The Stiff Express

It’s funny when you watch a 3-part documentary on YouTube that discusses the history of the British railway system and they mention a special train line, then you read about it in an article. The line a non-stop journey from London. It began in a special station near Waterloo Station and made a single journey once a day. That final destination, both literally and figuratively was a cemetery. As I said, it was mentioned in the documentary, but the thing that stood out the most to me was that they had a different car for each denomination. Jews had a separate car from Christians because their burial rituals are different. Here is the article from the BBC about the Necropolis Train…

The Story


The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

The Anatomy of GhostsThey say Jerusalem College, Cambridge, is haunted by Mrs Whichcote’s ghost. In 1786, Frank Oldershaw claims he saw her in the garden, where she drowned. Now he’s under the care of a physician. Desperate to salvage her son’s reputation and restore him to health, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs her own agent – John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts, a controversial attack on the existence of ghostly phenomena. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts the uneasy status quo. He glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr Carbury, ever could. 

But Holdsworth’s powers of reason and his knowledge of natural philosophy have other challenges. He dreams of his dead wife, Maria, who roams the borders of death. Now there’s Elinor, the very-much-alive Master’s wife, to haunt him in life. And at the heart of it all is the mystery of what really happened to Sylvia Whichcote in the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem. Why was Sylvia found lying dead in the Long Pond just before a February dawn? And how did she die? Indeed, why was she at Jerusalem, living or dead, in the first place?


I discovered this gem of a book on our library’s website while looking for books to listen to while walking at night. While it is listed on Good Reads as a paranormal/ghost story, the existence – or non-existence – of ghosts in this story is simply the backdrop for a good old fashioned mystery. John Holdsworth spends his time in search of the more reasonable explanation for what Frank Oldershaw witnessed in the garden and does so in the end. Although there are a few threads of the plot which are left unresolved, they are but minor bits to the over-all mystery which is solved very reasonably.


Lost by Gregory Maguire

I don’t want to say too much about this book since my comrades will be reading it, so I will put the rather vague review I wrote on Goodreads with the addition of the synopsis from the back of the book.

Winifred Rudge, a writer struggling to get beyond the runaway success of her mass-market astrology book, travels to London to jump-start her new novel about a woman who is being haunted by the ghost of Jack the Ripper. Upon her arrival, she finds that her step-cousin and old friend John Comestor has disappeared, and a ghostly presence seems to have taken over his home. Is the spirit Winnie’s great-great-grandfather, who, family legend claims, was Charles Dickens’s childhood inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge? Could it be the ghostly remains of Jack the Ripper? Or a phantasm derived from a more arcane and insidious origin? Winnie begins to investigate and finds herself the unwilling audience for a drama of specters and shades—some from her family’s peculiar history and some from her own unvanquished past.

Although I never finished reading Maguire’s iconic Wicked, I saw this book while out book shopping with a friend and decided to pick it up. I have to admit, I’m glad I did, because I managed to finish the book.

Admittedly, there were some parts that were difficult to follow, which I put down to the author’s bizarre writing style. There were parts where the text was different, which took me a bit to figure out why it was done like that. It’s not often that you read a book featuring a main character who is writing a book. And of course he allows her to follow the clichéd recommendation of writing what you know.

I should warn any of you who may be interested in a story featuring the ghost of Jack the Ripper: it’s only a very minor pseudo-plot. I bought the book mainly because there was a mention of ghosts and it was set in England, but I would be lying if I said the fact that a potential ghost of Jack the Ripper didn’t appeal as well. Buy it because you like paranormal fiction, not because Jack the Ripper is mentioned in the synopsis on the back of the book like I did.

Ghost Towns: Maunsell Sea Forts

Anyone who is familiar with London knows that the river Thames flows through it and empties out into the English Channel. In the early years of the second World War, the British government had army sea forts built in the Thames Estruary to provide anti-aircraft fire in the area. Designed and built by Guy Maunsell, for who they are named, the sea forts are a collection of 7 towers with walkways connecting each to the central control tower. The towers were fitted with two 3.75-inch guns and two 40 mm Bofors guns.
Continue reading

Murderous May: The Black Legend of Richard III

Tower of London as viewed from the Thames River.

Tower of London as viewed from the Thames River.

After becoming fatally ill at Easter in 1483, King Edward IV of England added a codicil to his will, naming his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) Protector while the King’s eldest son, Edward V, was in the minority. Shortly following the April 9, 1843 death of his father (King Edward IV) Edward V, Prince of Wales, traveled from his boyhood home in Woodville to London. In late April, the party was intercepted by Protector Richard III who arrested and subsequently ordered the execution of the Woodvilles who were traveling with the young king. Edward V (12 yrs old) was escorted to the Tower of London where he was soon joined by his younger brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York (10 yrs old), supposedly to await Edward’s coronation. However, in July 1483, it was Richard III who was being crowned king– The two young princes had disappeared without a trace.
Continue reading