Military Ghosts

By Wood, Alan C.

From the publisher’s website: Following several personal sightings of ghosts, including that of a First World War pilot, Alan Wood has spent sixty years researching the occult.  Military Ghosts is the result and is designed as a gazetteer of locations where military ghosts have been reported. It includes not only such well-known stories as that of Sir Francis Drake’s Drum but a wide variety of stories, ranging from a patrol of ghostly Roman legionnaires to a fully-fledged re-enactment of the Battle of Edgehill, and from benevolent spirits to one so terrifying that witnesses have committed suicide rather than face it, through the spirits of seventeenth-century cavaliers to the more modern ghosts of fighter pilots from the First and Second World Wars. This book covers soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and a wide range of locations not only in the U.K. but also overseas.
 
Alan C. Wood has spent time in the RAF both on active service at home and overseas, and as a reservist, winning the USAF medal for Humane Action. On being demobilised from the RAF, he joined the police service and won the Queen Elizabeth II Police Service Medal and various other awards.  He has been a published non-fiction author since September 1957, writing about the First and Second World Wars.


Military Ghosts. Amberley, October 2010. ISBN 9781445601717

Reviewed for the SPR by: Tom Ruffles


Military Ghosts, by Alan C Wood, Amberley Press, 2010.
 
A field of human activity like warfare, in which sudden and violent death is a commonplace, might be expected to throw up large quantities of ghosts, assuming that they correlate with extremes of human emotion. Such seems to be the case judging by Alan Wood’s book – not to be confused with Ken and Sharon Hudnall’s 2007 book of the same name – on ghosts relating to armed forces and combat through the ages.
 
Wood writes with authority as he is not just someone who has been interested in the paranormal for over sixty years, but served in the RAF from the late 1940s, before joining the police for the rest of his working life. He covers dozens of ghost stories from a broad period of history, some familiar, others less so, and including personal experiences of both a ghost and a poltergeist. There is a good sprinkling of Scottish cases to reflect the author’s roots.
 
The book is logically structured, dealing separately with ghosts and legends relating to the three services. It is mostly devoted to British personnel, but Wood does stray overseas, notably including a few cases from the United States. All sorts are here, from benign spirits to evil presences, from ghosts that have personality to ones that seem to be only an echo of past events. Along the way Wood recounts stories of great bravery and endeavour, great cruelty, and unspeakable suffering.
 
Entries are generally short, with little attempt at analysis. For example, the Sir George Tryon and Camperdown story is recounted, but there is no mention of the analysis to which Melvyn Harris subjected it in Sorry, You’ve Been Duped. Similarly the Edgehill and Souter Fell ghost army stories have been closely scrutinised by Peter McCue and Alan Gauld in the SPR’s Journal, but their findings are not reflected in Wood’s book. But to be fair, such gazetteers are not designed to be academic texts and what it lacks in depth it makes up in breadth.
 
Wood has included useful appendices containing locations of haunted airfields (ordered alphabetically), a bibliography – oddly not including Bruce Barrymore Halpenny’s extensive Ghost Stations series which contains many of the same cases – and lists of haunted locations in the UK (ordered by county) and abroad (ordered by country). The latter two are useful but unfortunately do not key into the text with page numbers, which necessitates some hunting to find the passage to which the item refers.
 
Military ghosts are popular as they combine topics of deep interest to many, indeed obsession for some (and Amberley publishes widely in both subjects).  Even though there is much more to be said, this is a chunky book containing a large number of stories told in an engaging style, and is a worthy edition to the ghosthunter’s, military buff’s or just plain tourist’s bookshelf.