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Strange Mitcham by James Clark
Strange Mitcham by James Clark was first published as a booklet in 2002 as part of ASSAP's (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena) Project Albion. It was updated and republished in 2011 giving James the opportunity to add a few more articles and further information.
Mitcham itself is an interesting place, and older that I had realised with Neolithic remains giving evidence of occupation in the area going back to 3000BC and as James points out in the introduction this gives the area a lot of time to accumulate stories of strange goings on.
The book covers fourteen different cases of hauntings, legends and strange stories from around Mitcham, starting with Rose Cottage where reports of the haunting like activity span from 1920 through to the 1990's. It's interesting that the scent of lavender features throughout the history. James has done his research well, giving the facts and information in an easy to read account, asking questions to get the reader thinking about what happened.
James has updated his story regarding the Phantom Cyclist of Mitcham Common. An apparition of a young boy cycling was encountered there by Tony Drew who James was able to speak to before this latest version was published. Again, thanks to later research James was able to add in information about a young boy who drowned in the lake on the Common years previously.
Spring-Heeled Jack is perhaps one of the most well known strange occurrences around the Mitcham and the South London area. There are reports and rumours dating back to the mid 1830s about a devil/imp like creature prowling the area at night. In Mitcham itself Jack was reported around 1870 with local doctors treating people for shock. Lads from the village tried to stage an ambush to lure Jack out but to no avail. James provides a number of theories as to what or who Spring-Heeled Jack is (or was) and gives more detail on where to find other related accounts for those interested in reading more.
Other tales include the legend of a Gypsy Queen's treasure, secret tunnels beneath Cranmer Green and the curse of Merton Priory which was founded in 1114 but unfortunately now is the location of a Sainsbury's hypermarket.
At the end of the book James has a chapter on local UFO sightings from around the area – and Mitcham seems to have it's fair share of reports. I'm pleased that James clarifies the term 'Unidentified' though – to remind readers that the term isn't synonymous with alien spacecraft! For reference James also includes recommended additional reading and a detailed bibliography which is excellent.
Strange Mitcham is a very readable book and I've enjoyed learning more about the area and its various hauntings, legends and paranormal activity, it's refreshing to read a book that doesn't just cover ghosts and shows the area has much more variety in its strangeness.
As a well-known writer and researcher, James has produced a number of books now including Haunted Wandsworth and Mysterious Mitcham. As this book is part of Project Albion which I am involved in promoting and running as the Heritage Officer for ASSAP, I might be slightly biased towards it and why not!
Paperback: 68 pages
Publisher: Shadowtime Publishing (2 Feb 2011)