I wrote this piece for my publisher, Hotkey but I thought I’d put it up here too.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been zipping up and down the country promoting Constable & Toop. As part of this tour, I decided it would be fun to look into some local ghost stories and use them to explain my own. Some of them were suitably scary. There were the usual collection of headless horses, faceless women and pallbearers carrying coffins, which if seen cause the witnesses to drop down dead. But my favourites were the funny ones showing that, even in death, we are a true nation of eccentrics.
Since Christmas is a time for both ghost stories and re-gifting, here are some of my favourite funny ghost stories from The Ghost Tour:
The Robertson family were apparently forced from their home after two years of continued haunting. On their first day in the house, Mr Robertson witnessed a ghostly figure at the top of the staircase. After that, a poltergeist would throw around potatoes and clean laundry. No reports have come from the house since the family moved away.
This is a good example of a housebound ghost who didn’t like their new residents. Obviously they’ve successfully applied for an opacity license in order to be seen and a polter license – in order to throw potatoes (why potatoes?) and clean laundry. I think it speaks volumes that the ghost only handled clean laundry. It appears that even the dead don’t want to touch dirty pants.
Court Oak Public House, Birmingham
Visitors to this pub have nicknamed its spirit Corky. A man in his sixties, according to witnesses, Corky is said to smash bottles of cheap wine in the cellar.
Constable & Toop also features a pub-bound ghost. ‘What better place for eternal incarceration than a pub?’ asks Paddy O’Twain in the book. What I like about Corky though is that he will only smash the cheap plonk. A rascal, but a wine-snob too.
Council house, Walthamstow
A blonde haired lady in her late twenties would keep the resident awake at night unless he kept the lights and the TV on.
This one just goes to show that even ghosts can be scared of the dark.
St. John’s Cathedral, Chester
A grey monk has been seen walking around the cathedral but his best appearance was on Halloween in 2003 when a group of children approached the monk thinking he was in fancy dress. One of the children held out a bag and said, “trick of treat.’ The monk turned to the child. ‘I’ll have a treat,’ said the ghost before sticking his head into the bag and eating everything in it (wrappers and all).
I love this one and it got a great reaction when I told it at the Chester Book Festival. Not only is this monk a ghost with enough of a sense of humour to appear on Halloween but it’s also one with an exceptionally sweet tooth. At least, there’s no worry about rotting your teeth, I suppose.
So that’s it, my favourite funny ghost stories. On the tour I was asked a lot if I believe in ghosts. I do not. Not even slightly. It would take some kind Scrooge-like haunting for me to change my view. But I do like ghost stories. Some are scary. Some are funny. But they are always entertaining.
Merry Christmas and a haunted New Year!