I love ghost stories. Looove them. Always have. Growing up in a household of lovers of books of all sorts, I was still only a little girl when I came across my first ghostly tales. Although, when I say ‘came across’ it sounds like it happened by accident. It was in fact a very deliberate act on my part to climb on a chair, stand on tippy-toes and get my grubby little hands on the books my parents thought unsuitable for the all-too-young.
Suffice it to say that after just a few pages my inner Wednesday Addams was hooked. And has remained hooked ever since. Let me say though that for me, a proper ghost story is not about blood and gore and what have you. It’s about atmosphere. A tale properly told transports you to the scene of the event. You feel yourself standing in that manor house or on that moonlit path, knowing the ghostly fiend is approaching... Atmosphere. That’s the thing I’m after.
Now imagine my delight in first finding out about the medium of ghost walks. Can this be? You get to be told ghost stories AND you’re getting to stand at the scene where they are supposed to have happened? Or where they possibly – insert meaningful silence – still are happening? Be still my beating heart!
As it happens, the very first ghost walk I ever went on to this day remains the best. It was Ghosts of the Old City led by Shaughan, the master, from London Walks. It was in the winter of ’96 and a slight fog hung over the City of London. From the shadows of St Pauls cathedral a cloaked, hooded figure approached. His face was of a deadly pallor with dark, dark eye sockets...
Shaughan is indeed, as the London Walks website calls him, ‘deliciously spooky’. And atmosphere aplenty on this walk with its hidden streets and dark corners. It won’t do to go into too much detail and spoil your fun if you haven’t already done the walk yet, but I can tell you that my travelling companion in ’96 had a troubled night after our stroll. She couldn’t get a certain image out of her head: Shaughan’s portrayal of the spectre of Isabella, the She-Wolf of France, clawing at her chest in a vain attempt to .. but that’s too much detail already.
Late last year I took the same walk again. I was waiting outside St Pauls tube station (exit no 2, 19.30 PM on Tuesdays and Saturdays, you’re welcome) well ahead of time, looking out for a familiar, sinister looking figure. It was a bit of a shock to me when this rather ordinary looking (sorry Shaughan) middle-aged gentleman in plain clothing was suddenly in our midst. But I needn’t have feared. I should have known that a true master does not need props to deliver a truly thrilling experience.
This weekend Fu and I will be in Cardiff and will be taking the Llandaff Ghost Walk (I didn’t even have to twist her arm, bless her!), which is supposed to be a particularly spine-chilling experience. Will Shaughan be dethroned? I hope to know very soon. If the weather will cooperate that is. We’re talking
after all. Wales
* Sung by the ghost of a murdered girl – taken from Martin’s Close, one of the stories of the incomparable M.R. James. The murderer gets his come-uppance. We like that.
Picture taken by me with iPhone, edited with the Poster app