Monday, 17 January 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

As this gentleman told us, Doncaster has its very own town crier. And it's Henry Cryer, living up to his namesake!
My better half and some friends and I had the pleasant experience of going on a ghost walk around spooky Doncaster just recently. Home of ancient Romans back int day, Doncaster was one major stop on the Great North Road going all the way from London up to Edinburgh, Scotland. And it is brimming with the ghostly tales that follow such a long and established history. Imagine: Friday night, around about quarter to eight, a little bit of English mist hugging the corners of Tudor-style pubs, when we embarked on a journey filled with, well, complimentary Costa coffee and chattering teeth.
It was cold.
We started at the Barley Twist, that uber suave restaurant that forms part of the Premiere Inn. And across the cobblestones we went, our happy little ghost-obsessed group, trailing along behind Mr. Cryer to the Mason's Arms pub and down to the Doncaster Free Press office (ghosts with which I am very familiar), and further on down past the butter-cross at the crossroads of the darkened, after-hours Masserollis hot dog stand and Primark. Then, on further down to the High Street, a few early-night drunks leaning against the wall and shouting their own profanities as we passed, and dear Mr. Cryer professionally continued with his abundant sixteenth/seventeenth/eighteenth century ghost stories and the whip-happy history of Doncaster.
We may not have heard any spooks, or witnessed any apparitions, but we did get several detailed accounts of old pubs that featured dead boxers, dead dignitaries, dead architects and, yes, even dead dogs.
Which brings me to one of my favorite books on the face of the planet, Alvin Schwartz's terrifying ghost story book Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. As you can see from the battered-ness of my battered copy, it was in constant use in my childhood. Many a night, my sister and our friends and I sat around in the attic of our play house (yes, a full-sized playhouse built by our father, with an upstairs and everything, every child should have one), and with flashlight in hand, we read out the stories and edged in closer, and closer yet, because there was so much scare-factor in that darkness in the roof beams and spidery corners of our little room. I have not opened this book since I was probably ten or eleven, and this is because the pictures are so well drawn I can barely glance at them without having horrifying flashbacks of screaming and running to my mother somewhat frightful. Even to this day I kind of look at this book and, well, shiver.
 This is one of the more tame pictures. You'll have to get the book to see the real crackers.
But I have heard it said somewhere that our fears can give rise to our greatest strengths. Or, what most repulses us can become our finest obsession. It's so complicated. And from that complication we can search, explore, unpack, and discover the truths at the very core of us.
It is because of this book that I love ghosts.
It's amazing what can affect us in our more impressionable years, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. I will have to borrow that book Vee. If you are really into ghosts there is a company from Doncaster that arrange ghost hunts just like on Most Haunted, and one of their best they say is Cusworth Hall. I met the owner Rosie at a recent meeting for Success Doncaster ladies. Take a look at their website www.
    love ya Mumsie xxxxxxxxxx