"Scotland's Hidden Hauntings: A Collection of Real Ghost Stories" by G Stewart is a fascinating book. It will doubtless occur to many potential purchasers that there is hardly a shortage of books on the market about Scottish ghosts, and this may prompt some to pass on by. Which would be a shame, because there's a lot here that was new to this reviewer, and we suspect that the author has been very successful in his stated aim: "In writing this book I have tried to select the locations that are not so well known and so have not had as much coverage in the press or other books."
Many of the locations covered are in and around Edinburgh, which is only fitting as the capital has a depth of character and a wealth of - often pretty bloody - history that inevitably gives rise to stories of the supernatural. A number of other locations are in Fife, while East Lothian and Aberdeenshire also get a look in. We'd consider one of the locations covered, Mary Kings Close, to be well known for stories of hauntings, but Gregor Stewart really has gone the extra mile to come up with locations that will simply not be known to most readers, or which, though known, are not necessarily associated with paranormal activity. Well known locations with less well known ghosts include Dirleton Castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Craigmillar Castle and St Andrews Castle; while locations which are likely to be unknown to readers include the Blair Street and Niddry Street Vaults in Edinburgh, Magus Muir near St Andrews, and St Fillans Cave and the Tolbooth in Pittenweem.
Any book about ghosts and hauntings is inevitably going to appeal more to people who do believe than those who do not. What is interesting about Gregor Stewart's approach is that he has chosen locations he has personally visited and, in most cases, photographed, and he sets out both the background story and his own experiences in a clear and balanced way that allows the reader to make his or her own mind up about what might be going on at each location. Many of the author's photographs are reproduced (making this a book more easily appreciated by anyone whose reader can display images) and some of them do throw up some intriguing questions. We emerged from the book with the intention of visiting some of the locations we'd not been to, and any book that leaves you wanting to do something you'd not previously thought of doing has to be considered a success!