July 13, 2012

Book Review: Werewolves of Wisconsin and other American myths, monsters, and ghosts, by Andy Fish

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Werewolves of Wisconsin, by Andy Fish

Werewolves of Wisconsin and other American myths, monsters, and ghosts
By Andy Fish
McFarland & Company, Inc.
Reviewed by Karl Wolff

Looking for a good scare? Planning a road trip? Open up the pages of Andy Fish's graphic novel, Werewolves of Wisconsin and other American myths, monsters, and ghosts to get your fix of regionalist horror. An unnamed narrator wearing a top hat and skull make-up is our guide, providing bloody anecdotes and gallows humor. The graphic novel covers numerous haunted locations. Grisly murders turn mundane homes into tourist attractions. Unexplained sightings and deals with the Devil are also served up in this visual compendium of all things horrific.
The title story chronicles several sightings along Highway 18 in Jefferson and Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The first occurred in 1936 and the latest in 1990. Besides scary beasts, there is the story of Lizzie Borden. By the author's account, it seems she was framed by the townspeople of Fall River, Massachusetts. While the jury found her innocent of the charges, she lived with the notoriety of her parents' murders until she died in 1927. Despite her alleged innocence, she died in her childhood home, which in itself is rather creepy. We get the story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the Devil and dying shortly after his 27th birthday. (Similarly, everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Amy Winehouse have died shortly after turning 27. Is this the Devil at work in the music industry? Or are we humans just looking for comforting patterns?)

Besides the well-known tales, Fish throws in several lesser-known scary stories. "The Devil's Tree" tells the story of a tree used for New Jersey-era Klansmen for their vile deeds. In winters, it remains bare of any snow cover. "Lake Tahoe: the Frozen Graveyard" is about the second-largest lake and how organized crime has used it for disposal purposes. Jacques Cousteau "was rumored to have visited the bottom and upon his return to have said he saw things the world is not ready for." (Hear that, James Cameron?) Let's not forget Illinois. There's mention of a famous ghostly photograph taken in Bachelor's Grove Cemetery.

Werewolves of Wisconsin is a fun book, but with a very specific audience in mind. I enjoyed the scary tales and the regional history; the illustration, not so much. While the backgrounds and some figures evoked a frightful mood, the people looked like 3D renderings. The stories more than made up for it, the spooky travelogue reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt episode. For those who like their horror with a heavy dollop of self-awareness, this is the book for you. Also might be a good read for those fans of the TV show Supernatural.

Out of 10:8.0, or 9.5 for fans of haunted locales and urban legends.

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Filed by Karl Wolff at 9:00 AM, July 13, 2012. Filed under: Karl Wolff | Literature | Literature:Fiction |