Ghosts & Gallows, and Haunted Luton and Dunstable

By Paul Adams

 

 

 

 

From the publisher’s website:

Ghosts & Gallows: Murder and ghosts go hand-in-hand and vengeful spectres seeking justice or haunting the scene of the crime or their killers have adorned the pages of literature since before Shakespeare.

This chilling collection of true-crime tales dating from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day all feature some element of the paranormal. Gathered from across the UK, cases include the discovery of a body by a spiritualist medium, a murder solved by a dream of the mother of the victim, and evidence at a Scottish murder trial provided by the ghost of the victim herself. Featuring visions, psychometry, ghosts, haunted prisons, possessions, and spiritualist detectives, this book is a fascinating look at criminology and ghost hunting.

Paranormal historian Paul Adams has opened the case files of both the criminologist and the ghost hunter to compile a unique collection of crime from British history. No true-crime bookshelf is complete without Ghosts & Gallows.

Paranormal Luton and Dunstable: The paranormal histories of Luton and Dunstable are brought vividly to life in this, the first dedicated guide to the haunted and mysterious sites of these two unassuming Bedfordshire towns.

Paranormal historian Paul Adams opens case files both ancient and modern to compile a chilling collection of supernatural experiences, ranging from apparitions on lonely Galley Hill and the phantom Dunstable hitch-hiker to the haunted corridors of the doomed Alma Theatre and the ghostly knights of Someries Castle.  Richly illustrated and full of first-hand accounts, it will fascinate anyone with an interest in the unexplained.

Paul Adams has been interested in ghosts and the paranormal since around the age of eight. He studied the Borley Rectory case for many years, and co-authored the definitive study, The Borley Rectory Companion, with Peter Underwood and Ed Brazil in 2009.  He lives in Limbury, Luton.


The History Press, Ghosts and Gallows July 2012, ISBN-13: 978-0752463391; Haunted Luton August 2012, ISBN-13: 978-0752465487

Reviewed for the SPR by: Tom Ruffles


After collaborating with Peter Underwood and Eddie Brazil on The Borley Rectory Companion and Shadows in the Nave, Paul Adams has gone solo and produced two books in quick succession, Ghosts & Gallows and Paranormal Luton and DunstableGhosts and Gallows brings together two subjects that make natural bedfellows under the heading of mystery, and Adams presents a selection of British cases that illuminate various aspects of true crime as it relates to the paranormal.

These range from murdered Sergeant Davies in 1754 returning to tell a shepherd where his body lay on a remote Cairngorm hillside, to the sad death in 1991of twenty-year old Kousar Bashir in Oldham (an unlucky place to live if you are female it seems), killed because her parents thought that her depression was actually possession by a jinn.  Some entries are well known, such as the murder of Maria Marten by William Corder in the Red Barn, medium Robert Lees’ involvement in the Jack the Ripper case in 1882, the psychic circus that surrounded the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, and the career of Gerard Croiset.

Others are less well known outside the specialist literature, such as Mrs Tombe seeing in a dream where her dead son Eric had been dumped (just as Ann Marten had seen the fate of her stepdaughter Maria), the mysterious death of Netta Fornario on Iona in 1929, and the involvement of medium Estelle Roberts in the murder of ten-year old Mona Tinsley by Frederick Nodder.  Not all of the ghosts are those of victims; the murderers are often unquiet as well.  Hawley Harvey Crippen is said to have appeared close to his Kentish Town home.  Ethel Major, who gave her abusive husband strychnine, apparently haunts Hull Prison, where she was the last person to be hanged.

Of particular interest to SPR members will be the chapter on the Jacqui Poole case which was investigated by Guy Lyon Playfair and Montague Keen and written up in the SPR Journal in 2004 as ‘A Possibly Unique Case of Psychic Detection.’  Medium Christine Holohan gave police a large number of accurate statements about the murder, though the conviction came much later and, as so often happens, from advances in DNA technology.  What is almost as interesting as the accuracy of the statements is the fact that while psychic mediums frequently state that they have given invaluable assistance, but with no corroboration by the police themselves, in this case Keen and Playfair received the full cooperation of the officer most closely involved in the investigation.

Other interventions are somewhat less impressive.  Adams rates Nella Jones’s involvement in the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, for example, but she was subjected to scathing scrutiny by Melvin Harris in Sorry – You’ve Been Duped .  He noted that many of her statements – conveniently forgotten – were wrong, while others were reasonable inferences from what was already known.  As he concludes: “It can be said with certainty that at no time did she supply a single name, location, address, or description connected with any of the murders that was of any use to the police.”

To add context, Adams discusses other cases, such as the currently popular Black Monk of Pontefract, Enfield, and the peculiar occurrence at Ealing that nearly robbed the world of Andrew Green in 1944 when he was pulled back by his father as he was about to step off the parapet of a tall tower, compelled by a mysterious force.  Adams gives Benson Herbert of Paraphysical Laboratory fame some well deserved coverage, and introduces us to the singular literary style, if you can call it that, of Frank Harrison, who murdered his wife and stuffed her body in the understairs cupboard.  From there she whispered to her friends in their dreams, but in the end Harrison was undone by the terrible smell.

To illustrate the care with which Adams presents his material, he has included a useful bibliography, an index of names, and index of phenomena.  The last gives a good indication of the book’s scope, divided as it is into apparitions, black magic and occultism, exorcisms and possessions, hauntings and haunted houses, levitations and psychic forces, mediumship and spiritualism, poltergeists, psychic detection, and prophetic dreams.

As he notes, there is a parallel between criminal detection and psychical research.  Both involve a search that takes the investigation, or should at any rate, where the evidence leads, then assesses it impartially to try to determine the truth.  Yet while the paranormal component of many of the cases recounted may not convince, and this is a field with much that is unsubstantiated and doubtless untrue, there is still much to, well, entertain us if we are brutally honest.  George Orwell bemoaned the decline of the English murder, yet many of us are happy to put our feet up on a Sunday afternoon, as Orwell envisaged it (even if not with the News of the World these days), and read about appalling deeds, time and nostalgia blunting the edge of the horror.  Ghosts and crime: Paul Adams is on to a winner.

 

 Haunted Luton and Dunstable is an entry in The History Press’s series of regional guides.  As a local resident, Adams is well placed to write about the paranormal side of the Luton area, and an extra strength is his wide knowledge of the history of psychical research (also demonstrated in Ghosts & Gallows), which allows him to sketch in the broader context of the cases he is describing, as well as finding parallels elsewhere that lend support to them.

It’s much briefer than Ghosts and Gallows, with chapters covering strange happenings on the road, pubs and other haunted buildings, open spaces and UFOs.  Packed in are stories about mediums with a local connection (including Helen Duncan’s daughter), phantom hitchhikers, a wide variety of ghosts, including one in black, another in cricketing white, and most startling of all, a bizarre 8-foot tall Owlman-type entity with glowing yellow feet seen by a group of children near a wood close to Luton in 1979.

Well illustrated, as all of the volumes in the series are, many of the photographs were taken by Eddie Brazil, who has contributed his usual gloomy scenes with overprocessed skies, aiming at a ‘Gothic’ feel.  That aside, the book is well presented and informative.  There is a useful bibliography and an excellent index, allowing access to a particular item in moments, and a suggested walk taking in many of the sites mentioned in the text.  Authors of similar guides should study this example of the genre and try to emulate it.