, Scott Cunningham, and so on.
Holzer isn't exactly a favorite of mine, truth be told, but I will acknowledge the material he has brought to the field. If you like him, fine. If not, well that's fine too. If I had a way of rating Holzer, I'd say "borrow" his books. Not worth outright buying, but not worth burning either.
2. Know Your Publisher: I often encounter books published by Llewellyn Publications, located up in St. Paul, Minnesota. They tend to cover topics as Wicca, Paganism, magick in general, and so on. There are others, but Llewellyn stands out with prominence in my experience. I seriously doubt you could go wrong with them.
3. Know Your Series: Silly as it may sound, the "Complete Idiot's Guides" are more reliable than you might suspect. They cover far more topics than the "Dummies" books do, and treat their subjects with casual, yet informative seriousness.
Personally, I have several books in the "Idiot's Guide" series: Reincarnation, Near Death Experience, Ghosts and Hauntings, Feng Shui, Natural Magick, and so on.
(I bought the books on Near Death Experiences and Reincarnation at the very same time. The girl at Books A Million looked at me like I was about to kill myself, and possibly wondered if she should call the local loony bin just in case I was up to something.)
4. Learn How To Judge The Book By Its Cover: This is a two step process.
Step 1 involves considering everything above. Step 2 deals with the fact that you will encounter books that are not by a familiar publisher, author, or from a well known series.
So let's make it simple for you: if the cover of the book suggests it belongs in the check out aisle next to the tabloids, don't get it. If it suffers from sensationalism, then it's really not worth your attention.
Understatement is a hallmark in publication. It's also a good indicator of the quality of the material contained within. Compare any three books on the topics of witchcraft, and the ones that look more down to earth are much more likely to be worthwhile. Those that present themselves as spooky or such are the ones to be ignored.
So there you have it: my general approach to judging what you'll likely come across in the coming weeks. You'll be faced with good choices, bad choices, and some choices that will likely walk the line.
Good luck and happy haunting.