In the past, I have often found that many books and anthologies on unexplained phenomena and bizarre events are either sensationalized accounts with vague descriptions and no concrete details, or dry and uninspirational regurgitation of other source materials with more footnotes than original material. So it was with great pleasure that I discovered Robert Damon Schneck‘s book The President’s Vampire.
Schneck’s approach is far from exploitational. His attention to detail and devotion to searching out the truth behind the sensational and unverified leaves no doubt to the author’s curiosity or credibility. Exhaustive and well-documented historical research is devoted to every subject, even when possibly debunking an even more remarkable aspect to a story. But neither is his writing boring or overly-clinical. Schneck’s academic yet personal approach to his subject matter does not hide an almost uncontainable passion for the unusual and unexplained phenomena he writes about, and more importantly, it does not detract from how fun and compelling his writing is.
Most chilling and disturbing is the final chapter, Bridge to Body Island, an examination of a friend’s recollected close call with a supernatural bogeyman. Many authors would present the tale on its own with perhaps a few embellishments for dramatic effect. Schneck, however, tells the story (which is genuinely creepy and unsettling) and then proceeds to examine the possible explanations for the events that took place, including research into possible real-world connections. His historical and scholarly comparisons and explanations are as captivating as the story itself, and do nothing to prevent readers who have used a Ouija board in the past from losing sleep.
That is where Schneck’s approach to such Fortean tales as God Machines and Presidential Pardons for Vampires is a step above other authors in the field. He might not hold a flashlight under his face while leaning over the campfire to tell a spooky story, but that is because more often than not, the facts are far more disturbing. Robert Schneck delivers them, and thankfully so.
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