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Monday
Nov122012

Review: Fractured Spirits

Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, by Sylvia Shults

Release date for Fractured Spirits is February, 15, 2013. To pre-order, please contact the author at sylvias@darkcontinents.com

Reviewed by Ophelia Julien

Haunts of the Mentally Ill

Author Sylvia Shults at the Bowen Building of the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, IIllinoisNothing screams haunted more than an abandoned hospital for the mentally ill, or “insane asylum” as they are usually called. In the introduction to her newest book, Fractured Spirits, author Sylvia Shults even refers to the tradition of using an old, decrepit, deserted institution for the mentally ill in both film and print tales of horror: dead crazy people come back to haunt the site of their frequently gruesome lives as well as their equally grisly demises. 

In Fractured Spirits, Ms. Shults does not shy away from the expected haunted-asylum elements: malevolent spirits, ghost hunters, tales of abuse and cruel mistreatment of helpless patients, echoes of the mayhem caused by violent and possibly dangerous inmates. On the other hand, Fractured Spirits is a glorious departure from those same traditional elements, finding hope and light in a place that would seemingly be a pit of despair and darkness. 

The book shares some of the history of the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois.

The book shares some of the history of the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois. It also touches upon the true story of Dr. George Zeller, the extraordinary pioneer of humane treatment for the hospital’s patients, those institutionalized and marginalized members of society in the early 20th century. Instead of restraints and locked doors, Dr. Zeller insisted on quality care, respect, and dignity for his charges. His kind had never been seen before and would probably still be a rarity today. 

Dr. Zeller built the state hospital into a homey, safe place for people who would, at that time, normally have been strapped down, locked away, and most likely forgotten by the general public. As Ms. Shults observes, little wonder that so many of these now-deceased patients are reluctant to move along. Why not cling to the one place that was home to them during their tortured lives? 

Ms. Shults is not only a bona fide aficionado of the supernatural, she is a ghost hunter as well, and so her book is a feast of personal experiences, shared accounts of fellow investigators, and best of all, ghost stories .

And so Peoria State Hospital is haunted, rather like saying that Albert Einstein was a touch intelligent. Ms. Shults is not only a bona fide aficionado of the supernatural, she is a ghost hunter as well, and so her book is a feast of personal experiences, shared accounts of fellow investigators, and best of all, ghost stories . To her credit, she has also gone out of her way to debunk or lay bare many of the urban legends surrounding the place, the tales told in delicious whispers full of details that would do a tabloid proud yet have no factual basis. 

Written in a friendly, conversational style, Fractured Spirits is an easy read that will enthrall and entertain, and - like all good ghost story collections -  linger on in your mind long after you close the book and turn out the lights. 

After all, the stories are true. 

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