For the most part Holdstock carefully builds, then maintains, a creeping sense of edgy unease rather than venturing into full on horror, but there’s one point late on, where he creates an almost Lovecraftian vision of weirdness, to provide a genuine moment of skin-crawling alarm. This occurs when Stephen and Keeton reach an internal border within the wood, between one zone and another, a threshold marked by a peculiarly grotesque tree:
‘In the middle of the glade stood an imposing tree, its swell of foliage broad and dense, reaching close to the ground. On the far side, however…it was blighted and grotesquely parasitized. Its foliage was brown and rotting, and great ropes of creeper and sucking plant parasites like a net of tendrils…at times the tree quivered and great ripples of writing activity coursed down the sucker net, back to the tree line…The very ground itself was a mess of roots and bindweed, and strange sticky protusions that reached inches into the air and waved, as if searching for prey…’
Dead rats aside, there was one area of the garden that always made me feel a little uneasy. As the name suggests, there was once a mill here.
In the late 18th century it was a paper mill, but by the 1820s had become a cloth-mill. By the end of the Victorian era, the mill was gone, but perhaps something else lingered in the grounds.
Is it possible to be haunted by a place? I think that I may be. In this case it is Ashley Vale in Bristol – an exceptional urban oasis caught between the tracks, containing allotments, woods, hilltops and a pub next door to a farm.
Crumbling ruins, moonlight, tree-lined walks, bats flitting, owls hooting, wolves howling, trapdoors and darkling cellar stairs…
Ever since I can remember I’ve been attracted to things that might be termed ‘Gothic’. For that reason I have been looking forward enormously to the latest exhibition at the British Library: Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination.
Clevedon: the most boring seaside town in all England; filled with dusty, fusty little sepia-tinted shops, selling dull stuff like lacework, horse brasses and pink and blue vintage porcelain salt-and-pepper sets in the shape of Edwardian ladies.
At least that’s what I used to think…
A ‘spotter’s guide’ to some of the more common themes, obsessions and clichés to be found in non-fiction ghost books.
The beauty of books is that you can read them anywhere, at any time.
But is there an ideal place to do it? Indoors, outdoors, under a tree, in a favourite chair, on a train, or on the loo?