SELENE PAXTON-BROOKS reviews Kevin Gates’ new book, The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill – The True Story of Clophill’s Black Magic Church
When this book landed on my doorstep I was very excited to read it, but also a little apprehensive as to the mumbo jumbo I expected to find out about the site, which lies not far from me between Bedford and Luton.
Actually, I found nothing of the sort!
Pleasingly, this is a level-headed, clear review of the facts surrounding the desecration and unholy ceremonies that have taken place at the church on the hill, St Mary’s, Clophill, since its demise during the 1950s, and Gates has obviously researched the subject meticulously.
Having visited the church several times myself, I was intrigued by the rumours of devil worship but could find little on the internet or in books of the area to help me with the history of the building or its violated cemetery.
This book bares all, but doesn’t set out to sensationalise, and is a perfect companion to anyone interested in ritualistic goings-on during the 1960s, 70s and 80s in this part of Britain.
Gates doesn’t only give us a history of the church and the reasons that it fell into disrepair, he lays out for us other macabre and unexplainable incidents that were prevalent at the time, and that may have had an influence of the events at Clophill.
He begins with a layman’s guide to Witchcraft, setting the scene with an overview of beliefs and commenting that with the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, witches were less likely to hide their beliefs and practises as they could no longer be prosecuted.
He notes that, at the time, the public knew very little of the differences between white and black magic, giving rise to media sensationalism of ‘Black Masses’, similar to the one that was stumbled upon by two teenage boys at Clophill on Sunday 17th March 1963.
Gates provides us with interviews of witnesses, and in-depth research not only for the events at Clophill but for similar encounters: the Hanratty murder in 1961, mutilations in Bluebell Wood in 1963, UFO sightings, strange creatures, paranormal gateways and ghostly visitations. He gives us a well-rounded view of things, allowing us to make our own minds up about each incident; he doesn’t preach, he informs, backing up where he can with witness statements and historical information.
However, even amongst all these facts, Gates is still able to throw some interesting ideas into the melting pot. Why is there a police presence to stop the public from entering the site, yet they did nothing to stop the rituals taking place? Did tragic events follow those that crossed the path of St Mary’s? He cleverly keeps you thinking without offering a definitive answer.
I would definitely recommend this book. It is informative and not pretentious in any way. Gates tells us the facts, and he also gives us an insight into the making of his film, The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill (2013) to conclude the book, showing how the film mixed fact and fiction to create a documentary type horror movie.
I haven’t seen the film, but I have visited Clophill, both during the day and at night. Interestingly, St Mary’s is now being conserved and will eventually become a tourist destination, with a visitor centre and viewing platform.
I hope they sell this book in their shop because if you want a good read on the background of the site you couldn’t do better than this one!
You can buy The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill, The True Story of Clophill’s Black Magic Church, by Kevin Gates, from Amazon