28 January 2014


John Hanson and Dawn Holloway, with Brenda Butler. Haunted Skies Volume 8, 1980. Haunted Skies Publishing, 2013

Paul Adams and Eddie Brazil. Extreme Hauntings: Britain’s Most Terrifying Ghosts. The History Press, 2013.

The earlier volumes of the Haunted Skies series often contained lots of fascinating stories and memories which made then real nostalgia fests. 
 As we reach 1980 however, the bulk of the book turns out to be a rehashing of stories that have been in loads of books. More than half of this volume is devoted to largely uncritical renditions of Rendlesham.

Even this would have been of some use had it been organised in a coherent fashion, but the result here is a morass of “facts” and speculation, in places interspersed with all sorts of irrelevant matters.

Reading between the lines on occasion, one can sense how the smell of book deals is influencing “witnesses” to outbid one another in ever more baroque stories. The latest spin from Penniston is that the UFOs are time machines from the future, as revealed to him telepathically or whatever. The only consistent message from H and H is “that it is not the lighthouse”. It never occurs to them that is what a lot of people want them to think, not least the authorities in the early 1980s. Of course, more than 30 years on, it is difficult to get into the mind-set of the times.

Other stories covered are Alan Godfrey (yet again), and the tale of Zigsmund Adamski (yet again). The authors concede that his story has nothing to do with UFOS, in which case why put it in a UFO book.

These volumes are now self-published, and so even the minimum degree of editorial control exercised by Jonathan Downes has gone, with the result that the product is a vast, rambling mess. One could use it in a college course as an example of the pitfalls of self- publishing, even when the technical quality is at a quite good level. The authors really need to discipline themselves to present their material in good chronological order, avoid getting side tracked, cut out irrelevant illustrations and some of the low grade dross. They then could produce something a lot better.

As for Extreme Hauntings: Britain’s Most Terrifying Ghosts, the worst thing about this book is stupid title and subtitle, otherwise it is a not too bad accounts of some famous and some not so famous ghost stories, presented in a generally uncritical fashion. These include the ghost of Berkley Square, Willington Mill, the Despard ghost, Borley Rectory, the Theatre Royal Margate, the black cat of Killakee, phantom hitchhikers, the Hexham Heads, the Pontefract, Enfield and South Shields poltergeists etc. One of the stories presented here is that of the Stocksbridge bypass, which was, I believe, first published in Magonia by investigator David Clarke:

However Clarke is not credited by Adams and Brazil, who credit Paul Adams own Haunted Luton (Luton?) and one of Jenny Randles and Peter Hough’s potboilers. Attribution is a real problem in this book, and is sometimes inconsistent; crediting Owen and Simms’s Science and the Spook for the Northfleet council house, but not for the Theatre Royal Margate, also covered by them.

It would not be unfair to say that the terror factor in these stories is rather inversely proportional to their credibility, the most dramatic coming from books of "told as true” ghost stories. Peter Rogerson.

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