5 September 2022


Robert Bard. Paranormal Berkshire. Amberley, 2021.

Since a large portion of it was sliced off and handed over to Oxfordshire, Berkshire has sometimes been slightingly referred to as "the hard-shoulder of the M4". This book reveals that there is far more to the county than Welcome Break service stations and business parks.
In any book of hauntings and general weirdness, historic locations with long and colourful histories are likely to feature prominently, so the concentration here is on places like Windsor, Eton, and the picturesque Thames-side towns and villages. The distinctively suburban attractions of Reading, Bracknell or Slough do not feature, although I'm sure those towns have their own paranormal secrets. Even the slightly sinister sounding 'Winnersh Triangle' does not throw up a litany of Eddie Stoddart lorries mysteriously vanishing on the motorway.

So this is a pretty traditional compilation of classic ghost tales, but fair to say, a good one. The author is a member of the Ghost Club and has done his fair share of on-site investigation at many of the locations he describes, giving his own impression of the location, and most of the interesting photographs of old inns, grand houses and country churches are his own.

The hauntings involve the traditional English repertory company of debauched aristocrats, abused maidservants, abandoned children and displaced monks, as well as the Werewolf of Windsor, a creature previously unknown to me. I found the haunted window-pane of Datchet a particularly intriguing spectral phenomenon. The accounts are give place by pace, although I could see no logic to the way in which the entries are arranged, neither alphabetical or by geographical sequence, but this is a niggle rather than a serious complaint.

Some of the entries are just brief descriptions of individual incidents taken from other sources , but many are quite detailed accounts of the reported phenomena, a history of the building or location and the stories attached to it, as well as first hand anecdotes from the author's own visits to the locations. This is not just a cut-and-paste collection of anecdotes. It is a nicely-produced guide, fully researched, well written and lavishly illustrated; it will be a useful guide to any Berkshireites (?) planning an interesting outing to a spooky location, ending perhaps with a drink or two at a quaint, but distinctly haunted local pub.
  • Richard Samuels

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