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Paranormal Derbyshire and Haunted Pubs, Inns and Hotels of Derbyshire

From the publisher’s website: Paranormal Derbyshire: Many people believe they have seen a ghost. The experience is as old as records of civilisation, yet we are told that ghosts are purely hallucinatory; spooks caught on camera are dust particles on the lens; mysterious lights are fireflies and UFOs are Chinese lanterns.  But what if these anomalies are not caused through hallucination, dust particles, fireflies or Chinese lanterns? More and more people are becoming aware that things beyond the current range of scientific explanation or normal human capabilities can and do happen and this presents us with a paranormal puzzle.

Is there some mysterious earth energy that acts like a giant power grid; do certain rocks hold energy that can be released like disco lights; is it possible to see a scene as it happened years ago like some form of hologram? Spook lights, aerial phantoms and things that fall from the sky pre-date the invention of the aeroplane, and how do we account for phantom planes, UFOs and extraterrestrial visitations? Such things challenge all established views and ideas.  Paranormal Derbyshire is not only packed with amazing stories, we also invite you to judge for yourself by participating in a spot of ghost hunting. We’ll guide you safely through the techniques of using dowsing rods, a planchette and ouija board, so you too can delve into the paranormal secrets of Derbyshire.

Haunted Pubs, Inns & Hotels of Derbyshire takes you on a spookily paranormal pub crawl with a difference. Whether it’s to a scenic country pub, a traditional old coaching inn or a more modern establishment, these are the places where people have seen ghosts, heard them, smelt them and – most frightening of all – felt them. We delve deep into the mysterious phenomena that have baffled investigators, and terrified landlords, cleaners and customers for years.  Here the hidden secrets behind these strange goings-on are explored and revealed in chilling detail. Some tales will leave you shocked and shaken, while others are as entertaining as they are bewildering. History, folk memory, anecdote and eyewitness evidence are all pieced together in these eerie and evocative true stories.

We stop off at old coaching inns, pubs and alehouses, encountering spectral highwaymen, monks, Cavaliers and Roman soldiers. We uncover the ghostly fate of serving wenches, old regulars, heartbroken maids and murder victims. We find hotel rooms haunted by benevolent, playful and curious spirits as well as plagued by poltergeist activity.

First Author: 
Jill Armitage
Reviewed for SPR by: 
Tom Ruffles
SPR Review: 

Amberley continue their series of paranormal guides, to which Jill Armitage contributes two dealing with her home county of Derbyshire.  These sorts of books are usually done either by someone who investigates the paranormal with a ‘ghost-hunting’ group and has a good knowledge of the subject (but sometimes shaky writing skills), or by a local historian or journalist who writes well and knows how to use archival material to full effect, but does not have much in the way of current case reports on which to draw.  Armitage, author of a series of local Ghost Walks book, falls into the latter camp, and has produced a pair of well-written books which round up stories relating to the stranger side of her county.

Rather than take the usual geographical or alphabetical approach, Paranormal Derbyshire is arranged thematically, which is an interesting departure from the more typical organisation, but the lack of an index makes the book less useful for the casual visitor who wants to see if a particular location has something of interest in it.  The first chapter asks if an apparently ghostly occurrence might be a haunting (ie something ‘out there’) or an hallucination, and discusses the various sense modalities through which ghosts might be perceived in addition to the visual: smell – olfactory (as opposed to old factory) ghosts – auditory, and touch.  Accounts are grouped according to the sense involved and Armitage discusses whether experiences were likely to have been objective or subjective; more than one person involved suggests it is external to the individual, but on the other hand she highlights how tiredness and monotonous visual stimuli can trigger misperception.

A chapter on ‘Action Replays’ looks at what can be termed the ‘stone tape’ theory, that there is some imprint on the environment which lacks consciousness, though whether an incident belongs in this or the previous chapter is open to question when it occurs only once.  The following chapter covers earth mysteries and folklore, and the next deals with things seen in the sky, including phantom aircraft, and sometimes falling from it.  ‘Ghosts and Spirits Captured on Camera’ gives a brief overview of spirit photography and thoughtography before covering anomalies in photographs taken locally, several by the author.  Some of these are orbs, but there are descriptions of other oddities captured either on still cameras or CCTV.  The book concludes with a chapter on activities that the reader can try, such as Instrumental Transcommunication, the planchette and ouija board, dowsing rods and vigils.  There is also a section on poltergeists and psychokinesis as applied to stopped timepieces.

In addition to the historical accounts, Armitage has interviewed individuals with a story to tell.  Unfortunately, as is frequently the case in these popular guides, source information is usually sketchy, even where names and dates are provided, making it difficult for the investigator to follow up many of the cases.  Even so, there is much here to interest both the ghost investigator and casual reader.

Haunted Pubs, Inns and Hotels of Derbyshirehas a more traditional organisation and lists places alphabetically, ideal for the traveller to check quickly if a town is included.  As with Paranormal Derbyshire it contains a mix of historical and folkloric anecdotes mixed with more recent interviews conducted by the author, all put together in a readable and engaging style.  You can never tell with commercial premises how much exaggeration is going on to encourage trade, but even so, this book is a useful supplement to a pie and a pint.

As always with Amberley books, the production values are good and both volumes are well illustrated.  In addition to learning about Derbyshire’s paranormal aspects, the reader will come away knowing more about its history more generally.  Given the University of Derby’s increasingly prominent role in parapsychological researchthrough its Psychology of Paranormal Phenomena Research Group, it seems appropriate to celebrate the county’s spooky heritage, and these two complementary books do that well.

Reference Information: 
Paranormal Derbyshire, Amberley, November 2009. ISBN 9781445600819; Haunted Pubs, Inns and Hotels of Derbyshire, Amberley, June 2011. ISBN 9781445604640