A short post today, to serve as a reminder of another nearly-forgotten book. Not an old book, this one, only published in 2010. An eerie offering from the brilliant (and incredibly prolific) Peter Ackroyd, ‘The English Ghost’ is in danger of being lost within the vast canon of work that Ackroyd has produced. Truly, the man must never sleep – I hope it’s not because he’s been visited by any of the subjects in this book.
‘The English Ghost’ is a beautiful little volume from one of our finest and most inventive authors, who has an antiquarian’s love of the unusual tale. Ackroyd has collected dozens of ‘true’ stories, from medieval times to the modern day, and presents to us a most haunted nation.
“The English see more ghosts than anyone else,” he declares in the introduction, linking it to our obsession with the past, with our love of superstitions, and with our wistful hope that there is a spectral bridge between the living and the dead.
Acrkoyd’s stories range from the well-known (Borley Rectory pops up for another turn on the phantom carousel) to the absurd (‘The Disappearing Daschund’ who vanished on a London street and may have been the victim of a German vivisectionist) to the dreadful (the tale of slaughtered infants recounted in Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium). His England is a place of mischievous poltergeists and murderous spirits, of wandering lost souls and silent spectres – it’s a terrible, wonderful, frightening place