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Synopsis

A natural history of the supernatural from Roger Clarke, lifelong investigator into England's creepiest real-life ghost stories

'Is there anybody out there?' No matter how rationally we order our lives, few of us are completely immune to the suggestion of the uncanny and the fear of the dark. The subject of whether ghosts exist has fascinated some of the finest minds in history and it remains a subject of overwhelming interest today.

This is the first comprehensive, authoritative and readable history of the evolution of the ghost in the west, examining as every good natural history should, the behaviour of the subject in its preferred environment: the stories we tell each other. What explains sightings of ghosts? Why do they fascinate us? What exactly did the haunted see? What did they believe? And what proof is there?

Taking us through the key hauntings that have obsessed the world from the poltergeist of Cock Lane through the true events that inspired The Turn of the Screw and the dark events of Borley Rectory right up to the present day, Roger Clarke unfolds a story of class conflict, charlatans and true believers. His surprising castlist ranges from Samuel Johnson to John Wesley, and from Harry Houdini to Adolf Hitler. Inspired by a childhood spent in two haunted houses, Roger Clarke has spent much of his life trying to see a ghost. Written as grippingly as the best ghost fiction, A Natural History of Ghosts takes us on an unforgettable hunt through the most haunted places of the last five hundred years and our longing to believe.

Reviews:

'Researched with seriousness, and written with evident delight. Roger Clarke ... tackles everything from the troubled roots of Methodism to haunted toys that command premiums on eBay. He also tells a few cracking ghost stories ... [The book is] beautifully written ... lithe, complicated and hugely rewarding' James McConnachie, Sunday Times

'This splendid book ... [is] a compelling read ... Clarke manages to give goose-flesh and a giggle while informing the reader - an enviable feat' Scotsman

'A highly enjoyable (and disturbing work) ... I am in awe of [Clarke's] intrepidity' Guardian

'Oustanding ... Those of us who have spent years fascinated by the fiction of the supernatural ... will be in love with Clarke's book from the very first page ... deeply enjoyable, hugely informative and at times distinctly unsettling' Shade Point

'An intriguing, shivers-down-the-spine book' The Lady

'A gripping history that traces the scientific and social aspects of ghostly sightings' Telegraph

'A fascinating social history ... exceptionally well written and researched' Starburst Magazine

'Lively and absorbing ... Clarke, a seasoned ghost-hunter whose still unfulfilled ambition is to see a ghost, plainly loves his subject, and has read extensively in and around the social history of haunting ... [he] has proven himself an ideal guide to this troubled and disorderly realm' Literary Review

'Simmering as it is with personal reflections, this handsome volume ... is bursting with a giddy passion, buoyed further by an expert's thirst for abstruse facts. The main pleasure of reading this book is Clarke's own enthusiasm, intelligence and seriousness ... a deeply interesting, revealing read' Book Hugger

About the author:

Brought up in haunted houses, Roger Clarke was the youngest person ever to be invited to join the Ghost Society. His stories were published in the Fontana Books of Ghost Stories when he was just fifteen. Today he is a journalist and film critic for the Big Issue, Observer and Sunday Times. But this is the book he has always wanted to write.

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