Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
Opaque treatment of an interesting case
on 18 January 2013
Paul Screeton is a journalist and writer from the north-east of England. His interest in the case of the so-called Hexham Heads goes back decades. Information about the alleged happenings is incomplete, and there have been conflicting reports from participants in the story. Therefore, we may never know for sure precisely what occurred.
THE CORE STORY
In 1971, two children (brothers Colin and Leslie Robson) found what appeared to be two small, stone heads in the garden of their semi-detached house in Hexham, northern England. Shortly after, neighbours in the adjoining house allegedly experienced strange phenomena, and there were reportedly manifestations in the boys' own home.
Not long after their discovery, the Hexham Heads fell into the temporary custody of Dr Anne Ross, an archaeologist and Celtic scholar. While the items were at her home in Southampton, she and other members of her family allegedly experienced paranormal phenomena. Indeed, it seems that phenomena occurred even after the heads were removed from the premises.
Initially, at least, Ross was inclined to believe that the Hexham Heads were of ancient origin. But a Hexham man, called Des Craigie, claimed that he'd made them from building materials in the 1950s. Over the years, the heads were passed from person to person, but Screeton is unaware of their current whereabouts.
PROBLEMS WITH THE BOOK
Screeton's chapters focus on different aspects of the case and the people involved, but he doesn't provide a clear timeline of the alleged events. That could have been done in an appendix, if not in the main text.
The book mentions numerous people, but unfortunately it lacks an index. Therefore, if a reader forgets who such-and-such is, it might not be easy for him or her to identify where that person is first mentioned in the book. Indeed, the book would have benefited from a systematic listing of the 'main players', with a paragraph or two about each of them.
An occasional typographical or grammatical error can be forgiven, but Screeton's book is packed with them. Clearly, it wasn't properly proofread. For example, he misuses 'mitigated' for 'militated' (on pp. 173 and 213), and 'deprivation' for 'depredation' (p. 184). And there are frequent punctuation errors. For instance, in respect of a family called 'Dodd', he refers (p. 237) to "the Dodds's dog" (which should, of course, be "the Dodds' dog"). Similarly, regarding the Robson family, he refers (p. 237) to "the Robsons's budgie" (which should, of course, be "the "Robsons' budgie"). Some of his sentences are excessively long, and I found his general style of writing quite convoluted. His text is sprinkled with unusual words or expressions ("apotropaic", "folkloristic ostention", "manimals", "onomastic folklore", "spiritual diorama", "temenos", "yonic cult", etc.), which makes it even more opaque.
Various newspaper cuttings are reproduced in the book. But with some of them, the print is too small to be read comfortably without a magnifying glass.
Page 48 shows a press report, supposedly from a newspaper called the 'Evening Chronicle'. The article is mentioned in the main text, on pp. 49-50, which quotes a couple of passages. However, the quoted material doesn't match up with the wording of the article reproduced on p. 48. In fact, it's the wrong article (one from a paper called 'The Journal', not the 'Evening Chronicle') that's displayed on p. 48.
There are other production problems. For example, six paragraphs on p. 238 re-appear on p. 242.
Given that Paul Screeton has done so much research on the case of the Hexham Heads, I'm disappointed that his book isn't more readable and wasn't better produced.