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Lancashire Folk by Melanie Warren
I've known Mel for over 20 years, meeting though ASSAP while investigating paranormal cases in the North of England. We share a passion for collecting stories and coming from Lancashire myself I have been looking forward to reading Mel's new book and revisiting some of the old stories, coming across some new ones..and of course, I can now add the book to my collection!
Lancashire Folk takes the reader on a broad trip around the county and includes folktales, legends, ghosts, phantom animals, the occasional dragon, witches, boggarts, curses and tales of the Devil. As Mel herself says, “I think I can safely say that Lancashire Folk is the most comprehensive collection of Lancashire weirdness ever to be in print.” Melanie certainly has gone through her extensive collection and pulled together a comprehensive and engaging book on the area.
The book hits the right notes from the start, Mel's contents are alphabetical by town, covering 155 locations and gives the reader a good format to follow and dip in and out of. The introduction is well written and talks in particular about the county's rich connetion with witchcraft and various Devil tales over the centuries and also includes an area which can often be overlooked in paranomal books, the development of folklore and legends surrounding locations and monuments such as standing stones, Holy wells and springs.
Having read a lot of these old tales and accounts while doing my own research for Mysterious Britain it's interesting to see how Mel has pulled the information together from a wide variety of sources and written them up in a nice style that's factual and easy to read.
One account which brings back a few memories (which are best not discussed here!) is the story from Walton-le-Dale and St. Leonard's Churchyard where in 1560 Dr. John Dee, the famous occultist from Manchester, tried to summon a corpse from the ground. Mel however has found a different and interesting story regarding the church which may not be as familiar to some readers.
Fairy folklore features heavily in the area and Melanie includes some facinating and interesting accounts within the book. The tale of Extwistle Hall while brief is the story of a death foretold by a man seeing his name on a coffin carried by a fairy funeral processesion while on his way home from a Jacobite meeting. He severed connections with the cause in an attempt to save his life but sadly still died shortly after following an accidental gunpowder explosion in his home.
Touching on the Pendle area Melanie covers the well know accounts of the witches but I was also interested to read about Apronful Hill where the devil is supposed to have stood throwing rocks at Clitheroe Castle and also the tale of Fox's Well, a spring found by George Fox, who climbed Pendle Hill while under instruction from God.
Readers of my previous book reviews will know that I'm a beliver in stating sources as much as possible and giving clear references. Melanie's book doesn't disappoint, at the back she gives her bibliography and a topical index for all the accounts again, before listing OS Map references and postcodes (with a note to watch for private land and not to tresspass!). I thought I would miss not having images throughout the book but actually having them at the back in a small gallery makes them less intrusive and I like that format.
About the author: Melanie Warren has collected British folk tales and ghost stories for almost four decades and her fascination with her subject shines through in this collection. For many years, Melanie was a paranormal investigator and took part in innumerable ghost-hunts but never saw a ghost, although she did have several experiences she finds hard to explain She was also BBC Radio Lancashires resident paranormal expert and co-authored two collections of ghost stories, which were broadcast on BBC local radio stations. Melanie is now concentrating on turning her extensive collection of stories and tales into a series of books, one county at a time. Melanie lives in Lancashire and has done so all her life.
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing (10 Mar. 2016)
Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm