"Grave's End: A True Ghost Story" Book Review

Written by Gabino Iglesias

Published by Llewellyn Publications

Written by Elaine Mercado
2001, 174 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on May 1st, 2001


The horror genre is interesting for many reasons, and so are its readers. Some folks will devour books and movies about demons, ghosts, vampires, and possession, but they'll scowl at the mention of poltergeist activity. Regardless of what those with no tolerance for such things might say, there really are things that go bump in the night. In fact, there are some books out there that tell spooky stories that actually happened. Reading them is an interesting experience and, when they're good, it helps obliterate the line between great storytelling and nonfiction. In Elaine Mercado's Grave's End, most of what you've seen in movies about haunted houses was a family's daily existence. Welcome to the real side of horror.

Elaine Mercado, her first husband, and her two daughters were a normal family when they bought their first home in Brooklyn, N. Y., in 1982. After years of struggling in a rented abode where the heater would always break during the coldest winter days, they were excited to move into their new place. However, they had no idea that the house was plagued with paranormal activity. Unlike the 100 minutes or so it takes to solve an issue  like this in a movie, the couple and their two young daughters ended up spending more than a decade in a nightmarish world of strange sounds, apparitions, suffocating dreams, and many more paranormal occurrences. What began as the uncomfortable sensation of being watched while alone eventually became bizarre noises, strange smells, disembodied voices, balls of light, being touched, things being broken and dark figures scurrying along the baseboards. In the end, Mercado and her daughters ended up learning a lot about their house's history and having to rely on outside help in order to get their lives back.

Grave's End is an interesting book that will make readers feel a vast array of emotions. For example, Mercado's attitude is frustrating and some readers will feel the hell she and her family endured was something that could have been stopped much sooner. On the other hand, the plethora of external problems that aggravated her situation (i.e. an unresponsive husband, financial troubles, etc.), are enough to make the reader sympathize.

More than a book about how spirits behaved inside a house, Grave's End is a first-person account of how one family tried to cope with living in a haunted residence. In this regard, Mercado's amateurish prose actually becomes the narrative's biggest asset. There is nothing wrong with the author's writing, but educated readers will soon pick up on the fact that this was not written by a seasoned author because there is no spooky crescendo leading up to the events. Also, when Mercado describes her experiences inside her home, the use of exclamation points, the questioning and rationalizing that follows, and the lack of over-elaborate writing all point to a regular person as the author. While this would be a devastating thing to say about a book by Jack Ketchum or Neil Gaiman, it works wonderfully well in Grave's End because it gives the book an unshakable aura of genuineness.

The introduction to Grave's End states everything in its pages is true.  However, there's no preaching or trying to convince you. Instead, what you get is a brutally honest account of what Mercado and her family went through. For those with a taste for the unknown, it's definitely worth a read.



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