Book Reviews - June 2012

Haunted Staffordshire | Philip Solomon
ISBN: 978-0752461687 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Jersey Folklore & Superstitions Volumes One & Two | G J C Bois
ISBN: 978-1449096786 / 978-1449096787 | 656 / 710 pages | £20.49 | Available from Authorhouse

I believe Haunted Staffordshire is the first of the series I have read which is authored by a self-confessed ‘psychic agony uncle’. Solomon’s writing style is easy to read, and the book is laid out in traditional Haunted style – bite sized paragraphs make is easy for the researcher to flick through and find exactly what they want. Black and white illustrations and pictures, some of the latter more quirky than the normal Haunted books, are scattered throughout.

To his credit, Solomon has mostly steered clear of writing about his personal experiences (although his ‘singing alongside Elvis’ story does not really fit within this volume), covering some traditional legends and urban myths alongside contemporary encounters of the paranormal.  It is good to see a chapter dedicated to Cannock Chase, one of the most folklore wealthy locales in the UK, and one which hopefully will receive its own Haunted book at some point in the future.

Some of Solomon’s history is a little wonky in places – one reference is the fear of nuclear attack in the 1930s, which thankfully was never on the cards. Putting its faults aside, Haunted Staffordshire is a good introduction to paranormal activities in the county.

Weighing in at some 1,300 pages, Jersey Folklore is an attempt to bring together all previously published information on the largest Channel Island into one place. Not content on merely collecting the hundreds of tales, Bois drills down, analysing their relationships and history, creating a fascinating journey through the myths of the island.

From the opening chapter on black dogs, Bois sets up the tone of the books, citing alleged encounters with the creatures, documenting the places where they were believed to lurk, looking at parallels with similar creatures from elsewhere, and pondering on reasons for their existence. The pattern is followed throughout, from dozens of animal myths to the regions rich history of witchcraft.

My only real gripe would be lack of an index – while the chapters are thoughtfully laid out by type of myth, tracking down stories relating to a single location is going to take a couple of cups of coffee. Perhaps this will be volume three..?

Possibly verging on being too academic for the casual reader, nonetheless, Jersey Folklore is a vital companion for anyone with an interest in the myths and legends of the Channel Islands.

View older reviews