February 2013 Book Reviews

It is rare that two quality paranormal books in two completely contrasting styles land on my desk simultaneously, but…

Poltergeist over Scotland | Geoff Holder
ISBN: 978-0752482835 | 224 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Beginning in Edinburgh in (or around) 1635 with an entity which moved clothing and troubled the occupants with taps and bangs, Holder lists the Noisy Spirit’s escapades across time and location until 2012, where we finish with the 134th encounter which is not too dissimilar to the earlier seventeenth century case. Listed in chronological order with maps to flag places of interest, most entries flag the duration, events, context and Holder’s interpretation of the poltergeist outbreaks.

Holder’s writing style is a healthy mix of factual reporting and subjectivity. Honest with his opinions (after admitting to having ‘absolutely no idea’ what poltergeists are within the first couple of pages), Holder is happy to share his thoughts on whether a case is likely to be authentic or mistaken (or implying even for profit), a refreshing change from those who see ghosts in every dark corner. A brief examination of the social / political history around many of the cases is enlightening and suggests poltergeists may have many ways of spontaneously generating, from messy divorce and strained family environment to misinterpretation of naturally occurring phenomena.

It is no mean feat to pour over hundreds of historical documents and produce a ‘definitive’ guide of known poltergeist outbreaks, but this is exactly what Holder has achieved. Poltergeist over Scotland will remain in a serious researcher’s collection for years to come.

 

Haunted Tunbridge Wells | Neil Arnold
ISBN: 978-0752480497 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Royal Tunbridge Wells is a midsized town in Kent popular with tourists, better known for its spa rather than spirits, although Arnold’s book attempts to break this mould.

No stranger to the Haunted range, Arnold once again carefully selects his stories from a variety of sources – there is a healthy mix of paranormal phenomena within these pages. Cases of haunted pubs are well known throughout the land, with Tunbridge Wells no exception, but the phantom hound with the head of a man witnessed in Benenden is pretty unique (and disturbing). Similarly, the account of the haunted cottage in Sissinghurst leaves one with chills and will leave other haunted houses jealous!  

Broken down geographically, Arnold’s collection of ghost stories are a blend of the quantitative and qualitative. Some are tantalisingly short fragments, similar to those told to an annoying younger sibling before they are sent to bed. Other tales, such as Lamberhurst, are thoroughly examined alongside their historic context, with the prelude to a haunting just as interesting as the ghost itself.

There is enough within Haunted Tunbridge Wells to keep readers of paranormal literature happy, with the vast majority of stories being little known or told for the first time. Even the local population may do well to glance through the pages to discover if there is more than meets the eye to their middle-England neighbourhoods.

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