A natural history of the supernatural from Roger Clarke, lifelong investigator into England's creepiest real-life ghost stories
'Is there anybody out there?' No matter how rationally we order our lives, few of us are completely immune to the suggestion of the uncanny and the fear of the dark. The subject of whether ghosts exist has fascinated some of the finest minds in history and it remains a subject of overwhelming interest today.
This is the first comprehensive, authoritative and readable history of the evolution of the ghost in the west, examining as every good natural history should, the behaviour of the subject in its preferred environment: the stories we tell each other. What explains sightings of ghosts? Why do they fascinate us? What exactly did the haunted see? What did they believe? And what proof is there?
Taking us through the key hauntings that have obsessed the world from the poltergeist of Cock Lane through the true events that inspired The Turn of the Screw and the dark events of Borley Rectory right up to the present day, Roger Clarke unfolds a story of class conflict, charlatans and true believers. His surprising castlist ranges from Samuel Johnson to John Wesley, and from Harry Houdini to Adolf Hitler. Inspired by a childhood spent in two haunted houses, Roger Clarke has spent much of his life trying to see a ghost. Written as grippingly as the best ghost fiction, A Natural History of Ghosts takes us on an unforgettable hunt through the most haunted places of the last five hundred years and our longing to believe.
Beautifully written ... lithe, complicated and hugely rewarding
Simmering as it is with personal reflections, this handsome volume ... is bursting with a giddy passion, buoyed further by an expert's thirst for abstruse facts. The main pleasure of reading this book is Clarke's own enthusiasm, intelligence and seriousness ... a deeply interesting, revealing read
Splendid ... compelling ... Clarke manages to give goose-flesh and a giggle while informing the reader - an enviable feat
A highly enjoyable (and disturbing work) ... I am in awe of [Clarke's] intrepidity
Outstanding ... Clarke's dissection of the shocks, sadnesses and sexiness of the seance tables from the late Victorian era is brilliantly done ... The book is deeply enjoyable, hugely informative and at times distinctly unsettling
Britain has over 500-years' worth of ghost stories in the cupboard and in The Natural History of Ghosts, Roger Clarke makes them dance ... the most original and readable book exploring our ghost-rich culture to appear for years ... fascinating
Clarke's examination of the need people have to believe remains insightful and illuminating throughout
An intriguing, shivers-down-the-spine book
Lively and absorbing ... [Clarke] has proven himself an ideal guide to this troubled and disorderly realm
A fascinating social history ... exceptionally well written and researched