JAY HOLLIS begins his new Spooky Isles column on the paranormal, The Ghost’s Companion
My name is Jason Hollis and I am the author of Haunted Enfield, which was published last year by the History Press.
After 13 years, on and off, spent researching the history and folklore of the London Borough of Enfield’s haunted areas I feel I can justifiably refer to myself as a paranormal researcher and amateur historian.
I was recently, for a couple of years, a paranormal investigator but found that my passion for all things haunted did not extend to analysing EVP recordings, taking EMF readings and treading carefully around the politics of ‘para-unity’.
I also found that working for a paranormal group left very little time for my other, greater passion, music.
I therefore decided to leave that side of the research to the experts, which is something I cannot claim to be. I have now begun researching the haunted locations of the London Borough of Barnet (Enfield’s neighbour) for a follow-up to Haunted Enfield.
The reason I have decided to call this column The Ghost’s Companion is quite significant to me and I would like to begin this first edition by sharing it with you.
Some of you may already know that The Ghost’s Companion is the title of an anthology of ghost stories compiled and edited by Peter Haining, and first published in 1975.
I bought it a few years later through the Puffin children’s book club and was introduced to the thrill of being half scared to death by a good ghost story.
Even before opening the book, the cover image, showing a black cat, skull, graveyard and knife-wielding ghoul, begs the question, “Is this really meant for children?”
The first tale is M.R. James’ A School Story, which concerns the events at a public school leading up to the mysterious disappearance of a Latin master. That is creepy enough, but it was the second story, The Red Lodge by H.R. Wakefield, that affected me most.
Wakefield claimed it was based on a real house and it contains possibly the most chilling line that a nine-year-old boy (as I was when I first read it) could read, “The green monkey won’t get me, will it, Mummy?”
A level of creeping uneasiness is maintained throughout the book, with other notable stories, for me at least, being The Boy Who Drew Cats by Lafcadio Hearn, based on a Japanese folk tale, The Monstrance by Arthur Machen, set in the trenches of the First World War and the harrowing South Sea Bubble by Hammond Innes, in which the protagonist discovers why his second-hand boat was sold to him so cheaply.
Richard Hughes’ The Ghost inspired a line in one of my own songs (my other, greater passion as previously mentioned) and as I think about it now, I realise that I have often returned to The Ghost’s Companion for inspiration.
I was merely interested in ghosts before I read The Ghost’s Companion but became a devoted aficionado afterwards.
JAY HOLLIS is a paranormal researcher, amateur historian and musician. He was born in the London Borough of Enfield and lived there for over 30 years before moving to Hertfordshire where he now lives with his wife and children. His lifelong interest in the supernatural led him to write about Enfield’s ghosts and Haunted Enfield, his first book, brings together for the first time all of the stories, legends and documented evidence of the supernatural from around the Borough into one volume.