February 16th, 2013

Young Mrs. Clarke

Haunted Britain

Reading THE HAUNTED BOOK by Jeremy Dyson (try it, you'll like it) in which he mentions a book that had a powerful impact on him (or at least the narrator of the book, which may or may not be the same thing) -- HAUNTED BRITAIN by the wonderfully named Antony D. Hippisley Coxe -- sent me back to that very book, which also had a major impact on me, although I was rather older than Dyson at the time (and still am). I bought my copy in The Atlantis Bookshop on Museum Street in London during my first visit to that city in the late summer of 1976. I don't have my own (fading) memory to thank for my certainty about this; the book carries a small sticker on the inside cover with the logo and address of The Atlantis Bookshop. Do bookshops still do this? I love finding those unobtrusive reminders of where a book was originally purchased.

Anyway, I ADORED this book, which bears signs of much reading, including marks in yellow high-lighter -- that was me, making notes to myself for places I hoped to visit someday, if not during my first visit in 1976, then at some later date. My next visit to Britain was in 1979, before, during and after the Worldcon in Brighton. Just the other day, while trying (and failing) to clear out some of the clutter in my office, I came across an old notebook, dated August 1979, that I used on that trip. In the first few pages are notes I made before leaving home -- details of my flight numbers and times, addresses (that of The Atlantis Bookshop among them), lists of people I intended to buy presents for (for my sister "Baboon print or etching" -- I found it, too) -- and also lists of my fave haunted spots, culled from "Haunted Britain", that I thought I might visit, divided by location: three in London, three in Wales, and three in Scotland. I didn't actually make it to Scotland in 1979, but of course I have now been living here for the past 22 years. Here's my Scottish choice from back then:

Ashintully Castle -- N.E. of Kirkmichael in Angus - Most haunted house in Scotland [n.b. have still never been there!]
Dunbarre castle -- site on Barry Hill; Guinevere's tombstone in museum in Meigle [nope, nor there]
near Kilberry in Argyll -- the seat of the Cailleach "the hollow of the mare"

....and we have a winner. Amazingly, I ended up living on the Kilberry Road, less than 10 miles from "the hollow of the mare" -- which I probably drive past several times a year, at least -- but still haven't had any supernatural experiences. That I was aware of.