Walking Ghostly Greenwich Parts 1 & 2

Malcolm C. Godfrey, Time For Greenwich, 2004

I guess if anyone was qualified to write a book about Ghostly Greenwich, Malcolm Godfrey fits the bill, having been the last resident of The Lieutenant Governor’s Residence in the Old Royal Naval College. He has always been interested in the supernatural and his role as Hospitality and Events Manager at what he claims to be the most haunted spot in Great Britain (a tough call IMHO – but you need to be bold when you’re writing a book) meant that he, his family or friends were personally witness to several of the chilling events he describes. Does this make it even more authentic or slightly flaky? Well, I always say a tale is in the telling – and Malcolm Godfrey is clearly a raconteur…

If I’m honest, it does feel a teeny-tiny bit on the flimsy side. Of the two books, the first, about The Old Royal Naval College, is the most substantial. It’s an easy, quick read, entertaining (if only for the typos,) and has a ring of personal conviction and enjoyable anecdotal evidence. Most of Greenwich’s ghosts seem to be benign – either slightly sad – or even downright friendly. Several of the stories describe kindly spectres helping out with chores or keeping a watchful eye on things.

Where the book comes into its own are the little historical asides that Godfrey throws in almost, seemingly, by accident – several things I had neither read nor heard anywhere else. He is uniquely placed to know choice details about the building and function of the place and I wonder whether he might have been better employed writing a lighthearted history of the ORNC buildings (maybe he should think about that next.) I get the feeling that it’s ever-so-slightly ‘padded,’ with descriptions of creepy places that don’t actually have any supernatural history or sightings but send shivers down your spine anyway – but if a book’s enjoyable, it doesn’t really matter if its course alters from time to time.

The second book, which deals with Greenwich at large, “From Deptford to the Dome,” is equally easy to read, if even lighter on ‘ghostly’ substance – but yet again has fascinating nuggets of historical detail and some curious photographs that stand up on their own for pure historical interest. Sometimes places don’t need an actual ghost to give you the creeps and Malcolm Godfrey is very good at raising the fear temperature (just as the ghostly temperature drops) whilst telling stories about places that you’d not instantly associate with spirits. And just as he can make places that have no supernatural connotations feel phantasmagorical, he’s equally (and frustratingly) good at not telling us the exact address of a haunted house because the present owners are unaware of the place’s history. Now that’s storytelling…

How much of it do I believe? Well, in the cold light of this sunny Monday morning, absolutely none at all. But stick me in the haunted skittle alley alone at midnight…


Comments are closed.