My View, Mel Hewitt: We love a good old-fashioned ghost story

editorial image

There’s nothing quite like a good ghost story.

Who doesn’t like a tale well told of things that go bump in the night? Flickering candlelight, creaking doors and echoing Victorian manor houses are all part of the picture.

Books and films from this popular genre have given us shivers down the spine since their creation, with tales of hobgoblins and evil spirits taking us all the way back to ancient myths and legends.

There’s something primeval about our desire to be frightened in safety.

As a child of the 60s, hiding behind the sofa from the Daleks or Cybermen on Doctor Who was a regular happening. I’ve also, as a grown-up, found myself trapped in a chair in the lounge, reluctant to move and go to bed after watching a particular spooky film.

It’s 150 years since Charles Dickens wrote The Signalman and 40 since the classic TV adaptation that has been keeping us in suspense as part of our well-loved Christmas viewing for many seasons since. Managing, without any whizz-bang special effects, to create an air of mounting menace – in darkness and daylight, no mean feat – I dare you to watch this alone and not end up chewing a handy cushion for comfort.

The best writers and directors have always known about the power of the unexpected – Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected ran for nearly a decade, keeping the audience guessing with their plot twists and quirky characters.

Being spooked is really more about the psychology of our deepest fears and phobias. Once a clever writer has tuned into that he or she can scare the living daylights out of most of us mere mortals – particularly those of us blessed with imagination.

The most effective stories for me are those that are set in our world, a relatable real world where they knock on the door and ask to be let in.

Five minutes on the internet searching for ‘Doncaster ghosts’ shows how close to home, prolific and persistent our brushes with the supernatural – or our own vivid imaginations – are.

Who hasn’t got a ghost story to tell? Ask anyone if they’ve ever had an unexplained, or mysterious experience and they are quite likely to share a personal or favourite story.

So many places across our borough – whether ancient or modern – have their own well-chronicled history of sightings and hauntings.

Grey ladies, parlourmaids and Regency coachmen are all part of a cast of hundreds and they can add a welcome touch of colour and interest to a day out at a stately home or castle.

It’s a tad annoying though if the resident ‘ghost’ chooses your office to hang out in and keeps moving the stapler – anyone else had this problem?