City Desk

Fright Makes Write

The book-industry trade magazine Publishers Weekly recently mentioned that Rockville author Eric Nuzum has a new book deal. Nuzum’s most recent book is a cultural history of vampirism titled The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires From Nosferatu to Count Chocula, which he discussed in this recent Artifact; he also penned the liner notes for the CD Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings from the 1890s, which was recently reviewed in City Paper.

The title of the forthcoming book is—take a deep breath—Boo: A Ghost Story About Friendship, the Search for Truth, the Downside of Recreational Drug Use, Guilt, Punishment, a Little Girl in a Blue Dress, Finding and Losing True Love, and One Irrational Fear. What's the deal? Nuzum explains that the book is a little more grim than the freewheeling title suggests; indeed, it’s inspired in part by some distressing experiences growing up in Canton, Ohio. “When I was a young man, I started using a lot of recreational drugs, and I think I was going a little crazy,” says Nuzum, 41. “I was convinced that there was a little girl in a blue dress who had intentions to harm me.”

That experience prompted his life-long fear of ghosts. He describes the affliction in the November issue of Washingtonian, in which he writes about his experience spending a night in an allegedly haunted room at the Omni Shoreham and at Alexandria’s equally allegedly haunted Christmas Attic. (The story, which isn't online, starts on page 119, for those who understandably can’t navigate what is, hands down, the worst-designed table-of-contents page in the history of American magazine publishing.) The story plays into the larger narrative of Boo, for which Nuzum plans to travel to various haunted spots, including Jamaica’s Rose Hall and a stretch of Clinton Road in Passaic County, New Jersey, infamous for supposed paranormal events. Nuzum is a skeptic: “90 percent of it is people’s fear and imagination running amok,” he says. That remaining 10 percent, though, is prompting the research, and making him think about the grimmer, odder elements of his life, including the number of close friends he’s lost in recent years. “For some reason I have a lot of friends I've lost to cancer, AIDS," he says. "I know a larger-than-normal number of young people who’ve died." Boo is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2009.

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