London's ghosts and legends:
'By means of our myths and legends we maintain a sense of what we are worth and who we are.'
('Mother London' by Michael Moorcock)
My 2007 book, 'Haunted London', looked at ghost stories from
some of London's most famous places, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, No. 10 Downing Street,
St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. It focused on Central London - the London trodden by tourists -
but beyond this centre lies the suburban sprawl of Greater London and this vast landscape of churches and shops,
car parks and parkland, council estates and unassuming rows of terraced houses conceals more and stranger tales than
anyone would ever suspect. I have written
about some of these odd local stories in 'Strange Mitcham' (2002, revised 2011),
(2007), 'Haunted Wandsworth' (2006) and '
Haunted Lambeth' (2013).
People often ask me if I believe in ghosts and suchlike. Well, I don't know whether or not ghosts (in the
traditional sense of supernatural beings) exist but ghost stories most definitely do! As well as chilling
the blood, these stories can offer intriguing insights into local history, while their numerous phantoms, wraiths
and spectres populate a secret London that is enormously great fun to explore.
Parapsychology / the paranormal / forteana / 'weird stuff':
This area has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. My interest eventually led me to join ASSAP (the
Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena) and in 2001, I was elected onto their governing
committee. After a three-year spell overseeing their Research Department, I served for two years as the
association's Librarian and Archivist, looking after their large collection of books, journals, case reports, etc.
stored in Senate House, University of London until the collection was relocated to a site in Nottingham. (At the time of writing, I
am not actively involved with the association.)
My published writing includes a number of magazine articles about various 'paranormal' topics, as well as several
books about odd local stories and legends (see above).
As for my position on the spectrum of cynics versus believers, my view goes something like this:
It is perfectly possible to respect the phenomenological reality of an experience while remaining open to various
interpretations of that experience, considering and weighing such interpretations without feeling it necessary to
accept or reject any or all of those interpretations, all the while acknowledging that no single interpretation is
likely to apply equally to all experiences that, on the surface, appear to be similar.
People's eyes tend to glaze over at that, though, so I usually prefer to quote a comment attributed to Jacob Needleman,
that you 'should be open-minded but not so open-minded that your brains fall out'!
I hold a BSc (Hons), First Class in Psychology. It was my lifelong interest in strange stories (see above) that
led me to study this subject at university to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which we experience and
interpret the world around us.