Do ghosts exist? Author David Clarke talks to Steven McClarence of The Yorkshire Post about things that go bump in the night.
Three days before Christmas in 1855, a ghost story brought Charles Dickens to Sheffield. The 43-year-old author, brimming with what a local newspaper called “his genial manner and fine spirits”, stepped out on stage at the Mechanics’ Institution to find a full house waiting for him. After giving him “a hearty cheer”, they settled back to enjoy one of his celebrated readings of A Christmas Carol, his ghost-ridden morality tale.
“The audience was in every respect an excellent one,” the newspaper reported, “the front seats being occupied by many of the best families of the town and neighbourhood; and the other parts of the room crowded by persons of great respectability, including not a few of our most intelligent working men.”
At the end of the reading, the Mayor presented Dickens with – this being Sheffield – a range of cutlery, including a pair of fish carvers, everyone cheered again, and Dickens left on the overnight mail train to London en route to Paris.
Author Dr David Clarke – a man, as we shall see, with an intergalactic dimension – has unearthed this footnote of Yorkshire literary history while researching his latest book, which, aptly enough, is about ghost stories. Just nine months before Dickens came, Clarke has discovered, the city was gripped by a spectral event that gives the book its name: Scared to Death.
You can continue reading Steve McClarence’s feature, published in the Yorkshire Post Magazine on 19 October here.