The title of Corey Taylor’s latest book, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven: Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process is a mouthful, which is fitting, since Taylor has a lot to say about a lot of things.
For those who aren’t aware, Taylor is the lead singer of Slipknot and Stone Sour, as well as the author of Seven Deadly Sins, which is a look back at his life as a sinner. While his first book gave insights into his misdeeds and the dark side of human nature, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven looks into things that are non-human.
Ever since he was a child growing up in rural Iowa, Taylor has had encounters with things that go bump in the night. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven delves into these run-ins, which include an encounter with a ghostly being in an abandoned house when Taylor was nine years old, phantoms in a Hollywood mansion once reportedly owned by Houdini, a ghost hunt in an abandoned schoolhouse, and spirits who have haunted nearly every house Taylor has lived in.
The book isn’t all spooks, however. It’s also a hard look at religion, particularly Catholicism. Let’s just say Taylor is not a fan. He compares God to a poltergeist: “If you think about it, God does not watch over us; he fucking haunts us.” He describes the bible as a “guidebook that was written when people were still trying to marry camels.”
Taylor may be so against religion because he went to Lutheran mass and Sunday school as a kid. This required getting up early on weekends, dressing up in his Sunday best, and shivering in “a building with terrible circulation that smells like an opium den.” Not long after a mishap in church involving his Walkman and an Iron Maiden cassette, Taylor checked out of the church and of religion for good.
Taylor asks, “How Can I believe in ghosts… and not in God?” This is a good question. After all, both ghosts and God are entities that haven’t been proven to exist. He states that he believes in the supernatural because he’s seen ghosts and experienced their devilish whims; he’s never seen or experienced God. He also points out that he doesn’t push his beliefs about the paranormal on anyone else, whereas the Church’s most fanatical followers push their principles on anyone within earshot. It becomes clear the real enemies in Taylor’s eyes are those zealots he refers to in the title of his book.
I admit when I first realized the author was the lead singer of Slipknot, I thought the book would be written in a maudlin, in-your-face, I’m-a-bad-ass manner. And it is. What I wasn’t expecting was to like it so much. Taylor’s narrative voice is rich with quick intellect and roaring humor. If one of the main jobs of a writer is to entertain the reader, then Taylor is a literary circus act. While some of his experiences are spine chilling, his writing is so amusing, I was sometimes too busy laughing to be scared.
One of theses incidents that I’m referring to takes place in the third chapter, titled The Mansion. Taylor describes taking a shower one night in an old Hollywood mansion Slipknot had moved into in order to do some recording. He was showering with the curtain open, singing along to the Bee Gees, about to put a quart of conditioner in his hair (these were his long hair days), when he looked up and saw something that shouldn’t have been there.
I won’t ruin it and reveal what he saw, but I will divulge that he ran out of the shower “buck-ass nude“ with conditioner-drenched hair to find the room empty. Upon reflection, Taylor believes the presence he encountered was just “having a stroll“ and wanted to check out his “overt nakedness“. He then concludes, “There is nothing worse than a paranormal pervert.”
The book continuously addresses the audience, making the narrative conversational and intimate, but Taylor can be polarizing in places. He makes it abundantly clear on multiple occasions he doesn’t care if his readers don’t effin’ believe him; this all went down. He is quick to write things like: “Doubt if you want. Scoff if you wish. It does not change the fact that it happened.” and “…you can be as skeptical as you like. I believe in ghosts because I have seen ghosts.” and “Let me fucking tell you something: I do not want to see this shit.” By the time I got halfway through the book, I wanted to shout at the pages: “I DO believe you, Corey. And even if I didn’t, I’d still read your book. Now calm down!”
Fortunately, Taylor is not afraid to present himself as vulnerable. He isn’t “balls to the wall” on every page. His recollections of times when he was genuinely scared for his life balance out any defensiveness and swagger Taylor might otherwise steep the narrative in. He writes about his ex-wife, current wife, and son with endearing sentiment, and he isn’t afraid to go deep by writing about coming out of an emotionally dark period and having to then reevaluate who he wanted to be as a human being.
Something Funny Happened on the Way to Heaven also looks at Taylor’s theories concerning the afterlife. Despite the fact that he considers himself an atheist (which he points out merely means he doesn’t believe in God), he believes that there is something out there beyond our realm of understanding. Taylor refers to his belief as his “intelligent energy idea”. He mocks himself for not having a degree and refers to his theories as “armchair science”, but his ideas are compelling. He mixes quantum physics and his own hypotheses along with some algebraic equations, and references to Stephen Hawking and the Hadron Collider.
When I wasn’t laughing or considering Taylor’s “armchair science”, I was sincerely spooked. The most eerie incidents in the book are those that have taken place in his different houses over the years.
One of these encounters includes a shadow man that liked to hide in his young son’s bedroom. Another involves the spirits of miscreant children whom he refers to as “The Kids on the Circle“; they also happen to occupy his current house. While spirits seem to follow him wherever he goes, Taylor is no longer afraid. As he so aptly points out, “...there are better (or worse) things to be afraid of. Humans are notoriously atrocious to each other.”
With the Halloween season approaching, I suggest picking up a copy of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven, whether you’re a skeptic or not. The book is a witty and thought-provoking read, and has the intimate feel of a good ghost story told around a campfire—by your most offbeat and hilarious friend.