The new Yorkshire Ghost Story is now available for pre-order. Release date: 28th February 2017
No matter how hard life is, humanity has the power to make it better – or worse.
Parliament of Rooks contrasts the beautiful, inspiring village of Haworth today with the slum – or rookery – it was during the industrial revolution: rife with disease, heartache, poverty, and employing child slavery in the mills.
In 2017, life expectancy in the UK is 81. In 1848 Haworth, it was 22.
Martha hitched up the bundle strapped to her front then, satisfied Baby John was secure, grasped the handle and began to haul the full bucket up the well shaft.
John barely mewled in protest at the violent, rhythmic action, already used to the daily routine, and Martha pushed thoughts of the future out of her mind. Her firstborn was sickly, and she was surprised he had survived his first two months. He was unlikely to live much longer.
She stopped to rest, her body not yet fully recovered from the rigours of the birthing, then bent her back to her task once more. She had too much to do to indulge in a lengthy reprieve.
Once she had the water and had scrubbed their rooms clear of coal dust and soot, she’d be up to the weaver’s gallery to start on the day’s pieces.
She stopped again, took a couple of deep breaths, then coughed as fetid air filled her struggling lungs. Bracing herself, she continued the wind, cursing the dry February that had caused the well to run so low.
At last she could see the bucket, water slopping with each jerk of the rope. Reaching over, she grasped the handle and filled her ewers.
Adjusting Baby John once more, she bent, lifted, and embarked on the trudge homeward.
‘Blasted slaughterman!’ she cried, just catching herself as she slipped on the blood pouring down the alley past the King’s Arms and on to the high street. She’d forgotten it was market day tomorrow. The slaughterhouse was busy today. Another deep breath, another cough, and Martha trudged on, the bottom of her skirts soaked in blood.
It’s nearly Halloween – time for some TRUE ghost stories!
Back in the early '90s, I worked in one of the most haunted villages in the UK - Ripley in North Yorkshire. Once a coaching inn called The Star on the Great North Road, the luxurious Boar's Head Hotel had just opened, and there had already been a number of spooky incidents reported. This particular night, the hotel was empty, and I was the only member of staff present – needless to say it was also in the middle of winter. Bored at an empty reception desk with no guests, I decided to take the opportunity to go round and check all the rooms. After checking the main hotel, I moved on to the rooms outside in what had been the stables in the hotel’s coaching inn days. Walking upstairs, I entered room 3, and thought, What an awful room! Then I looked around in puzzlement – the room was beautiful. Each room had been professionally and individually designed, and I’d love to sleep in such a gorgeous room. I made my checks, refilled the stationery folder, and left. As I pulled the door closed, I felt a freezing cold shudder pass through me, then a girl’s giggle, accompanied by a swishing noise as if someone were running along the corridor behind me, brushing her hands along each wall. I spun round – no one was there.
The Old Stable Block
I’m ashamed to say, I bolted. Down the stairs, then bursting through the outside door, both arms outstretched. Thank goodness I hadn’t pulled it properly closed behind me when I’d entered; it was very tight and heavy, and often stuck. I’d have broken my arms if I’d hit it at that speed and it hadn’t opened.
I didn’t go back to the main hotel, but ran through the car park and over the road to the housekeeper’s cottage. She opened the door to me and said – I kid you not – ‘What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!’ She thought it was just my imagination – I was not long out of my teens and had been alone in a very old hotel in one of the most haunted villages in Britain. That is, until she took me back across the road and tried to prove it to me. Back in the hotel, we went upstairs and looked into room 3. Nothing was amiss. And it was still a beautiful room. Then to the room halfway down the corridor. She told me nothing was wrong, but I could not – absolutely could not – go in there. Nor could I at any other time during the two years I carried on working at the hotel; not if those rooms were empty of guests. But I could see from the doorway that all appeared as it should be. Next was the room at the opposite end of the corridor to room 3, and in the direction I’d heard the girl run.
She unlocked the door, and instead of the ‘See, nothing’s wrong’ that she’d proclaimed when opening the previous two doors, she was silent. I had to follow her inside and see what had quietened this normally voluble, loud and persistent woman (I do say that with love and friendship!) It was the furniture. Nothing was where it should be. Nothing was where it had been put the last time the room had been serviced - by the lady now staring at the mess. I reminded the housekeeper that every guest who had ever stayed in this room had complained of the TV changing channels by itself and the windows being opened or closed. It was the first (and last) time I saw her speechless.
Have you got a true ghost story to share?
Karen Perkins is the international best-selling author of the award-winning Yorkshire Ghost Stories: