By Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, Oct 19 2016 05:18PM
Shadows on the Fens - Classic East Anglian Ghost Stories, edited by Wayne Adrian Drew
Cambridge, as those who have been on our 'Haunted Cambridge Tour' will know only too well, is an ancient town filled with stories of ghosts and spectres. But, one of the things that drew us to set up 'Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours' 3 years ago was a need to bring to life the legends and tales of the whole of this county of Cambridgeshire, especially the fenland folklore we grew up with in the villages surrounding this University town.
So here we have a marvellous anthology of ghostly tales to chill the spines of us born and bred East Anglians - of for those just curious of what lurks beneath the flat fens... The stories in this book sweep across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and touch on Suffolk and Essex. A perfect tome of short stories to dip into now the are nights drawing in, we were particularly excited by some tales we had never come across before. Included here - as it rightly should be - are some of the best tales of the master story teller, M.R James. M.R James, a fellow of King's College, is in essence the creator of the modern ghost story. Known for telling his tales by fireside at Christmas (the traditional time for ghost stories) in his Cambridge rooms, he was greatly influenced by fen folklore and the unique atmosphere of this wet, flat fields. In this book you will find his classics, 'A Warning to the Curious', 'The Fenstanton Witch' - and perhaps his best of all 'Oh Whistle and I'll come to you, My Lad'. A creepy joy to both those who have to discover his work, and a wonderful excuse to re-read for those who have.
Many tales in this collection will be familiar to those who have journeyed with us on our 'Haunted Cambridge Tour'. The Lantern Men (a phenomena spotted by one of our guides!) is the Cambridgeshire name for ghost orbs or Will'o'Wisps and the legend has a unique modern retake here. Reprinted is also the classic version of 'The Everlasting Club', that 18th century tale of seven students meeting up after death in Cambridge's Colleges. We of course, tell a different version of the legend - but here is the Jesus College set version! Of course, no anthology of fenland spooky tales could be complete withour our name sake, Black Shuck, and the demon dog gets plenty of appearances here, especially in the original 16th century story of Black Shuck appearing in Bungay.
One aspect present in all the stories, old or new alike, is the vivid descriptions of that cold, wet, flat fenland landscape. For those of us who spent our childhoods - or any Halloween! - in this atmosphere, we will be transported right into the chilling tale. Most of the stories retain a setting in Norfolk or the Cambridgeshire Fens, but also plenty of Cambridge University characters make appearances.
Most intriguing for us is the tale by W.H Barrett, a man who much like Enid Porter (the founder of Cambridge Folk Museum, as it once was known) collected Fen folk customs and memories. His 'Witches of Halloween' printed here captures the real belief of magic and myth in the Fens into the 20th Century. Perhaps our favourite discovery here though is the only female writer - Celia Dale . Her story, dug out from a 1970s copy of 'Cambridgeshire & Peterborough life' magazine is a hidden delight, if only for the fenland dialect!
Overall, this is an evocative collection of tales, wrapped in the unique atmosphere of the fens. A perfect gift for those into fen folklore, for those who want an introduction of for those who just want to feel the chill of the fen fog as they curl up by the fireside on Halloween night.
As you can see - our own Black Shuck approves!
Shadows on the Fens - Classic East Anglian Ghost Stories (edited by Wayne Adrian Drew) is published by www.indiebooks.co.uk.
Also available on Amazon and Waterstones (branch in Cambridge!)