September 2012 Book Reviews

Sea Serpent Carcasses – Scotland: from the Stronsa Monster to Loch Ness | Glen Vaudrey
ISBN: 978-1905723935 | 142 pages | £9.99 | Published by CFZ Press, available from Amazon

Just how many sea serpent carcasses could there have been in Scotland? I remember asking myself this just before opening the package containing the book, half expecting a twenty page work with lots of padding. I found myself so wrong.

Vaudrey has tapped into a niche which I never knew existed. His work is filled with dozens of accounts containing these strange dead creatures - some mistaken identities, a sprinkling of fakes and some tantalisingly unknown. Each documented carcass report has been painstakingly researched; tracking down old news articles, witness statements and site visits, and creating paintings and models of the scenes based on available testimony.

Quite ruthless in applying logic and following the evidence rather than belief, Vaudrey is more a detective than a pop monster hunter. Reading his prose, one can almost imagine the author standing on a secluded Scottish beach wearing a raincoat while mulling over faded newspaper cuttings – okay, maybe an overstatement, but Vaudrey is no armchair researcher, and it shows within the passion with which he writes.

Penned by a true fortean investigator, Sea Serpent Carcasses – Scotland should go down as a classic piece of research.

Haunted Hull | Mark Riley
ISBN: 978-0752459974 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

With a reasonably large population, Hull has always struck me as quite quiet on the haunting front, so it was nice to see the city of Kingston upon Hull subject of one of the Haunted series. Riley writes subjectively about the city, placing himself in many of the settings, or at least relating to them in some form.

At times, Haunted Hull is more like a history book than one concerning ghosts, featuring much backstory to some of the haunted locations. Instead of trying to fit in as many ghost stories from Hull as humanly possible, Riley appears to have chosen the accounts where he can dig out historic documents and try to find a reason for a particular haunting. He has tracked down many witnesses, retelling their stories with the same care found within his historic research.

Containing what could hold the record as the shortest bibliography ever (but at least there is one!), Haunted Hull is a safe introduction to the area.

 

Haunted Chatham | Neil Arnold
ISBN: 978-0752461731 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Judging by the number of Susan Hill quotes scattered throughout his work, Arnold is a fan of the traditional English ghost story, and even his own collection of contemporary paranormal reports within the pages of Haunted Chatham reflect his enthusiasm with the genre.

Tightly written and featuring a hefty collection of stories, Chatham comes across as one of the better members of the haunted family. It features a large number of quotes from eye witnesses, which adds to the book’s spookiness, as do the occasional high contrast portrait taken from old newspapers. Many of the stories are new to me, and even those well-established tales contain details of which I was not aware. At one point Arnold admits that he has never seen a ghost, but by proxy it is fair to conclude he has experienced many more than the average ‘ghost hunter’.

Haunted Chatham is definitely one of the series which should be purchased regardless of where you live in the country.

Haunted Spalding | Gemma King
ISBN: 978-0752469928 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Starting off more of a ghost hunting guide than a traditional Haunted book, with a chapter dedicated to equipment used by King on paranormal investigations, Spalding is a mix of short ghost stories from tradition and contemporary accounts, and of in-depth field reports based on King’s own experiences.

King’s writing is clear and concise when it comes to her quantitative stories, covering each haunted site with the right detail and not feeling obligated to generate several hundred words of meaningless backstory and history. This style works particularly well for ‘ghost tourists’ to Spalding, and gives a taste of the diversity of haunted buildings and their phantom occupiers in the town.

Haunted Spalding differs from most of the series by featuring several longer subjective reports from paranormal investigations involving King. These are slightly trickier to write about, and I found myself asking more questions at the end of each chapter then are answered – perhaps this ‘known unknown’ is what the author wanted to achieve (and if so, she does it well).

Perhaps let down by belief in ‘orbs’ (aka backscatter) and some photographs which purport to show evidence of the paranormal but are too small to truly scrutinise, Haunted Spalding remains of interest to anyone with curiosity towards this haunted Lincolnshire town.

Haunted Carlisle | Darren W Ritson
ISBN: 978-0752460871 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

With Ritson witnessing a figure in black vanish into thin air at the start of the opening chapter, the scene is set for one of the more subjective trips in the haunted series. Ritson flits around the ghostly streets of Carlisle, asking questions, answering most of them, pondering the whys and wherefores, and if no response is forthcoming, publically appealing for more information before moving on.

I’ll be honest – I took a dislike to Ritson’s style of writing at the start of the book, but by the end it had grown on me. There is no pretence here. Reading Haunted Carlisle is like listening to a friend at the pub talk about their day at the office, if, of course, the office was populated with ghosts.

Style aside, Haunted Carlisle features a good mix of first hand and third hand paranormal stories, including the cursed stone which featured in a large number of news outlets a few years back, and a brief mention of the famous Radiant Lad of Corby Castle.

Haunted Carlisle is not at all like many others of the series, but fun nonetheless.

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