Police Horror Stories by David Curtis first runs into problems with its cover. It is somewhat deceptive. I wanted to read this 57-page collection because as an ex-cop I thought I would learn something new. Incidents I saw on the job were gruesome and sometimes hard to believe but “Disturbing Ghost Stories, Hauntings & Paranormal stories” (the subtitle) were never in my experience as a cop. I was curious. And the following is how my curiosity was rewarded (or unrewarded).
Chapter One: Exorcism in Indianapolis The impression of a police captain from Gary Indiana is reported. After that, the only police presence is when some police accompanied church officials during an attempted exorcism. No police reports or actions are cited. I do not believe this qualifies as a Police Horror Story (PHS).
Chapter Two: The Watcher In this story, police were involved because a series of threatening letters was received by a family which indicated the family was being stalked and harassed. The police, however, could find out nothing. They closed the case, calling it a “disorderly person’s crime.” The police were not horrified and the chapter’s last paragraph is a speculative and unjustified author comment.
Chapter Three: The Death of Elisa This is a police horrible story in that a young girl disappeared, the police were called and although they did not find her, the girl’s body was later found in the water tank of a hotel. Tragic, but not a horror story until the author tries to make it one by mentioning that a woman had killed herself in the hotel in1962. A famous murderer had stayed in the hotel in 1985. Another famous murderer had stayed at the hotel in 1991. In the last paragraph in which the line spacing increases for no apparent reason, the author states as a plausibility that the hotel is haunted, cursed, and a possible threat to future tenants.
Chapter Four: Utah Murder This is also a police horrible story because an entire family died in a possible mass suicide that may have been inspired by influences from a religious cult leader. The case required police investigation and it was a horrible case for police and public but is not a horror story; it is a tragedy.
Chapter Five: The Phone Stalker This is not a horror story. While there was police involvement, they solved nothing and finally gave up. From the perspective of an ex-cop, the identity of the stalker is obvious; it is one of the children in the family. As I read the story I discovered that is what law enforcement personnel at the time felt. The case has not been solved. It is not a horror story.
Chapter Six: The Voodoo Torturers As the author mentions, this is a story of Hell on earth, not a story of an occult nature. Yes, the police were involved. Unfortunately, this story, as horrible as it reads, is not unusual and shouldn’t be associated with an ethereal, unmanageable, unknowable world.
Chapter Seven: The Man Who Hated God This is a story of religious zealotry and fanaticism gone wrong.. It is horrible, but not a horror story. The police were involved.
Chapter Eight: Nasty Neighbor Blues Here it is. This story meets the promise of the book cover. Police come to the home of a lady having trouble with neighbors. A man’s voice is calling her to move out. This happens at unpredictable times. The problem is that the neighbors don’t have a man in residence. They are a couple of old ladies. And then there are the unexplained bent and crushed cans of food observed by the reporting officer. It took us eight chapters to get here, but this one has at least some credibility. This is a PHS.
Chapter Nine: Everyone Meet Bob Bob had died but seemingly didn’t want to stay dead. Multiple anecdotal accounts of his sighting (as a ghost) were reported. At least his image seemed to be fading. Maybe it was tied to the decomposing corpse buried I the cemetery. This is a horror story and there is a sheriff. It is helpful to know that most sheriffs are elected officials and don’t have to have any law enforcement training.
Chapter Ten: The Housing Development Site There is no police involvement here. Jim is a security guard, a position near the lowest in the entire food chain of employment. Jim may have seen things. He may have been scared of something that scared him out of his sleep, an activity frequently practiced by security guards. He may simply be reporting his dreams. Finally, he may have been looking for a chance to quit. All evidence of horror is anecdotal from a single source, Jim.
Chapter Eleven: The Abandoned Hospital Before Brandon became a cop, he was a security guard. Comments above (Jim) apply. That evidence is supported by other similar stories from security guards is not something that enhances credibility. By lending support, they may have been building excuses for avoiding the graveyard shift.
Chapter Twelve: The Keyholder The last two paragraphs of this story qualify this to be a true PHS.
In my estimation, only two stories out of twelve lived up to this short novel’s promise. A lot of police work is the evaluation and listing of evidence; this is done through redundant reporting. More than one officer reports on the same event. The reports are synthesized by an intelligence unit. New questions are formulated and further investigation is done to explain the unexplained. Police officers do not stand around expressing feelings of awe for an occult world. They don’t give up because “the ghost done it.”
Ten of the twelve selections either didn’t involve police or they were solved as far as the police were concerned. I don’t know why the other two were not more rigorously examined by the police, but that is a question for another time and short story.