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Haunted Wales: A Guide To Welsh Ghostlore by Richard Holland
The ghosts of Wales are bold and memorable, forceful in character often terrifying and sometimes even dangerous. In a new book by Richard Holland and published by The History Press you realise that Wales is a fearfully haunted place with possibly more ghosts and goblins than in England or any other country. Back in 1831 the researcher William Howells certainly thought so and now Richard Holland has carried out his own careful study of original sources, delving into old books, journals, Eisteddfod transactions and unpublished essays. His research has revealed insights into Welsh folklore and resurrected ghost stories which have long been forgotten.
Right from the start it is clear how in-depth and rich this book is, Richard has pulled together and concentrated on some of the oldest stories and tales that Wales has to offer.
Starting off with a survey of Welsh ghostlore Richard talks us through the different types of ghosts and common themes found throughout Wales and it was very interesting to read about where some of the stories have come from, crediting Jonathan Ceredig Davis and Wirt Sikes amongst the early authors of Welsh ghost stories in the early 20th Century. He interestingly notes that in some cases the wealth of stories on one area doesn't necessarily mean it's more haunted, just that someone interested in folklore and ghosts lived in the area and therefore wrote down notes.
Travelling around Wales, county-by-county is a very easy format to follow in the main section of the book. Depending on the research some stories go into detail, others are a couple of paragraphs and so overall you get a good balance of information that is reader friendly. Richard certainly doesn't disappoint with the variety, featuring poltergeists, dogs of darkness and other animals, physical attacks by ghosts, witches, Grey Ladies and Phantom Armies to name but a few.
It's refreshing to read a book that covers so much and this is one of my firm favourites now for the depth of information and knowledge Richard has put into writing Haunted Wales.
The book is also one of the best indexed and referenced I have read, Richard discusses the problems he faced with the Welsh language at the start, and having the glossary of Welsh & unfamiliar terms certainly helps.
My one little grip (yes, I always seem to find one!) is that I would have liked a map of each county at the start of the chapter, I find this easier to visualise where locations are. But that said, this is an excellent book and one which I would recommend as a 'must-have' for anyone interested in Welsh ghostlore.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: The History Press Ltd (2011)