6 January 2010


Matt Hicks and Terry Setterington. Paranormal Stoke on Trent. The History Press, 2009.

Ian Addicote. Haunted Pubs of the South West. Amberley, 2009.

Roger Guttridge. Paranormal Dorset. Amberley, 2009.

The usual mixture of memorates, folklore and fakelore that we have come to expect with this series. Unlike some of the other works in the series, this does have some modern ghost stories, most notably from the North Staffordshire Hospital. Hospitals seem to be one of the major places where people report all sorts of anomalous experiences, perhaps because they are the places where, at least in modern times, life begins and ends. They are also places where people are often under great stress and staff especially can be operating in conditions of great fatigue and sleep loss.
What is noticeable from this and other similar works, is the decline of the domestic ghost, fading away with council and other social housing. Now protecting property prices means that such experiences and stories are driven underground, to be replaced by the marketable haunted pub or cinema which can draw in ghost hunting tourists. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

The haunted pub is, as Peter remarks above, a marketable property, especially in a popular holiday region like the South West of England. Ian Addicote's book certainly does as much as it can to encourage the tourist trade in the counties it covers, and it seems at times that there is hardly a pub in the South West which is not haunted! Most of the hauntings described are of the rather vague doors slamming, lights turned on, sudden cold draughts, variety. But a few do seem to have some historical background, and in an area with a considerable maritime history there are stories of smugglers' tunnels, ghosts of seafarers, wreckers, etc. The book is primarily a guide for tourists, which makes it rather odd that the entries are in alphabetical order of the name of the pub, rather than being grouped by town and county. And it would have been really useful to have had a note of the draught beers available at each pub!

Roger Guttridge's volume is of rather more interest to the serious anomalist, as, although it has its quota of fairly humdrum ghost stories, it covers a wider range of Forteana. Although there are the usual haunted pub stories, most of the reports given here have a more substantial history, often with a grounding in local folklore. How many of these are accounts of actual experiences rather than rumour and local gossip?

There are several longer pieces of particular interest, including a 1981 account from Bournemouth which seems a classic template for poltergeist activity: a mother suffering from a wasting disease, a 17-year-old adopted daughter, and an 8-year-old foster son with learning difficulties, who seems to have been blamed for the outbreaks of destructive activity.

Other item of interest to Forteans include Conan Doyle's account of fairies in Branksome Park, Bournemouth, which brings to mind the stories of the Liverpool Leprechauns; and the curious Moign Down UFO incident of 1976, involving an object looking like the skeleton of some kind of folding umbrella. It caused a great furore in ufological circles at the time because of the perceived reliability of the witness, but is now almost forgotten.

Many of the accounts are given in quite considerable detail, which makes it all the more unfortunate that there are no references given for any other the sources other than the odd passing mention in the text; or an index. But an interesting read nevertheless. -- Reviewed by John Rimmer

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