The Little Book of Ghosts

The Little Book of Ghosts

by Paul Adams


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This spine-chilling book features intriguing, obscure, and strange trivia about all things that go bump in the night. Here you will find haunted houses and castles, parks and woods, highways and byways, phantom animals, royal ghosts, angry poltergeists, and haunted objects. Also included are spooky séances and time slip ghosts, as well as some of the famous ghost-hunters themselves, including Harry Price, Elliott O’Donnell, and R. Thurston Hopkins. Anyone curious enough to pick up this book will be terrified, enthralled, and never short of facts about the mysterious realm of ghosts and haunted places.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780750985635
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 06/01/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 811,245
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Paul Adams is a paranormal historian and the co-founder of The Chiltern Society for Psychical Research. He is the author of Ghosts & Gallows and co-author of Extreme Hauntings: Britain’s Most Terrifying Ghosts.

Read an Excerpt

The Little Book of Ghosts

By Paul Adams

The History Press

Copyright © 2014 Paul Adams,
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7509-5779-3



Ghosts and ghostly phenomena broadly fall into four basic categories: visual phenomena, normally the sighting of some form of apparition, most often that of a person or human figure; audible phenomena, such as footsteps, voices, music, or other type of recognisable sound; physical phenomena, normally the movement or displacement of objects; and sense phenomena, which can include changes in temperature, smells and odours, together with other forms of experience, such as a feeling of unease, fear or sickness. Hauntings can involve one or more combinations of these basic categories, and the first category, that of apparitions, can itself be divided into several sub-sections which are themselves categories in their own right.


Many reported sightings of ghosts and ghostly figures seem to be little more than brief replays of events from the past that appear to have become imprinted in some unknown way in the fabric or atmosphere of a building or location, and which then become active and replay in the presence of a suitably sensitive or psychically endowed person. As such, they behave like a form of supernatural recording and have no apparent intelligence or awareness of either the witness or their temporary modern surroundings. These stone tape ghosts or residual hauntings go against the idea of a spirit world and the survival of a soul or some part of the human personality after physical death, particularly as they appear along with non-living and inanimate objects such as ghostly vehicles, weapons and other similar items.

The term 'stone tape' was coined by Tom (T.C.) Lethbridge (1901–1971), a former Cambridge don and parapsychologist who has been described as the 'Einstein of the paranormal'. The Stone Tape was also the title of a 1972 television play by Quatermass writer Nigel Kneale, which dramatised the concept of residual hauntings in a science fiction format.

Stone tape ghosts can involve both small- and large-scale hauntings. In 1968, two Lancashire schoolgirls, Valerie Sandham and Hazel Coulton, both (independently) saw the apparition of a hooded monk-like figure in a classroom at Penwortham Secondary School on the outskirts of Preston. The ghost appeared like a 'moving cardboard cutout, mistily filled in' projected on to the wall and lasted a few minutes before fading away. Over 300 years earlier, on 23 October 1642, Prince Rupert of the Rhine commanded a 15,000-strong army against an equally large opposing force at the Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire. Over 1,000 men lost their lives in a single afternoon. A month later, shepherds and local people reported seeing visions of soldiers again locked in combat, accompanied by the supernatural sounds of cannon and musket fire. On Christmas Eve of the same year, the Edgehill ghosts returned and a group of investigating officers instructed by Charles II to make enquiries into the happenings confirmed that they had seen the phantom re-enactment for themselves, and had also recognised the apparition of Prince Rupert, the king's nephew, who at the time was still very much alive.

In keeping with their 'playback' nature, apparitions involved in residual hauntings are often seen performing identical tasks or actions every time they make an appearance and are seen by independent witnesses. At Buriton Manor, a Tudor building near Petersfield in Hampshire, the figure of a young maid that haunts the courtyard vanishes through one of the high brick walls where once a doorway existed, leading towards the nearby church. For several years an unidentified figure stepping out of a wall – where a blocked-up doorway was later found during refurbishment work – frightened children in a nursery room at Salisbury Hall near London Colney in Hertfordshire. It is well-known that stone tape apparitions often appear to trace the paths of former building layouts that, in time, have been altered or changed in some way. Ghosts can appear floating above or sunken into the floor or stairway of a house where the level has been either raised or lowered over the years.

A number of stone tape ghosts form cyclical or 'pattern' hauntings, which are said to occur at regular intervals – often on the date of a significant event or anniversary. On 4 June each year, a phantom sailor is said to appear in Ballyheigue Bay, below the ruins of Ballyheigue Castle, on the west coast of Ireland. On 5 July, the anniversary of the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685, strange lights have been seen over the battlefield and the sounds of fighting men have been heard. Also, every fifty years a ghostly recreation of the three-masted schooner, Lady Lovibond, is said to re-enact the moment when, on 13 February 1748, the ship was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Deal in Kent, killing all hands. Several other of these cyclical hauntings are included in later chapters.

Benson Herbert (1912–1991), a ghost hunter active in England during the 1960s and 1970s, felt that all ghostly phenomena could be explained by physics. He described his scientific study of the paranormal 'paraphysics' and set up his own organisation, the Paraphysical Laboratory, in the New Forest near Downton in Wiltshire, in order to carry out his own experiments. Herbert theorised that the massive stone walls of castles and other ancient buildings acted like vast Faraday cages and that the ghosts seen inside them were due to anomalous electrical activity isolated from external radio waves and electromagnetism.

Ghost hunters have come to realise that building work and similar physical interference with the structure and layout of a building can both bring an established haunting to an end and cause a new haunting to take place. During the 1970s, a former dairy in Richmond Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, was used as offices by a practice of chartered surveyors. On several occasions, a cleaner working in the premises after normal hours reported seeing a misty grey apparition, which often appeared behind him and made an attempt to put a hand on his shoulder. After a small kitchen area on the ground floor was converted into a ladies' toilet and the kitchen moved downstairs, the grey man was never seen again. In May 1967, the trade newspaper, the Whitbread News, reported on a haunting at The White Horse public house at Chilham, near Canterbury in Kent. Just over ten years before, builders carrying out alteration work had found an inglenook fireplace hidden behind panelling in one of the rooms. Soon after, the licensees reported seeing the apparition of a tall man with grey hair wearing a black gown, who would appear standing with his back to the inglenook. Several members of staff experienced the ghost, who vanished as soon as he was approached. Interestingly, the phantom man, who some villagers thought might be a seventeenth-century vicar from the church next door, always appeared at exactly 10.10 a.m.


Also known as 'phantasms of the living', crisis ghosts are a type of spontaneous apparition that appear when a person is undergoing some severe personal trauma – such as a life-threatening illness or accident – is close to death or has even passed away. Most often the witness is a close friend or relative, who may not even be aware that the person has died or fallen ill, and who only finds out the true situation at some later time. Crisis ghosts were one of the first areas of psychical phenomena to be studied seriously by researchers in the early years of organised paranormal investigation in the late 1800s.

On 19 March 1917, Mrs Dorothy Spearman was feeding her baby son in her hotel room in Calcutta when she turned and saw her half-brother, Eldred Bowyer-Bower, standing behind her, wearing his full RAF uniform. Thinking that he had been posted to India on leave, she asked him to wait while she put the child to bed. Returning from the crib, Mrs Spearman was surprised to see that the airman was no longer in the room and that her daughter, who had been present, had seen no one. A short time later, it was revealed that Bowyer-Bower had been shot down over the German lines and killed around the same time that he had appeared in the hotel room in Calcutta.

One night in 1941, the novelist Wilbur Wright, returning from leave to RAF Hemswell in Lincolnshire, went to collect some cigarettes from his locker in one of the aircraft hangers. Switching on the light, he found an aircraft gunner, Leading Aircraftman Stoker, rummaging around in his own locker. When Wright asked what he was looking for, Stoker replied: 'I can't find my bloody gloves.' The writer collected his cigarettes and left. The next morning he discovered that the bomber with Stoker on board had been shot down over Dortmund the previous night and all crew, including Stoker, had perished. The mission had taken place at exactly the time that Wright had returned to the base and he subsequently learnt that the gunner had been upset at not being able to find his flying gloves before taking off.

A happier wartime incident of a phantasm of the living was initially published in the Spiritualist newspaper, Light. Around 11.30 a.m. on 3 November 1917, Mortimer Noyes, a junior officer in the 1st Battalion, was marching with his platoon to an assembly point in preparation to launch the attack on Passchendaele Ridge. As the column of soldiers continued along the St Julien Road, a lorry approached from the rear and as it began to pass them, Noyes realised that it was his own brother, who was serving in a different regiment, at the wheel. The driver leant out of the window and called out to his brother, 'Cheerio, Den, old lad – best of luck – you'll be alright. God bless you. Can't stop,' after which he accelerated and the lorry moved away up the road and out of sight. Both the company second-in-command and a sergeant who were marching beside Captain Noyes witnessed the incident. Both these men were killed shortly after, but Noyes survived despite being gassed, and in a letter to his brother mentioned the incident a few days before. It transpired that at the time the lorry passed the platoon, Noye's brother had been with his company at Cambrai, over 60 miles away. Both men survived the war and in later years were convinced that the close bond of affection between them had created the strange and moving experience on the St Julien Road that day.

On 1 December 1950, the English composer Ernest John Moeran died from a cerebral haemorrhage while out walking on the pier in the village of Kenmare, County Kerry, in the south of Ireland. A musician friend later reported that an apparition of the composer had appeared to her around the same time that his body had been seen to fall into the water. Although viewed from a distance, the figure was clearly that of Moeran, who acknowledged her before turning and fading from sight.

For many years, one of the most well-known crisis ghost cases was that of Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon, who was drowned when his flagship HMS Victoria collided with another vessel, HMS Camperdown, while carrying out naval manoeuvres off Tripoli on 22 June 1893. At the exact moment of the disaster, created by a rogue order from Tryon himself and in which over 300 men lost their lives, a solid and lifelike apparition of the Vice-Admiral wearing his full naval uniform is said to have been seen by a number of guests being entertained by Tryon's wife in their house in fashionable Belgravia in London. The figure, which was not seen by Lady Tryon, walked silently across the room before disappearing; the family received news of the sinking of HMS Victoria several hours later. The story was published by folklorist Christina Hole in the early 1940s, but there appears to be little firm evidence that the incident actually took place.

Not all crisis ghosts are those of recently dead or dying people. Some phantasms of the living are just that and appear to be created by strong thoughts or emotions, almost in the manner of a telepathic projection. In the early 1970s, Andrew Green, a ghost hunter and writer, sold a house with a 1-acre plot of land and moved to the village of Iden in East Sussex. Several months later, when the new owner, an engineer and his family, visited Green in his new home, his daughter (who had not met the ghost hunter before) claimed that she had seen his apparition, solid and lifelike, standing and walking in his former garden on a number of occasions. Green, a fanatical gardener, admitted that he missed his old house, particularly the garden and a large rockery he had built himself, and about which he wished to be able to tend again.

In the late 1970s, the American psychical researchers Raymond Bayless and D. Scott Rogo spent two years investigating claims that the spirits of recently deceased persons had made contact with their relations and loved ones using the national telephone system. The results of their enquiry were published in a book, Phone Calls from the Dead, in 1979. This brought in further accounts of alleged incidents, one of which took place ten years before and involved a young man named Carl. In 1969, he took a holiday away from his family and rented a room in a cottage owned by an elderly woman known as 'Grandma'. Among several antiques and pieces of objet d'art in the room was an old wall-mounted telephone dating from the late nineteenth century, the type which had a separate ear piece and a winding handle to call up the local exchange. After spending a day on the beach, Carl retired to bed and soon fell asleep. At 11.13 p.m., he was woken by the ringing of the old telephone, which he eventually answered. He immediately recognised his father's voice, who told him to make a call to his mother, who had a message for him. When the youth asked for him to bring her to the telephone, his father replied that he was not calling from the house but 'a beautiful place' somewhere else. Then, before Carl could question him further, his father reiterated the need for his son to make the call and rang off. However, when he tried to work the old telephone he found he was unable to get a line and, after several attempts, decided to try again in the morning. The next day, after again trying to work the telephone in his room, Carl spoke with his landlady, who to his amazement told him that that particular device was a curio picked up by her late husband and was not connected to the phone system. When he rang the family home on 'Grandma's' kitchen phone, he spoke directly with his mother, who told him that his father had died the previous evening at exactly the time the old telephone had rung; none of the family knew where Carl was or how to contact him.


This category of ghost is similar to the crisis apparition in that the phantom figure appears to show some awareness of the witness and may even speak or attempt some other form of communication. However, by their identity or attire, it is clear that the apparition is that of someone known to be deceased or from a previous era rather than a living person. Interactive ghosts provide some of the best spontaneous evidence (as opposed to information obtained from mediums and psychics) of the possibility of some form of survival or life after death.

A famous Victorian haunting that involved many encounters with a sentient apparition is the Morton case, which took place in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. In April 1882, the well-to-do Despard family (given the pseudonym Morton in early published accounts) comprising Frederick Despard, a former army captain and his semi-invalid wife Harriet, together with their seven children and several live-in servants, took up residence in a large detached house called 'Denore' in the northern part of the town. On several occasions, the tall figure of a woman in black was seen by both family members – principally nineteen-year-old Rosina Despard who later qualified as a doctor – and a number of the staff, walking in the house and in the garden. The figure, which was solid and lifelike, appeared like a living person and on at least one occasion when addressed, appeared to be on the verge of speaking before moving away. By 1889, the ghost was seldom seen and the haunting appeared to be at an end. However, ghost hunter Andrew MacKenzie was of the opinion that a phantom figure similar to that described by Rosina Despard was still being seen in the neighbourhood as late as the 1980s. The ghost is thought to be that of a widow, Imogen Swinhoe, who lived in the house several years before the arrival of the Despard family and died in September 1878.

An interactive ghost has been seen on at least one occasion at Littlecote Manor in Wiltshire. One afternoon, while walking through the long gallery, a member of staff noticed the figure of a Roundhead soldier sitting in a chair beside one of the windows, who turned his head and watched as the curator approached. The ghost seemed to be fully aware that it was being observed before abruptly fading away. Littlecote had been occupied by Parliamentarian troops during the Civil War.

The film and television actor Telly Savalas (1922–1994), famous for the 1970s police series Kojak, claimed to have had a strange and unexplained experience with the eerie apparition of a dead man. One night in the late 1950s, Savalas was returning from a date on Long Island, New York, when his car ran out of petrol. Walking to a nearby service station, he accepted a lift from an effeminate-sounding man wearing a white suit and driving an ordinary-looking Cadillac, who loaned him a dollar to buy some fuel and wrote contact details on a piece of paper so the actor (who had yet to break through into feature films) could return the money. The stranger took him back to the stranded car and, having thanked him, Savalas watched him drive away. The next day, Savalas rang the telephone number he'd been given and spoke with the man's wife, who initially thought the actor was playing a joke: her husband had been dead for two years. Soon after, the two met in New York. The widow confirmed that the suit Savalas had seen the stranger wearing was the one he had been buried in. The effeminate voice may have been due to the fact that her husband, who normally spoke in a deep tone, had committed suicide by shooting himself through the neck.


Excerpted from The Little Book of Ghosts by Paul Adams. Copyright © 2014 Paul Adams,. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents


1. The Different Categories of Ghost,
2. Haunted Houses and Other Buildings,
3. Ghosts of Churches, Chapels and Abbeys,
4. Haunted Castles and Palaces,
5. Ghosts of Stage and Screen,
6. Poltergeists and Other Violent Ghosts,
7. Haunted Burial Grounds, Woods and Battlefields,
8. Haunted Pubs, Taverns and Inns,
9. Phantom Animals,
10. Haunted Objects,
11. Planes, Trains and Other Haunted Transport,
12. Ghosts Across the World,
13. Some Famous Ghost Hunters,
14. Ghost Societies and Paranormal Organisations,
Bibliography and Further Reading,
About the Author,

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