Sunday, 31 January 2010

One Further Haunting

The third and final excerpt from my published works follows my appeal for your stories and experiences of the paranormal kind as I look to whet the appetite and hopefully stir a memory or experience and see a narrative for possible inclusion in forthcoming volumes covering my native Staffordshire and also the city of Birmingham and its suburbs.

From Haunted Worcestershire published by The History Press Ltd in 2009,
comes the story of Ephraim Rolfe

During the eighteenth century Broadway was home to one Ephraim Rolfe. A popular young man, he was known to be a little slow-witted. Yet he was famous around here for his kindness to the local children and an uncanny ability to seemingly communicate with animals. Indeed he even managed to earn a pittance of a salary scaring birds from the local fields and thus help protect the crops.
One day he was out patrolling the land in and around Springfield Lane to the north of the village heading in the general direction of Evesham. He was spotted by the squire and, thinking he had finally caught the poacher who had plagued him for years, took aim and shot him dead.
It is said that Ephraim still lingers around the fields where he met his sad and premature end. On stormy nights, when brief illumination is provided by lightning or moonlight between the clouds, he can be glimpsed - scarecrow thin and bony, still protecting the crops around the village where he was loved.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Second Ghost Story

Following on from the excerpt of last week and my earlier appeal for your stories and experiences of the paranormal kind I look to another of my spooky publications for a sample to whet the appetite and hopefully will stir a memory or experience and see a narrative for possible inclusion in forthcoming volumes covering my native Staffordshire and also the city of Birmingham and its suburbs.

From Paranormal Cotswolds published by Amberley Publishing in 2009,
comes the story of Sir Laurence Tanfield
A man whose career encompassed lawyer, politician and landholder; a prominent figure in the country between 1583 and 1625. Born around 1551, his earlier years are something of a mystery but we do know he was admitted to the bar of the Inner Temple in 1569 and was extremely successful, enabling to purchase an estate at Burford in 1583 and later lands at Great Tew, Burford Priory was built at his behest on his lands where a mental hospital had previously stood.
In 1584 he entered parliament as MP for New Woodstock, twenty years later he was returned for the county of Oxford and knighted by James I. The king had clearly been a guest of Tanfield's en route to London in the autumn of 1603 and clearly enjoyed an excellent rapport with Tanfield. In 1607 Sir Laurence was Chief Baron of the Exchequer, a position he held until his death.
However, while his professional career was undoubtedly successful, in Burford and Great Tew the inhabitants had a revelaing story to tell. By 1617 as Lord of the Manor of Burford, he and his wife were involved in a number of disputes with both the inhabitants and the local administration. Indeed the reputation of Lord and Lady Tanfield as greedy and corrupt remains a part of Burford folklore. Having stripped Burford church of every valuable, purportedly to be in settlement of a dispute with the then vicar, although the circumstances regarding the dispute and the supposed agreement are suspicious, the people thereafter saw him as 'the very devil among us'. So reviled was he that the people of Burford celebrated his death by burning an effigy of Lord Tanfield around the anniversary each and every year and continued to do so for over 200 years.
It was probably unwise for his widow, who herself died three years later, to return to the church or St Catherine's and erect a quite astonishingly outlandish monument to her husband, which also allowed for room for her when her time came. The craftsmanship of the sculpture is unquestionable, the design ugly and clearly not the conception of anyone with the talents to produce such work but undoubtedly produced exactly to the orders of the widow. However, perhaps the sculptors, embarrassed by the work they had probably been paid an exceptional sum of money to produce, made their own comment on the memorial. Bending down to look underneath the carving one will see a frail skeleton, invisible to the casual observer and unlikely to have been part of the widow's design. Is it suggesting that, neither money nor power can save anyone from the inevitability of death.
Yet the story does not end there, for Sir Laurence is still said to be about today. He has been seen driving a coach pulled by four impossibly black horses in a number of places around his former estates. It is claimed that each and every one of these winesses suffered bad luck following the sighting of the phantom coach and its notorious driver, although how the vision of the coach and horses is identified with Sir Laurence is unclear.
Furthermore it has been suggested that the skeletal carving beneath the sculpture was not created by mortal hand but a warning added by the lord of the manor announcing his return to this world after his wife's death.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A Ghostly Sample

A couple of weeks ago I made an appeal for your stories and experiences of the paranormal kind for possible inclusion in forthcoming volumes covering my native Staffordshire and also the city of Birmingham and its suburbs. Having produced three ghostly books in the past I thought I'd share a sample from each to give an idea of the sort of thing I'm looking for - and maybe whet your appetite for more!

From Black Country Ghosts published by The History Press Ltd in 2008,
comes The Miner and the TV

"An anonymous tale from the early 1970s was thought to be a memory of an incident which occurred in 1872. Workers at Pelsall Hall Colliery, by Knights Hill, accidentally broke into an old unrecorded working . Unfortunately this working was flooded. Water rushed into the new tunnel, cutting off the miners. When their bodies were recovered, nineteen men and boys had died from inhaling carbonic acid gas and two had drowned.
Traditionally the twenty-one souls recovered were seen walking down Knights Hill on the anniversary of the tragedy to begin their fateful shift. However, there were actually twenty-two individuals lost that night. Perhaps we finally know what happened to the missing body.
Two clergymen had to be called in to remove the ghost of a miner who was terrifying a husband and wife in a house built not far from the location of the old pit. Their daughter had seen the man on the upstairs landing; later that week he was discovered sitting in an armchair in the l;iving room, apparently watching commercials on the television set. In every appearance he was wearing the same clothing, very grimy and dirty and yet not once did he leave a single mark behind as a reminder of his visit.
When the local clergymen was sent for, he began praying in an upstairs room where the man had last been seen. At theat very moment, the ghost spontaneously appeared in the kitchen. Thus it was that a second clergyman was summoned. Armed with a crucifix, prayer book and a mixture of salt and water, which was sprinkled liberally around the place, they worked together to try and rid the home of its unwelcome guest.
It seems to have worked, for after several weeks of the man hanging around in working clothes, they never saw him again."

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Borrow one of my books!

This week I received the PLR statement for the year 1st July 2008 to 30th June 2009. For those who have never heard of Public Lending Right, this is a system introduced in the UK some years ago to provide a nominal sum of money for authors/illustrators for every book of their's borrowed from public libraries. The amount varies from year to year, indeed it is increasingly slightly every year because the 'pot' is shared by less books (library stocks are nowhere near what they once were) and hence less numbers are being borrowed. This is also reflected in my books, for it is the earlier books which are still on shelves that are being borrowed. The newer releases have either yet to get there or were not released in time for the year in question.

Payment will be made next month, won't take me on holiday but I should get a couple of nights out on the proceeds. This year the rate is 6.29 pence (up from 5.98 last year) per book, payment being made for a minimum of £1 and a maximum of £6,000 per author.

Similar schemes already exist in a number of European countries, most recently the Republic of Ireland. So if you have contributed to a book in some respect you should register and list each piece which may be borrowed, after all it costs nothing and is something every author and illustrator is entitled to receive.

Further information can be found at and includes information on those schemes overseas.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Paranormal Experiences?

A new year and thoughts turn to new projects and book ideas. Whilst I am always fascinated by place names, I also enjoyed producing three books on the paranormal. These books enabled me to produce a series of what amounted to about a hundred short narratives, something I rarely get the chance to do with anything else I write.

The paranormal books were a nice balance of traditional and/or well known examples, with a number of new stories and personal experiences. I have never had any such experience and thus must rely on those of others and thus I would like to hear from anyone who would like to contribute a story of their own. I am interested in hearing your experiences within the areas of Birmingham (that's the UK one if you're reading this elsewhere in the world) and also the county of Staffordshire - and if you have a photograph I will bite your hand off to use it! Sadly there will not be any payment, although I'm sure we can come to some arrangement regarding seeing your story in print. Furthermore, if you wish to remain anonymous or be known by some pseudonym I can certainly guarantee your name will not appear in print.

So please do get in touch as without personal experiences the finished article will suffer greatly.