Review: Daryl Marston's 'The Horrors Of The House Of Wills'

April 29, 2024 1:00 AM ‐ ParanormalBooks
Daryl Marston - The Horrors of the House of Wills: A True Story of a Paranormal Investigator's Most Terrifying Case
'The Horrors Of The House Of Wills' is a 2023 book by former 'Ghost Hunters' co-lead investigator, Daryl Marston, about his experience at a notorious haunted house in Cleveland, Ohio, that was said to be feared by the locals but made Daryl the investigator he is today.

The book comes across as an honest and genuine account of Daryl's early career and his most significant investigations ever. It's an interesting and relatable read, despite a few jarring spelling and grammatical errors. The narrative focuses on a single night at the House of Wills. It's essentially the story of just one investigation, although admittedly, it is quite an active and interesting one.

Hailing from Middletown, Delaware, Daryl shares the story of how he first became aware of the building that's said to be feared locally and its sinister reputation. Apparently, no other investigators before Daryl's team had managed to stay until sunrise.

The book begins with Daryl acknowledging that, when he began investigating, he was naive and inexperienced. This was a refreshing change from the usual know-it-all egos you find in the paranormal field. Daryl also talks about his journey into television work, which he tells in a down-to-earth way. Writing about the entertainment side of the paranormal field, he said, "I understand that not all people want to grow as investigators. Some people just like being scared and the classic jump scare, whether it's proven paranormal activity or not." People are often too wrapped up in their serious investigator persona to realise this.

Daryl's inexperience comes across early in the book when he discusses the incident that led to his interest in the paranormal. Daryl's experience during a ghost tour was the holy grail of ghostly encounters - an apparition. Daryl saw the vision of a man, grey in colour, who vanished in front of his eyes.

It's easy to understand why Daryl's curiosity was piqued as a result of this sighting at Fort Delaware, but his willingness to accept it as a 'ghost' shows a lack of critical thinking. Of course, it could have been a ghost, we can't rule that out, but there are countless other explanations for a sighting like this, which Daryl doesn't seem to consider.

This tendency to jump to conclusions becomes even more apparent when Daryl speculates about the identity of the apparition, wondering if it was a confederate prisoner of war or even a distant relative trying to make contact. These immediate leaps to the specific, personal interpretation that the apparition chose to show itself to him alone without considering other explanations suggest he may have a tendency to bypasses logical thinking.

Daryl assumes the figure wasn't seen by the others on the tour but writes, "I said nothing at the time it happened because I thought the others would think I was making it up or I was crazy." Since nothing was said by Daryl at the time, he can't actually rule out that the others saw it and also chose to keep the sighting to themselves.

Daryl's anecdote of his dog barking for no apparent reason, in which he concludes this was the dog foretelling the darkness to come, was equally baseless. I accept this might have been out of character for Daryl's dog, but dogs do sometimes get stirred up for no apparent reason. Again, I'm not saying the dog wasn't responding to something supernatural, but really, there's no way Daryl could know this for sure, let alone surmise that the dog was foreshadowing future events.

Equally odd is Daryl's approach to his impending investigation of the House of Wills. He writes, "I personally don't like knowing a whole lot about a location before I get there. I feel as if it may sway my way of collecting evidence or the way I approach the investigation." Many would say that research should be conducted in order to shape your investigation.

Daryl gives an example of capturing an unexpected voice in an audio recording during a previous investigation. He says the voice meant nothing at the time, but afterwards they were able to confirm its meaning with the property owner. Being able to corroborate this evidence is great, but if he'd known the significance of the phrase during the investigation, then he could have followed up on it. Successfully encouraging any spirits present to repeat a phrase is arguably better evidence than hearing it once and validating it, because repeated evidence strengthens the claim that the phrase has come from the spirit world.

Once at the House of Wills, the book comes into its own, offering a detailed report on Daryl and his team's investigation. There's some good evidence presented in this report, like the details of a moment when a row of REM-Pods triggered in sequence as if something were walking past them. Of course, all these tales are anecdotal, and some of them are secondhand, like his team member Greg's story about seeing a distorted version of himself during a mirror experiment on a previous visit.

Later, Daryl's habit of making assumptions reemerges following what he describes as a loud, disembodied voice coming from an empty room. This is a great piece of evidence, exactly what you'd want to experience in an investigation like this. Daryl's says he and the team weren't sure what the voice said, but they thought it was "believe."

Daryl writes, "To this day, none of us are exactly sure what the voice said," but several words later, in Daryl's account of events, he seems to now be so sure that he had heard the word "believe" that he questions, "Believe what? Was it because I dismissed the feelings we were all having? Was it reading my mind and my thoughts? If this thing was that intelligent, what else is it capable of doing?" Again, I'm not denying this might have been a paranormal experience, but attributing so much intelligence and agency to a single, inaudible word feels like a bit of a leap.

Overall, Daryl comes across as genuine and open, his story is deeply personal in places, touching on loss, grief, and personal belief. Although the account of Daryl's investigation of the House of Wills is detailed, the bulk of the book consists of an anecdotal account of the night mixed with a little history of the location. For a British reader, the multiple mentions of guns are a little bit jarring, and Daryl's story of falling asleep at the wheel is more terrifying than any of the paranormal experiences. Putting your life and the lives of other drivers at risk because you decided to drive home without rest due to something as trivial as a ghost hunt feels very thoughtless.

There's no doubt that the House of Wills was a significant and life-changing location for Daryl, who described the property as making him a "God-fearing man." However, as a skeptical reader, I wasn't really able to understand what gives the House of Wills the dark reputation that Daryl talks about.

For example, Daryl tells readers that the house taught him that "true evil does exist," but the book didn't convince me that there was anything evil about the house. I accept there were some unsettling encounters, such as the sighting of a man with an axe, but Daryl tells us this story secondhand. And besides, is an axeman truly evil? Lumberjacks wield axes too, or perhaps the vision was from the perspective of a victim of an axe murderer who was crying out for help. Even if it were scary, no one has ever been killed by an axe-wielding ghost.

If you're looking for proof of the afterlife, this book will disappoint. However, if you're after a personal account of one particularly interesting night in a haunted location, then you will enjoy Daryl Marston's 'The Horrors Of The House Of Wills: A True Story Of A Paranormal Investigator's Most Terrifying Case'. It is available now from Amazon in paperback, as an eBook for Kindle, or as an audiobook from Audible.
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