One of the books that I planned to read for RIP this year was a short nonfiction book called Haunted History of Old San Antonio. It was written by a married couple who run ghost tours in town, and it included both places I know well (like Comanche Lookout Hill) and places I didn’t know at all. Given that I love all things spooky and supernatural, I thought this would be a good fit.
Let this be a lesson to my future self: Do not buy books sitting on grocery store checkout shelves. This book wasn’t just bad, it was horrendous. As in, so disgustingly offensive that 1) I had to check the copyright date (2011) and 2) I threw it in the trash rather than putting it in the donate pile after I abandoned it 40 pages in. No one needs to read this kind of whitewashed, racist, white-glorified garbage. To be honest, some of the phrasing and “history” in here is so offensive, I refuse to even include quotes here, because I’m just that horrified with the way this was written.
And beyond the racism and whitewashing, half of what I did read was completely made up and inaccurate! For writers who claim to be interested in the history of San Antonio, the authors don’t seem terribly concerned with accuracy or facts. There’s one line in the section about Comanche Lookout Hill that says, “From Loop 1604 today, when the wind blows right, the tower can be seen where it still stands.” First, the wind would have absolutely nothing to do with the visibility of a four-story medieval-style tower in ruins. Second, while 1604 is close by, the tower is not visible anywhere from the highway. Nor is the highway visible from any of the lookouts near the tower. That is pure fancy, and yes, was pure fancy when this was published, too. Then there was this little tidbit:
Unfortunately, this tower has been broken into and vandalized many times by juveniles throwing large parties and holding seances. Some of these vandals have even practiced witchcraft near [the] tower, trying to call back the dead on spooky Halloween nights.
That quote makes me want to die from secondhand embarrassment. Has the tower been vandalized? Yup, though not just teens are the culprits. No one is holding seances. I mean, come on. Most of what happens in the park is stuff you’d find in any area of dense woods – people doing drugs, having sex, drinking – silly, stupid, and/or reckless stuff. The book claims that people who walk around the park feel like they’re being watched or followed, and that’s again a load of bunk. That park has hundreds of folks that hang out there, people of all ages: families and school trips and seniors groups and Pokemon Go players and dog-walkers. Many of them come several times a week. I promise they’re not feeling all spooked out all the time. I’ve personally walked, hiked, and run around that park thousands of times over the last 16 years, and have only felt creeped out twice. Once was when I was off-path and came across a cache of pills and syringes – not spooky, just a big fat nope I’m outta here. The second was while listening to a ghost podcast as I jogged through a tunnel of trees that consequently felt spooky for the first time ever.
Even the history of the park is glossed over and glamorized in this book. The scant factual details are easily found in a quick google search. As someone who has hosted many hikes in the park, both regular and haunted, I know the history well, because someone always asks about the tower, or the name of the hill, or some other detail. And if I can get more info from a google search than an entire chapter, albeit short, of this book, not to mention more reliable info, how can I then trust the veracity of any other chapter?
I’ll admit, it was disappointing. I would have kept reading if it had just been a sensationalized account of the spooky bits. Honestly, that’s what I expected. But once you start adding in the parts that are too offensive to even quote? I can’t. I just can’t. Into the garbage it goes.
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