One of the unavoidable things I did when I came to Newcastle was to find my way to a good bookshop. Some people would choose to locate the nearest hospital or police station. I need to locate the nearest bookshop. Priorities first, you know…
Once located, I started to slowly make my way through the shelves. I needed an England Lonely Planet guide, a notebook, and an hour or two of undisturbed browsing. And it turned out that the before mentioned hour of browsing had some surprises in store for me (see what I did here? In store? Right? Because I was in a store… OK never mind). Under local literature, other than the local tourist guides and historical books, there was an entire shelf dedicated to paranormal activity around Northumberland. And as you might have guessed, I started to worry. I am ready for whatever this exchange experience has in stock for me except poltergeist activity type of stuff. I mean…they don’t really prepare you for this stuff in the Kick Off meeting at my home university. I probably wasted too much time just browsing through those books. I didn’t buy one because there were seriously too many to choose from… Last Monday I gave up and bought Haunted Newcastle by Darren W. Ritson. I thought it was more than fitting as Halloween was around the corner and all that. So here are my thoughts on this book….
First, let’s make things clear- Haunted Newcastle is not a book of fiction stories that you would tell your kids on Halloween. Also, it probably is best enjoyed by people who live or have lived in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. The book is basically a small anthology of spooky stories that went around town through the years. Needless to stay, things like that are as true as you make them sound. I won’t go into debates of how true these stories are but I will only dare to say that they are very well presented by the author and enjoyable to read. The author collected the stories from locals of Newcastle, friends, and family. He tries to document the cases as best as he can, but sometimes the stories are very old (most of the cases) and the buildings were things happened (or not) don’t even exist anymore.
The author, an obvious fan of the paranormal as well as a local of Newcastle, gives plenty of historical background information on the city. As an exchange student here, people tend to bombard me with historical facts about Newcastle. Although overwhelming at the beginning, I started to enjoy it and welcome it whenever it happens. I like it when people mention small legends and stories about the town and its people, and it normally triggers very interesting discussions. This book combines ghost stories with historical facts and is a great conversation starter with any local as it covers quite a large area of Newcastle.
The first part of the book talks only about the history of Newcastle, later moving to the ghosts of Newcastle stories, followed by haunted pubs stories, and finishing with investigations of some paranormal cases. Some stories are sad, some are just curious, and a few are just bone chilling. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts you will still have trouble going through some pages (I know I did). After reading the book I now know more on Newcastle’s dark past (murders, witch trials, lost loves, suicides, etc) and I do want to go to some of the places the book talks about. Then again, some stories are so scary I am definitely not stepping in some mentioned pubs now. I already passed by and I can say that with or without the attached haunted reputation, they look spooky as they are.
I guess all cities have a dark past. This is just another way to get to know more about your city. I found the book lovely, definitely a nice read and a good knowledge provider to be used at my discretion with the locals (and not only). As a fan of horror literature I feel that I like Newcastle even more now (if that is even possible).