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The President's Vampire: Strange-but-True Tales of the United States of America by Robert Damon Schneck
Review by Don Smith
Anomalist Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781933665009
Date: 01 November 2005 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Writer Robert Schneck shares eight "strange but true stories" that range from President Andrew Johnson pardoning a vampire to three friends being contacted by a serial killer via a Ouija board.

Did the 17th President of the United States pardon a vampire responsible for the death of two sailors?

Author Robert Schneck has the answer. In his book The President's Vampire, Schneck not only answers this question, but he also asks and attempts to answer questions from other unusual stories as well:

    * Were there really bulletproof Indians running around Massachusetts?
    * Did someone really build a machine to be God?
    * Are mummified pygmies proof of Hobbit-like persons living in caves in Wyoming?
    * Can ghosts be bribed?
    * Explain how a group of five boys in the middle of metropolitan Newark, New Jersey disappeared without a trace in 1978.
    * Did a serial killer try contacting three persons through a Ouija board?
Dubbing himself "America's Historian of the Strange", Schneck explores these questions and several others in his 2005 book.
"My objective was to find material that was unfamiliar to even the most dedicated readers of quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore," said Schneck.
And he even asks, why he and so many others are interested in the unexplained?
"It may be genetic or the results of Mercury being in retrograde; your guess is as good as mine," he said.
Mercury retrograding or not, just read a story at random; Schneck clearly spent considerable time and effort digging through old books, old newspapers and haunting a variety of libraries, museums and historical societies to share these eight stories.

While he freely admits, many of the stories popped up in print and documents in the past, he is able to add his own spin with a twist and sense of humor to it.

For instance at the beginning of the chapter on the President's Vampire, he says, "No matter how you feel about [the Bush Administration], no one can accuse the president of being soft on vampirism".

In the book's final story "The Bridge To Body Island," Schneck's writing stands out. He tells an account of three friends who began practicing with a Ouija and in the process came in contact with a living serial killer called the Bye-Bye Man who was seeking them out.

In that chapter alone, he discusses the ideas of evil beings coming to life from the minds of psychics.

But the creepiest part of that chapter, was Schneck's friend John, who fell asleep and in the middle of the night, he heard knocking at his bedroom door (he lived in a boarding house). A female voice called John inviting him out, but he laid on the floor quiet and scared.

However, if Schneck's book needed any improvements, it is of basic grammar, punctuation, and continuity. I read the published book, not an uncorrected proof copy and would have thought these errors would be fixed before publication.

Yet Schneck has a narrative voice that flows between the informative and sarcastic that is similar to having a cup of coffee with a friend. By him writing more, he will continue to develop it and mature it in his next book.

And he even provides his contact information at the end of the book so people could reach out to him with stories of their own. "Perhaps we can solve a mystery or, more likely, hatch some new ones," he said.

And let's hope he writes about them in the future.

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