My Books

Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe 

Winner of the 2015 Edgar Award for Best Critical/Bio from the Mystery Writers of America.

Edgar Allan Poe is a weird, weird phenomenon. He’s a touchstone of global culture, a founding father of many of our literary genres, an influence on everything, a merchandising marvel. I mean, he was merely a broke poet who wrote tales of murder and madness and then died under mysterious circumstances…right?

That was 165 years ago, and we still can’t get over Poe. We’re obsessed with him. He’s everywhere—art and TV and movies and theater and music, the Internet, Mercury, the NFL, the NHL.

Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe is a personal travelogue of my year visiting the preserved sites, memorials, artifacts, and inspirations connected to Poe along the East Coast and across the ocean in England—all the places he lived and all the places that have been hallowed as a result. For this book, I visited some 90 sites related to Poe and interviewed dozens of people who have maintained his physical legacy. Come to Poe-Land with me as I:
  • Climb a 170-year-old church bell tower to look for Poe’s inspiration for his poem The Bells
  • Enter the dark depths of a strip club looking for site of the newspaper building that launched his literary career
  • Hold in my hands such relics as his hair, pieces of his original coffin, and his engagement ring.
  • Descend into the cellar that gave him the idea for interring people (and cats) in walls
  • Dive into the largest collection of Poe pop culture memorabilia in the world
  • Tip-toe into the most valuable collection of original Poe materials in the world
  • Cross the Atlantic to trace down the five years he spent as a child in London
  • Chronicle the creation of Boston's Poe statue, one of the boldest designs ever conceived for an author
  • Explore the catacombs in the graveyard where he is buried
  • Step foot into his college dorm room, his honeymoon suite, and his last house
  • Hang out with enough Poe performers to tempt me to cultivate a mustache myself
These are just some of the highlights in a trek that takes me through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, South Carolina, and England in one, long glorious year of Poe. So wheel a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door and follow me through the crazy carnival that is Poe-Land. We’ll have a great and harrowing time. Like the party in Hop-Frog. Bring your ape suit.

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The New York Grimpendium

"A droll and gruesome Baedeker...readers might die laughing, gag on its tasteless subject matter or even shed a tear or two." —Sam Roberts, New York Times

Winner of a 2013 Lowell Thomas Gold Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

New York is the state that gave us the Headless Horseman, Son of Sam, Rosemary’s baby, Rod Serling, the Addams Family, the electric chair, Troma Studios, Typhoid Mary, Sing Sing, and the Amityville Horror. The Empire State is full of the macabre, the dreadful, and the grim—all of it dying for you to visit.

Like its predecessor The New England Grimpendium (see below), The New York Grimpendium is part personal travelogue, part detailed guidebook, and it covers hundreds of macabre sites, attractions, and artifacts, drawn from the firsthand experiences of J.W. Ocker, who, over the course of a year, did New York to death, driving more than 9,000 miles of its roads and stopping to investigate every shadow along the way.

From a visit to a 19th-century brain collection to the home of an artist whose muses are serial killers to an old ship graveyard, Ocker darkened many days to find New York locations connected to legendary personalities of the macabre; infamous crimes and tragedies; horror movies; classic monsters; and notable cemeteries, tombs, and memento mori. So if you’re looking to go gently into New York’s own unique good night, let The New York Grimpendium show you all the best spots.

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The New England Grimpendium

"A travelogue for those who revel in the glory of their  nightmares." —Max Weinstein, Fangoria

"I've read a dozen books about New England ghosties and weirdnesses, and this one is my favorite. It's also one of the few that actually came up with stuff I didn't already know about." —Rick Broussard, Executive Editor, New Hampshire Magazine

Winner of a 2011 Lowell Thomas Silver Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

Every place has its dark side, but New England’s often seems a few shades darker than most. The region is full of the grim, the gruesome, and the ghastly…and all of it worth visiting for the traveler who dares. The New England Grimpendium catalogs hundreds of macabre sites, attractions, and artifacts, all drawn from the firsthand experiences of J.W. Ocker, who covered 7,000 miles of New England roadway in venturing to these eerie locations.

From a visit to the private collection of a demonologist to a midnight jaunt at an insane asylum cemetery to an overnight stay at a murder scene, Ocker leaves no gravestone unturned in his quest to chronicle the dark heart of New England. This morbid travelogue includes locations connected to legendary personalities of the macabre; infamous crimes and tragedies; horror movies; classic monsters; and notable cemeteries, tombs, and memento mori. So if you find your nightmares a bit undernourished or your day trips a bit too sunny, The New England Grimpendium is the guide for you.

Buy the book. 

Here are some photos from sites that can be found in the Grimpendiums:


I'm keeping tabs of any inaccuracies or out-of-date information for both Grimpendiums. See here for the running tally.