Daniel Codd is an old friend of Uncanny UK who is already well-known for his books on the mysteries of his native East Anglia published by Breedon. Now he takes a side-step into Amberley’s ongoing series of ‘paranormal’ county guides and heads North West to bring us ‘Paranormal Lancashire’.
Lancashire is a big county with a rich heritage of folklore and an increasing wealth of contemporary supernatural reports. It’s no easy task distilling all this down but Dan has succeeded admirably. Ghostly old favourites like Peg O’Nell, the White Lady of Salmesbury and the violent thingummy of Written Stone Lane rub supernatural shoulders with far less well known spooks (at least to me), including the ‘morphing, swirling’ entity that terrified a household in Accrington, a ‘violent and offensive ghost’ in Chorley and a Grey Lady who is attracting hordes of would-be ghosthunters to a dangerous old railway tunnel at Preston.
Dan also provides separate sections on, for example, haunted pubs, halls and theatres and the remarkable range of spooks encountered in Blackpool. And there are boggarts galore.
Of course, it’s not all ghosts. The author can hardly avoid witch-lore in Lancashire and he also draws fairies, UFOs, death omens, vampires and natural wonders into his net. There is a fine section on strange creatures reported from the county, including big cats, black dogs, the famous ‘Beast of Green Drive’ and a surprising number of Bigfoot-type sightings. I was particularly amused and intrigued by the 18th century reference to ‘two large sea monsters’ in the River Ribble, one of which was killed by fishermen and found to have teats ‘which they squeezed milk out of; and they said it was the sweetest milk they ever tasted’.
Dan has used a wide range of sources to research ‘Paranormal Lancashire’, not just the standard works on the county’s folklore – of which there are many – but lots of obscure historical records in papers and periodicals, combined with up-to-the-minute newspaper and website reports. The book is far more than a collection of stories and sightings, however. Dan takes an informed and insightful approach to his subject, drawing parallels, noting recurrent themes, asking questions and suggesting answers. This, combined with the wealth of accounts he showcases, makes ‘Paranormal Lancashire’ a thoroughly satisfying read.
My only criticism is the lack of indexing – an index for place names, at least, is essential in my opinion and I would have liked to have seen one for types of ghost and other phenomena. The latter would have been particularly helpful considering the spartan nature of the contents, which only hints at what you might expect in the four lengthy chapters. A really good book with masses of information deserves an index – and ‘Paranormal Lancashire’ is just such a book.