Monday, October 10, 2022

Something About Occult Britain

Ghosts will haunt it still.

It's been almost a year since I discovered the delightful book, The Hellebore Guide To Occult Britain.  The 316-page paperback is a lovely introductory romp across the United Kingdom, showing the sites of ancient rock formations, areas with local myths of demons and devils, and the settings of several supernatural literary and film locations.

Readers won't find detailed information about these sites.  Rather, the book is a field guide showing travelers some of an area's sites in case you're planning a weekend field trip.  Or longer.  Even if you're not plannng a visit, the book encourages readers to seek out more information about the people and places it celebrates.  For example, I wasn't familar with the Dorset Ooser and now - well, that's a mask I wish I had during the pandemic.

Bellairs fans will recognize a few names and locations spread throughout the book, too:
  • Stone megaliths in Wales are discussed, such as the Druid's Circle near Penmaenmawr and Arthur's Stone on the Gower Peninsula but, as expected, the book doesn't touch on fictional stone circles like the Weird Sisters standing stones in Carmarthenshire (see The Dark Secret of Weatherend, 1984).
  • Churches and abbeys in Scotland, including Glenluce Abbey, where it is said Michael Scot visited in the 13th Century, and Melrose Abbey, where Scot was supposedly buried.  No word on when Scot trained Prospero before the events of The Face in the Frost (1969).
  • Other landmarks include Sueno's Stone in Forres, Scotland, where a 21-foot tall stone allegedly marks the crossroad where the "Scottish Play" namesake met the Three Witches, and the Callanish Stones, a stone circle of thirteen stones on the same island where the Lewis chessmen were found.  
  • The book touches on locations in other cities, such as:
    • Somerset, including Glastonbury Abbey, where Johnny Dixon visits during The Secret of the Underground Room (1990), and the Roman Baths, with the gorgon's head marked the temple of Sulis Minerva (not to be confused with the Gorgon's Head Inn from The Face in the Frost). 
    • London, from Cleopatra's Needle to John Dee's belongings in the British Museum.
    • Suffolk, as seen through the writings of the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Montague Rhodes James, and through the filming locations of the 1968 British horror film Witchfinder General.
    • Lancashire, with notes about St. Leonard's Church, the supposed location of John Dee* and Edward Kelly's necromancy experiment.
    • North Yorkshire, where the Whitby Museum is home to the last surviving hand of glory.
I haven't been anywhere near England in several years and won't make it back soon.  I hope I have this book with me when I do.

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