On of the most popular features in Fortean Times is the ‘Fortean Traveller’ column, where people describe their visits to sites with a Fortean connection, perhaps a location noted for recurrent paranormal phenomena and hauntings, sites of religious significance or places that just have some strange, numinous quality about them. These can be in remote regions of the earth or just down the street. My local Fortean site is the venue for the first appearance of Springheel Jack.
Magical Places is a nice little guidebook to just such locations. It is a beautifully illustrated volume, well worth enjoying purely for the atmospheric watercolour illustrations and vignettes by Katie Vernon. Each entry gives about a page of text explaining the history, mystery, customs and beliefs of the locale, along with the vignette illustrating the site and capturing its atmosphere.
As well as all the obvious places you would expect – pyramids, Stonehenge, Palnque, etc – there are plenty of lesser-known locations as well, like New Jersey’s ‘Pine Barrens’, with a particularly atmospheric illustration of the Jersey Devil, presenting a much more authentic-seeming interpretation that the cartoon-like creature usually depicted.
One location completely unknown to me was the ‘Knucker Hole’, a pond which never freezes in winter or dries up in summer. It was supposedly inhabited by a ghostly dragon, decapitated by a local hero who enticed it out of its lair with a gigantic meat pie. All a bit lively for a little village just outside Worthing!
This is not a deeply serious book for the ‘researcher’ (although unlike many such it does have an adequate index) but would make a perfect gift for a friend who perhaps wonders about your own interest in strange phenomena and places. You never know, it might convert them to the delights of Forteanism! – John Rimmer.