How I Came to Write ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’

I have often been asked how I came to write Paranormal Warwickshire.

Front cover of Paranormal Warwickshire by SC Skillman pub Amberley 2020

It began soon after my arrival in Warwickshire twenty eight years ago, through the experience of visiting many of Warwickshire’s iconic locations. A fellow writer, Sue Vincent, a great traveller throughout our country and its historic, sacred and mysterious sites, who has now sadly passed on, describes ruined historic sites in these terms: the essence is to be found not in the walls but in the space within where we live and have our being… it is not the vessel but the space within that holds the wine.  This wine she describes as the indefinable spark of animating life.

My book Paranormal Warwickshire emerged from just this kind of experience, which is what I originally describe as spiritual resonance.  These great buildings, now in a ruinous state, are not simply piles of stone, but animated by that indefinable spark.

I began by frequently visiting several places in Warwickshire, which I loved more each time I visited. Subsequently, I wrote blog posts about them in my occasional series Places of Inspiration. Two of these, Kenilworth Castle, and Guy’s Cliffe House in Warwick, are in ruins, and somehow they are the richer for that, feeding the imagination of visitors. 

Book cover Collected Ghost Stories bv M.R. James

As a person who has long loved classic ghost stories and reading about all things paranormal, I was happy to draw together some of my experiences and insights into a book.

Later, I re-visited all the locations, joined town ghost tours, listened to stories, gathered new ones, and amassed a good selection of photos, many of which are in the book.

My view of the paranormal may be summed up in the words of ghost story writer M.R. James who said, I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies me.  I have listened to many stories of others’ curious experiences and as a consequence I have developed an inner sense of veracity. That is, certain criteria are applied to a story and to its teller, and if those criteria are met, then I am prepared to give weight to the story.

This process takes place in the unconscious. But whenever I contacted people to ask them further questions about their stories, I had the following series of questions in mind:

  1. Can you tell me how you first became aware this was more than a mundane incident?
  2. Did any other explanations come to mind?
  3. What conclusion did you reach as you thought through these possibilities?
  4. Did you take any action based on this?
  5. How did it affect you from then on?
  6. Do you have any background, cultural or historical, that sheds light on this?

When I came across a story I found particularly convincing, it would be because the narrator had satisfied all the above queries in their account.

Writer Stuart Carrol, quoted in the Fortean Times, Sep 2020 edition, gave this description of ‘a haunting’: time momentarily flickering… presents us with a projection of a person from another age going about their business.

I like this description, and I do feel that if all the places of which I write had no such qualities of animating life, arousing an emotional response in contemporary visitors, they would be of far less interest to us all. I believe that applies to us whether we claim to believe in the paranormal or not.

In my book, the curious anecdotes told of these buildings acknowledge the life that fills the spaces between the stones. I include stories of everyday places as well: shops, railway stations, houses, pubs and churchyards, not just castles, abbeys and manor houses.

When I hear stories, I listen respectfully, even if I feel some may be conjured up by the imagination. I also ask why several different people, independently of each other and unknown to each other, should have the same experience in the same place over a long period of time. There have been many recorded cases of which this is true. Then, if you think it was “all their imagination”, you have to ask. “what is it about this particular place that makes so many different people imagine the same thing there?”

The most compelling ghost stories are not about famous historical characters. A lot of them turn out, after research, to have emerged from the lives and deaths of people who never made their mark on history: people about whom we would have known nothing if the paranormal event had not alerted our attention and prompted research.

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Published by SC Skillman

I'm a writer of psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction. My latest book, 'Paranormal Warwickshire', was published by Amberley Publishing in November 2020. Find all my published books here:

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