Review by Steve Matthews of Bookcase and Bookends, Carlisle.
Some stories have the ring of authenticity. David Harkins from Upperby tells of the ghost of Mrs Kirkwood. He was returning home from a trip to Paris late at night. He chose to take a taxi home. Passing by the bus-stop in The Crescent he saw the distinctive figure of his neighbour, Mrs Kirkwood, waiting for the last bus, but, unthinkingly drove on by without offering her a lift. When he got home he mentioned seeing Mrs Kirkwood in her headscarf to his mother as he was unpacking his suitcase. She replied: “You’d have had a queer job. She died two days ago.”
David Harkins also recalls from his childhood, when he was getting up at four o’clock in the morning to do a milk round before school, seeing a lady he later discovered to be dead repeatedly crossing the road in front of the Methodist Church in Currock Road where she had been buried a few days before.
Darren Ritson presents himself as a ghost investigator with a high level of accreditation. He has conducted over 150 overnight paranormal investigations and is a co-founder of the Ghosts and Hauntings Overnight Surveillance Team as well as a member of the Incorporated Society for Psychical Research. He would be the rational, fearless investigator who will question every situation and yet, in telling these stories which will “make our blood run cold” he provides few facts and very little analysis.
He talks of the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots being seen in Long Lane. Certainly Queen Mary was kept prisoner in the Castle and Long Lane was there in Tudor times and Mary may well have visited the cathedral. Darren required a little more information. “Sadly, this was where my research hit a brick wall. I telephoned an individual one day” but they failed to share the story with him.
Neither was his informant there when he explored the corridors of the Crown and Mitre, which has its share of ghost stories, and the psychic medium who provides stories of eerie experiences in the castle “must remain anonymous”.
A number of stories attach to the busy Carlisle Railway Station. “More harrowing encounters include the spine-chilling apparition of a veiled lady that paces around in the upper corridors, and the ghost of a headless man has been seen on platform 8.” The man and his new bride were heading home after being married in Gretna. He pulled down the carriage window. “As he put his head out of the window it was subsequently decapitated by a thin piece of razor sharp steel wire that was hanging down from one of the upper gantries. His head fell onto the rail tracks and his lifeless body collapsed and slumped on the floor of the carriage – much to the horror of his new bride.” Two members of the staff at the station have seen the headless ghost in recent years. “Sadly they declined an interview.” Sadly, too, Darren fails to provide names and dates for an horrific incident, which, if it really happened, will be well documented.
One story, at least, is well documented. On Thursday, 30th August 2007, Alison Marshall of Raffles was terrified in the early hours of the morning when a dog’s bone and a hair brush and then glasses started flying around the room for no apparent reason. “A group from Scotland came down to investigate the case for Alison and identified the poltergeist as the ghost of a former neighbour. After an alleged cleansing ceremony, the poltergeist was reported to have left the family in peace.”
Darren Ritson is a ghost enthusiast. He has assembled a large number of local stories, including the famous ones of the radiant boy of Corby Castle and the ghostly highwayman of Barrock Park and supported them with numerous grainy black and white photographs. It would be nice to have had more evidence.