20 October 2012


Joseph Braddock. Haunted Houses, illustrated by Felix Kelly. Batsford, 1956.

Alasdair Alpin MacGregor. Phantom Footsteps: A Second Ghost Book. Robert Hale, 1959.

The word “read” in the heading needs to be interpreted fairly broadly in this case. I was first intrigued by the cover of Phantom Footsteps, when seen in, I think, the book department of Lewis’s of Manchester back in the Christmas of 1961.
Needless to say I was not allowed to buy it. But eventually, and fortified by pseudo-scientific explanations of ghosts as provided by Mr Dunne, I bravely got out copies of these two books from Urmston Library, then a hut in a park. I thought that these would help rid me of my fear of ghosts, brought on by such as the ghost story in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

However my bravery was premature, for having dipped into these books, I recoiled in terror. Today they may seem like pretty tame stuff, but I suspect there is stuff in them to scare even the most internet-hardened kiddie. I am not sure what did for me, perhaps it was Braddock’s chapter heading ‘Evil Ghosts’, or his story of the house in Birmingham in which a phantom cat was blamed for the death of a baby, or maybe it was his story of the boy in the Grenadier pub, who saw a shadow advancing and retreating, complete with evocative drawing by Felix Kelly. I suspect however that these were all beaten in the scary department by MacGregor’s story of the phantom of Meggernie House, the upper half of a woman which floated in through the wall and gave a guy a fiery kiss (presumably meant to be reflective of the regions from which the kisser came!), before turning up at the foot of the bed of the guy in the next room.

Today these books are fascinating accounts from the debatable lands between folklore, travelogue and psychical research. Both included stories with actual names, dates and places, and moved into the Fortean realm, with Braddock’s treatment of Gef the Mongoose, or the Runcorn poltergeist, and MacGregor on phantom armies. Much of the latter’s material came from his society and aristocratic friends, and much of his work reflects a romanticist world view. -- Peter Rogerson

1 comment:

  1. What were the books you read when you were young that first inspired your interest in the paranormal, ufological and fortean? If you'd like to write an account of those books, and how and why they affected you, please send it to Magonia Review (see the 'Submissions' link in the side panel for details). And it doesn't really have to be fifty years ago, that just applies to Magonia's editorial team!