Book Reviews - July 2012


A busy period for the History Press, with five new paranormal books coming out within the space of a few weeks…

haunted castlesIn Search of Britain's Haunted Castles | Marc Alexander and Paul Abrahams
ISBN: 978-0752464541 | 168 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

In Search of Britain’s Haunted Castles initially reminded me of Hans Holzer’s Travel Guide to Haunted Houses (and to a much lesser extent, John Brooks’ Good Ghost Guide) insofar of format and concept – both are travel guides for visiting alleged paranormal places which can be accessed by the public. While Holzer featured road maps around each site, these were of limited use, and authors Alexander and Abrahams have done well not to follow suit – with the web or satnav at most people’s fingertips, the data would have been pretty much redundant.

Containing the details of 63 alleged haunted castles, In Search of… is logically laid out and gives each entry background information on the haunting, history of the site and visiting information. Alexander and Abrahams are up front about the stories they repeat, stating they have not set out to investigate phantoms, merely reproduce the stories as if fact and not legend.

I just have a couple of small niggles with the book. Although In Search of… contains an index, one of the entries I picked at random (phantom bear) was a couple of pages off its mark, and while both colour and black & white images fill the book, a little bit of dead space remain at the end of a handful of pages - some of the images could have perhaps been reproduced slightly larger. Despite this, if you are looking for a good, well written introduction to legendary and haunted fortifications scattered around Britain, you could do a lot worse.

haunted huddersfieldHaunted Huddersfield | Kai Roberts
ISBN: 978-0752467900 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Kai Roberts’ Haunted Huddersfield is everything you would expect from the Haunted series, filled with the black and white images of a few dozens haunted locations and chapters arranged in a geographically logical order.

Roberts is quick to dig into the past of most haunted places, looking for a historic explanation to the paranormal happenings that are said to have occurred. Easy to read, it quickly becomes apparent that this market town has more than its fair share of ghosts. Most appear to be established folklore or legend, although Roberts has a few first hand descriptions from witnesses scattered throughout his pages.

Unsurprisingly, the ghosts within this volume have a distinctly northern feel – the Boggart puts in an appearance, as does Padfoot and some colliery phantoms, while the moors manage a brief mention, complete with the spooks that inhabit them. Of course, more recognisable phantoms are also here; a haunted book would not be complete without at least one woman in white or headless figure.

Roberts has continued the now traditional Haunted style, producing a no nonsense look at this northern market town, with the added benefit of having a detailed bibliography for those wanting to explore the area further.

haunted st andrewsHaunted St Andrews | Geoff Holder
ISBN: 978-0752458489 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Ghost Club member Geoff Holder has already established himself as a thorough investigator with his previous works, so it comes as no surprise that Haunted St Andrews digs deeper than most books concerning the paranormal. Holder does not accept any story at face value - for example, the chapter which discusses the 1950s Oaktree Square poltergeist has Holder reveal some fascinating accounts of the outbreak (if that is indeed was it was), and after analysing the evidence to hand, draws a logical conclusion.

While dealing with some of the well-known ghosts of St Andrews, such as the white lady of the Haunted Tower, Holder has also rediscovered some fantastic local legends by trawling through both nineteenth century literature and contemporary discussion forums – even with 150 years separating the stories, the familiar motifs of the ghost story remain reassuringly similar. With a hefty bibliography, a handy index and a determined approach at reaching the truth behind alleged haunting activity, Holder has produced the definitive guide to St Andrews.

haunted bedfordHaunted Bedford | William H King
ISBN: 978-0752465920 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Haunted Bedford marks a return to the area after author William H King wrote Haunted Bedfordshire: A Ghostly Compendium back in the mid-2000s. The format of King’s book departs slightly from the normal Haunted series; while sharing stories of the paranormal from across a six mile radius stretching from the centre of Bedford, King provides exact location details and directions to each of his haunted sites, resulting in a volume which could easily be used by those with more than an armchair interest in ghosts. Even if the reader is not brave enough to face the English weather and experience the locations first hand, King provides enough detail and documents the rich history of each place to ensure all readers are entertained.

Haunted Bedford contains a nice mix of the more traditional English ghost story, such as the ghostly monk said to haunt the (aptly named) Greyfriars public house, together with the more modern tale of disembodied hands at the Aspects Leisure Centre, a case which cries out for further investigation. King has produced a volume which should attract any investigator from the Bedfordshire region.

haunted peterboroughHaunted Peterborough | Stuart Orme
ISBN: 978-0752476544 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

The final release of this batch is Stuart Orme’s Haunted Peterborough, and a welcome addition to the Haunted series. Orme writes passionately and informally about his city, and it is a relief to finally see the ghosts of Peterborough’s museum (considered to be one of the most haunted in the country) finally well documented, having almost 20 pages dedicated to its history and paranormal activity.

Haunted Peterborough does have some surprises. Predictably, the cathedral and surrounds are rich with folklore, but I doubt few would have anticipated the number of phantoms associated with the military or the railways around the area, both subject to their own chapters. The two chapters which deal with the centre of the city and the outlining area are full of more familiar tales of disembodied footsteps, dark figures and phantom women, the backbone of haunted zones across the UK and beyond.

Although good to see Orme includes a detailed bibliography, he may have missed a trick not digging further back (most books coming from the late twentieth and early twenty-first century) – with Orme identifying over one hundred ghost stories within the Peterborough area, maybe this shortcoming will be rectified in a second volume.

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