RICK HALE begins his series, Trailing Peter Underwood, looking at the late, great English ghosthunter’s most interesting paranormal cases…
When I first became interested in ghosts and hauntings in 1982, things back then were much different than they are today.
Here in the United States, if you had a ghost in your house it was something that was kept on the down low for fear that your friends and neighbors might think you had lost your mind.
Because this was such a fringe subject, you couldn’t just walk into any old bookstore and find dozens of books on the subject of ghosts, hauntings and psychic phenomenon. For that you had to go to the public library.
And it was among the stacks of books at the Chicago public library that I was introduced to the greatest teacher I never knew.
Among the rather meagre selection of books on psychic matters one book stood out to me, “A Gazetter Of British Ghosts“, by Peter Underwood.
When I got that book home I didn’t just read it from start to finish, I devoured every word and memorised almost every haunted place Mr Underwood wrote about.
From that moment on, I was hooked on British ghost stories and Peter Underwood is the reason this kid from the North Side of Chicago came to write about the ghosts and hauntings of the United Kingdom.
Who was Peter Underwood?
Peter Underwood was born on 16 May 1923, and came to have a passionate interest in psychic matters at a tender young age.
When he was nine years old, Peter experienced the heartache of losing a parent when his father passed from this Earth.
That night, as he lay in his bed, young Peter’s father appeared at the end of his bed smiling down at his son. I can only speculate what message the elder Underwood imparted to his son.
The second significant event that sparked Peter’s lifelong fascination came when he stayed with his grandparents.
Peter’s grandparents lived at Rosehall, a 17th century house in Hertfordshire that had a long history of being haunted.
While there, he heard unnerving stories of a bedroom haunted by the frightening apparition of a headless man.
Many guests who dared to sleep in that room would suddenly leave claiming the spirit drove them away. Peter Underwood, knew that he had to get to the bottom of mysteries such as this.
With an interest in the paranormal sparked and running hot in his mind, Peter discovered the work of Harry Price, who at the time was considered to be England’s greatest ghost hunter.
Peter, was enthralled by the stories Price told about Borley Rectory, arguably England’s most haunted house.
These ghostly tales of terror drove him to join the publishing firm of JM Dent & Sons in Letchworth Garden City.
And after a short stint in the military that was sidelined by his own health, Peter Underwood began his career as an author and Ghost hunter.
During his own investigations of Borley, Peter received an invitation to join the ranks of The Ghost Club from his hero, Harry Price.
From this moment on Peter Underwood ‘s life was set. After serving in The Ghost Club, Peter formed the Ghost Club Society and served as its president from 1960-1994.
Prolific writer on ghosts and hauntings
During his long career, Peter Underwood published dozens of books on ghosts, haunted places and psychic phenomenon.
The majority of these books are still in print to this day and our a must read for any would be ghost hunter.
His work was so significant, Dame Jean Conan Doyle called him, “The Sherlock Holmes of the paranormal.” A title he richly deserved and still holds to this day.
Sadly, we lost Peter Underwood in 2014 (read his obituary on Spooky Isles here), after living a long and rich life delving into the greatest mysteries that has been with mankind since the very beginning of humanity.
I regret that I never got to meet or speak with Peter. But in some small way, I hope that I am carrying on his work looking into the same mysteries he investigated.
And I can only hope that I will have the opportunity to walk the haunted halls of homes and buildings he once walked. As for that, time will tell.
In this series Trailing Peter Underwood, we’ll take a look at five of his most interesting investigations and hopefully learn a little something from a true master of his craft.
First up, Eton Vicarage. Coming soon!