“Ghosts are everywhere. Every town has its buildings, houses, and cemeteries about which locals whisper and which school children hurry past when walking by. Ghost legends are powerful—they’re one of the few events today that still survive mainly by oral tradition. The tales of ghost encounters get retold, and soon certain locations get a ‘haunted’ reputation.”So writes Jeff Belanger, who has compiled and edited the Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World. (New Page Books, ISBN 1564147991, 360 pages, $19.99.)

“To truly understand a haunted location, you need to get local,” said Belanger. “What makes this book unique is that the entries are written by people who have done the haunted field work to back up each ghostly claim—hearsay and urban legends weren’t enough. Each entry combines the history, the tragedies, and eyewitness accounts of each haunted locale.” There are numerous black-and-white photographs of haunted places and even some pictures of alleged paranormal phenomena.

The directory reports on more than 250 haunted locations in the US and Canada, as well as several sites in the UK, Asia and Australia. The research was done by dozens of real-life ghostbusters who investigated haunted houses, hotels, restaurants, theaters, parks, battlefields, graveyards and other places in their areas that are visited by spirits.

Haunted places in the book range from the world-famous, such as the Ford Theater in Washington DC, haunted by Abraham Lincoln’s ghost, to obscure Midwestern farmhouses with their own histories of personal tragedy.

For example, one of the listings in the “Great Lakes” region is a pizza restaurant in the Willow Springs section on the South Side of Chicago. Rico D’s Pizza Ristorante was once owned by Al Capone, who used the first floor for illegal gambling and the second floor as a brothel. Employees of the restaurant reported seeing a female specter dressed in 1920s wardrobe and walking toward the stairway leading to the second floor. She is even said to have spoken to the employees before vanishing from sight.

The book also includes a region-by-region directory of contact information for the various paranormal investigators whose work was featured in the book. The encyclopedia is a haunted travel guide, a ghost hunter directory, and a repository of ghostly legends.

Jeff Belanger is the founder of Ghostvillage.com, the largest paranormal community on the Web receiving more than five million hits per month. Belanger is also the author of: The World’s Most Haunted Places: From the Secret Files of Ghostvillage.com and Communicating With the Dead: Reach Beyond the Grave. He has been a guest on more than 50 radio and television programs across North America.