Friday, 18 October 2019


A video reading of the classic ghost story Wailing Well by MR James. 

Thursday, 17 October 2019


A little ambient theme for my forthcoming reading of the classic ghost story Wailing Well by MR James. It was composed and and performed using an Arturia Microbrute, with a VCOS2 FLute soft synth played on an Arturia softsynth. Plus tons of Valhalla delay!

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Ghost by the Gretna Green

Some time ago I wrote a series of articles (which I later turned in to a podcast) on the assorted ghost stories associated with Aycliffe Village in County Durham where I spend a good portion of my childhood. One of these local ghosts was an example of a very common sort of spectre, the Phantom Hitcher. In the Aycliffe version, a young woman dressed in white is seen by the side of the road and hitches a ride, only to later vanish from the back of the vehicle. 

Now the interesting thing I uncovered was that while the version I heard in the mid 1970s usually placed the lady in white near the village church and travelling in the direction of Darlington, the story actually dated back to the days of coaches and horses. Back then the A167 which runs through the village was the old Great North Road, and in the days when the coaches ran, the ghostly lady would hitching a ride north and vanish before reaching the nearby village of Rushyford a few miles up the road.

The village is also home to another well-known phantom, the Grey Lady. And over the years, aside from the oft-repeated creepy tales told about both these local ghosts, sightings of a white female figure have been reported in the Aycliffe village area. And recently a reader got in touch to relate his sighting of this strange white figure. It was seen a little to the north of the village, near what was once the Gretna Green pub, and is now back in business as the Gretna Hotel. His account is as follows - 
I was with my friend Chris at the time, and both of us were about 9 year old. Both of us were living near to Neville Parade in Newton Aycliffe. Strangely we were out 'ghost hunting' and rode our bikes over to the Gretna pub which was derelict at the time. We spent a bit of time looking around before heading back over the road (A167). There is a path leading through a small field and then some woods back to the houses. Halfway up this path we stopped to look at a rag which was caught on some barbed wire on the fence that ran along the path (still in ghost hunting mode). After a few seconds I looked ahead into the field and saw a white figure kind of floating towards us. I shouted at Chris to look but he took this as an attempt to trick him or something and promptly rode off on his bike, so I don't think he saw it which was very frustrating at the time! I remember looking up again at this thing and it was a bit closer. I pretty much got straight on my bike and rode off as fast as I could.

So the thing is basically similar to what the other people have described. It was about 30 years ago so my memory is a bit blurry but I remember it being all white, wearing flowing, kind of raggy clothes but no distinctive marks. And the main thing was it had a white face with no facial features at all, which was really weird. Could a veil possibly explain this? It was kind of moving its arms slowly, and moving slowly towards me with very awkward movements from what I remember. Just really weird. It wasn't too far away either, maybe 30/40 feet away. Oddly, at the time I didn't think it was a ghost because it didn't strike me as what a ghost should look like. It didn't look very human, but rather humanoid - if that makes any sense - mainly due to having no distinctive features and the white face area. So I just told people I saw a kind of weird creature/alien/ghost thing.

Now people have obviously said I was 'ghost hunting' so my childish active imagination got the better of me. and I too have thought this could be what happened. That is, until recently listening to you podcast and reading the comments about other people's similar experiences in that specific area. So maybe I did really see something after all? I wonder now that maybe because I was ghost hunting I was more perceptive than I usually would have been. But maybe it was coincidence. I've had a lot of weird stuff happen to me over the years so maybe I'm just more tuned in to these things than some other people. Maybe this thing appeared to me because I was kind of asking for it and it somehow knew. And I just happened to be in a spot where something was hanging around and was able to pick up on that? Or maybe something there is causing people to hallucinate? Or maybe someone dressing up to scare people? Who knows! But at least now know I'm not the only one who's seen weird stuff there!
Very intriguing, I am sure you will agree. Now what struck me as particularly interesting is the detail that the figure lacked a face, for this would appear to be a common feature in most of the reports of the white ghost. Andrew Green in Ghosts of Today lists several encounters with a seemingly female figure dressed in a long garment and a hood but with no face visible within, and often described as moving oddly or even floating. It would seem a similar figure has been seen in the south end of the village near the church, in the surrounding fields, on the road heading north of the village, and even a good way up The Great North Road.

For those who may wish to investigate further, we should note that the area described in the above account has now been built on, and where there was once a field where a young boy saw a strange figure in white are streets of houses. One wonders if any of these residences have reports of unwelcome guests in white...

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

COMMENTARY CLUB - Minisode 005 - Top of the Pops 1988

To get us in the mood for a craptastic slice of 1980s horror in the dubious shape of Ken Russell's Lair of the White Worm, we dig up a slice of pop telly from the week of its release! 

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - Minisode 005 - Top of the Pops 1988

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A longer version of the closing theme from my Ghost Hunt video.  The photos are of a Victorian cemetery not far from where I live. The music was created with an Arturia Microbrute and Keystep. 

Sunday, 13 October 2019

GREAT LIBRARY OF DREAMS 62 - The Story of Baelbrow

This week we crack open the casebook of famed occult detective, Mr Flaxman Low. In this tale we learn of a remote country house cursed with a most violent haunting...  

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - The Story of Baelbrow

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HYPNOGORIA HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links



Wednesday, 9 October 2019

CHASM by Stephen Laws

When I was a kid, I always remember the standard grown-up response to moaning about the weather was to point out that yes, it might be drizzling again, but on the other hand the UK didn't get hurricanes, tornados or earthquakes, so a bit of rain isn't so bad. And as well meaning as this line of reasoning was, it did have a somewhat difference effect - namely to make me terrified of the aforementioned hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Such is the impish nature of childhood imagination - if you're told "don't worry, that doesn't happen here", it instantly starts whispering "ah yes, but what if it did...".

And I wonder if Stephen Laws had a similar experience, for in Chasm, his tenth novel, he takes us to  Edmonville, a typical sleepy little English town, and then promptly hits it with the earthquake of your nightmares. Entire buildings are leveled, the ground literally splits apart, swallowing up whole streets, and so much dust is thrown up, the sun is blotted out. Out of this wreckage a handful of survivors band together and attempt to survive while they wait for the outside world to send aid to the stricken town.

Now for many writers, this opening scenario would be enough to plot out the entire novel. And indeed, tales of ordinary folk surviving after some society-ending cataclysm have been a staple of British fantastic fiction since John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. And indeed, in the early stages of the novel, as we meet the motley crew of characters who will band together to survive this epic disaster, it appears that is exactly the kind of tale Chasm is going to deliver. And indeed in the hands of other authors, this scenario would be enough for a novel in itself. However the wiley Mr Laws has some other tricks up his sleeve, and soon you will discover that the mega-quake that has leveled Edmonville is the stuff of nightmares in more ways than one.

Stephen Laws burst onto the horror scene back in 1985 with his debut novel Ghost Train, and followed it up with a string of well-received books that were hits with readers and critics alike. He proved time and time again to have a real flair for spinning out suspenseful yarns centred on original horror concepts, spurning the standard-issue malevolent ghosts, psychopathic killers and jaded vampires, and creating instead monstrous and macabre menaces that were both original and imaginative. And in Chasm Laws brought us perhaps his biggest and baddest creation yet - for this is no mere disaster tale, this is a conjuration of a truly epic evil. And the further you get in to this novel, the more you appreciate its scope and vision. Indeed when it was originally published back in 1998, Chasm was nominated for a British Fantasy award for Best Novel.

What's more, Chasm feels like a genuine progression too. While even in his first books, Laws always delivered interesting characters and intriguing scenarios, going through his novels you can clearly see a writer who is becoming more and more confident - not just telling bigger stories, but addressing deeper themes too. And Chasm sees him at the top of his game, effortless balancing all  the action of you want from a widescreen supernatural horror tale with small-scale, carefully crafted character developments. For a supernatural terror to be effective, we need solid characters with motivations and believable emotional lives to bring the horror home. And this is something Laws has always understood well, and hence in Chasm he never lets the scale of the horrors overshadow the more intimate moments and details of the varied cast of characters.

Laws also knows well that no matter how imaginative your monsters are, they have to operate at a human level too. When it's just people versus monsters, it's easy for storytellers to fall into goodies and baddies tropes operating in simplistic  black and white moral framework. However Laws has always been interested in the nature of evil, and how it is expressed through human actions and motivations, and itis something he has explored in many of his novels. Chasm is no exception, and hence while we do have an amazingly imaginative threat for our band of survivors to contend with, there's also more human menaces to deal with. And we are not just talking some folks going over to the Dark Side as it were, for Laws understands very well contrary to most fiction, the worst things happening don't necessarily bring out the best in us. And in Chasm human failings will prove be as big a threat as the cataclysm that befalls Edmonville.

Chasm is a massively entertaining book. There's more than enough action to keep you turning the pages, but the real joy of this novel is that Laws very adeptly throws in a new twist every time you get to a point where you think you know where the plot is going. There are some brilliantly imaginative developments that shift this novel far away from the usual post-apocalypse yarn you might be expecting, while Laws masterfully keeps the story grounded at a personal level, giving us characters we can relate to and a stake in  their shattered world. And while there is a lot of truly cinematic set pieces in the novel, in the end it is also a book about human weaknesses and has much to say on the real nature of evil.

Now sad to say, currently horror is somewhat out of favour in British publishing, and one of the casualties of this has been that Mr Laws' marvelous novels have been allowed to go out of print. But thank the dark gods for PS Publishing who are still carrying the torch of UK horror! And they have just published a new revised edition of Chasm, coming as a gorgeous signed limited hardback or a trade paperback. And if you're looking for some classic British horror, pick up a copy today!

Chasm is available as a limited edition hardback here

Or as a trade paperback here