Review of Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories – 5 Stars

Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost StoriesEight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories by Rowan Routh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is pretty much as the cover describes, eight authors were given after hours access to eight English Heritage sites to create this new series of ghost stories. The book immediately peaked my interest, I have been an English Heritage member for many years and I am always intrigued by the histories of the properties. I also enjoy a good ghost story, so this book seemed to offer the best of both worlds.

The collection of stories is really quite interesting. Some of the authors chose a historical slant, whilst others chose a more psychological approach, and some even chose alternative histories. All in all a great variety of ghosts. The actual mixture of properties is really interesting too. I would fully recommend York Cold War Bunker to those that haven’t been, this is an easily overly looked site but so interesting with a great guided tour.ghosts-gespenter-spooky-horror-40748.jpeg

The Authors and Locations are as follows:
• Kate Clanchy, Housesteads Roman Fort
• Stuart Evers, Dover Castle
• Mark Haddon, York Cold War Bunker
• Andrew Michael Hurley, Carlisle Castle
• Sarah Perry, Audley End
• Max Porter Eltham Palace
• Kamila Shamsie, Kenilworth Castle
• Jeanette Winterson, Pendennis Castle

There were two stories that really stuck out for me. Mark Haddon’s tale at the York Cold War Bunker was really eerie and so descriptive it felt a little too real (which is only a good thing I think when it comes to ghost stories). Stuart Evers tale from Dover Castle is brilliant and had such an unexpected twist I was kicking myself that I hadn’t seen it coming. There were a couple of stories I didn’t enjoy quite so much but that is the thing about a collection it means there is a bit of something for everyone.

I must say one of my favourite things about this book is the end section entitled “A GAZETTEER OF ENGLISH HERITAGE HAUNTINGS”. This is a collection of hauntings and sightings that have been reported to staff at various locations around the country and makes for a really interesting read. Poor staff! I’m not sure many people would want to continue closing up on a dark night after hearing some of these tales, but they do make for entertaining reading.

I thought this was a great concept and hope English Heritage choose to offer more of these collections. It would be brilliant if they actually opened up late night visits to English Heritage members and invited them to do their own creative writing based on the experience, (maybe with publication of the best entries in the magazine that they send to members). I am sure many would jump at the chance.

Overall a really intriguing collection, the fact that you can visit the locations written about is the cherry on the cake.

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The Stone Queen – #writephoto

I disappeared through the gap in the bushes, leaving the palace and my troubles behind. My mother would not approve, she didn’t understand, I needed time, a life of my own, solitude and most importantly escape.

I climbed a tree to the top and watched the procession come in. The suitor they had picked for me would be amongst them. I didn’t care. I wasn’t ready. Why couldn’t things stay as they are? Jumping back down onto the path I began following my trodden trail, grimacing as my gown snagged in a bush. That would not go down well either. Maybe he would take one look at me and not want me, then things would stay as they are and I could still escape to the forest whenever I needed to.

Further up, I came to the lake and began skimming stones. The act numbed my mind, my tongue was held firmly between my lips as I concentrated on making each stone bounce further along the water than the last.

“Wow, how do you do that?” the voice had me startled and I turned to find a gangly looking lad behind me his eyes still looking out at the circles where my bouncing rock had finally sunk.

“Easy”, I shrugged nonchalantly, secretly pleased. I didn’t know how I did it, it was just something I did. Non-the-less I wanted to show off a little more.

“Do you want me to show you?” I asked and watched as a wide grin filled his face and he nodded eagerly.

Once he got the hang of it, we had competitions together to see who could skim the stones furthest and despite his efforts the boy couldn’t beat me, so I declared myself the stone queen. We collapsed on the waterside together in fits of giggles. When the giggling had died off, I put my shoes on and told him I have to leave.

“Where are you going?” he asked his large eyes imploring eyes looked deep into mine.

“To meet my future husband,” I answered and suddenly all laughter and smiling had gone from my body. He nodded but I don’t think he truly understood. He got up to walk with me, through the woods.

“Will I see you again?” he asked as we walked.

“Probably not, my mother said I will have to go live with my new husband.” Suddenly I stopped and burst into tears.

“Please don’t cry.” he pleaded with me.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I love my home and my forest and my lake. I can’t imagine anything leaving. I can’t imagine being propped up all day and followed around by other ladies. I just want to be free. You wouldn’t understand.”  I folded my arms and dropped my head into them.

Through the trees - photo by Sue Vincent

Through the trees – photo by Sue Vincent

“I do understand,” he whispered

“What?” I was sure I hadn’t heard him

“I do understand, I am here to meet my future bride. I ran away to the lake to escape all the pomp and ceremony. My father will be ever so angry when I return.” My eyes glistening with tears I looked up into his face to see if he was serious and it appeared he was. A smile broke out across my tear-streaked face, he cracked a smile too and within seconds once again we were laughing on the ground together.

That evening I stayed silent as my mother berated me wildly about going missing, the state of my hair, my dress, questioning my sanity and her patience. I stood silently as her and the maids pruned and preened me until I shone. Eventually, I could tell she was worried at my lack of rebellion but pleased I was obeying her. She proudly walked in the room and I was placed on the seat in the centre, all eyes on me. The doors opened and my future husband was announced. He strode confidently towards me, his awkward limbs strapped into his strong royal robes.  He went down on one knee before me, then raised his head to look up at me. I suppressed a grin as our eyes met.

“I have a gift for you, my lady.” I nodded and he passed me a small pouch that was tied around his waist. I opened the string and watched as into my lap fell a stone from the waterside.

“It’s perfect.”


Originally written in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge over on DailyEcho. If you haven’t already pop over and see the impressive variety of responses and of course Sue’s own beautiful, inspirational writing.

Everyone seems to envy what others have and often dream of a brief escape from their life. So, my question is this; if you had the option would you rather be the one in the castle looking out at the view of the trees or the one looking at the view of the castle from the trees?