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The English Ghost: Book review

The English Ghost

Reviewed by's Mel Scott

Ghost, ghoul, poltergeist, spooks, spirits, things that go bump in the night.

There are hundreds of words in the English language to describe and, according to author Peter Ackroyd, the English see more ghosts that any other nation. 

In his new book The English Ghost, author and historian Peter Ackroyd turns his attentions to a once popular literary tradition, that of the ghost story.

He has put together a collection of ghost sightings dating as far back as the sixth century and as recent as the 1980s. Whether the sightings are real or imagined, Ackroyd leaves to our judgement. 

It's a quaint collection with all the hallmarks of great ghost stories - ghostly white figures inhabiting old houses, poltergeists throwing plates, black dogs. Ackroyd often recounts the sightings exactly as they were first transcribed in historic newspapers or folklore collections from centuries ago which adds to the old fashioned feel of this book.

The English Ghost is more of a combined record of these traditional spooky tales than a cohesive collection, whether that's historical or literary record is up to you.  It's nice to see these stories being preserved after having fallen out of favour over the last couple of decades. 

It's a perfect book to take off the shelf once a year on Halloween and scare the family with a classic spooky story. But unless you have a passion for the paranormal or perhaps you're a Ghost Whisperer fan, The English Ghost doesn't really offer anything new.  But that's probably not the point...

The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time by Peter Ackroyd
Publisher: Random House
RRP: $39.99
Available: Now