Eric Nuzum is afraid of the supernatural, and for good reason: As a high school oddball in Canton, Ohio, during the early 1980s, he became convinced that he was being haunted by the ghost of a little girl in a blue dress who lived in his parents’ attic. It began as a weird premonition during his dreams, something that his quickly diminishing circle of friends chalked up as a way to get attention. It ended with Eric in a mental ward, having apparently destroyed his life before it truly began. The only thing that kept him from the brink: his friendship with a girl named Laura, a classmate who was equal parts devoted friend and enigmatic crush. With the kind of strange connection you can only forge when you’re young, Laura walked Eric back to “normal”—only to become a ghost herself in a tragic twist of fate.
Years later, a fully functioning member of society with a great job and family, Eric still can’t stand to have any shut doors in his house for fear of what’s on the other side. In order to finally confront his phobia, he enlists some friends on a journey to America’s most haunted places. But deep down he knows it’s only when he digs up the ghosts of his past, especially Laura, that he’ll find the peace he’s looking for.
About Eric Nuzum
Eric Nuzum works at NPR in Washington, DC. He is also the author of The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula and Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America. He has appeared on CNN, VH1, and elsewhere.
Writer and NPR executive Nuzum was a young teenager growing up in Ohio when he encountered his first ghost, a little girl in a blue dress who appeared to him in his dreams. As he grew up, the author became convinced that the girl “was a harbinger of my own self-destruction.” Perhaps she was. By the time Nuzum was 18, he was a “doped-up, undependable, unpredictable mess” who actively courted suicide. His bizarre, sometimes violent behavior eventually landed him in a psychiatric ward. When medical intervention failed, a beautiful and unconventional friend named Laura helped pull him back from the brink. But as he healed, their complex, enigmatic relationship faltered; soon he lost track of her altogether. Then, during his first year back at college, he received word that Laura had died after getting hit by a car. Although Nuzum moved on with his life, he remained permanently marked by his experiences. Closed doors still frightened him because they could “have ghosts hiding behind them.” Determined to confront his fears, he began investigating famous haunted places across America. His occasionally humorous encounters with the spirit world did nothing to cure his phobia, but they did push him into a reckoning with his past and with the ghost of Laura. – Kirkus Reviews
‘Giving Up The Ghost’: Letting Go Of A Haunted Past
NPR Book Review – August 15, 2012 (Excerpt)
Eric Nuzum barely survived his teen years. The period was scarred by depression, drugs and a brief period of institutionalization.
“I felt, my entire teen years, as many people do to some degree, as kind of an outsider, an outcast,” he tells NPR’s John Donvan. “I often describe myself as feeling like I was an interloper in my own life … never feeling much of a sense of connection.”
As he started to feel that his life was more and more disposable, he turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. “I just kind of wanted a break from what felt to me like I could never get any oxygen, because wherever I went, I was a disappointment,” he says.
In his memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, Nuzum, who is now NPR’s vice president for programming, reflects on his troubled past and how he turned his life around.
During his downward trajectory, his friend Laura was the one force that kept him from completely losing control. They became fast friends in high school, and Nuzum describes her as the “stabilizing force” in his life. Her friendship grounded him when he started contemplating suicide. [Read the full article...]
The Girl in the Blue Dress - ‘Giving Up the Ghost,’ by Eric Nuzum
The New York Times Book Review – November 9, 2012 (Excerpt)
Among the weightier riddles orbiting the memoir, these days, is the reliability of the narrator. Since the advent of James Frey, at least, it has been the habit not only to greet a memoir with a torrent of legal inquiries but also to doubt the very accuracy of the voice telling us the story. Eric Nuzum’s “Giving Up the Ghost,” which is much concerned with the supernatural, is no exception. Nuzum’s account raises a clutch of questions about realism and memory. Because of this, I confess, and because I am schooled in memoirs involving psychiatric hospitals, I almost immediately began trying to come up with a diagnosis for the apparent unreliability of this narrator: borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar type II, addictive personality disorder, mixed anxiety-depressive disorder and so on. Like sufferers of all these illnesses, Nuzum seems by turns lovable, charismatic, exhausting, irritating, self-destructive, impossible and sometimes plain dumb. And yet, by the end of the book, it’s hard to overlook just how effectively he has described the emotional lives of the American young.
“Giving Up the Ghost” has several narrative threads. The first concerns a nightmare that has recurred nearly all of Nuzum’s life, in which a drenched girl in a blue dress shrieks at him in an unknown language. After a time, Nuzum begins to imagine the girl is haunting not only his dreams but an actual room in his parents’ attic in Canton, Ohio. (It bears mentioning that the sense of place in “Giving Up the Ghost” is one of its unalloyed triumphs: “Each spring the world around the Putt-O-Links got smaller and smaller. One by one the nearby factories closed. Next, the car dealerships down the street moved. After that, the diner closed. Eventually, the Putt-O-Links and the ice cream stand next door were the only signs of life for half a mile in any direction. Then, that spring, the Putt-O-Links didn’t open either. Neither did the ice cream stand.”) From this attic, in due course, the Little Girl steps out to harrow the broader expanse of Nuzum’s waking life. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS
A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
The Bleeding Hills is available at Amazon.Com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and any other good bookstore.