The English Ghost, By Peter Ackroyd

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The Independent Culture

According to Peter Ackroyd, the English see more ghosts than any nation on earth. In this Halloween-friendly anthology of "true" ghost stories, he takes us through a history of English hauntings from the sixth century onwards.

Lacking the dressings of fiction, these eyewitness accounts can feel quite bald, but all the more peculiar for that. Some ghosts behave quite conventionally - they stand at the end of beds and warble - while others, like the Thirties Thames Ditton commuter-train ghost, are terrifying by their ordinariness.

In the book's spry introduction, we learn how the English have over 200 words for their spirits and sprites, ranging from "hobbits" and "dobbies" to the more outlandishly named "mum-pokers", "chiittifaces", "melch-dicks" and "clabbernappers".