My Books

"Ocker moves easily among the archivists, historians, and performers he interviews, and he describes the carnival atmosphere that descends upon “Witch City” with enthusiasm and vividness."Publishers Weekly Starred Review

A single event in Salem's 400 years of history―the Witch Trials of 1692―started a strange alchemy that transformed the city into the Capital of Creepy. Every October, this small city of 40,000 swells to more than a quarter million as witches, goblins, ghouls, and ghosts descend for its month-long Haunted Happenings festival. J.W. Ocker moved his family of four to downtown Salem for the full 31 days to experience it firsthand, visiting all of its historical sites and macabre attractions and interviewing its leaders, citizens, entrepreneurs, visitors, street performers, critics, and Witches to conjure a unique picture of this unique place.

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.

The 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, J.W. Ocker visited some 90 sites related to Poe—a 170-year-old church bell tower to look for Poe’s inspiration for his poem The Bells. the dark depths of a strip club looking for site of the newspaper building that launched his literary career, finding such relics as his hair and pieces of his original coffin, descend into the cellar that gave him the idea for interring people (and cats) in walls and interviewed dozens of people who maintain his physical legacy, including collectors and actors and musuem managers and so many more.

"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.

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.

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

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

New England 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.