Title: In a Dark Place
Author: Ray Garton
Audiobook Narrator: Todd Haberkorn
Ed and Lorraine Warren have gained a lot of fame thanks to the Conjuring film universe, which is one of the better horror franchises going today. These demonologists claim to have helped many different families, including the family featured in the infamous Amityville Horror, rid their homes of hauntings. Earlier this year I read Jay Anson’s take on that Amityville house, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Whether I believe the Amityville story is real or not (I don’t, for what it is worth), Anson puts together a well-told, scary story that is really engaging to read. Fortunately the same can be said for Ray Garton’s In a Dark Place.
This tells the story of the Snedeker family, and is the loose basis for the 2009 horror film A Haunting in Connecticut. After the oldest son is diagnosed with cancer, the family decides to move into a house closer to the hospital where is receiving treatments. It turns out that this house is a former funeral home, and the kids start seeing and hearing things almost immediately. Of course the mother and father do not believe them, and continuously yell at the kids to stop making things up. That is until they start feeling things themselves, and the haunting becomes more and more personal. After the church disappoints them, they turn to Ed and Lorraine Warren for assistance in taking their home back, and saving their family from destruction.
I remember not being a big fan of A Haunting in Connecticut, and that’s likely because almost none of what is in this story was in the film; most of the craziest things that happened here are too much to show on film. Even though the author himself claims that the Snedeker family’s story kept changing as he was writing the book, the finished version we see in the novel is fascinating, even if it isn’t what really happened to this family. That said, the Snedeker’s come up with some insane stories, even some that include ghost rape, in order to get their fifteen minutes of fame, or whatever it is they were looking for.
Something I didn’t expect coming into In a Dark Place was a lesson in parenting. I know it’s easy to say what you think you would do in any situation that you’re only reading about, but the way both of these parents treat their son – who has just gone into remission for his cancer, by the way – is absolutely insane to me. They refuse to believe him, and even go so far as threatening him with physical punishment if he so much as talks about what he is seeing or feeling in the house. Regardless if I believed my child or not, pushing him away, ignoring, and even threatening him like the Snedeker’s do in this story, rather than trying to help him, is a great lesson in what not to do. It eventually leads to some terrible situations for the young boy, and it is really easy, and correct, to place the majority of the blame on the parents in this scenario.
The father in this story is dealing with demons of his own, and that is a major factor in the degradation of the family, but it seems to be downplayed for whatever reason in the novel. As the hauntings pick up, so does the drinking. Some of the research I was doing before writing this review stated that this drinking problem, and even a drug problem, were the real reasons behind the “hauntings” in this household, so it’s interesting to see Garton tiptoe around this issue of addiction in the way that he does with his telling of the story.
Todd Haberkorn is the narrator of the audiobook version that I own from Audible, and his take on the character voices is interesting, to say the least. He made the choice to give the younger kids in the novel an almost comic, stereotypical “kid” voice, and it admittedly took me a while to get used to. What was really impressive, though, was the range that he showed, because he was able to create deep, inhuman voices of both male and female characters, plus these young, higher pitched child voices. Though I didn’t love the choice to make the young characters sound so stereotypical, I really did appreciate the different, strong choices that he made throughout the entire audiobook.
For my money, it’s not really about whether I believe that these stories – labelled as non-fiction – are real accounts of a family’s experience, or just another family looking for fame via a faked haunting; if the story is engaging and scary, that’s all that matters for me. In a Dark Place ticks both of those boxes. There are some genuinely creepy moments that moved me, and I was hooked from the first chapter, through the end. The finale is a bit anti-climactic, really, but that didn’t do anything to deter my excitement for the book. I thoroughly enjoyed In a Dark Place, and would definitely recommend it to fans of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s other haunting stories.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.