Book Reviews - August 2012


Haunted Bodmin Moor | Jason Hiigs
ISBN: 978-0752463322 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Rich in atmosphere and history, one may believe that if Bodmin Moor doesn’t contain phantoms or paranormal mysteries, nowhere could. Step forward Jason Higgs, local to the region, who has spent several years collecting and investigating ghostly activities from this region of Cornwall.

Higgs approaches Haunted Bodmin Moor with the reliable formula that so many of the Haunted series now contain. Some of the stories are of the traditional vein, tales handed down over the ages, stories of giants, pixies and ghostly white ladies. Others are from interviews with first hand witnesses who have experienced something spontaneous and often fleeting, events for which they have no immediate rational explanation.

Haunted Bodmin Moor focuses attention on three main areas - Davidstow Airfield, the murder of Charlotte Dymond, and the world famous Jamaica Inn. In each case, Higgs looks at the history before diving in with some paranormal investigations using standard ghost hunting equipment and psychic approaches, which provide mixed results (I will not provide spoilers here). The only disappointment for me was the dispelling of my perception of the Jamaica Inn; I imagined windswept and isolated, sparsely populated with locals, rather than a focal point of ghost tourism. Regardless of my shattered illusion, Higgs documents the events at the inn with passion, and we couldn’t ask for anything more.

Haunted Doncaster | Richard Bramall and Joe Collins
ISBN: 978-0752463759 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Although part of the same series as Haunted Bodmin Moor, stylistically Haunted Doncaster is a complete contrast. With no direct ghost hunting and a focus on historical research and interviews, Haunted Doncaster is a whirlwind tour, flitting over dozens of different areas from a ghost filled Yorkshire town.

No one can say that Joint authors Richard Bramwell and Joe Collins haven’t done their homework. The book is filled with fine examples of what can be called traditional ghost stories, those handed to us by the older generations which we accept with almost no question. Likewise, accounts from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries pepper the pages, reminding readers that not all ghost stories can be passed over as myth. Unsurprisingly Epworth Rectory receives a chapter of its own, being one of the most famous poltergeist cases in the world, although it isn’t long before the reader is once again whisked off to other less well known locations.

Other than the lack of a bibliography, Haunted Doncaster is almost perfect – not pondering on whether phantoms exist, but taking the approach of ‘these are the stories, now make up your own mind’.

The Old Ways | Robert MacFarlane
ISBN: 978-0241143810 | 448 pages | £9.99 | Published by Hamish Hamilton, available from Amazon

Although not a classical book on the paranormal (although in the future it may become one) The Old Ways caught my attention after stumbling across a reading of one chapter on BBC Radio 4, where author Robert MacFarlane spends a disturbed night at Chanctonbury Ring.

MacFarlane takes us on a walk, a meander along the old pathways which scatter our green and pleasant lands, talking to people and discovering myths, legends and history along route. The Blue Men of the Minch sit comfortably alongside unicorns and circling phantoms, watching as MacFarlane plods carefully past and rediscovers the routes our grandfather’s grandfather trod.

MacFarlane’s prose is rich in imagery. You can taste the anxiety as he and a colleague risk being swept out to sea. The regional accents which fall upon his ears fall upon yours also. It has been a while since I called a book beautiful, and after finally putting The Old Ways down, a new standard of beauty has been recognised.

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