I recently read MONGRELS by Stephen Graham Jones, who in this Bram Stoker-nominated novel offered up a fresh take on werewolves. Buzzing from the encounter, I picked up another work by Jones, a novella titled THE ELVIS ROOM, a novella dealing with themes of the paranormal and scientific obsession. The premise grabbed me immediately.
In THE ELVIS ROOM, a scientist accidentally discovers evidence of ghosts while trying to disprove them. He goes public with his findings, which earns him ridicule. An outcast in the scientific community relegated to speaking at conferences specializing in the paranormal, he stubbornly searches for the truth. At the center of his thesis is exploring Elvis Rooms–rooms set aside as permanently empty at hotels in case a VIP shows up and needs a room. He finds that when all the rooms are occupied including the Elvis Room, somebody dies in the hotel.
Testing this hypothesis produces morbid results, and leads him deeper into the secret life of the dead.
The scientist is an anti-hero, somebody we root for while kind of hoping he gets his comeuppance for disturbing dead things and using the living as guinea pigs. He’s kind of like a Herbert West in his pursuit of proving the dead walk among us; his sociopathic obsession makes him strangely likeable, particularly since what he’s trying to prove is a groundbreaking discovery that would change the world. The novella’s horror element is similarly strong. The ghosts are chilling–not terrifying but creepy enough to provide an adversary that once cornered, has a big bite.
The result is a ghost story that is anything but your average fare. Titillating in its directions, intriguing in its scientific viewpoint, morbid in its aims, and chilling in its conclusion.