Monday, 13 January 2020

Nostalgic For My Childhood - A Formative Read

I’ve written on the blog before about books that had a major impact on my formative reading years (from The Restless Bones, which I wrote about here to my enduring love for The Three Investigators series) and one of them, which I hadn’t seen in ages, was re-published last year.
 This book is for anyone who has shivered at shadowy figures in the dark, heard strange sounds in the night, or felt the presence of a mysterious ‘something’ from the unknown. 

You will meet haunting spirits, screaming skulls, phantom ships, demon dogs, white ladies, gallows ghosts and many more. This book also explains the techniques and equipment of ghost hunting and tells how lots of ‘ghosts’ have been exposed as fakes or explained away as natural events. 

I loved spooky things as a kid and this slim paperback, originally published by Usborne in 1977 and written by Christopher Maynard, was the perfect book for ghost-mad kids like me back in the day.  At that time, as with The Three Investigators, I was the only person I knew who read the book (taking it out of the library, time after time) but through the wonder of social media, I now realise I wasn’t alone.
The book is well illustrated and covers everything from explaining what a ghost is and how they’ve appeared in history, where they’re likely to gather and how literature has presented them, through to a helpful map of a haunted village.  Everything, in fact, for a would-be ghost hunter and this includes a helpful guide for the equipment you’d need to do that too!  There’s a healthy scepticism (it debunks several myths) but it also presents the photographs that terrified me as a child, including the old lady in the back seat of a car (and you can tell me a million times her scarf is over part of the car frame, I still won’t believe you).

The re-print (which is identical to the original, other than the foreword from Reece Shearsmith, another fan) came about when people started discussing the book online.  Anna Howarth, who works for Usborne and was a fan, tells the company website she’d been “banging on” about bringing it back into print for most of the fifteen years she’d worked for the company.  When Shearsmith tweeted his love for the book, she wrote to him and he agreed to write the foreword for any reprints.
Buoyed by public reaction, Anna set up an online petition that quickly sailed past the target of 1,000 signatures and the book was reprinted in time for Halloween 2019, going to number one on Amazon when it was put up for pre-order.

To those of us who remember it from the first time around, it’s a wonderful blast of nostalgia that reads as well as you would hope.  For everyone else with even the vaguest interest in the supernatural, I’d say it’s essential reading.
Enjoy - and beware the things that go bump in the night…


  1. That looks extremely familiar, so either I actually had it, or thumbed through it a few times in a bookshop. I did a bit of work for Usborne a good few years ago - wonder if I'll get a discount? (You can tell I'm Scottish, can't you?)

    1. You could always try! What work did you do for them?

    2. For the life of me, I can't remember. Well, it was lettering, but beyond that, don't have a scooby. However, I'll still have my invoices somewhere, so when/if I ever find them, I'll let you know the details.