‘Tis the season to be spooky…

…and I have some spooktacular* offers for you to enjoy.

I have (for the duration of the season and maybe beyond) made my shorter works a little cheaper.

This means that my novella The Hedgeway is now just 99p or whatever the equivalent is worldwide. Here’s the blurb to tempt you:

Leading from the overgrown grass and thicket of brambles were the distinct signs of feet passing: small, bare human feet.
A child had walked here, breaking the crisp coating of hoar frost, and had stood only yards from the kitchen window.
Cathy thought: They’re only footprints, so why do I suddenly feel so scared?
Daniel’s grandmother’s house seems only a few years from becoming a ruin but the roof is still sound and unlike his rented accommodation, the whole place is his. It seems the perfect time to ask girlfriend Cathy to move in with him and together they plan to renovate the house. But the old house has secrets that it wants to share with them whether they want to know or not.

Then there’s The Wild Hunt, also for 99p:

Six short stories of encounters with forgotten deities and demi-gods and otherworldly beings.
The Piper at the Back Gate ~ a woman discovers a primeval forest beyond her night time garden and waiting there is someone from her childhood days.
The Wild Hunt ~ a wakeful woman joins the hunt first as prey, then as hunter, in a frozen land millennia ago.
Snag ~ a man meets a strange girl who seems to know all about everyone, to great effect.
Snuggle ~ as a premature baby lies hovering between life and death, a girl sits spinning wool in the hospital foyer.
Snip ~ an arrogant young man fights a battle with post-operative infection and his conscience.
The Faery Trees ~ an angry child discovers why you should never fall asleep beneath the elder trees.

And finally, also at 99p is The Moth’s Kiss:

A collection of ten short stories to unsettle, disturb, chill or terrify. From the creeping unease of The Moth’s Kiss of the title to the eeriness of A Fragrance of Roses, the stories seep into the consciousness of the reader. Shivers down the spine and a need to check doors and windows are a probable outcome of reading this collection alone at night. You’ll never look at willows or mosquitoes the same. Or moths.

If you are not keen on the spooky stuff, but do want something that reflects the season somewhat, then Strangers and Pilgrims, a book many readers have found to be comforting and uplifting as well as enthralling, is set during the three days of All Hallows Eve (Halloween) All Hallow’s Day and also All Saints day. It’s not on offer at this time but at £2.99 for a full novel, that’s not a bad deal anyway. Here’s the blurb:

“My heart is broken and I am dying inside.” 

Six unconnected strangers type these words into an internet search engine and start the journey of a lifetime. Directed to The House of the Wellspring website, each begins a conversation with the mysterious warden, to discover whether the waters of the Wellspring, a source of powerful healing, can heal their unbearable hurts. 

A journey of self discovery and healing awaits them, but will the Warden grant them their wish? Invited to spend some days at the House of the Wellspring each of the strangers comes with the hope of coming away whole again. 

But where is the Warden they all longed to meet and where is the Wellspring they all came to find?

 

All books also available in paperback. I recently did the required migration from Createspace to Kindle Direct; it was easier than I feared though I did get very stressed about it. Most of the books are a little cheaper now than they previously were.

Shares very much appreciated. For all other Amazon stores, please change the dot co dot uk in the URL to whichever dot you need. Or put the title and my name into the search facility.

 

  • sorry about that. It’s also the season for very bad puns.
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Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! Me and Poltergeists

Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! Me and Poltergeists

I’ve been skipping down Memory Lane a lot lately; probably a sign of middle age if not worse. A good deal of the events in my books have their roots in real experiences, and real heart-break too. Some have their roots firmly in events that would have most of us humming the tune from the Twilight Zone or possibly reaching for a rosary.

I lived in a Victorian terraced house as a student in Liverpool; it had been divided into four neat bedsits of varying size (each with a fourth share in the bathroom and hot water). During the two years I lived there, I occupied three of the four bedsits. I started in the ground floor front bedsit, moved to the back of the house on the ground floor six weeks later (it was a temporary occupancy) and a year later, following two break-ins that had made me feel unsafe, I moved to the upstairs back bedsit. Like most student digs it was down at heel and scruffy but it was extremely cheap to rent and my landlady was a decent sort. The other girls I shared the house with didn’t give me much cause for complaint (one is a good friend to this day) and given the issues many faced with damp, dangerous properties and uncongenial flat-mates, I was on to a winner.

Except for one thing.

The house had certain problems that are very hard to explain. Things as nebulous as atmosphere are notoriously easy to dismiss as being either figments of imagination (I have quite a good imagination) or the result of old, poorly maintained houses rife with damp and draughts. Small items within each self-contained flat-let went missing, only to reappear in places it was improbable if not impossible for them to have ended up. On one occasion, my door keys vanished from my kitchen table, only to reappear on a shelf so high I had to stand on a chair to reach. If you have read Away With The Fairies, you’ll know the kind of weirdness I am talking about. Had it just been me, I could accept it might have been a sequence of coincidences or imagination, but over the two years, all the other girls mentioned odd things happening. Lights would dip and electrical things would falter; you might hear footsteps and there was no one there. Eerie but not terrifying. Counter to what you might expect, I wasn’t that bothered about any of it, though missing items did make me get very cross.

Until one morning when things took a turn for the worse.

It was about eightish and I’d just woken from the alarm clock and was lying there thinking about getting up and making some tea. I’ve always needed plants and green things around me, so I had a few potted spider plants and that year I’d grown a hyacinth bulb. The flower was splendid that morning, emitting one of my favourite scents at that time. It was growing in one of those glass pots shaped so you can grow the bulb without soil; the reservoir is filled with water and the roots grow into it. I’d put the thing on the chest of drawers across the room from the bed.

Without warning, the plant, glass pot and all, rose up and hurled itself across the room at me, missing my head and hitting the pillow, drenching me with water. I lay there stunned (and wet) and was unable to move. I lived entirely alone in that tiny flat; my fiance lived a few streets away and visited most evenings but went home to bed.

The room felt unusually cold and not just because I was soaked with hyacinth water. Something sort of clicked and I leaped out of bed, dressed rapidly and exited the flat at high speed. I was so spooked, I didn’t stop for a cup of tea or breakfast or even a wash. All I wanted was to get out of the building and among other people. I stood and shook at the bus stop and eventually, a bus arrived and took me in to the university. Over the course of the day, I went through every rational possibility that could perhaps explain what had happened, and nothing worked. In the end, I concluded that something of supernatural origin had hurled that hyacinth at me. Later research suggested a poltergeist; I simply don’t know. We were all slightly too old to be triggering classic poltergeist activity. I was at that time the youngest in the house, and was around twenty one at the time.

Some years later, I saw something that defied explanation. A shop in Guisborough (a small market town in North Yorkshire) had weird things going on; the owner was a pal of mine and she was genuinely worried by it all. Candles that lit themselves at night are causes for worry. I was in the shop one day; my friend’s youngest son was at the till. We had been chatting when he went white and pointed to a shelf near where I was standing. The shelf held a selection of china oil burners; one at the back of the shelf had risen in the air, all by itself, and hovered for a second before hurtling across the room at the lad, only deviating at the last moment to smash on a wall rather than on his head. I can promise there were no fishing wires or booby traps.

You may wonder what I did about my flat. I did nothing. I went back that evening, and carried on as normal. I was unnerved for a few days, slept with a light on and a crucifix under my pillow. I’ve always been a pragmatist and scary as it sounds (and indeed was) it wasn’t scary enough to make me quit a decent flat where I paid around half the rent usual for such a place. But I have often wondered whether the girls who lived there in the years after I left ever had the same sort of uncanny goings-on.

There is one coda, though. It took me about two decades before I ever grew hyacinths from bulbs again. I didn’t want to take any chances.

The ghost in the library

The ghost in the library

I had hoped to have some scary fiction to share this Halloween but the short story I wrote is either too scary or not scary enough, and I’d rather save it till I know which. I was also working on a longer story, but have stalled through lack of energy.

So, I thought I would entertain you all in the grand old tradition of telling true ghost stories at Halloween.

I’ve got a fair few odd little anecdotes about the supernatural from a life time of being something of a magnet for weird events, from being pelted with a potted hyacinth by a poltergeist to seeing the spectral form of a small child appear in the bedroom of our first house. So gather round, friends, and would someone shut the door lest the draught make the candles flicker? Throw a few more logs on the fire, pour yourself a glass of vintage port and make yourself comfortable.

Sixteen is a difficult age and while I was in few respects a true teenager, the world usually conspires to treat you as a being who falls squarely between being a child to be indulged and an adult who can be trusted. I was lucky that my post ‘O’ level work experience proved to be one where I was really given the opportunity to experience working in a museum.

Bedford museum had quite recently relocated to the Castle Gardens in Bedford, and the building it inhabited had an interesting history. Of the castle itself, constructed of timber shortly after the Norman conquest, only the mound still stood, and traces of the motte. The museum was a rambling old place which in its time had been a workhouse and also a brewery and when I joined for my month of experience, it was still undergoing changes. The smell of paint and plaster lingered; exhibits were being dusted down and given new labels as part of the whole programme of refurbishment.

I was originally there to work for the Archaeology Officer but I found I got on better with the curator and the Natural History Officer. As an adult I can see how hard it must have been for them to find me tasks for which I was qualified and able to do without reducing me to a tea girl, and I was first set with the task of examining and cataloguing a room full of boxes packed with magic lantern slides. They had been newly acquired but no one knew what was in most of them as there was no inventory. So I opened box and after dusty old box and methodically recorded what I found. It might have been tedious work but I found it actually quite good fun. I learned a lot about the world, too.

On occasions I got take out on trips, such as when John, the curator was asked to visit Police headquarters to help their public relations officer assess how to manage the museum housed there. That was eye-opening. I got to handle murder weapons from yesteryear and look at some quite gruesome relics of murders. Usually mid afternoon everyone at our museum came to the kitchen for a cuppa, and friends of the curator used to drop by too, several of whom worked in local government. I was included in these gatherings and enjoyed them.

The day came when I finished with my boxes of slides, and with some sense of accomplishment I handed over my inventory. I have no idea now if it was more or less what was needed but I got praised and then sent to the attic for my next assignment.

The attic was a vast long room that ran probably half the length of the building, and it was also the library. On one side of the room were lots and lots of windows, but the other walls were almost completely covered by shelves of books, floor to ceiling. It was a bright, sunny room and I suspect that it was far from the best place to store rare books but it was a pleasant enough place to work. It was reached by a steep staircase that began near the kitchen door in the private area of the museum. The stairs were solid enough but they creaked when you walked on them.

My task was to catalogue the latest batch of acquistions: a consignment of weights and measures. There was everything from the usual sets of scales (including tiny jeweller’s scales) to huge half hundredweight lumps of metal and a vast array of Chinese scales all in exquisitely made wooden cases of rosewood and velvet. I had to measure everything, and describe as accurately as I could everything about each item.

When you have measured a dozen scales, it gets boring. Really boring. On a summer afternoon, when the room has become warm, and sunshine is pouring in, a girl tends to suddenly start questioning what on earth she is doing in a museum library when she might be elsewhere. Of course, I didn’t sneak out and go and have a quiet afternoon down by the river but I did rebel a bit.

I went and found a book.

It was a bound edition of The Girl’s Own Paper from around 1900 onwards, and it was fascinating reading. From the coy problem pages to the advertisements for complexion soaps and dusting powders, I was hooked. There was a serial too. I remember little of it, because I limited myself to one paper a day. I had a guilty sense of stealing time when I read instead of cataloguing, and even though I was simply a volunteer, I wanted to make a good impression on those I was working for. So I kept the book as a secret treat.

One very warm afternoon I gave up working quite quickly. None of the windows would open and it was airless and stuffy. I worked at a big desk at the far end of the long room, and I sat side on, so that while I did not have my back to the room, I did not exactly face it. I was enjoying reading and was lost in some Edwardian beauty tips when it happened.

Directly behind me, someone sighed, loudly and with obvious sorrow. I froze, believing that one of the staff must have come up and found me shirking my tasks. I turned, ready to apologise, and saw there was no one there.

I ran through my mind what had just happened. I had definitely heard a pronounced sigh. I had felt it on the back of my neck. All the windows were closed. I had not heard footsteps coming up the creaky stairs, nor yet the same across the expanse of floor boards to my desk. I checked the room, to see if someone had sneaked up and was standing now grinning at my discomfiture.

I was totally alone. And the room that had previously been sweltering with July heat was stone cold.

I was out of that room and down the stairs in a very few seconds, landing in the kitchen white-faced and shaking. One of John’s friends was there, making tea and he was a bit shocked and my sudden arrival. Then he saw my face.

Oh, you’ve met our resident ghost, then?” he said and I nodded and was too scared to say more in case I was teased about it.

I did go back up a few days later, and while I had the eerie feeling of being watched, nothing further happened. I’ve looked up the museum now and while a lot has changed, including the name, it seems that ghostly goings on are still a feature as this Halloween they are running a paranormal investigation. http://www.thehigginsbedford.org.uk/default.aspx?page=0

 

Is there someone there? ~ a sense of presence

Roses…

 

Is there someone there?

I’m almost sure I can feel you there. The scent of roses comes and goes. It reminds me of something long ago.

The hairs of  my neck are bristling. I can feel you. Who are you? Talk to me. Please.

Nothing

the computer hums softly, the blood in my ears sings

nothing again but the rising of tiny hairs over my whole body. I tingle.

Communicate with me somehow. I jump when the auto-correct turns lower case letters to capitals. Silly cow.

It’s easy to scare myself, imagine things. I make a …well, not a living, but some money from imagining things, so it’s what I naturally do. I take an idea and I let it grow like a weed until I see the form it wants to take and then I tend it so it grows the way it wants to.  I write sometimes like someone who is merely taking down dictation; my best work has always come that way. That sort of writing gives me butterflies and more as I write. I get drawn in and lost in the maze I create, a word-maze, a labyrinth that takes me to a centre somewhere deep inside me  and I find….what do I find there?

I can’t remember.

Who are you? You’ve been here before, months back, touching my hand, my cheek, that little brush like a passing cobweb. Who? Talk to me, let me know you are real and not something from my imagination. Send me a sign. Something I can’t talk myself out of. More than a failing starter switch on a kitchen light. Please.

I can’t feel or sense anything now and that scent of old roses with a dash of something else is gone too. I write that and a shiver starts along my spine. A breath of something.

What is this, what is going on? Is there something, someone there?

Red Eyes~ a story for Hallow E’en

 

Red Eyes( a story for Hallow E’en)

I’ve never been one to scare easily but when I saw those red eyes staring hard at me, their intensity dimmed by the reed blind that was partially pulled down over the glass door, I froze. I was catapulted into a state of instantaneous terror I’d never known before. They say when you are about to die, you life flashes before your eyes; well, at sixteen there wasn’t a lot to flash and like one of those flicker comics, it was over in micro seconds.

But I was still alive and those eyes were watching me, their unwavering scrutiny of me showed no sign of movement. I leaped from the sofa where I’d been snuggled down with Middlemarch and my Latin homework and turned the key in the lock. The glass door led into the old fashioned sun lounge built onto this sizeable Victorian house and with the door actually locked I felt a tiny bit safer but my heart continued to pound. Upstairs my two charges slept the peace of the innocent and I remembered that as babysitter I was responsible for their safety.

Having bought myself a little time, I considered my options. I could run down the hall and phone my dad, who lived the other end of the street and hope he got here before whatever was in the sun lounge broke through the glass and tore me to shreds. You see, I had an idea of what was out there and I didn’t like it at all.

The road I grew up in was very much the ‘in’ place to build a house in Victorian times, and the road is packed with large houses, some in their own grounds. Much of the extra land has been sold off and more houses built so the progression from the 1860s when the first houses were built to the 1990s when the most recent were added shows a range of architecture. The Ways’ house where I worked two or three times a week was one of the very first and during the excavations for foundations at that end of the street the workmen had unearthed a pagan Saxon cemetery, complete with funerary urns. According to newspaper reports at the time, urns were smashed and destroyed before the authorities could call in an expert. That was where I now stood, quivering with fear. The spirit of some angry Saxon was waiting out there, ready to crash through the glass door and annihilate me. If that wasn’t scary enough, the kids upstairs would be next. If I took my eyes off those eyes, I wouldn’t know where he was. And then somehow that would be worse than knowing.

I somehow managed to control my breathing and decided that if I was going to go, I had to try and exorcise the evil out there first. So praying under my breath I unlocked the door and stepped into the darkness of the sun lounge and waited. The room retained a little of the heat from the summer sun and it was filled with the green pungency of tomato plants.

Nothing happened. The eyes were gone. I walked round, my knees knocking with fear and saw nothing. I crept back into the living room and as I turned to shut the door behind me, I almost jumped out of my skin.

The eyes were back, shining and evil.

I twisted and lurched back into the sun lounge and waited for my doom to fall, crouching on the floor, face to face with……

…………………. two cherry tomatoes, glowing crimson in the light from the street lamp beyond the garden.

Ever since then Occam’s Razor has been my closest weapon in the fight with the world of the supernatural…..closely followed by my sense of humour.

Most Haunted Live

   On Friday morning my husband rang me from work with the fatal words, “I know you’re probably going to say no but I thought I’d ask anyway….” and then proceeded to tell me that a colleague of his had offered us priority tickets to go and be in the audience for Most Haunted Live. Now if you’re not familar with this programme, I’d suggest you look it up but basically it’s a team of people who visit various sites around Britain that are said to be haunted and conduct what they call experiments in the paranormal and what most people would describe as running around in the dark, screaming a lot. There’s an equivalent programme running in the USA and many countries and they have a faithful fan base who adore their show. The team consists usually of a so-called psychic or medium, a paranormal investigator(often from a university no one has ever heard of) a lot of camera crew, and a tame celebrity or two as well as the presenter. In this show’s case, the presenter is the panda-eyed Yvette Fielding, most famous for screaming an awful lot on this show, and the tame celebrity was Paul Ross, brother of the more famous Jonathan.

I very nearly did say no, as I would have a bus ride to town, then another hour on the bus to get to where my husband works(where he was waiting with the car) and then at least another hour driving through the wilds of Norfolk in the fog and the cold. But I thought, What the heck, it’s an experience, to which my daughter’s comment  was,  “Yes, but then so is getting your tongue caught in the tumble dryer!” 

We had to be there by 6.15 to get our priority seats but due to the fact that there was nothing on our map to tell us where the actual entrance to West Raynham air field was, we drove right round the perimeter one and a half times before finally finding our way in. It was then 6.30, but Nigel wasn’t letting this deter him, nor the fact that despite being told our names would be put on the guest list instead of the friends who couldn’t make it, neither set of names were there. We just stood there looking stubborn and the TV steward woman, flapping a bit at our stony demeanour hustled off and then came back with two wristbands and took our names. We then had to be searched and Nigel got sent back to the car with his two inch Swiss army knife. I hope none of these people ever work properly for security as I had a much bigger Swiss army knife on the belt of my jeans and nobody noticed. They just opened my handbag, removed my tissues from their wrapper so I didn’t rustle and vaguely patted me down. The sawn-off Kalashnikov in my boot went unnoticed too…

We were in a massive air craft hangar, on the disused air base, and it was all set up with sufficient seats for 500 people. Now, clearly I am naive but I was surprised at the optimism of this. How could they possibly expect 500 people to turn out on a filthy night like this, just to be in the audience for a third rate TV show?

How wrong I was! By the time it began all seats were taken and about 100 people were lurking out the back and sides in the hopes of a seat if any of us lucky ones gave up and went home. By the time anything happened, I was already bored.

The premise of the show is that the team go and conduct an investigation of a supposedly haunted site, and this had been going on all week. What the viewer gets to see is the scene in darkness, viewed with night vision cameras, the “crew” talking to each other with torches under their faces to light them up spookily (just as at school camp), the medium telling them what he can sense, then noises and rapping happening, supposedly sounds being heard, etc etc etc ad nauseam. The screaming is all part of it. During the live shows, audience members(carefully vetted beforehand I assume, the public are not to be trusted!) are selected to take part in seances usually with ouija boards and in vigils where they sit in darkness and wait for the ghosts to communicate with them by either touch or by other means.

At this point, I need to point out that I am a firm believer in the existence of paranormal activity. I’ve come across enough of it first hand to be unable to deny it. This then is why programmes like this one upset me so much.

It’s not just the pretentious TV bods, so full of self importance and shit I can’t imagine how they can actually live, or the exploitation of vulnerable members of the public, or the sheer stupidity of what we’re expected to swallow as “research”, or the obvious fakery and trickery that goes on and the contempt for the viewer that is self evident.

It’s the fact that if there are truly spirits trapped between the worlds, they seek to contact them and make them perform like circus animals.

“Can you throw something? Can you touch someone? Can you knock once for yes and twice for no? ”

Oh, please. That should read Oh puh-leeze! Can you imagine how you might feel, finally making contact with someone only to have them demean your plight by asking you to do tricks? I’d do more than throw things, believe me. If you were stuck between life and death, surely you’d want someone to come and help you get unstuck?

This is the arrant cruelty of the show and the paradox. If there really are spirits in this place(or another) then they come along and mock them. If there aren’t spirits in that place then the whole thing is a total sham.

Relax, I can hear some say. It’s only entertainment.

Hmm. I do remember something about bread and circuses, except Roman circuses had gladiators fighting to the death.

That aside, it’s pernicious for several reasons. The first I have mentioned. The second is the fact that this sort of thing diminishes real paranormal research; it makes it seem ridiculous and beyond a joke and despite the fact that valuable research is going on it is denigrated by many. The third is it inocculates the public against the real thing. By this I mean that the majority of viewers see it as probably all a sham and therefore all paranormal activity and research is seen in the same way. This has a knock on effect. It means that fewer people are open to the idea that there might be more to life than what we can see and hear right here, right now. If you’ve seem something on TV, and have drawn your conclusions about it, what need is there for further thought, further consideration of the issues? It’s the same as dismissing all church matters because you’ve heard some priests turn out to be paedophiles.       

Bursting with both laughter and indignation, we waited for a commercial break and sneaked out at about 10.30pm, the show going on till midnight, and grabbed a hot drink and a burger at the van outside(not complimentary either but thankfully not expensive) before hitting the road home. We got home at around 12.30, and it’s taken me since then to put my thoughts together. Did I enjoy it? Yes, and no. It was a very interesting experience to watch the process of making live TV, for which I am grateful. Would I go again? Probably not, unless I had some way of actually contributing my real thoughts on it. As an audience member I was(with 499 others) treated with a certain amount of contempt and general rudeness by the stewards, and really, we were there to give a spurious credibilty to a show that has none of its own. We were there to clap and look enrapt; to verify credibility when we were in no position to actually do so. Watching the ouija board action up on a projection on the wall, it seemed very certain to me that the finger of crew member and presenter Yvette Fielding was the one pushing the glass. I could see her move first; she also had an earpiece on which meant it was an easy matter for someone to direct her to the right letters in the darkness. I can’t prove this but that’s what it looked like to me. And if you ask a reputable spiritualist, they’ll probably tell you the oiuja board brings  pretty low class of spirit…

TV has a lot to answer for.

Ghost Walking

I’ve promised I’d write about the ghost walk last week so here I am. Normally I’d already have gone to bed but now I have finished at work for the moment I’m happy to burn the (not quite) midnight oil and tell you all about it.

Now let’s get something straight: I do believe in ghosts. Not the stupid stuff you get on Ghost Hunter, Ghost Whisperer and Most Haunted. That’s just hokum for entertainment. No. I believe that as far as ghostly goings on are concerned, there’s something real happening. I am not sure what. My dad has long held a theory that some places act as a kind of video recorder and certain people act as a receiver; we may actually be seeing something as a kind of coded playback of events. My dad is a pretty openminded sort of chap about the paranormal; given that for a period of time in his youth he used to dream the names of the winners in the following days’ races, I guess he’d be a bit daft to be closed minded! I do believe in the survival of the spirit after death too and having seen a number of ghostly things over the years, I’m quite happy to accept that indeed, there are more things in heaven and earth Horatio….

Back to the ghost walk.

I wasn’t convinced that taking 39 exciteable Spanish 12 year olds round this town in darkness and telling them ghost stories was the best of ideas but I do what my bosses ask of me. My colleague Dillon didn’t think it was a good idea either and since the Spanish are almost always late for everything, we got to the park where we were to meet to ghost walk guide about 20 minutes late, hoping he’d have given up and gone home. Our boss had said if that were the case we could take them all down to the bowling alley!

The poor brave man was still there and immediately voiced his concerns to us. We told him we agreed but we wouldn’t hold him responsible should anything happen. God knows who would be hauled over the coals; probably me. He took us through the park to the bridge over the ravine and when we’d got the kids to shut up, he told us of one memorable suicide there and of the ghost that still haunted it. He then told of Black Shuck, the red-eyed devil-dog that haunts East Anglia. If you see him and speak of it to anyone something terrible will happen to you, you see.

The vast crocodile of squealing and jostling children made its way down the road, stopping at various points to hear about what ghastly spectre had been seen there. I nearly got crushed against some railings when I said I could see red eyes down in the park below; a screaming mass of kids lurched to try and either see or get away. The eyes were bicycle lights, by the way.

To add a slight frisson to the proceedings, I’d brought along my set of vampire teeth which I would slip in and allow one or two students to see for a second or two before discreetly removing them and smiling back normally. It probably says a lot about me that not only do I have fake teeth but also fake blood stored at the back of the spice cupboard.

Now as well as a healthy assortment of rather dubious spectres, my town has a lot of actual history and while none of it is of any nationwide importance, it’s quite interesting in a general way. Some of the last witches to be executed died here, having been tried by a kangaroo court of superstitious locals and then hanged. We had packed into one of the Scores (narrow steep alleyways that travel from the top of the cliff where the town is to the beach below; made either by fishermen’s feet tramping for centuries or by the action fo spring water) where the ghost of one of the witches is sometimes heard calling for help. Wilde’s Score is narrow and cobbled with flints and descends so steeply it had steps cut into the rock. It’s also pretty dark and when we’d got the kids to shush, he started telling the story. At a crucial moment, a back gate jerked open and one of the students fell backwards into the yard behind, creating wild panic and screaming fit to melt earwax.

After that we took the whole group down Maltster’s Score, which twists and turns as it descends from the high street. Historically it was the Score where you were most likely to meet a violent death as robbers used to simply lurk round the corners and wait for drunken sailors to come from one of the pubs or from their boats drawn up on the beach below( the Harbour wasn’t built until well into the 19th century) and relieve them of their valuables and often their clothes and their life as well. I was last in this mad cavalcade so I could hear the screams and shouts as they made their way down in semi darkness. I was disappointed as the local council have fitted an automatic light halfway along that comes on if someone walks through.

I’m sad to say that no one saw anything remotely ghostly and nothing untoward(beyond the backgate) happened, but sufficient students were scared stiff by the whole experience for it to be a likely memory for most of them. I’m slightly concerned that it might be repeated again but I know I shall recommend that it not be done with more than 20 people. It might be more fun if people could be persuaded to be quieter when the guide is talking but that said, the poor guy did a great job of coping.

I used to work on  nature reserve and it was always frustrating that except on one memorable occasion when a red squirrel started throwing twigs at my head, the wildlife NEVER put it an opportune appearance. It’s just as frustrating that phantoms are even more unlikely to appear just for the amusement of visiting students.

Where’s the Canterville Ghost when you need him???