Thank you very much, Sue, for offering me this space on your blog to introduce my book Paranormal Warwickshire to your readers.
Warwickshire is a county steeped in the supernatural, as befits the county of Shakespeare and the many ghosts and spirits that he conjured up in his works.
The towns and villages of Warwickshire, its castles, houses, churches, theatres, inns and many other places both grand and everyday have rich and complex stories to tell of paranormal presences.
In this book I investigate stories at places such as Guy’s Cliffe, the Saxon Mill, Warwick Castle and St Mary’s Church, Warwick; Kenilworth Castle and Stoneleigh Abbey; Nash’s House and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as in the towns of Rugby, Nuneaton and Leamington Spa.
I explore the spiritual resonance of each location, recounting the tales of paranormal activity associated with it and examining the reasons for this within the history of the place.
How did I come to write my book Paranormal Warwickshire?
In answering this question I found a perfect description of my original impetus here on Sue’s post, The Accidental Tourist.
In this post Sue describes a visit to the ruined Bishop’s Palace at St David’s in Wales, which stands on a site formerly occupied by a monastery. She makes the point that “the ruined palace … has itself become a relic… an empty shell… grown beyond its true purpose….” She goes on to say that, for us too, the essence is to be found “not in the walls but in the space within where we live and have our being… it is not the vessel but the space within that holds the wine.”
This “wine” she describes as “the indefinable spark of animating life.”
My book Paranormal Warwickshire emerged from just this kind of experience, which is what I mean by “spiritual resonance.” These great buildings, now in a ruinous state, are not simply piles of stone, but animated by that “indefinable spark.”
I began by frequently visiting several places in Warwickshire, which I loved more each time I visited. Subsequently, I wrote blog posts about them in my occasional series Places of Inspiration. Two of these, where I felt just as Sue describes, are Kenilworth Castle, and Guy’s Cliffe House in Warwick, both of which are in ruins. I began to draw a selection of my blog posts together into a book, and what impelled me to do so was what I call “spiritual resonance.” My original draft was to be called “Spirit of Warwickshire.” When I submitted a proposal to history publisher Amberley, I learned that they wanted it for their paranormal series. As a person who has long loved ghost stories and reading about all things paranormal, I happily agreed to that, and signed a contract.
Later, I went round all the locations with my photographer son, joining ghost tours, listening to stories and of course building up a good selection of photos, many of which are in the book.
My own view of the paranormal is similar to that of ghost story writer M.R. James who said, “I answer that I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it if it satisfies me.” And, as I learned when I discussed this whole area with a parish priest (a member of the Diocesan Deliverance Ministry in the Church of England): “there certainly are some strange things going on out there.”
I am a subscriber to the Fortean Times, a magazine devoted to ‘the worldwide weird’, which takes a stance of ‘open-minded scepticism’. In the September 2020 edition I read this description by writer Stuart Carrol of ‘what may be going on in a haunting’:
time momentarily flickering… presents us with a projection of a person from another age going about their business.
The history of these ancient buildings, whether ruined or not, would be a dead flat thing, were it not for the emotional response of those living today. I believe this response arises from the presence of the “animating spark”; and often the curious anecdotes told of these buildings acknowledge the life that fills the spaces between the stones. And in my book, I include stories of everyday places as well, not just castles, abbeys and manor houses.
When I hear stories, I listen respectfully, even if I feel some may be conjured up by the imagination. I also ask why several different people, independently of each other and unknown to each other, should have the same experience in the same place over a long period of time. There have been many recorded cases of which this is true. Then, if you think it was “all their imagination”, you have to ask “what is it about this particular place that makes so many different people imagine the same thing there?”
The most compelling ghost stories are not about famous historical characters. A lot of them turn out, after research, to have emerged from the lives and deaths of people who never made their mark on history: people about whom we would have known nothing if the paranormal event had not alerted our attention and prompted research.
Paranormal Warwickshire will be published on 15th November 2020
I hope you will enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed researching them!
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About the author
Sheila lives in Warwickshire, and writes psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers.
She began her publishing journey with a duology of novels Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit. This was followed by a non-fiction book Perilous Path: a writer’s journey. Sheila is currently working on the second novel in a new gothic fiction series.
She posts twice weekly on her blog at http://www.scskillman.com and she also gives author talks to local groups.
Sheila was born and brought up in Orpington, Kent, and studied English Literature at Lancaster University. Her first permanent job was as a production secretary with the BBC. Later she lived for nearly five years in Australia before returning to the UK.
She has now settled in Warwick with her husband and son, and her daughter is studying at university in Australia.
Also by S. C. Skillman
Click the titles or images to go to Amazon
How do you find courage and motivation when your novel sinks in the middle?
How do you stay focused as a writer through success and disappointment?
How can great artists, musicians and psychologists give you inspiration?
You’ll find the answers to these questions and many others in this book. SC Skillman offers valuable insight into the faith and hope that is vital for one who walks the perilous path into the ‘promised land’ of the writing profession.
Every chapter is an article previously published on the author’s blog Inside the Mind of a Writer, in answer to FAQs aspiring writers type into search engines.
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