There’s a reason that the ghost story has been around since the beginning of time (check out First Samuel 28:3-25 if you doubt me). People are obsessed with the unknown, and there is no greater unknown than what happens after death. Sure, plenty of us think we know. Atheists say nothing, people of faith pin their hopes on a life beyond. But we can’t know for sure. Add to that mystery the things that go bump in the night, the shadow that moves in the distance, the figure in the corner of your eye that’s gone when you turn your head, and what do you have? Ghost stories.
That fertile field has attracted writers in legions over the years, and there are more ghost stories out there than you can shake a rusty chain at. Thank goodness then for Stephen Prosapio who has given us Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum, an original take on the classic haunting story that even the most jaded of horror fans can enjoy. Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum tells the story of Zach Kalusky, paranormal investigator and budding television star who is haunted in his own special way. When he was a baby, the spirit of his uncle attached itself to Zach and now acts as a sort of spiritual guide, helping Zach to uncover the truth behind the mysteries he investigates. Now Zach and his team, Xavier Paranormal Investigators, have been given the opportunity of a lifetime—an investigation of Rosewood Asylum, the most haunted location in Chicago. But when XPI is paired with the rival Demon Hunters, Zach begins to suspect he has a traitor in his midst, one that when combined with a growing evil that inhabits Rosewood, could put his entire group in mortal danger.
I think the thing that I loved most about Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is how much is going on. There’s Rosewood itself, of course, the classic “bad place” that seems to attract and amplify evil, the sort of dark locale one would expect from Stephen King’s early work. By itself, Rosewood is the basis for a fantastic story. Mysterious fires, unsolved murders, vengeful spirits. Prosapio takes that story to another level by intertwining several other threads along with it. There is Zach and his affliction, one that goes beyond a mere haunting to something far more spiritually significant and physically dangerous. There’s the conflict between XPI and the Demon Hunters, between the two groups’ methods and the looming mystery over which member of Zach’s group may be manufacturing evidence. Prosapio even manages to throw in some romance. The story is told crisply with believable dialogue, flashbacks that are neither perfunctory nor confusing, and characters that have depth, existing for a purpose other than filling a needed stereotype.
Ghosts of Rosewood Asylum is the kind of book you start reading and don’t put down. It is easily one of my favorite novels I have read this year, and the single best part of the book? The preview of Prosapio’s next novel, one I cannot wait to get my hands on.