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The History Press ‘Haunted’ authors on all things paranormal...


Spooky stories have long been a part of cultural tradition, just think back to nights spent huddled around campfires on camping trips or sleepovers with your friends and you can guarantee that someone told a ghost story to try and scare someone else (inevitably giving themselves nightmares in the process) but what is it about ghost stories that fascinate people so much?

We decided to ask our ‘Haunted’ authors what is it that fascinates them about the paranormal, why they read and write haunted books and ghost stories, and whether it matters if they don’t believe in ghosts. Read on to find out what they really think about ghouls, ghosts and all things paranormal, but be warned, it may not be what you expect... 

Rebecca Hall  

I can vividly remember my first encounter with something I would consider paranormal. It was an event as ordinary as a door opening in the house I lived in. The door, however, opened of its own accord; the handle moving down and then up again. A fairly mundane event, albeit an event that should not have logically taken place. The hairs had stood up on the back of my neck, my eight year old heart had increased its rate, and I was suddenly very aware of everything that was happening around me. Every movement in the air, and every small noise was magnified and thrown into sharp relief. This reaction fascinated me, and for as long as I can remember I have loved hearing stories of others relating to their experiences with ghosts and unexplained phenomena. I have always wanted to know more, and find out whether or not encounters with the ‘paranormal’ were indeed encounters with unseen beings.

Later in life I was fortunate enough to be offered a position with a local paranormal investigation team. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to visit local buildings with tales of hauntings and to explore the possibility of the existence of their ghosts. Over the course of the investigations, I was exposed to many diverse and fascinating people. Some were so convinced about the existence of the paranormal that ‘ghost’ seemed to be their go-to explanation for almost everything that transpired throughout the investigations, then there were those who were so sceptical that they would remain disbelievers, even if a full body apparition appeared before them and declared its ghostly existence. In my experience, the healthiest approach to the search for answers is to believe that paranormal activity and the existence of ghosts is possible, but not to assume it is probable. Be realistic, without being cynical.

I have seen things with my own eyes that I cannot explain, and that I believe cannot logically be disputed. Those who have witnessed or experienced anything of a paranormal nature know that there is something beyond what the eye can normally see. Those who have not had such an experience can live vicariously through the accounts in Haunted Teesside, which are some of the most compelling and interesting I have come across to date. Whether you are a sceptic or a believer, read these accounts for yourself, then ask yourself ‘do I believe?’  

Gemma King  

My interest in ghosts dates back as long as I can remember and derived from hearing countless testimonials as a child from relatives who had seen them. The stories I heard would intrigue me and I became mesmerised by them - and also curious as to why sightings of ghosts and paranormal experiences differed from one person to the next. Over the years, that curiosity led me to carry out a lot of research into the different types of ghost manifestation - such as residual ghosts (which are merely a visual spectacle brought about by oxidisation of masonry materials) and intelligence (the soul of a person who has passed into spirit).

I spent many years of my life exploring the concept that the human consciousness could exist outside the human body - we know about NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) and OBE’s (Out of Body Experiences) - so these very real phenomena lend themselves to the possibility that there is another form of ‘intelligent’ existence that awaits us when our time on this earth comes to a close.

Many people claim to have psychic abilities which they say enables them to communicate with those who have passed over and some mediums can be incredibly accurate in doing this. However, whilst this is truly fascinating and mediums can add good insight to a paranormal investigation, I have always felt disheartened that it will only ever be their personal experience and their insight would never prove the existence of life after death in a way that would convince the most hardened of sceptics. As someone with no psychic ability whatsoever, my main objective is to share investigation techniques that enable everyone to communicate with spirit so as to gain insight into what is happening in an ‘active’ location and also capture evidence that we can see and hear and sometimes even feel for ourselves. After all, the people that I interview and write about in my books, who have had first-hand experiences of paranormal activity, are all highly credible individuals who have had very real encounters - and they often seek answers and explanations in relation to their experience. My objective is therefore to tell their story, drawing on my knowledge of ghost manifestation and investigating techniques to add further insight wherever possible.

At this moment in time, no-one truly knows what happens to our soul when we pass over - however, it is true statistically that one in every three people will have a paranormal encounter in their lifetime and I can say with some conviction that my personal experiences plus evidence of ghosts captured over the years have strongly reinforced my belief in an afterlife.   

Neil Arnold  

Despite writing about local ghost stories since childhood I’m not actually a believer, mainly due to the fact that with alleged spirits it’s actually nigh on impossible to obtain any evidence. But with so many eyewitness reports it would suggest that there are some strange things we cannot explain, but having not experienced anything substantial I remain on the fence.

I’ve been fascinated by ghost stories since I was about 8 years old, and grew up on a diet of the fictional tales of M.R. James, etc. I became more fascinated by reputedly true tales when I started to investigate a few local legends, realising that most of what was written in those classic 1970s and 1980s books was in fact inaccurate, so decided to take it upon myself to delve deeper into such murky tales.   

Eddie Brazil  

My interest in the paranormal stems from the time I lived with my family in a haunted house in Stockwell in South London in 1966. I myself experienced the phenomena of footsteps descending the stairs and doors opening of their own accord. My parents also experienced strange happenings in the house. My father, in particular, often heard disembodied footsteps at night. The haunting led to a fascination with the supernatural which I have continued to study these last forty-five years.

I believe it doesn’t matter if a writer on the paranormal accepts the existence of ghosts or not. Yet, an enquiring mind is essential. Of course, an author has to enjoy ghosts stories as tales of the paranormal work on two levels. Who doesn’t like a good ghost story and the pleasure one gets telling tales around the fire on a dark and stormy night. I love the ghost stories of M.R. James, and have myself written fictional ghost tales. Yet there is also the age old question ‘Do ghosts exist, and if so what are they?’ Scientists and paranormal investigators have been asking this question for centuries yet we still don’t fully understand what a ghost is.

What fascinated me about ghosts is that they represent fundamental questions regarding the nature of human beings, our existence and the greatest mystery facing us all: what happens when we die. There is also the more thought-provoking consideration of science eventually proving ghosts to be a reality, and what implications that might have for society, religion and humanity. Would we all flock back to church? Would our everyday life change when we learn that we survive bodily death? Perhaps more alarmingly we would have to deal with the idea that ‘out there’ exist evil spirits, poltergeists and forces that would like to cause us harm, and over which we have no control.

Of course, Science rejects such notions as nonsense as do most people when they consider the question of ghosts and perhaps the existence of little green men from other planets. I read recently that the furthest galaxy so far observed from Earth is 13 billion light years distant. Our nearest star, apart from our own Sun, is Proxima Centauri which is relatively close at only four light years. Yet to travel there at the same speed used in the Apollo missions to the Moon would take 130,000 earth years. Given such jaw-dropping statistics regarding space can we really say we are alone in the Universe? As for Psychical Research the first ever reported case of a poltergeist haunting took place in what is now Germany in 800 BC. The first investigation of a haunted house was conducted in Ancient Athens. Ghosts have been reported from across the world by every culture for thousands of years yet, as I say, we still do not fully understand what they are. But to imply, as some sceptics do, that ghosts exist only in the imagination is absurd.

As for myself, forty-five years of studying ghosts has convinced me that something survives death. Possibly an alternate form of consciousness or some kind of residual energy which some might call the soul. I believe within the next twenty years the existence of ghosts will be proved scientifically, and that of course, for all of us, will make those things we hear going bump in the night all the more chilling.   

Jay Hollis  

I would be surprised if there were many authors who write about ghosts without believing in them, as the desire to write about them would not exist. However, all writers of the genre have a love of a good ghost story, whether fact based or fiction, and this is perhaps more important than a belief in the existence of ghosts.

I have had a fascination with ghosts for as long as I can remember but I’m not altogether sure why. Perhaps it is the child-like thrill of being scared by something unknown and unseen, lurking in the darkness at the top of the stairs, safe in the knowledge that it’s all in our imaginations and no harm will come to us ... or will it? As a child I believed in ghosts but began to question their existence as I grew up, although my fascination remained undiminished. However, my own experiences in recent years and those of some of the people I have interviewed for Haunted Enfield, have reaffirmed my conviction that ghosts do exist.   

Rob Kirkup 

Ever since I was around 8 years old I’ve been fascinated by things that go bump in the night, not just ghosts but everything that appears unexplained-The Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, UFOs, Spontaneous Human Combustion. And the reason why is simple. No one can be 100% sure if these things exist, or don’t exist, and that fascinates me. There’s more to this world of ours than we can comprehend. Think back to when even the smartest people on Planet Earth were convinced the Earth was flat, and how it must have rocked people’s belief system when it was actually discovered that this long-held belief was wrong. One day, man will know for sure if there really are ghosts, but it won’t happen in our lifetime, so it will continue to remain a spooky mystery. Oh yeah, and of course, who doesn’t like being a little bit scared! I’ve spent probably the last twenty-five or twenty-six years of my thirty-four years reading, watching, and basically absorbing anything I can find on the subject of the paranormal. I like to share my stories, and scare readers by telling them about some of the darker places in their own backyard. In my books, I feature places that readers can visit for themselves, and I’d love to think that people have gone out of their way to visit the haunted castles, battlefields, hotels, and pubs that are surprisingly common here in the north-east. 

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