The New Ghost Stories project is almost a decade old. In this, the first in a series of Q&A pieces, I’m going back to the beginning – how the project started and how the stories are created.
What exactly is a New Ghost Story?
A New Ghost Story is a witness account of the supernatural that has (usually) never been made public before.
The people who experienced these events – I refer to them as subjects – have mostly been reluctant to talk about them because of their bizarre nature.
It’s very difficult to discuss a supernatural experience without being stigmatised. The subjects themselves may have struggled to believe or understand what has happened to them. So why would anyone else?
These stories have been entrusted to me. I listen and record their accounts, allowing their voices to be heard, but under the cloak of anonymity.
How did New Ghost Stories start?
It was really a chance thing. A friend and I were talking about ghosts and he mentioned that his Uncle had a ghost story of his own.
I didn’t take this revelation seriously at first. But when I met him and heard the story, it was clear that this experience was nothing to laugh at. It was something that had had a lasting negative impact on his life.
Though I wasn’t able to get his permission to publish the story (I hold out hope to do so one day), it did convince me it was worth searching for other such accounts. Not tales of things that go bump in the night. Real, human stories about people faced with events far out of the ordinary and beyond their control.
There’s a longer version of this story in this audio introduction.
How do you find the stories?
It was obviously tough at first. I posted on a few forums, asked my friends and followers on social media; I was interested in hearing about anyone who felt they had a real ghost story to tell. Not a simple corner-of-the-eye experience, but a more sustained, prolonged encounter.
It took a while for things to really get moving. A lot of those early leads were intriguing, but much too brief. They didn’t deliver the kind of emotional narrative that my first case had. And, alas, there were people right from the beginning who were trying to play with me and lead me up the garden path.
But the word did get out. In time, I found myself with a number of leads worth pursuing. It was a challenge to gather up those first Eleven New Ghost Stories. It’s been much easier since. The real challenge now is finding enough time to pursue the leads when they come in.
How do you choose which stories to include in the series?
There are two main criteria. The first is simply whether it’s a strong and interesting story to tell. Like a journalist sizing up their leads, I do have to go after the stories which I feel will make the most impact.
The other criteria is truth. I want to be convinced that the subject is being honest. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened after the fact. But it is possible to discover whether a subject honestly believes what they’re telling me; that no deception is being attempted.
But you don’t really believe any of this supernatural nonsense do you?
I try to stay impartial in that regard. I’ve made my role one of observer and recorder; I don’t think it’s my place to say. I leave it to readers and listeners to draw their own conclusions.
The stories are what the subjects believe happened to them. Based on the interviews I’ve undertaken, the investigations I’ve made, I have no reason to doubt their word. Does that mean they have it right? Maybe not. But they deserve to be heard and taken seriously.
And if they’re not telling stories about ghosts, then what has happened to them? What has caused them to think this way? I don’t think that a scepticism for the supernatural makes these stories any less intriguing.
Do you have a favourite story in the canon?
That’s a tough one, because I’m a bit too close to the material. The stories that may seem the scariest and most thrilling to read were obviously not pleasant to experience for the subject. And I’ve sat across from them, heard them describe the horrors first-hand. In some cases, I’ve quite literally seen the scars.
I can’t really choose a favourite, in the same way I can’t choose a favourite time I had to go to the hospital. You can’t really pick a favourite from such a difficult set of experiences.
If I have a preference, it’s for the stories in which the subject is able to walk away with some kind of resolution. And perhaps come out of things a little stronger than before. I’d point to The Storm Walker in Eleven New Ghost Stories and Another Face in the Crowd in Fourteen New Ghost Stories as cases that ended with some ray of hope.
New Ghost Stories Volume Three is released in 2021. You can read one of the stories here.