Strange Deaths

"I found this book to be extremely inspiring ... something that players and STs with a taste for macabre humor could greatly appreciate."


Reviewed by J. Edward Tremlett

(NOTE: this is NOT a Wraith or White Wolf book, but rather a book that Wraith players and/or Storytellers could probably find a great deal of information and inspiration from.)

They say that death is nothing to laugh at, and that's probably good advice. But there are those fatalities that, while sad for their happening, are so shocking, odd, ironic, bizarre or just plain funny that you can't help but chuckle morbidly - perhaps nervously - while reading of them. And there are more of them then you might realize.

Of course, leave it to the wonderful folks at The Fortean Times to save, categorize and present such things for popular consumption! So, courtesy of authors Ian Simmons and Paul Sieveking, with additional material from Val Stevenson, we have Strange Deaths (previously printed as The Fortean Times Book of More Strange Deaths). After reading this, I'd not only recommend it to you, but I'd also urge you to join me in trying to find the book that this is a sequel to.

The book promises more than 375 freakish fatalities. While some of those "fatalities" are actually odd or gruesome stories - such the girl in Lorca, Spain who found a box containing 30 human eyeballs ("Police were baffled") - the book is in no way hobbled by their inclusion. There are also ones in here that just have to be urban legends, but the authors tend to point that possibility out in the text. (Besides - what's legendary in the real world might be all-too-real in the WOD...)

There's not too much art here, but the illustrations at the start of each chapter - done by Ed Traquino - are just priceless. The cover, by James Sarfati, is a bit goofy-looking, but it works, given the subject matter.

The book is chopped up - if you'll excuse the phrase - into 18 chapters of like deaths, running the gamut from everything from "Fatal Coincidence" to "Motorised Mayhem." We have stories of cannibalism (mostly from Russia, oddly enough), death by animal, freak accidents, eating mishaps, and stuff that is just too idiosyncratic and unique to put with the others.

Examples include:

* The gum-chewing Australian motorist whose bubble burst all over his glasses, blinding him, sending him off the road and plunging down a hill to his death.

* The Frenchman who shot his mother for giving him a bad haircut, and then shot his father, too, when the man tried to stop him.

* The stripper in Italy who suffocated while waiting to jump out of a cake.

* The woman who planted a tree when she was six, and was killed by it six decades later when it fell on her.

* The doctor who was killed when a newborn baby kicked him in the temple.

And those are just some of the shorter - and tamer - ones.

I found this book to be extremely inspiring: almost all of these stories had "Wraith" or "Spectre" background written all over them, and the rest could at least be used as idea fodder for a Wraith Chronicle. Some are clear-cut candidates for the Grims, Emeralds, Silents, Fate or what have you. You could also get a few Paupers out of it: the Wraith's death was so kooky or gruesome that he's blocked all memory of it, perhaps, or maybe he's one of those folks whose odd manner of death falls within the Pauper Lord's domain? And, as always, they could be pawned off on one of the Notional Legions from The Book of Legions (such as the Legion in Red or the Legion of Fools)

My only complaint with the book was that the entries were pretty short: an occasional extended look at one particularly strange story or another, perhaps with pictures, would have rounded the book out nicely. All the same, Strange Deaths is something that players and STs with a taste for macabre humor could greatly appreciate, and that's why I'm giving it four skulls out of five.

Reviews on the Wraith Project are the opinions of those reviewers, and are not necessarily those of the Wraith Project themselves. If you disagree with this review, send in another one. If you still feel like strangling the reviewer, see an analyst.