Book Reviews - December 2011

Haunted GrimsbyHaunted Grimsby | Jason Day
ISBN: 978-0-7524-6056-7 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

The seaport of Grimsby on the Humber Estuary is widely known for its busy fishing and maritime industry, and with the nearby seaside resort of Cleethorpes providing numerous leisure attractions, there is always plenty going on. However, after the fisherman bring in their final catch and the lights go out on the pier, a very different kind of activity takes place. Activity of a supernatural kind.

Grimsby is one of the places which I have wanted to visit for a while, with even the name of the town conjuring up dark and foreboding mental images (although I am assured it is a nice place to visit). Jason's work may have convinced me to spend some time there.

Haunted Grimsby contains a good mix of modern hauntings and more traditional tales. The contemporary accounts are highly detailed, with quotes and descriptions from eye-witnesses and reports from the ghost hunting teams that investigated the cases. Jason’s description of the cases is not overdramatic, for which I am grateful, although after reading the many cases within this book I am amazed how people who live in haunted houses do not flee at the first sign of paranormal trouble. Fortunately for us, the occupants remain on site and are happy to share their ordeals, providing a fascinating insight into both modern hauntings and the approach taken by some paranormal investigation teams.

Some good quality images are scattered throughout the book, and although some of the sketches are not my cup of tea, I found them a little disturbing and complimentary to the text. I would also argue that the paranormal entities caught in the reproduced photographs are more likely pareidolia, but hey, I’m a cynic…

Jason’s book is an alternative look at Grimsby, digging under the skin of what could be construed as a normal coastal town with intriguing supernatural secrets.

A special preview of Haunted Grimsby can be viewed here.

Rating: 8/10


Haunted WeymouthHaunted Weymouth | Alex Woodward
ISBN: 978-0-7524-6046-8 | 96 pages | £9.99 | Available from The History Press

Scratch beneath the surface of this happy seaside town and you will soon discover dark secrets and a host of unquiet spirits that lurk in the shadows, roaming the streets long after the holidaymakers have left. Who is the unseen lady that makes her presence chillingly felt to those who fail to beg her ‘Good Morning’? And what was the featureless dark shadow that terrified a curious young boy exploring a disused fort?

A storyteller / ghost walker by trade, Alex Woodward knows a good story when she sees one, and is happy to share many within the pages of Haunted Weymouth. There are many traditional and modern ghostly tales here, some tantalisingly fleeting, others much more detailed. As with the Haunted series, the book is filled with black and white photographs of many haunted sites, adding credence to the stories.

Two small details spoil this book. Alex may be a good storyteller, but her lack of photographic technical knowledge is obvious. Alex cites a blurred background in a photograph as being strange phenomena (sounds like either bokeh or flash combined with a dragged shutter to me), and implies that orbs are evidence of the paranormal, rather than the technical error known as backscatter.

The second little niggle is the lack of references. I should be flattered to find one of the Paranormal Database stories to be reproduced in Haunted Weymouth almost word from word, but a reference to the source material would have been nice.

A good, if a little flawed, paranormal investigation of the geographically stunning Weymouth and surrounding area.

A special preview of Haunted Weymouth can be viewed here.

Rating - 6/10

Haunted WalesHaunted Wales: A Guide to Welsh Folklore | Richard Holland
ISBN: 978-0752460581 | 240 pages | £12.99 | Available from The History Press

'Wales is a fearfully haunted place. Scattered with castles and mansions, lonely lanes, ancient churches and bare mountainsides, it has many locations that can lay claim to a resident spook or two. Way back in 1831, researcher William Howells wrote "more ghosts and goblins I think were prevalent in Wales than in England or any other country". In this complete collection of pre-war ghost stories from Wales, Richard Holland uses his extensive knowledge on the subject to delve into the supernatural side of the country...'

Haunted Wales, part of the History Press ongoing haunted series makes a slight break from the well established format with Richard Holland chasing after older, more traditional tales dating from before the Second World War. The book opens with a great Survey of Welsh Ghostlore, detailing common types of Welsh entities, reasons hauntings come into being and brief biographies of Welsh folklorists.

The bulk of the book is what the History Press produces best: a work brimming with hundreds of ghostly stories, some little more than a paragraph and other tales much more detailed. Richard has pulled out all of the stops with his research, having identified dozens of old sources from which he has harvested his stories. The result is a fantastic selection of tales ranging from gwyllgi (black dogs) terrifying the locals to poltergeist cases which would not look out of place today.

One of the flaws with the book, as Richard himself identifies, is the lack of Welsh language source material - one could imagine many additional stories hidden away within village annals and obscure texts. Saying this, the bibliography is on the hefty side, and I would imagine Richard found it hard to find a suitable end point for this volume.

Haunted Wales is one of my favourites in the Haunted series and the strongest book on Welsh hauntings and folklore I have read for many years.

A special preview of Haunted Wales can be viewed here.

Rating - 9/10


haunted surreyHaunted Surrey | Rupert Matthews
ISBN: 9780752456348 | 96 pages | price £9.99 | Available from The History Press

'From heart-stopping accounts of apparitions, manifestations and related supernatural phenomena to first-hand encounters with spectres and spirits, this collection of stories contains new and well-known spooky tales from around the county of Surrey. Drawing on historical and contemporary sources, the author has scoured the length and breadth of the county to include accounts of the ghostly monks at Newark Priory, the spirit riders of a horse and carriage at Hog's Back, the ghost of a naked woman in the Silent Pool, apparitions in 1930s' clothing at Kenley railway station, and the notorious old rake Field Marshal Ligonier at Cobham - and many more!'

Haunted Surrey is the latest in the 'Haunted' range from the History Press and draws on author Rupert Matthews' knowledge of the paranormal and his home county. Unlike Haunted Wales (above), Matthews' work is a mix of classic ghostly myths and legends and more recent encounters, much more in line with other works in the History Press's series.

The book is split into five chapters, each containing a number of stories which focus on places within a certain geographical remit. While some stories, such as the monks of Newark Priory, are renown across the UK, the majority of the hauntings in the book are much less known and Matthews' factual writing style lends itself well to documenting them. The clear layout and self contained stories makes it easy to pick up and read in no particular order.

While I'm not so keen on the circles and arrows drawn somewhat redundantly on many of the photographs in the book, the accompanying images nicely compliment and support the stories; the plain, almost boring, roads and buildings portrayed within the pages hiding dark secrets and some surprising paranormal activity.

If you are a collector of the History Press's Haunted series, then this is a must, otherwise it is a damn fine place to start when you begin to build your collection.

A special preview of Haunted Surrey can be viewed here.

Rating - 8/10


walking haunted londonWalking Haunted London: 25 Original Walks Exploring London's Ghostly Past | Richard Jones
ISBN: 9781847735386 | 160 pages | Price £9.99 | Available from New Holland

'Fully updated for the most intrepid London visitors and residents, this spine-chilling guide wends it way through eerie and, in many cases, long-forgotten parts of England's capital city. From Deadman's Walk and the Screaming Wood to Dick Turpin and Jack the Ripper, professional tour guide and inveterate ghost hunter Richard Jones leaves no haunted house or lost soul unmentioned. Join him on a truly hair-raising journey through shadowed alleyways, sleepy pubs and the darkest recesses of London's historic homes – if you dare!'

Walking Haunted London indeed does exactly what it says on the tin. In an almost pocketable sized book, Richard Jones manages to fit a couple of dozen, easy to navigate walks which explore the paranormal side of London. Designed for several days worth of outings, Jones' walks take the reader / walker past some of the most famous haunted sites the capital has to offer, including the Tower of London, Highgate, and Berkeley Square. Although slightly off the London track, he also includes a particularly interesting tour of Pluckley, known as the most haunted village in England.

What I particularly like about the book is Jones' descriptive texts ensure that the armchair ghost hunter or agoraphobic is also catered for, many entries reading like how I imagine Jones would sound as he guided you around these sites.

Accompanying the text are a large number of high quality, glossy images and easy to read maps, ensuring it is nigh impossible to become lost as you explore the ghostly routes of the capital. Start and end points of the majority of walks are located close to underground stations, while the routes wander past places to pause to eat and drink.

Walking Haunted London is a gem of a book and should be permanently stored alongside your London A-Z.

Rating - 9/10

A special preview of Walking Haunted London can be viewed here.

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