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Don't read alone at night!
on 18 August 2013
This is my second recent foray into genres I usually avoid, and I was pleasantly surprised (although maybe 'pleasantly' is the wrong word, since I began reading at night during a thunderstorm and had to switch to something less alarming).
There are endless 'true haunting' books available but most seem sensationalised and overwrought. Maybe it was the understated, colloquial style of Colette Shires's writing, or the fact that the setting is Leeds, with which I am familiar, but this is one of the creepiest, most chilling accounts of unexplained activity that I have ever come across. Like most factual accounts, as opposed to fiction, there are no handy explanations: the house is not found to have been the site of some strange previous activity and the uninvited guests are not discovered to have been previous owners or victims/perpetrators of tragedy. The range of experiences that the Slater family undergo is wide and inexplicable, from sightings to sounds to invisible weights and missing objects that reappear having seemingly defied the laws of physics.
What is truly unusual, and I had not come across this before, is that whatever inhabited the house in Grant Place seemed to follow the family outside the house, then arguably caused the house to collapse and followed them to their next home and beyond. Was the haunting in fact of belongings, or of the family themselves? I will definitely think twice before buying that attractive table or cabinet from an antiques fair next time....
The author doesn't come across as someone who spends her life watching for shadows or listening out for things that go bump in the night, and she also gives a plausible answer to what everyone wonders while watching horror films, namely "Why don't they just leave?!" Not everyone in the house(s) is as affected, while some are genuinely intrigued, and the practicalities and expense of moving house when nothing scary has happened in a long time preclude the move. That's another difference between real and fictional accounts of odd activity: in the former, it's sporadic rather than relentless. I'm interested to know whether the house in Potternewton still has inexplicable happenings, and whether the possessions that were sold on have introduced some extra members to other families. Most of all I hope the Slaters have found some peace, whether that is by accommodating their unusual experiences, or having finally outpaced their retinue of strange followers!
Highly readable, and recommended for anyone who feels or has felt haunted, or just wants to know more about hauntings generally from the point of view of a believer or a non-believer.