The North of England Ghost Trail, by Liz Linahan, Distributed in the United States by Trafalgar Square, North Pomfret, Vermont 05053, $29.95 hardcover, 1999.
‘Between 1994 and 1996,’ writes Liz Linahan in the introduction to her book The North of England Ghost Trail, ‘I travelled the North of England in search of haunted houses, with the aim of writing a layman’s tour guide to places associated with supernatural phenomena.’ England’s reputation as a land of many colourful spooks is apparently well-deserved, because Linahan’s research turned up more than 100 inns, castles, museums, and pubs whose owners and staff have strange tales to tell of unexplained sights and sounds.
Rather than duplicate the work of previous writers who have compiled anthologies of well-known stories of famous sites, Linahan set out to talk first-hand with the witnesses of strange events, many of which have never before been described in print. As a result, her book is not really a spine-tingler in the Amityville vein, but rather a collection of oddities as told by seemingly down-to-earth folks with some unusual stories to tell. The apparitions they describe are almost always benign, or at worst mildly mischievous.
Perhaps revealingly, the author admits that during all her visits to these scenes of hauntings, she experienced only one unexplained incident of her own–despite the often repeated claims of witnesses that sightings, bangings, and other phenomena seem to peak when investigators are on hand. As with most books on the paranormal, however, it rarely matters whether a particular incident holds up under close scrutiny, or even if it is pure legend–there is something about mysterious tales that grabs the imagination and makes for an entertaining read. And for those readers who are true believers, Linahan adds to the fun by providing directions to each of the sites she describes, so that anyone who is interested can see for him- or herself. Since so many of the places are pubs, inns, and other public places, readers will have many opportunities to spend a night in haunted houses, doing a little investigating on their own.
Among the interesting spooks that appear in these pages are Lord Byron’s dog, Boatswain, who reputedly wanders through the grounds of Newstead Abbey, the poet’s home; a strange glowing, crackling apparition in Nottingham Castle’s long gallery that seemingly causes a permanent loss of sensation in the tongues of those who see it; an eight-foot-tall shaggy creature that was seen waiting at a bus stop on the Leeds-Farsley Road in West Yorkshire; and a ghostly fog that often appears in pictures taken by visitors to Chingle Hall, Yorkshire, and which photographic experts from Kodak have explained as being due to some sort of electrical energy.
The book also includes many accounts of staff who feel that they are being secretly watched as they go about their jobs–surely a feeling shared by employees the world over!