A Cabinet of Curiosities

Browsing at the British Museum, a place full of ghosts

I with the help of my spirit guides and augers, would like to suggest the following publications for your perusal.

These are books that I came across over the years that helped me in my spectral researches.  They give an excellent insight into the world of spirits and folklore, and very often scared me to boot!  Ranging from the simple and informative, to the strange and sinister, they will hopefully help and inform you as much as they did me.

I’ll be adding them one at a time, so do come back to see my latest offerings. 

The Reverend Neil-Smith hard at work

The Exorcist’s Exorcist

It seems that many of the recent stories on exorcism, including the classic Exorcist book and film, can trace their lineage back to one man, the Reverend Christopher Neil-Smith.  

He was an Anglican priest at St Saviors Anglican church, Hampstead, London, and you can just click on this link – Reverend Neil-Smith, to read a summary of his work by ‘The Friends of Bishop Sean Manchester’.

He carried out over a thousand exorcisms during his long career, dealing not just with demons, but with alleged possessions involving vampirism no less! 

He wrote a fascinating book on his thoughts and experiences during his campaigns against ‘The Powers of Darkness’, a copy of which I have in my library.  

If you’re interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of exorcism and demonic possession, you can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, just click on this link – The Exorcist to be taken to the Amazon website page selling it. 

It is a good read, and a must for the would-be psychic investigator.  Good haunting!

Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain

The Folklore of Great Britain

This is a really good all-round bible for supernatural tales and myth hunting in Britain, it was the ghostly tome I read when I was in my early teens and I still have it!  Titled ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain’, this lovely publication is an easy read and you can just dip in and out of subjects and geographical areas at whim.  I found it a really good introduction to Britain’s folklore in all its various shades (pun intended). 

This  substantial volume is available on Amazon as a second-hand buy, as it is now out of print.  It makes a sizable statement in your bookcase, proclaiming your commitment to ‘The World of the Supernatural’ and magic of these ‘enchanted isles’.

As before, click on the book’s title here, ‘Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain’ to see where you can get second-hand copies, they appear to be costed at £45 at present, but prices can vary from time to time.

© Image by Kind Permission of BBC Enterprises

Space, Time and Reality

One answer I have come to believe in, is that they are in fact an actual recording, such as those on digital files or DVDs, of a past incident. It is manifested due to either someone’s traumatic experience, or a disaster occurring, at the place at which it appears. It may also simply be the desire of someone’s spirit to remain there after death and it somehow overrides the normal confines of reality and time. 

One fictional story that clicked with me as a possible answer, was Nigel Kneale’s story, broadcast on BBC2 on Christmas Day 1972 called ‘The Stone Tape’.  

In this story, a research team trying to develop a new recording medium, stumble’s across a Victorian maid’s ghost in the room of an old mansion called ‘Taskerlands’.  The heroine of the story Jill Greeley (played by a young and lovely Jane Asher), sees the maid’s ghost and hears her chilling scream, before the ghost falls to her death in the room.  Greeley believes that there is much that can be learned from this manifestation and that it is the house’s stone construction itself that is acting like a ‘stone tape’, recording the maid’s tragic death. 

Meanwhile her hasty and avaricious boss Brock (played by Michael Bryant), bombards the maid’s manifestation with sound waves, in an effort to control its appearance, but only succeeds in wiping it out completely and the experiment ends in failure. Jill returns to the room believing there to be a deeper and underlying presence, of a much older manifestation present, only to be cruelly compelled by it into falling like the Victorian maid she had seen, to her death.  

The terrifying ending shows that the now dead Jill’s presence, has been taped like the unfortunate maid’s, on to the stone. Like her predecessor, she is now doomed to repeat her death, again and again in a ‘spirit ensnaring’ loop.

It’s a great story and here’s a sampler from YouTube to tease your pallett and incentivise you to see this great programme, just click on this link – STONETAPE.

A Detective Talks to the Dead

© Image by Kind Permission of BBC Enterprises

Several years ago I watched the last episode of the gripping detective drama ‘River’ on BBC, where our much-troubled and self-doubting detective River, finally solves the mystery of his partner Stevie’s murder.  This was a great series, one of its main components being that River talked to dead victims, as well as being plagued by a Victorian psychopath.  I was pleased to see that it has been revived on Amazon prime video for you to buy and it’s also on Britbox. If you missed it first time around, this is an excellent second chance to see it. Here’s the original BBC trailer for the series to whet your appetite, just click on – RIVER

Vampyre Man

A Plaque at the Guest House Stoker Stayed at in Whitby – © Paul Fitz-George

I came across a really good radio play about the origins of that fantastic Gothic novel Dracula the other day. It’s on BBC Sounds and is located on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Drama on 3’ pages. It features the excellent Anton Lesser as Henry Irving, Darragh Kelly as Stoker and the silk-voiced Amanda Redman, as the famous Victorian actresss Ellen Terry. It’s a fascinating work from the author Joseph O’Conner and is wonderfully put together.

It walks us through the often tortured relationship Stoker had with the great Henry Irving, though thankfully they stayed friends to the end. It gives an interesting insight into how Stoker put together the Count’s tale and can be quickly accessed at the following link – VampyreMan.

Longevity – And then some

Church Plaque of Henry Jenkins – © Paul Fitz-George

This plaque within the old parish church of St Mary’s in Bolton-on Swale, Richmondshire, records the remarkable age of one Henry Jenkins, a local villager, as being one hundred and sixty nine at his death in 1670.

This means he was born in the reign of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII and died in the reign of the Stuart monarch, Charles II, in 1670.

He was apparently a man of simple habits, but with a good memory and was often asked to confirm this or that fact about the villages’ history, land ownership and people in its past.

A truly long life of many years then, though not all that surprising in this beautiful and idyllic part of Richmondshire, that lies within the equally beautiful county of North Yorkshire.

A Very Unconventional Library

© Illustration by kind permission of Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner)

The Librarians (click the preceding ‘The Librarians’ for series information), is a sort of Indiana Jones and team meet a supercharged municipal library’s staff.

Their work is centred on quests to prevent evil or dysfunctional characters from the past, from gaining total world domination in cliff hanging and often very amusing episodes. These villains include Shakespeare’s Prospero, aided and abetted by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock nemeses Moriarty and other evil antagonists.

The cast includes Christian Kane, playing Jake Stone, a ‘brawn and brains’ stalwart cowboy character. Rebecca Romijn, who plays Eve Baird, the team’s amazon like guardian and ready to fight anyone. Lindy Booth from Relic Hunter, plays the super intelligent and enigmatic Cassandra Cillian, the team’s prerequistie tortured genius. The rascally John Kim plays the Aussie master thief, Ezekiel Jones and last but not least, there’s the team’s leader, the revered Jenkins, played by the suave John Larroquette.

© Illustration by kind permission of Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner)

A very brief but nonetheless eye catching appearance is made by Vanessa Vander Pluym, playing an exceedingly scary villain, the psychotic and startlingly dressed with fetching axe accessory, Queen of Hearts.  In the episode ‘The Librarians and the Broken Staff’ – 2014, she tries to hack some of the team to death with her handy axe. This is a rendition of ‘the Queen’ that would certainly have had her Victorian author creator Lewis Carroll, surely stand up and take notice. That said, Carroll did have a dark side despite the quaintness of his writing and may well have appreciated the Queen’s somewhat warped working practices.

The silent character in the series, is the library itself. It is a very Doctor Who, Tardis-like persona, containing unlimited rooms and treasures. The setting thus created, leads to a plethora of adventures through times full of magic and mysteries.  This series is most assuredly worth watching and it shows on Syfy and TNT off and on.

Lara’s Demons

Entering the Tomb 2004 – Picture © Paul Fitz-George 2004

I revisited my time on ‘Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider trail’ when looking through some of the pictures I’ve collected over the years and came across this one. It’s me entering one of the temple complexes at Angkor Wat in Cambodia during my world circumnavigation in 2003 – 2004.  The temperature that day was smotheringly humid and the air was filled with the scents and sounds of the nearby jungle’

This really was a very fascinating, eerie and spiritual place, all the more so for the atmosphere created by the majestic crumbling temples all around me, some of which are still covered with the arboreal cloaks they’ve worn for centuries.

Here I am trying to emulate (well I had to try!), the part in the film where the butterflies and the mysterious young girl show Lara the way into the temple’s altar complex.  It is there that she meets and does combat with her evil antagonists, as well as the many-armed, sword-wielding, artefact-protecting deity and its hoard of assorted winged demon guards. It was a fabulous experience.

Go there when you can, it’ll change over time and probably might not remain as fantastically spooky as it was during my visit way back in 2004.

Here’s a link on YouTube Templetussle (skip the ads as soon as you can), to the part in the film where all the action happens.  Remember to look out for the butterflies and Lara’s entry point into the temple and you’ll see how close it is, to where I enter in the picture above.

The Cursed Chair

The Cursed Chair – Picture © Paul Fitz-George 2021

This chair is from the old Busby Stoop coaching inn near Thirsk.  Its previous owner was a Thomas Busby, a lodger who lived at the inn in the early 18th century and after whom, the inn takes its name.

He was a known bully and drunk, who had married an Elizabeth Auty, the daughter of a local forger and coin clipper Daniel Auty, who lived at a nearby farm called Danauty Hall.  Busby and Elizabeth lived at the inn, at which Busby had a favourite chair, the one you see in this picture.  Busby eventually became a partner in crime with Auty, but during the course of their relationship, he began to abuse Auty’s daughter.

The frustrated Auty eventually visited the inn to convince his daughter to end the marriage, a discussion into which the enraged Busby suddenly walked in on, to find Auty not only telling his wife to jump ship, but sitting in his favourite chair, which he believed only he had exclusive use of.

A particularly nasty thug, Busby accosted Auty later that night at his home and beat him to death with a club.   He was soon arrested by the local constables, tried at the nearby city of York in 1702, found guilty and executed by hanging.  After hanging, his body was dipped in tar and rehung on a post or stoop opposite the inn.  The stoop was located at the old crossroads on the Great North Road, also known as the Sandhutton crossroads. 

His body decayed there for a good length of time, a stark warning to any would-be murderers of what would become of them.  The inn itself was renamed the Busby Stoop after the hanging, presumably as a record of the horrible murder.  This seems rather odd, but obviously the ‘done thing’ at the time, the inn’s name taken literally from the event, i.e., the ‘stoop’ or post Busby’s tarred corpse was hung from and his surname.

The story is not over however, as the wicked Busby before being hanged, spat out a curse on anyone who dared to sit on his favourite chair after his death and it appears to have worked!  Over the years chimney sweeps, WWII air force crew and an assortment of ‘everyday others’, have gone to their deaths, some rather gruesome, after they challenged the curse and sat in Busby’s chair.  

Eventually, it became such a liability for the inn that in the end, it was physically attached to the inn’s first floor outside wall, to prevent its use and could be clearly seen by passers-by including myself, for years.  It has in the recent past however, moved to the Thirsk Museum where I took this picture, the Busby Stoop itself, now metamorphosising into an Indian restaurant.

Thankfully, it now rests safely in the quaint museum at Thirsk and yes, it is still hung half-way up on an internal wall to prevent use by way of a dare, or accidental use, thereby preventing an imprudent challenge to the curse and the deadly fate that may befall anyone unwise enough to ‘give it a go’.

If you’re in the Thirsk area in North Yorkshire, pay the museum a visit, which like the title of this page, is a veritable ‘cabinet of curiosities’ concerning the town’s history.  Cricket fans may like to examine its artifacts re that glorious game, as the creator of the famous Lords cricket ground and Middlesex County Cricket (MCC), Thomas Lord, came from the very house the chair now resides in.  Don’t forget to leave a donation in the box for your admission, so that this lovely museum can continue to exist and enlighten us.  

The Ghost in the Mirror

The Rohilla Cabin Mirror – Picture © Paul Fitz-George 2021

October 30th 1914, saw the hospital Troopship No.6, SS Rohilla, formally of the British Indian Steam Navigation Company, wrecked on a reef at Whitby, North Yorkshire.  It was on its way to France to pick up British wounded from the battles happening there at the start of WWI.  Approximately 80 people lost their lives in the wreck, with well over a hundred saved.  The disaster was aparently caused by navigation error and the lack of coastal lights, these being turned off due to the war and to prevent the enemy easily identifying coastal targets.

On the cabin mirror’s reverse (the mirror’s front shown in the picture above), is the inscription. ‘Hospital Ship Rohilla relic, removed from the sea shore at Whitby, from the wreck of the above named ship, Friday October 30th 1914, lives lost.’

I bought this mirror from a shop in Whitby, as I have an interest in the town’s history.  I often wonder who looked into it, prior to the awful wreck.  Could their ghost still be in there? Click on this YouTube link (click past the ads after a few seconds) – SS Rohilla showing an old British Pathe film reel of the tragic event.

© Paul Fitz-George, 2013-2021

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