Reviewed by Jess Landry
If brothers/authors David and Scott Goudsward didn’t know Massachusetts before, I bet they know it now. The Horror Guide to Massachusetts is a thorough compendium of almost everything and everyone horror-related that has come to pass within the Bay State, be it through film, television and literature, fictional and non-fictional. From an episode of The Simpsons where Homer drives his car into Edgar Allan Poe’s house to the tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials, the Brothers Goudsward leave no stone unturned.
After a forward by critically acclaimed author (and Massachusetts resident) Greg F. Gifune, the guide begins with a brief introduction that offers a disclaimer: “If your first impression is that this is simply a compilation of Lovecraft, Poe and Hawthorne stories, you’re wrong.” The trio are certainly among the more well-known authors with ties to the area, and what guide to horror would be complete without a good chunk dedicated to their respective legacies? The Goudsward’s do their best to provide readers with hefty sections touching upon the Lovecraft, Poe and Hawthorne universes without omitting other notable names from the state’s history, including authors Emily Dickinson and Louisa May Alcott, thespians Leonard Nimoy and the Wahlberg brothers, and names that will forever live on in infamy like Lizzie Borden and the Boston Strangler, among others. Also mentioned are movies that were either filmed or based in the state, with some popular titles such as Jaws, The Good Son and a childhood favourite, Hocus Pocus. The Goudsward’s also do their damnedest to list novels and short stories set throughout the state; a task that, no doubt, required a lot of research and patience.
All listings in the Guide are organized alphabetically by town, often followed by a specific location (example: Arkham, Miskatonic University or Boston, South Station), making the search for a certain movie or book seem easy…but only if you happen to know where it takes place.
Although it’s evident a lot of time and effort went into its creation, the Horror Guide to Massachusetts is not a book one would sit down with on a stormy night, curled up under a blanket, a roaring fire close by. No, this book is best suited for those who like the cold, hard facts and the native New Englander, someone familiar with the area, who would read the blurb about, say, the town of Quincy and think “Cool, I know where that is!”. Yet, having never been to Massachusetts, I still found some value in the material – mainly a handful of tourist locations that get a quick mention.
In the end, one thing is abundantly clear: based on all the information crammed into the 322 pages of the Horror Guide to Massachusetts, it’s safe to say the Bay State was and always will be a horror hub.