The lamentable fate of Mike Stuchbery 🎃🍷 @MikeStuchbery_ (Freelance) Journalist, Historian, Teacher & Tour Guide ★ 🇦🇺 in 🇩🇪 ★ Contributing Editor at @BylineTimes ★ History at @TheLocalEurope ★ Resolutely ↙️↙️↙️ Jun. 13, 2019 2 min read

There's been some rejoicing about this book, the @Usborne Book of Ghosts being republished, with a new intro by @ReeceShearsmith, but I want to talk about what it means to me.

In a way, it's my origin story... /1

By the time I first came across it in the Pines Library in suburban Melbourne, 1989, the copy of 'The Book of Ghosts' I borrowed again and again was yellowed, repaired repeatedly - even though it was a reprint of the 1977 edition. /2

Our family was going on a working holiday to Europe, so I was devouring everything I could get my hands on that related to what I knew about Europe - it was old, there were castles, and there were haunted places.

Little did I know what I was letting myself in for... /3

The first thing you young folk need to realise about this book is that the art was extraordinary, showcased in lots of really detailed double-page spreads. Here's one for a 'Haunted House Checklist' - I spent hours looking for all the little details. /4

The textual detail crammed in was also astonishing.

I was entranced by Pluckley - 'The village with a dozen ghosts'. I thought it was a horrific outlier.

Years later, I was heartbroken to find it was bollocks - and 12 ghost stories for an English village was conservative! /5

The 'Book of Ghosts' was where I found out about Borley Rectory - 'The most haunted house in the world?'.

I remember feeling real dread at the idea of writing appearing on the walls.

Again, I was heartbroken to have most of the story debunked years later! /6

Here's a page I recall with great clarity - the lurid, saturated sky, the skeleton in the gibbet, the glowing effect of Tom College's ghost.

These days, I live about a 45 minute bus ride from Tring. I've been tempted to go find the haunted crossroads! /7

The image that really broke me, however, the part of the book that made me what I am today, was this.

It kept me up at night. It horrified me.

Then it fascinated me.

What happened to her? Where'd her face go? What is she doing in a marsh? Why a whirlwind? /8

When we got to Europe, I veered wildly between being terrified of the historic places we visited, and being fascinated by the gruesome stories giving rise to the tales of haunting.

Over time, the fear eased, but never really went away. The stories called to me. /9

When I finally returned to Europe as an adult to teach, every spare moment was spent looking up local spooky tales. I'd hop on a train or bus and visit the places where they were said to take place. /10

I love that some of the fear and wonder I felt as a 9 year old, I've kept alive over the ensuing 30 years.

I'll always thank the @Usborne Book of Ghosts for instilling that within me. It led to my becoming a history teacher, a historical researcher and finally a writer. /11

So thank you, @Usborne, and thank you for bringing the book back to warp another generation!

PS. Anyone want to go on a road trip to Pluckley with me?

PPS. OH! AND THIS IMAGE! (/ping @AnnaHoworth)


You can follow @MikeStuchbery_.



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