Haunted Surry to Suffolk: Spooky Locations Along Routes 10 and 460 is a catalog of potentially haunted locations along the 10 and 460 Highways in the titular Virginia counties. Due to the age of the towns and cities in the area, there are tons of places that are supposedly haunted, and author Pamela K. Kinney sets out to catalog them all alongside with records of her own paranormal investigations whenever possible.
I didn’t know what to expect going into this one because I’ve never really read about ghost hunting before. What immediately stood out to me about Haunted Surry to Suffolk is just how much history the author has compiled, not only of the area in general but on specific buildings and their occupants. Unfortunately, the historical focus often overshadowed the paranormal elements of individual entries entirely, as more than once several pages of history culminate in only one to two pages of investigation. It often feels a bit imbalanced, as though the book would rather be a travel guide than an archive of hauntings.
Additionally, while I’m not experienced with paranormal investigations on the page, I can’t help but feel like something gets lost in translation. When watching a televised ghost hunt there’s a specific chill that goes along with hearing something unexpected on an EVP recording or watching an EMF meter spike. That feeling doesn’t carry over here, as it’s a lot less dramatic and immersive to read the one or two-word responses from ghosts or to simply be told that a potential phenomenon occurred. To be clear, I think this problem might just be endemic to books on ghost hunting– I’m sure that they can be made more entertaining when the writer chooses to embellish or record their experiences in a closer to fictitious style, but when the findings and investigations are presented matter of factly they lose their teeth. To Kinney’s credit, all of her investigations are presented so earnestly and with enough critical eye as to be entirely believable, it’s just that those experiences aren’t going to startle believers and won’t do much at all to sway skeptics.
Haunted Surry to Suffolk did start to win me over again around the halfway mark when we get to explore the Great Dismal Swamp. This section goes into great depth not only about the history of the swamp but also about the native American legends that feature it, the later ghost stories and sightings in the swamp, and the author’s investigation of the area. This was better because of how much more folklore is provided for a single region, simultaneously fleshing the area out and lending it a truly creepy atmosphere that the colonial buildings in the first half didn’t really have. There’s mystery and fear in the Great Dismal Swamp that we don’t get in any of the other sections or investigations.
Taken as a whole, Haunted Surry to Suffolk is probably best suited for people who live in Virginia and for whom these buildings and areas are familiar. Die-hard ghost hunters from elsewhere may find value here too, but to an outsider of both communities the book got off to a rocky start, somewhat redeeming itself in the second half. I’d be more inclined to recommend this as a travel guide for local ghost hunters than anything else.
Rating 6 out of 10 Ghost Boxes