By the summer of 1984, I had been introduced to the wonders (and horrors) of the ghost story. My junior school headmaster, Mr. McGeown, used to spin spooky yarns in school assembly to the third and fourth-year children. I relished his assemblies with his gruesome tales of headless horsemen, haunted mirrors, animated costumes and more. That same year IPC Magazines released Scream! comic which furthered my interest in all things supernatural.
I was never a sporty child (although like most children at the time, I did own a BMX) and would rather spend time reading a book so during that summer holiday I joined the town library. I would spend what felt like hours just looking up and down the shelves deciding what to take out. On my first visit, I took away Dracula, a tie-in book to the TV series Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World and a tiny book I found jammed between two much larger volumes which had an interesting cover. The Usborne Pocketbooks Supernatural Guide: Haunted Houses, Ghosts & Spectres.
The first two books were probably too old for me. Dracula felt long-winded and boring and the Arthur C Clarke one was full of science and words that were difficult for me to understand. But I pored over the page of that Haunted Houses book, taking in every story and article. The sections about Harry Price and Borley Rectory held a particular interest for me. Some of the illustrations in it have stayed fresh in my memory for more than thirty years.
When I started to take my writing a little more seriously I began to feel nostalgic for that little book so I looked it up on some online second-hand bookshops and was lucky enough to find two copies, both of which I bought for a relatively reasonable price – one to keep and one to pull apart to scan in so I can have a digital copy on my iPad.
I thought it would be fun for readers of my stories to see one of my early inspirations so here is a scan of the book in its entirety. The images are quite small to keep loading speeds down, but the text is still legible.