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Haunted Hostelries of Shropshire, by Andrew Homer

Publication Details: 
Amberley Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-1445602011
Publish date: 
June, 2012
Andrew Homer, co-author of one book about haunted pubs, Beer and Spirits: A Guide to Haunted Pubs in the Black Country and Surrounding Area, has produced another linking ghosts and alcohol, this time focusing on Shropshire.  He is well known as an investigator for the Association for the Scientific Study of Claims of the Paranormal, (ASSAP’s President and First Lady Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe contribute a foreword), and he has given talks at Fortean UnConvention and to the Ghost Club.

The introduction gives some general information about the folklore of the county, and the origins of inns, and Homer also makes the point that you are as likely to experience something paranormal as a customer as you are by participating in a commercial ghost hunt.  It’s an excellent point: why not combine investigation with a good meal or drink, rather than pay a third party handsomely for the privilege of sitting in the dark waiting for something to happen?

Homer notes that ‘The Acton Arms’ at Moreville was called “England’s most frequently haunted pub” by Marc Alexander in his well-knownHaunted Inns, though how you quantify these things I don’t know.  The entries are the usual mix of folklore and anecdote, beyond confirmation but fun to read.  In the one on the ‘Railwaymans Arms’ (sic) at Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway preserved line, Homer suggests that ghosts could possibly be confused with people wearing period dress at themed events.  The SVR boasts a ghost train, apparently less corporeal than the phoney one in Arnold Ridley’s classic play.  Homer wonders if the witnesses were misled by a night-time train running during the SVR’s Autumn Steam Gala, but adds that the fact the apparition was silent undermines this theory.

The best-known case in the book is surely that of Wem town hall, and the famous ghost photograph taken by Tony O’Rahilly during the conflagration there in 1995.  Homer, who knew and clearly liked him, nevertheless covers the discovery of the postcard in 2010 featuring an identical figure to that in the photograph of the fire, showing O’Rahilly’s photograph to be a hoax.

Haunted Hostelries of Shropshire is nicely produced, and well illustrated.  It is divided into towns, with establishments listed under each, and an outline county map shows the locations of the towns, so the book is easy for the visitor to use.  Shropshire is an attractive county full of attractive hostelries and those featured in Andrew Homer’s book would be worth dropping into even without the added value of a haunting, but having his book in hand will make a visit still more enjoyable.  It complements Allan Scott-Davies’ 2010 History Press publication Haunted Shropshire.