24 February 2010



Jill Armitage. Haunted Derbyshire. The History Press. 2009.
David Brandon. Haunted Bath. The History Press, 2009. 
Alan Brooke. Haunted Whitby. The History Press, 2009.
Carmel King. Haunted Essex. The History Press, 2009.
Rupert Matthews. Haunted Hampshire. The History Press, 2009.
Stephen Wade. Hauntings in Lincolnshire. Halsgrove, 2009.

This collection of books of regional ghost stories illustrate the various approaches and purposes behind such collections.

Rupert Matthews takes on the role of the travel writer, visiting various historical and other alleged haunted locations and listening to the stories that people tell of strange experiences. Stephen Wade takes on the role of the story teller, telling various 'spine chilling' ghost stories which may or may not have some basis in actual experience. The other writers in this group are producing works which are more like catalogues or gazetteers. David Brandon uses this technique to provide quite a lot of local history of Bath, and this is one of those ghost books which uses local legends to explore the wider history of the town or area. The works by Jill Armitage, Alan Brooke and Carmel King are more of straightforward tourist guides to alleged haunted spots.

While Matthews and Wade deal with modern memorates, the other writers rely mainly on old legends or legend remnants, often reduced to the level of "Rogerson Towers is said to be haunted by a maid made pregnant and murdered by Sir Rufus Rogerson in the 1620s" and such like. These legends and remnants often refer to periods well covered by historical novels of the type popular in preceding generations. Still others derive from the chapbooks and broadside ballads of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Many of these dealt with the sort of topics still popular in the tabloids of today, the crimes and debaucheries of the rich and famous, 'orrible murders, rapes and other outrages and human eccentricity.

Many of these stories also exhibit a strong class consciousness, centring around the ruining of poor working class girls by a variety of class enemies, such as debauched aristocrats, lecherous butchers, randy publicans and the like. Judging by the alleged number of cases of murdered maids, life in some English villages may have been almost has hazardous as in Midsomer*.

Behind these stories and legends and legend fragments lies an ambivalence towards history, which is seen both as a source of nostalgia (as witness the success of costume dramas) and fear of an oppressive past which somehow still has hold of us.

* For American and other overseas readers. Midsomer is a small village in a popular TV detective series, which began as a spoof but now appears to take itself seriously, where the number of murders must by now have far exceeded the resident population.

1 comment:

Rupert Matthews said...


I see that you have mentioned my book on Haunted Hampshire on your blog. I just wanted to thank you for that.

I thought that you might like to know that I also run a couple of blogs as well has having a website and being active on Facebook and Twitter. Contact details for all these activities are given below.

I did like your blog, so if you are on facebook or twitter, perhaps we could follow each other there.

all the best

Rupert Matthews

Facebook Page: Rupert Matthews
Twitter: RupertMatthews
Website: www.rupertmatthews.com
History blog: http://thehistorymanatlarge.blogspot.com/
Unexplained blog: http://ghosthunteratlarge.blogspot.com/