Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for granting me access to a review copy of Cursed Objects in exchange for an honest review. I received the audio ARC, so my review will include commentary on the narrator’s performance and how I feel this book translated from a written text to a listening experience.
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About the Book
Strange but True Stories of the World’s Most Infamous Items
by J. W. Ocker
Published 15 September 2020
by Quirk Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Page Count: 288
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An illustrated compendium that reveals the true stories behind the most infamous, creepy, and bizarre real-life cursed objects throughout history. Spanning decades and continents, subjects range from the opulent Hope Diamond to the humble Busy Stoop chair.
They’re lurking in museums, graveyards, and private homes around the world. Their stories have inspired countless horror movies, reality TV shows, campfire tales, books, and even chain emails. They’re cursed objects, and in order to unleash a wave of misfortune, all they need…is you. As a culture, we can’t seem to get enough of cursed objects. But never before have the true stories of these infamous real-life items been compiled into a fascinating and chilling volume.
- Annabelle the Doll, a Raggedy Ann doll which inspired the acclaimed horror franchise The Conjuring
- The Tomb of Tutankhamen, the discovery of which kicked-started media hysteria over a rumored “Curse of the Pharaohs”
- The Ring of Silvianus, a Roman artifact believed to have inspired J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
- The Hope Diamond, which was owned by kings and inspired the Heart of the Ocean in James Cameron’s Titanic
- The Dybbuk Box, which was sold on eBay and inspired the horror film The Possession
Whether you believe in curses or not, the often tragic and always bizarre stories behind these objects will fascinate you. Many of them have intersected with some of the most notable events and people in history. But beyond Hollywood and beyond the hysteria, author J. W. Ocker suggests that cursed objects are simply objects which have been witness to great human tragedy, and thereafter operate as mechanisms for remembering and retelling those stories. Cursed Objects will be equally appealing to true believers as well as history buffs, horror fans, and anyone who loves a good spine-tingling tale.
Blurb copied from Goodreads.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Cursed Objects is an interesting non-fiction collection of short essays on various cursed objects known to history from around the world. It starts by presenting its own curse to the reader if they choose to steal it or aid in its theft, then defines the difference between cursed and haunted objects, the latter of which are mostly excluded from the book. From there it begins with the big things everyone interested in cursed items has heard of: the Hope Diamond, King Tut, Otzi the Iceman, etc. From there it moves into lesser-known objects such as the unlucky mummy, and more modern objects such as James Dean’s car Little Bastard, killer arcade game cabinets, and chain letter emails. The book also discusses suspiciously not cursed items and the author’s own experimental purchase of a supposedly cursed dog statue.
I enjoyed the author’s enthusiasm and humour about this macabre subject while still being as informative as possible. It was an immensely entertaining read, though I did begin to lose interest near the end with the discussion of electronic curses in the 21st century. I’m sincerely not sure if that’s the fault of the book, or if I should have split my reading into two sessions to take a break somewhere in the middle. At just 5 hours 11 minutes, the audiobook is a very quick listen for those of us who prefer faster playback speeds, so I did turn this into a single afternoon sitting experience.
As someone who loves looking at old photographs and having a visual to attach to what I’m reading in history books, I do feel slightly robbed of the experience of all the photos and figures the print book contains while I was listening to the audiobook version, but not so much that I would decrease my rating for that alone. An omission I do feel hurt the book, on the other hand, is the lack of citations. The print book may have them, I don’t honestly know, but the audiobook at least does not. There’s no mention of footnotes or endnotes, and there was no reading of a works cited at the end. I acknowledge a properly formatted works cited wouldn’t be a very interesting listen for the average listener, but it would fall at the end where anyone uninterested in the sources could end the session and mark the file as read. Perhaps this is the former history student in me uncomfortable at the thought of submitting a paper without citations, but I cannot turn a blind eye to the lack of even an indication that sources were noted down and kept track of.
The narrator’s performance is strong, and his voice is well suited to this type of book. I listened mostly at 2x speed, and his voice remained clear and easy to understand. I’m not yet at the fangirl level with audiobooks that I seek out specific narrators, so I can’t say I would specifically pick up an audiobook title because of this name, but it would certainly be a tipping factor if I were undecided on a title, and I would be happy to listen to more of his performances.
For the book itself: 4 stars.
For the narrator’s performance: 5 stars.
Overall: 4-4.5 stars.
About the Author
J.W. Ocker is the Lowell Thomas- and Edgar Award-winning author of macabre travelogues, spooky kid’s books, and horror novels. His books include A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, Death and Douglas, Twelve Nights at Rotter House, and his latest, Cursed Objects: Strange but True Stories of the World’s Most Infamous Items. Ocker lives in New Hampshire. Visit him at oddthingsiveseen.com.
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