Ghost trains

October 18, 2017

Hearing ghost stories in a heatwave especially lends the experience a dreamy indistinctness, a sensation of journeying back in thought, images muted with heat and distance, with lobed sun flecks and patterns of greenery. Until, as (Algernon) Blackwood puts it, “a sudden darkness comes, taking the summer brilliance out of everything”.

Antonia Quirke
Algernon Blackwood’s Ghost Stories and why horror is better in the heat
(New Statesman)

Bryan Silva

It’s that time of year again. The shadows grow longer, the days colder. We light fires and candles, close our doors against the night and tell tales to terrify ourselves. Why when the darkness presses against the windows and the winds howl do we concentrate on our fears? The terror of the unknown, the closeness of death and decay?

For the rest of the year we keep these thoughts at bay. It is only when we feel most vulnerable to the in-definable, to the spirits that we don’t really believe in, to the afterlife we hope exists, but of which we can find no evidence, that we indulge in an orgy of spine chilling stories.

Misha Herwin
Ghost Stories

Ghosts around us

April 14, 2017

Some people think that our brash modern world with its mechanism, its cynicism and its materialism has ousted the ghosts which used to dwell among us. On the contrary, they mingle with us more than ever before.

Gone are the days when they could wander in peace in some ancient castle or stately home. Now they are driven out of these places by coachloads of gawping tourists who stare at them without seeing them, and make mock of them with imitation shivers when the touring guide describes a haunting.

So now, virtually evicted and with an almost insoluble housing problem, the ghost have moved in among us.

They mooch about in hospital outpatients’ departments: they meander up and down the gaudy gangways of the supermarket; they sit on couches in the airport departure lounge; they join the crowd coming out of the factory gates; they tack themselves on to bus queues; they travel on commuters’ trains; they haunt Underground platforms and passages, bringing with them strange gusts of strange-smelling air.

And in all these activities they do us a great service. For even if visibility suddenly comes upon them (an accident which may happen to any ghost at any time) they may be seen, even heard – but they take up no material space. They are part of the crowd, yet do not make it thicker.

So how can you tell which member of a crowd is a ghost which has come-over-visible? You can’t, unless you bump into him and feel absolutely nothing. Then you know. And you are afraid, because it’s a weird feeling. But that is not the poor ghost’s fault. He can’t help being unsolid any more than you can help being solid.

Rosemary Timperley
Introduction to the Sixth Ghost Book (book one)

Lock your door

February 18, 2017

Down in the Orchard

August 31, 2016

Down in the orchard
the grasses creep,
covering a grave
dug fair and deep.

Down in the orchard
where nobody goes,
earth is over him
heard and toes.

And nobody cares,
and nobody weeps,
for that bitter secret
the orchard keeps.

While I sit safe
in a fire-lit room,
outside the wind
is cold as doom.

Once to bed early
two filled with hate;
now I alone sit
when the hour is late,

He cannot hurt me
he can only stare
at the worms that bore.

A step upstairs, right over my head!
Who walks so late
When all are abed?

The stairs go creak,
and the door goes crack;—
who is that standing
at my back?

I dare not move,
nor turn to see,
lest he should be staring
there at me.

But I am drawn
in a close embrace
by arms as thin
and white as lace;

Arms that are more
bone than flesh—
my hair is over me
like a mesh;

Golden and silken,
a shining coat;
closely it tightens
round my throat! . . .

Down in the orchard
the grasses creep,
covering two graves
dug fair and deep.

Richard Ely Morse


August 30, 2016


Materializations are often best produced in rooms where there are books. I cannot think of any time when materialization was in any way hampered by the presence of books.

Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House

St. Symphorian's Church at Forrabury

The legend tells of envy, blasphemy and divine retribution. The people of Boscastle in Cornwall envied the people of nearby Tintagel because of their delightful church bells that would ring out on a Sunday morning summoning the faithful from miles around. Forrabury church in Boscastle had no bells. So it was decided the people of Boscastle would get together and raise the necessary funding to purchase bells for their church – but not just any old bells! They would be hand cast in Spain, and would be the finest bells in the country!

The bells were duly transported by ship from Spain. The ship’s captain had with him a Cornish fisherman who knew the treacherous north Cornwall coast like the back of his hand. This man acted as navigator as they arrived off of Trevose Head. Nearing Tintagel the ship’s crew heard the peal of bells from the shore – the Cornish fisherman, a deeply religious man, immediately dropped to his knees and crossed himself, giving thanks to God for a safe passage.

The ship’s captain, a lover of strong drink, berated the fisherman. ‘You should be giving thanks to my fine ship,’ he said. ‘And to the calm seas – not to a non-existent deity!’ The two men argued and the Spanish captain cursed the fisherman and continued his blaspheming.

Seemingly from out of nowhere the sky darkened. The seas rolled heavy. A storm blasted the small ship which capsized on the rocky coast and sank. All on board were drowned except for the Cornish fisherman who was swept to safety on the rocks.

The bells, he later told the people of Boscastle, were ringing as the ship went down.

And today, so it is said, when storms rage off that part of the coast, the ghost bells can be heard ringing beneath the wild waves…

The church featured in the legend is St. Symphorian’s Church at Forrabury, positioned high on a hill overlooking the sea. A version of the story of the missing bells is told in the poem:

The Silent Tower of Bottreaux

The pilot heard his native bells
hang on the breeze in fitful swells.
‘Thank God’ with reverent brow he cried,
‘We make the shore on evening’s tide.’
‘Come to thy God in time.’
It was his marriage chime.
Youth, manhood, old age past,
his bells must ring at last.

‘Thank God, thou whining knave, on land
but thank at sea the steersman’s hand’,
the captain’s voice above the gale,
‘Thank the good ship and ready sail.’
‘Come to thy God in time.’
Sad grew the boding chime.
‘Come to thy God at last.’
Boomed on the heavy blast.

Up rose the sea as if it heard
the Mighty Master’s signal word.
What thrills the captain’s whitening lip?
The death groans of his sinking ship.
‘Come to thy God in time.’
Swung deep the funeral chime.
Grace, mercy, kindness past,
‘Come to thy God at last.’

Long did the rescued pilot tell,
when greying hairs o’er his forehead fell,
while those around would hear and weep,
that fearful judgement of the deep.
‘Come to thy God in time.’
Swung the deep funeral chime,
he read his native chime,
youth, manhood, old age past,
his bell rung out at last.

Still when the storm of Bottreau’s waves
is wakening in his weedy caves,
those bells that sudden surges hide
peal their deep notes beneath the tide.
‘Come to thy God in time.’
Thus saith the ocean’s chime.
‘Storm, billow, whirlwind past,
come to thy God at last.

Rev R. S. Hawker

doubtful reflections

Diary 27th April

I thought I’d mention Rosemary Kenyon Timperley, teacher of English and History, hospital nurse, police canteen assistant, waitress and artist’s model. During the 1950s she worked with the editorial staff at “Reveille” magazine which was very popular with its light entertainment pages and tastefully posed glamour models. She wrote short stories, too, some with a supernatural content, and became a prolific novelist.

Sundial Press have published a (long overdue) collection of her best supernatural stories titled “From Another World”. In the introduction, Ms. Timperley has this to say about the supernatural:

“As a little child I was first consciously introduced to ghosts when my aunt read aloud to me Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Marley’s ghost interested me, but I was unalarmed as I didn’t believe in him. I thought privately that I could invent that sort of thing myself if I had a mind to.

“ For years I regarded ghost stories as fascinating but no more credible than, say, Cinderella or The Little Mermaid—beloved favourites, but one did suspend belief.

Even when I found Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners, fell in love with it, recited it in the bath or to long-suffering human listeners, I still didn’t really believe a word of it.

“ But I always stayed interested in ghosts and, in spite of my scepticism, enjoyed writing ghost stories, pleasantly giving myself the willies and earning some unghostly money at the same time.

“As a teacher, I found that the children loved having ghost stories read to them, and their cries, gasps, shivers and “Cor, Miss ! Smashing ! Read us another!” was fun for everyone.

“This sceptic’s paradise of mine continued until I was over forty, and then something happened. I had a long illness, involv¬ing months in hospital. The drugs I had to take and the claustrophobic, almost witchlike atmosphere of an all-female ward, had an effect on my mind – and I heard Voices.

“No need for details. Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Emily Bronte, Evelyn Waugh and others have already described this experience to perfection. Indeed, schizophrenia is not such a rare condition. Many people go through it at some time or other when they have been under stress and “escape” from so-called normality. But the point is that, whatever the medical explanation, I really did hear those Voices, which doctors call “auditory hallucinations”. I realised with shock and terror that there were such things as spirits in the air about us, and that I’d been playing ignorantly with ghost-fire for all of my previous life….”

It is a very good collection of stories and reasonably priced for a limited edition. And, frankly, it’s the brilliant work of an author who, when alive, described herself as living “alone in an old-fashioned flat and existing on black coffee, pink gin and cigarettes”.



I heartily agreed with Jim Harrison when he said:

“The simple act of opening a bottle of wine has brought more happiness to the human race than all the collective governments in the history of earth…”


So that’s it. Old lovers reduced to words on a page. All the hope, the promise…the rejection and regret. It’s all there for anyone to see.


“Do you believe in ghosts, then?” said the inquisitive gentleman.

“Faith, but I do,” replied the jovial Irishman; “I was brought up in the fear and belief of them: we had a Benshee in our own family, honey.”

“A Benshee—and what’s that?” cried the questioner.

“Why an old lady ghost that tends upon your real Milesian families, and wails at their window to let them know when some of them are to die.”

“A mighty pleasant piece of information,” cried an elderly gentleman, with a knowing look and a flexible nose, to which he could give a whimsical twist when he wished to be waggish.

“By my soul, but I’d have you know it’s a piece of distinction to be waited upon by a Benshee. It’s a proof that one has pure blood in one’s veins. But, egad, now we’re talking of ghosts, there never was a house or a night better fitted than the present for a ghost adventure. Faith, Sir John, haven’t you such a thing as a haunted chamber to put a guest in?”

“Perhaps,” said the Baronet smiling, “I might accommodate you even on that point.”

“Oh, I should like it of all things, my jewel. Some dark oaken room, with ugly woebegone portraits that stare dismally at one, and about which the housekeeper has a power of delightful stories of love and murder. And then a dim lamp, a table with a rusty sword across it, and a spectre all in white to draw aside one’s curtains at midnight” –

“In truth,” said an old gentleman at one end of the table, “you put me in mind of an anecdote” –

“Oh, a ghost story! a ghost story!” was vociferated round the board, every one edging his chair a little nearer.

The attention of the whole company was now turned upon the speaker. He was an old gentleman, one side of whose face was no match for the other. The eyelid drooped and hung down like an unhinged window shutter. Indeed, the whole side of his head was dilapidated, and seemed like the wing of a house shut up and haunted. I’ll warrant that side was well stuffed with ghost stories.

There was a universal demand for the tale.

Washington Irving
Tales of a Traveller