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The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  324 ratings  ·  56 reviews
An enormously enjoyable spooky collection of ghost-sightings over the centuries, full of the spirit of place, in true Ackroyd style.

The English, Peter Ackroyd tells us in this fascinating collection, see more ghosts than any other nation. Each region has its own particular spirits, from the Celtic ghosts of Cornwall to the dobies and boggarts of the north. Some speak and
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published November 8th 2010 by Chatto and Windus (first published October 7th 2010)
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Average rating 3.14  · 
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S.C. Skillman
Mar 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but found it inconclusive. Peter Ackroyd is known for his focus on the nature of the English (as in, for instance, another book of his on the English imagination). His contention here is that "seeing ghosts" is something the English seem to do more than any other nationality - a thesis he sets out in the first section of the book. The deduction from this would appear to be that seeing ghosts is essentially a phenomenon of the psyche, with no objective reality, and may be ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ghosts
Peter Ackroyds The English Ghost, is a fascinating collection of firsthand or contemporary accounts of British ghosts and hauntings. Some of the stories in the collection are well-known, but most are from obscure sources. Ackroyd himself provides a a fascinating introduction to the general subject of ghosts in English history and culture.

Tales of the supernatural are ultimately about very human situations. So it is understandable that the most compelling voices in The English Ghost are those of
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at English ghosts. Most of the stories date from the 17th century and I hadn't seen any of them before, which made for quite a treat.

Of course the usual ones were there: Borley Rectory, the Enfield Poltergeist, but the fact the majority of spectres were not known to me was a major bonus.

Recommended for anyone interesting in the history and evolution of the English ghost.

Saturday's Child
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This one looked to me like it would be a great read for Halloween, but I just could not wait until then.
According to Ackroyd, we English see more ghosts than any other nation. I'm not sure how true that is but it probably ties in with our long tradition of oral history and storytelling. This book brings together a bunch of stories of sightings, etc, of phantoms through the centuries. Interesting to see how similar a lot of the stories are.
Sep 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Wanted to read this book for a long time. Love the cover and the idea of collecting real ghost stories. But most of them were extremly short and not well written. I enjoyed maybe 5 of the stories the rest bored the hell out of me. What a dissapointment.
Michael Topley
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
The introduction starts of very interesting and last about 12 pages if i remember correctly. Then every story is roughly between 2 and 5 pages long, most of which are very similar. I'm sure there are better real life ghost encounter books out there.
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a short and enjoyable collection of diary entries, newspaper clippings, anecdotes and oral stories revolving around ghost sightings in England. The English are, apparently, the people who most see hauntings and Ackroyd goes some way to explain this in his introduction. Still, I wish there was more meat to these bones: many of the anecdotes deserved some commentary or notes, and quite a few didn't really stand out. Some of the sightings are clearly from people with a strong imagination. ...more
Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
Ordered this after getting Ackroyd's London book, but can't help but start this first as it's shorter. It's still a sort of Halloweenishly seasonal read. (Some of us wish the holiday were a lot longer.)

Meanwhile I must find out who designed the cover - I love the old fashioned layout and artwork, especially on the back at the bottom where there's a procession of people wearing robes and carrying their decapitated heads. [Ah ha: Jacket illustrations - Mary Evans Picture Library, Design by
Jean Marriott
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ackoyd has gathered together an interesting collection of people's experience of ghosts ranging from the 15th to 20th century. He is not asking the reader to believe the stories although he presents credible accounts from the writings and reporting at the time. Many of the writings he researched are by educated men especially the clergy who are more like to be truthful.
Amani Haak
In general it was fine. Of course, it's not scary at all, but some stories were pretty fun to read. However, I found this to be a rather dry, uninspired work, almost as though the author wasn't really trying to bring any spark to his writing. I was expecting a novel that would be more engaging.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this, especially because a lot of the ghost sightings are very old. There is also a great bibliography at the back, with lots of books I need to seek out!!
The usual good quality read of Peter Ackroyd and highly recommended!
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
A book to dip in and out of. Ghost stories around England, taken from a variety of sources (old newspapers, magazines, books) - arranged loosely by theme but with no chronological or geographical structure (an index would have been good). Very wide range of dates, and of course credibility.
Jane Walker
I was very disappointed with this book, knowing how good a writer Ackroyd is. This is just a ragbag of short accounts from various sources, with only a very rough grouping and hardly any commentary. There is not even an effort at historical context. Anyone could have done it.
Vicky Coughlan
This was quite a fascinating book with various ghostly stories all based on true events, letters, narrations etc happening in England and from the 1600s till late 1960/70s. My only complaint is of the smallness of the print. Aside from that a very interesting book.
Halli Villegas
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great reference book for older "true" ghost stories, but missing some of the more recent ones.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
A solid if sometimes disappointingly vague account of several historical "true" ghost/haunting accounts.
Mark Ludmon
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Genuinely spooky compilation of accounts of haunting.
Carole Tyrrell
May 25, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a collection of purportedly true ghost stories with an introduction by Peter Ackroyd and is just the sort of book you would like to receive as a Christmas present.

The ghost stories or accounts of events are presented under the headings;:the phantom in the house, the wandering ghost, clerical souls, animal spirits, moving things, farewell and the living and the dead. They are credited from various sources and date from the 7th century right up to the 20th century with some being very
Tania Donald
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Peter Ackroyd's The English Ghost is a superb example of one of my favourite types of book. It presents an anthology of brief ghost stories, that one may dip in and out of, without committing to reading one long narrative. What sets Ackroyd's book above others in this genre is the type of stories he presents in this collection, and the style in which he presents them.
The accounts in The English Ghost purport to be true. This is not so unusual - I have numerous other collection of such hauntings.
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror, non-fiction, 2013
What does a bookworm do in a thrift store? Check out the super cheap books of course! I found The English Ghost: Spectres Through Time in one and didnt hesitate for even one minute before buying it.

I didnt know what to expect when I started reading this book. Would it be a study on the history of ghost sightings? On how they were faked? Or would it contain creepy descriptions that would keep me up all night? Now Im not going to start the discussion if the ghosts or the sightings mentioned are
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
The stories are fun yet inconclusive which ruined the overall experience.
Fiona Robson
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: peter-ackroyd
The English see more ghosts than any other nation. From medieval times to the present day, stories have been told about ghosts who avenge injustice, souls who long for peace and spooks who just want to have fun.
The English Ghost is a treasure trove of such sightings; comical and scary, like all the best ghost stories, these accounts, packed with eerie detail, range from the moaning child that terrified Wordworth's nephew at Cambridge to modern day hitchhikers on Blue Bell Hill.

I adore and
Anna Bergmark
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Do you like "real" ghost stories? Strange, unexplainable and spooky phenomenons experienced by ordinary people, for no apparent reason? Then this book is a good choice.

The really old ones are perhaps a bit hard to get close to, but those from the eighteen and nineteen hundreds have just the right feel, just the right atmospheric mix of every day life and outlandishness, and that most of the happenings are related in first person, from letters or interviews published in books or newspapers, makes
Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Even if you don't believe in ghost or paranormal activity, you can't deny there are some unexplained/able events, past or present.
They look espiecially strange in the past, when people had no knowledge or scientific explanation for what they were experiencing... I, myself, have never experienced anything unsual (don't know whether to be disappointed or happy) , but I do believe there's something else after death.
The soul is energy, there are places where bio-magnetic fields or whatever they're
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Read these English reports of sightings, apparitions, hauntings and unexplained spooky activity one cold Halloween a couple of years ago..complete nonsense of course but written with such verve and style that it did bring a little shiver down the spine and a slight concern over what may be lurking in the corner of the room that evening...some of these stories are so convincing that they're hard to dispute, and some are clearly the fiction of overheated imagination or mistaken natural causes. A ...more
Iosephvs Bibliothecarivs
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
A wonderful anthology of short ghost stories from England, all allegedly true, ranging in time from the eighth century to the twentieth, with themes including animal spirits, doppelgangers, knockers, poltergeists, and much more. Some are quoted directly while others are retold by the author.

Though I am a sceptic, while reading through this lively collection I found myself mistaking ordinary objects in the dark for shadowy, otherworldly figures. I can only attribute that effect to the vivid
Aug 31, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015
Lovely collection of spine thrillers. Not quite the same style as MR James but definitely in the same neighbourhood. I took to reading it in the bath and in the bus because I couldn't bear to read them at night. I don't believe in ghosts because I'm a sensible rational sort of person, also science, but unfortunately the chill down the back of my neck is a romantic with no sense of proportion. Very enjoyable, would suit short snatches of time well.
Helen Mears
A fascinating compendium of ghost stories. Ackroyd offers no decisive commentaries, merely lets the stories speak for themselves and show how the ghost story has long been such a staple of English culture. Particularly interesting are the similarities in the cases, especially in the 'Moving Objects' section. Most chilling are the stories in 'The Living and the Dead' when ghosts seem to appear to relatives at the moment of their death.
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, own
I must admit, Peter Akroyd is one of my favourite authors, so I might be slightly biased when it comes to his work. English ghosts is a collection of ghost stories, some as old as the 16 hundreds, some as new as 1990. You tend to forget that you are reading stories that are supposed to be true, because some are just so unbelievable. I thouroughly enjoyed this book. And being a writer myself (though just starting), I'm sure I can draw inspiration from that collection.
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age

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