Have you ever counted the days before a book will be released and you’re so excited you feel personally offended that the publishing company doesn’t release it earlier? I had been waiting at least two months for Evil Little Things by Matt Shaw and yes, I felt like giving readers the synopsis of the already-written book but not pushing it out sooner was a personal insult. When I finally downloaded the Kindle e-book, I thought all the waiting would be worth it. Well, it depends on why Evil Little Things seemed appealing and if you felt it delivered. I…wasn’t impressed like I thought I would be.
Evil Little Things is a demonic possession novella, sort of. An unmarried couple and their two children move to an inexpensive house that doesn’t seem quite right. Crista, the mother, was creeped out from the first day of living in the house when she and her partner Matt had a conversation only she could remember and her two daughters Ava and Aria had conversations with invisible entities. As the novel progresses, Crista’s sanity is called into question. She tells Matt that her children look like eyeless ghosts, she hears loud noises when there should be silence, her children are in multiple places at once, and she grows teeth where she shouldn’t. He responds that it’s all in her head and she needs psychiatric help. Ultimately Crista can’t handle living with the demonic entity and checks out in a bloody way, leaving the house to the demon. In the epilogue, we learn that *SPOILERS* Matt is possessed by the demon so that he can drive Crista to suicide and then raise Ava and Aria as recruits in the demon leader’s army. *END SPOILERS*
The epilogue is actually solid. If Matt Shaw decided to write a series about the demon army, he would have me as a guaranteed reader. This is when it’s confirmed that even as Crista loses her sanity and becomes unreliable, there is one main demon and the possibilities of more demons. That confirmation solves a problem with the bulk of the story, which I will explain in the next paragraph. The only thing that would improve the epilogue is if it didn’t jump from the omniscient narrator to the demon talking in first person. It was jarring, to say the least. Even so, I do recommend pushing through the novella to reach this part.
The story leading up to the epilogue was not terrible, but I admit to being disappointed. Crista was meant to be a sympathetic character but she was much too short-tempered and vain to be likable or at least pitied. If people around her didn’t buy into whatever she believed at the moment (whether it was that she felt old or she had evidence that the house was haunted) she would get short with them and take out that frustration on innocent people around her. The worst thing about Crista was that even after she knew she had an evil entity attached to her and the house, she engaged with others who weren’t protected from the demon and passed it on to them as well. Her partner’s friends Gabe and Melissa didn’t need to be dragged into the possession (and the novella); Their only purpose was to add to the body count. When every character was terrible in different ways, there was nobody worth cheering for. Another problem, also related to Crista, was that the more she experienced the demon’s presence and activities the less credible she seemed. I honestly felt like she could’ve benefited from a therapy session, it not to be diagnosed then at least to sort out the supernatural problems from her personality problems. Until the epilogue confirmed that there was a horde of demons out for recruits, this could’ve been a psychological novella. I love literature that challenges reality vs. the mind’s power, but I wanted Evil Little Things to be strictly supernatural. I only read to the end because this was a book I had once been so excited about. Author Matt Shaw can still tell a good story and I will still recommend him when I come across good work, but Evil Little Things pre-epilogue is not one I recommend.
Usually I would be posting about an entire website or horror reading material (book or magazine) but I think the article “Haunted House Myths Confirmed and Debunked ” written by author Carly Ledbetter for the Huffington Post is totally worth reading. I implore you to avoid the comments because some people are such thick-headed skeptics that they blow off the article by yelling “Science! Science! Science!” Did you know that science hasn’t been able to prove or deny the existence of spirits because the occurings, even residual hauntings, don’t conform to the scientific method? When one studies the supernatural, there has to be an alternative way to approach it because supernatural experiences don’t happen on a time table. Until scientists learn to get over the traditional scientific method to study the existence or lack of the supernatural, they are irrelevant in the discussion. As such, if you’re interested in this article, read the article but avoid the comments. The interview was conducted with a ghost hunted who drew some interesting conclusions about hauntings that I think everyone can get behind (even skeptics who are not thick-headed).
Carly Ledbetter sat down with paranormal expert John E.L. Tenney, star of a new TV show called Ghost Stalkers on the channel Destination America and asked him about six of the most common occurrences during a haunting/”haunting”. Of the six, the only two that he confirmed in his career were “You’ve felt someone tap on your shoulder when no one is there” and “You suddenly smell the perfume of a loved one”. Neither of these sound particularly terrifying. I actively follow true ghost stories online and neither of these events are mentioned at all. These so-called true stories involve violent events after encountering an entity. They’re interesting and unnerving, which is why I keep coming back, but for the “real deal” on hauntings I trust Tenney’s judgment over strangers on the internet.
One point that Tenney makes that boggles my mind is when he says the report “People have died in the house” is false. He explains that most houses have had at least one death and the death of anyone doesn’t automatically mean there will be a haunting. I don’t want to disagree too vehemently but how come I, the least supernaturally sensitive person in the world, have seen my first-ever cat (a tortoiseshell named Susie) in two separate incidents within a month after her death? I don’t believe that it’s the house that is haunted, which I guess is what he dances around outright staying. If you’ve watched any modern supernatural horror movie that deals with a haunting, you’ve probably heard “Ghosts haunt people” or related statements. The idea is that no matter where a person moves, they won’t be able to shake the ghost because the ghost is connected to them. Keep in mind, my old tortie was a sweetheart, not an evil, angry ghost like you see in the movies. If she happened to check up on me once in a while, I don’t think it would be the worst thing that could happen. In that respect, I agree with Tenney that it’s not the house that’s haunted. However, I think that the death of a person (or an animal, such as my first-ever tortie) would encourage an appearance of their ghost at some point. Tenney would’ve made an even stronger point had he thoroughly explained what he means by a death in the house not automatically being a trigger for hauntings.
The thing I found most interesting about this article is how Tenney explains the hauntings he’s investigated in his experience. He said that up to 98% were attributed to “normal” causes but he still believes he could encounter a haunting. That unexplained 2% is enough to make it a possibility. I appreciate that he knows hauntings aren’t as widespread or violent as media makes them out to be, but he still keeps an open mind. Check out the list for yourself and see what you think!