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Cambridge Ghost Tours

 

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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!)


By Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, Apr 23 2016 02:33PM

We're celebrating one year of running our 'Wickedness & Witchcraft' Tour - with half price tickets on Saturday May 7th & Friday 27th May.


This is the only dedicated Witchcraft and Magic tour in the UK - why should Ghosts have all the fun? We were inspired to create this tour because of the hidden Occult connections at Cambridge University, and especially it being the home of the very first magical rituals of the infamous Aleister Crowley (The so-called 'Wickedest Man in the World' - and the 'wicked' part of our tour!). If you've heard of Crowley this tour is a must-do as you'll discover the secret rooms just above the shoppers of Cambridge where Crowley first picked up a book on the Occult and dived head first into his controversial 'Magickal' career. Of course, if you have yet to discover Crowley - you'll find out just what makes him so infamous and at the same time inspirational to all modern counter-cultures and the fore-runner of the 'Swinging Sixties' - and just where Crowley had his first supernatural experience in Cambridge...


We also feature the hidden magical secrets of Isaac Newton, how the origins of 'Dumbledore' start in Cambridge and where those accused of local Witchcraft were ducked and tortured right here in the town. We'll also teach you how to cast the most famous spell of Cambridgeshire, the local legends of protecting yourself against Fenland curses and Witches and - if you dare - a taste of casting real magic yourself! Under the shade of trees by the River Cam you'll find yourself part of a candlelit circle in the moonlight to end the tour... There you'll discover not all witches are wickedness and how modern Witchcraft is one of the world's fastest growing religions. You may be inspired to try a spell or two when you're back home!


The tour is led by a guide experienced in magic and modern day Witchcraft, as well as a specialist in Early Modern Women's History. She'll lead your trail and let you see the the main streets of Cambridge and its colleges in a whole new light as well as discovering the secrets of the famous Cambridge river 'Backs'.


'Wickedness & Witchcraft' is our most popular tour for private bookings, particularly with academic groups, students - and with the Occult and Pagan communities! Aleister Crowley obsessives have travelled from all across the globe to come on the tour as a pilgrimage to the sites of his first forays into the 'Magickal' life. Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter fans also find plenty of connections in Cambridge with their favourite books.


We'll be celebrating the unique nature of this tour all through May - with our special ticket offer and blogs on the subject of Witchcraft and Magic - in Cambridge or otherwise!


Did you know there is a 'Cambridge Book of Magic'? Gonville and Caius have a book on Tudor Necromancy in their library! We'll be featuring it in one of our blogs over May...

By Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, Oct 12 2015 04:36PM

In anticipation of our Halloween event 'Voodoo Victoriana', our team have been researching the history of 19th century spiritualism and seances here in Cambridge.


Of course, famously modern spiritualism as a movement (not the actual practice of contacting the dead which cultures have done for thousands of years before) came across the pond from America in the days of Queen Victoria. The Fox Sisters from New York starting to communicate with an entity in their house, starting the now famous way of communicating with the dead via seance ' rapping' or knocking in the 1840s. These knocks were able to answer questions, tell the sisters information and later the spirit confessed to being a pedlar who had been buried in the cellar. Interestingly, a skeleton was found in the cellar, but not until 1904.


Spiritualism started with the Fox Sisters, but so also did the accusations that displays of mediumship were forged. They were regularly investigated, often by professors of US universities - who all concluded the same; that the raps were made via the girls cracking knuckles or toe joints. In 1888, some 40 years after the sisters had started their successful careers in hosting seances, (by now two of them were living and working in England), they confessed to their fraud. The second youngest, Margaret confessed the raps were made via bone cracking. She later recounted her confession but the damage was done, the sisters died in poverty after their former supporters left them in droves and they were buried in Brooklyn, NY in a pauper's grave.


Whilst the Fox Sisters died a death, spiritualism did not. Interestingly, many books and works still cite the Fox Sisters without a single mention of their confessions of fraud. Thousands of mediums filled the parlours of America and Britain, following in their footsteps. Part of the appeal of the 19th century Seance room to us is the question of reality and fakery. It is a question posed today as psychic mediums such as Psychic Sally and Derek Acorah are supposedly 'outed' as frauds, but still maintain a legion of fans. For those of you who have come on our 'Wickedness & Witchcraft' Tour, you may recall Edward Kelly and John Dee having the same issues in the Tudor age! The question remains whether someone with a natural gift to contact spirits or recieve information is able to consistantly reproduce this skill night after night under stage conditions - or do they resort to other means? Is proof of fakery on one occasion, proof that there is no reality in mediumship at all?


This question is why we are keen to reproduce the experience of a medium's Victorian parlour on Halloween night! Cambridge is home to the origins of the first paranormal investigative organisation in the world - The Ghost Club (Haunted Cambridge Tour guests may recognise the name!). In 1862, the group which had its start at Trinity College, investigated the Davenport Brothers claim they could contact the dead via a 'spirit cabinet' - which was revealed as a hoax. During the early years of the club, members were mainly Cambridge academics - and Charles Dickens!

Whilst the Ghost Club moved to London further into the 19th century, Cambridge was still home to scientific seances, a number of which we have been inspired by for our event. In 1895, Cambridge academics outed Italian born medium Eusepia Palladino as a fraud during a Cambridge home seance. These academics included Henry Sidgwick, the founder of Newnham College - and one of the founders of the SPR, Society of Psychical Research, the 'other' institute aside from the Ghost Club to investigate seances and the afterlife. Critics at the time thought it was harsh for the medium, Ms Palladino to be so humilated in public. The society concluded Ms Palladino was simply kicking furniture across the room, rather than it being manipulated by the spirits she sought to contact.


So - spirits emerging from cabinets, automatic writing slates, images in mirrors, table rapping, ectoplasm, spirits 'rings', spirit photography, was any of it real? We shall be giving you the chance to experience all of these paranormal phenomena as they were experienced in the Victorian age - and for you to make up your own mind...


Go to Halloween on the website for tickets!

By Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, Jul 3 2015 03:05PM

The 2nd Earl of Rochester?


No, he is not a ghost, neither here in Cambridge or elsewhere. His spirit rests peacefully it seems.

Come to think of it, he didn't even study at Cambridge (more's the pity for us!) - he went to Wadham College, Oxford and his country home was Adderbury, Oxfordshire. His family were Royalists and fought for the King in battles on the west side of England.



However, our team at Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours are bringing John Wilmot, 2nd of Earl of Rochester, poet, playboy and all round naughty boy of the 17th century Royal Court to Cambridge. At least in the guise you see in the photographs. Our team member Tom has played Rochester many times, including in the famous play 'The Libertine' (you may also know the film version starring Johnny Depp as Rochester) on a UK tour and in London at the famous King's Head theatre. Our team also brought Rochester's poetry to life in an original show 'A debt to pleasure' at the Southwark Playhouse London - which we have adapted for our latest event in Cambridge. We can't let him rest in piece - we've been digging him up for the last ten years!


Just who was John Wilmot?


A thug, a rebel, a debauched mess - and the most brilliant poet to have ever lived.

Born in Oxfordshire in 1647, his father Henry was a dashing Cavalier and was created Earl of Rochester for his service to Charles II. By the age of 16, and at Wadham College, Oxford, John Wilmot was already known for his debauched lifestyle. Charles II took John under his wing (and gave him a hearty allowance) and he soon became the talk of the Royal Court in Restoration London.

His exploits became infamous - at 18 he kidnapped his rich wife-to-be and spent 3 weeks in the Tower of London for it. He showed his bravery by becoming a naval hero - and promptly returned to London to woo Nell Gywn and many actresses of the London stage. But as a poet, he had a love of acting and theatre, and trained his mistress Elizabeth Barry to become the greatest tragic actress of her age. He had life long friendships with Nell Gwyn and Aphra Behn, the first professional female playwright.

His lifestyle soon took a toll during his 20s, along with the 'merry gang' of the Royal court, each night was spent gambling, drinking with wine and women. He also delighted in rebelling against his friend, Charles II - including writing verse worthy of treason and smashing up the King's prize sundial on a drunken night where he infamously said "what.. does thou stand here to f**k time?" Things crashed to an all time low when his young friend was killed on another drunken binge by a night watch pikeman, and Rochester fled the scene rather than helping. Trying to flee from the King - Rochester set up as a Quack Doctor on Tower hill, using a fake Italian persona called 'Dr Bendo' who said he could cure your veneral diseases, by sleeping with women who were affected. Sometimes this was achieved by dressing in drag as 'Mrs Bendo' the doctor's wife!


Ironically by his 30s, Rochester was himself infected by various veneral diseases. This, and his alcoholism caused his death - at age 33.


His Libertine lifestyle influenced his poetry, but it isn't just swearing and naughtiness. The genius of Rochester is to mix the highest sentiment, most beautifully expressed with the most base of emotions, crude and cruel. His work is full of parody, especially of politics and over zealous love poetry of the day. It stands the test of time as hilariously funny. Rochester had a interesting connection to women, although known for his womanising ways, he maintained platonic friendships with intelligent women and supported their right to make a living in the arts by being their patron. Many of his poems are written from the point of view of a woman, expressing the gender frustration of the age. He was as much a sensitive, romantic poet and artist as a drunken hellbrand.


Sadly, Rochester was never taken quite as seriously as he should have been as a poet, due to his personaliity, as well as the dirty subjects and language in his poems. He was mostly unpublished in his own day, and much of his work destroyed as 'filthy' after his death. What was left went largely ignored - especially in the 19th century.



So what (if any!) is the Cambridge connection?


The 1920's saw a new interest in the Restoration era and and the work of Rochester - Ezra Pound the poet and writer compared him to more famous poets of his age. At King's College, Cambridge, the future editor of T.S Eliot's work (and room-mate!) - an undergraduate called John Davy Hayward published, whilst still at Kings College, the first complete edition of the works of the Earl of Rochester in 1923.



We believe Rochester's poems take on a new vibrancy when performed live - after all, he loved and wrote for the stage. So to hear and see them performed by our very own Rochester - Join us at the fantastic Cambridge corset shop Quiver on the 17th July for 'A Debt to Pleasure'. It's an interactive, immersive theatrical experience with alcohol (of course!) It will be as crazy and debauched as the earl himself - who wouldn't want to spend an evening in his company?


www.quivercompany.co.uk


To buy tickets - (and for an early bird discount) go to

www.designmynight.com/cambridge/whats-on/theatrearts/a-debt-to-pleasure-an-evening-with-notorious-17th-century-playboy-the-2nd-earl-of-rochester








By Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, Jun 22 2015 07:07PM

Aside from Halloween, our busiest time at Black Shuck Cambridge Tours is during the summer months. Despite our tours often selling out - our guests are still very sceptical that they will witness anything paranormal, let alone photograph it, due to the lighter evenings. It just doesn't feel as spooky as October to them!


However, statistics prove otherwise - as do our personal experiences. There is no rhyme or reason why ghosts are only around at night - stories and horror films set spooky situations in the dark to give that aspect of the unknown and you may feel more scared at night simply due to the fact you cannot see!

Ghost Hunts are usually at night for more practical reasons. It is considered that the hours of 9pm - 5am are the Psychic hours, where you may be more likely to contact spirits, not that they will appear more during those hours. It is thought that you may be more likely to be in the correct state of mind to be open to the 'other'. It is this late night state of mind that shows in our company ticket sales - interestingly we sell 60% of our online tickets at around Midnight/1am as people are thinking about ghosts at that time of night as they browse on their laptops. Ghost Hunting at night allows the noises of the daily grind to not distract from the sounds of the paranormal. Roads, streets, phones etc are quieter at 3am, thus allowing a clean slate to observe and record 'things that go bump in the night'.


None of this means however that ghosts are not active during the daylight! Those of you who have been on our Haunted Cambridge Tour will know that many of the college spirits turn up in broad daylight, or use the morning to disrupt buildings rather than the dark of the night. We do a mini Ghost Hunt on the 'Most Haunted' spot, and there is as much activity on the EMF reader during the light evenings as in the dark. In fact, Saturday 13th June this year saw a hive of activity - EMF readings off the scale, phone batteries draining, the guide experiencing an electric pulse through her and guests complaining of their chests being pushed or feeling tight. Last year, a number of mist photos were taken in August on Little St Mary's Lane - which may be the spirit of the little girl said to haunt there.


The photographs show some of the most famous daylight ghost photos taken, including a little girl 'who wasn't there' with a pony on the moor, a dead grandfather appearing in a photo of the grandmother at a nursing home, another dead grandfather at a family christening and a famous ghost lady spectre at a Norfolk Church.


Fenella, our chief guide explains that to her, Midsummer and the light evenings are always connected to the mystical side of life. The Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, is one of the Wiccan Sabbats (a major festival of modern day Witchcraft, celebrated by other modern pagans, and by our ancient ancestors). It is thought to be a time where the veil between ours and the next is also thin, and the fairy world too - hence why Shakespeare sets his fairies in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'! Fenella's favourite stories of folklore, myth and spirits are set in the summer - imagine 'The Wicker Man' being filmed in darkness! For centuries Midsummer's Eve was thought to be a time spirits can out to play, and it was the tradition up and down England to light bonfires and torches to keep spirits at bay.


Lastly - Ghosts appear in every culture over the globe. But whereas in the West connect them with dark nights in winter, many Eastern Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan and China have their ghost season in high summer! Hence why we see our Japanese and Chinese student groups screaming with terror throughout July and August!


So in our experience, our Haunted Cambridge tour in summer is no different to the tour in Halloween, in fact you just might be able to distinguish when the temperature drops suddenly a little more...

By Black Shuck Cambridge Ghost Tours, May 5 2015 09:19PM

Our 2015 season is off to a flying (on a broomstick that is) start!


Both our new Cambridge tours (Death - Colleges & Corpses, Witches - Wickedness & Witchcraft) have proved to be very popular with all of you, with many people taking all 3 tours!


In the mayhem of running around Cambridge in Victorian dress and acting out body-snatching (actually very normal for most of our team) we haven't shared our latest press articles on here.


First up we were recently featured in an interesting article about Cambridge myths and legends in Local Secrets - Read the Article Here


Then we were honoured to be in the AMAZING Spectral Times (If you are not subscribed to this FREE online ghost magazine - do it now!)


We were in Issue 14 - it's a digital magazine but you can also order it in print.


Enjoy us in Issue 14 here (You'll be hooked!)






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