by Darren W. Ritson
True Ghost Stories is essentially a series of accounts from investigations carried out by a local paranormal group and friends, led by the author.
Many locations have been investigated by the team over the last few years and the eighteen selected for this book are diverse in nature and yield some fascinating phenomena. Pubs, hotels, museums and even the cockpit of a Canberra bomber aircraft feature, but for me the most interesting location described is The Marsden Grotto Pub in South Shields - mainly because it has such a colourful history. This isn’t any ordinary pub. It sits in the limestone cliffs overlooking the North Sea shoreline and was originally created by Jack ‘the Blaster’ Bates in the late eighteenth century as his new dwelling. Needless to say, it has its fair share of ghost stories attached (which are relayed to the reader) and The Grotto still exists to this day, so anyone can go along and take a drink in one of the cave bars…
In the Afterword the author reflects on the array of paranormal activity witnessed and captured by the investigators and stresses that he is presenting a genuine and fair account of events. Because the author can only present a limited amount of evidence in a book (i.e. photographs) the rest is anecdotal. The reader must judge for themselves the merit of the findings. If taken at face value though, there is no doubting that the team had some fantastic experiences, experiences which many ghost hunters would die – or, at least head to the North East – for!
It’s a paper-back book and is an easy read. It doesn’t use complicated words or baffle with science: it has small chapters, is well paced and the text is broken-up by at least one black and white photograph of each location. It is also evident that the author is knowledgeable and very passionate about his subject.
Towards the start of the book is an excellent introduction and a ‘what are ghosts?’ chapter, followed by a highlight for me - a wonderful piece on that famous ‘father’ of ghost hunting, Harry Price. The author reveals his admiration for Mr Price and that is reflected in this warm chapter.
The rest of the chapters – the investigation reports - each start with an introduction to the site, giving a brief history and detailing reputed hauntings. These are followed by a description of the investigation with findings, analysis and conclusions.
I would recommend the book primarily to budding ghost hunters but also people who are familiar with the area - especially those who want to know more about the paranormal goings-on there.
There is not much to criticise about True Ghost Stories. I would like to have seen more evidential photographs included - these get mentioned in the text but few actually make it into the book. Also, the book lacks the tension and atmosphere which you often get with books entitled ‘ghost stories’ (mainly fictional ones, admittedly) so I didn’t find it particularly scary. Otherwise, it has been an enjoyable and enlightening journey around the North East of England with a group of hard-working and likeable ghost hunters.
Review by Paul Collins